United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
DONALD RINEHART, JR.
NATIONAL OILWELL VARCO L.P., et al.
ORDER AND REASONS
E. FALLON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court are cross motions for partial summary judgment
filed by Plaintiff Donald Rinehart (Rec. Doc. 112) and
Defendant Starfleet Marine Transportation, Inc. (Rec. Doc.
127). The motions pertain to the seaworthiness of M/V
Starfleet Viking Vessel. Having considered the parties'
arguments, submissions, and the applicable law, the Court now
issues this Order and Reasons.
case arises out of injuries allegedly sustained by Plaintiff
Donald Rinehart, Jr., on August 21, 2014, while he was
employed as a seaman by Defendant Starfleet Marine
Transportation Inc. (“Starfleet) aboard the M/V
Starfleet Viking (the “Vessel”). See
Rec. Doc. 1 at 1-2. Plaintiff invokes jurisdiction of this
Court under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Id. at 2.
alleges that he was ordered by the Vessel's captain to
assist with loading pallets aboard the ship, which docked in
Port Fourchon, Louisiana. Id. at 2. Defendant
National Oilwell Varco, L.P. (“NOV”) owned the
mobile crane and hook used in loading the pallets and
employed the crane operator. Id. Plaintiff claims he
was injured when a pallet fork slipped from the crane's
hook onto the back of his head while loading pallets onto the
Vessel's deck. Id. Plaintiff was flown by
helicopter to the Thibodaux Medical Center for emergency
medical treatment and has since undergone multiple complex
surgical procedures with permanent scarring; severe headaches
with substantial neurological deficits, including memory loss
and a severely-diminished reading ability; and the inability
to swallow normal food, relying on a feeding tube
surgically-implanted into his stomach. See id. at 3.
Plaintiff filed suit under the Jones Act and general maritime
response, Starfleet asserted a number of defenses, including
that Plaintiff's injuries were caused by his own
negligence or by third parties, that his claims are
prescribed, and that Starfleet is entitled to limited
liability pursuant to 46 U.S.C. § 30501, et
seq. See Rec. Doc. 13. NOV also asserted a
number of defenses, including that Plaintiff's injuries
were caused by his own negligence or by third parties, that
Plaintiff failed to mitigate his damages, and that his claims
are barred by prescription or by either the Longshore and
Harbor Workers' Compensation Act, 33 U.S.C. §901,
et seq., or the Louisiana Workers' Compensation
Act, LSA R.S. 23:1021, et seq. See Rec.
judgment is appropriate when “the pleadings, the
discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any
affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c));
Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th
Cir. 1994). When assessing whether a dispute as to any
material fact exists, the Court considers “all of the
evidence in the record but refrains from making credibility
determinations or weighing the evidence.” Delta
& Pine Land Co. v. Nationwide Agribusiness Ins. Co.,
530 F.3d 395, 398 (5th Cir. 2008).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), the moving party bears
the initial burden of “informing the district court of
the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of
[the record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex, 477
U.S. at 322. When the moving party has met its Rule 56(c)
burden, “[t]he non-movant cannot avoid summary judgment
. . . by merely making ‘conclusory allegations' or
‘unsubstantiated assertions.'” Calbillo
v. Cavender Oldsmobile, Inc., 288 F.3d 721, 725 (5th
Cir. 2002) (quoting Little, 37 F.3d at 1075).
“The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in
support of the plaintiff's position will be insufficient;
there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably
find for the plaintiff.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 253 (1986). All reasonable
inferences are drawn in favor of the nonmoving party, but a
party cannot defeat summary judgment with conclusory
allegations or unsubstantiated assertions. Little,
37 F.3d at 1075. A court ultimately must be satisfied that
“a reasonable jury could not return a verdict for the
nonmoving party.” Delta, 530 F.3d at 399.
seaman has a claim under the general maritime law for
injuries caused by the unseaworthiness of a vessel. The duty
of a vessel owner to provide a seaworthy vessel is an
absolute non-delegable duty; the duty imposes liability
without fault. See Mitchell v. Trawler Racer, Inc.,
362 U.S. 539, 548-49 (1960). A ship is seaworthy if the
vessel, including her equipment and crew, is reasonably fit
and safe for the purposes for which it was intended to be
used. Boudreaux v. United States, 280 F.3d 461, 468
(5th Cir.2002) (citation omitted); Boudoin v. Lykes Bros.
S.S. Co., 348 U.S. 336, 339 (1955) (“The standard
is not perfection, but reasonable fitness; not a ship that
will weather every conceivable storm but a vessel reasonably
suited for her intended service.”).
is not a fault-based standard; a plaintiff must show,
however, that the unseaworthy condition “played a
substantial part in bringing about or actually causing the
injury and that the injury was either a direct result or a
reasonably probable consequence of the
unseaworthiness.” Phillips v. Western Co. of North
America, 953 F.2d 923, 928 (5th Cir.1992). “[A]n
isolated personal negligent act of the crew” is not
enough to render a ship unseaworthy. Daughdrill v. Ocean
Drilling & Exploration Co., 709 F.Supp. 710, 712
(E.D. La. 1989). ...