United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lafayette Division
B. WHITEHURST LOTTED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment on the Issue of
Plaintiff’s Sieracki Seaman Status filed by plaintiff,
Jonathan Lebrun, [Rec. Doc. 59], Defendant, Transocean
Offshore Deepwater Drilling, Inc (“Transocean”)
and Baker Hughes Incorporated’s (“BHI”)
Memorandum in Opposition [Rec. Doc. 61], and
Plaintiff’s Reply [Rec. Doc. 104]. The Court finds that
oral argument on this Motion is not necessary. For the
reasons that follow, the Motion will be denied.
Jonathan Lebrun, worked for Baker Hughes Oilfield Operations,
Inc. (“BHOOI”) from December 2005 until April 24,
2015. The affidavit of Jeff Ivory, Transocean Offshore
Deepwater Drilling, Inc.’s Operations Director, states
that Plaintiff was assigned to work as a sample catcher or
“mudlogger” aboard Transocean’s drillship,
the DEEPWATER CHAMPION, from March 13, 2015, until April 24,
2015. R. 61-1, Ivory Aff., p. 1. Ivory attests that,
during that entire time, the DEEPWATER CHAMPION was located
in the waters above the continental shelf of Guyana, South
America, approximately 120 miles northeast of Georgetown,
Guyana, and was drilling a hydrocarbon well for ExxonMobil.
Id. at pp. 1-2. Plaintiff alleges while he was
aboard the DEEPWATER CHAMPION he injured his back. R.
1. In his Motion, Plaintiff contends “the
main source of injury to plaintiff’s lower back
occurred when plaintiff had to open a sealed door to the
enclosed shaker house.” R. 59-1, p. 3.
filed this action alleging claims under the Jones Act. R.
1. On June 14, 2016, this Court found that Plaintiff was
not a Jones Act seaman as he did not demonstrate “a
connection to a vessel in navigation (or to an identifiable
group of such vessels) that is substantial in terms of both
its duration and its nature.” R. 44. In his
Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleged a claim for
unseaworthiness as a Sieracki seaman as well as for
negligence and gross negligence under the general maritime
law. R. 56. Alternatively, Plaintiff alleged his
action arises under the Longshore and Harbor Workers
Compensation Act (“LHWCA”) and the general
maritime law. R. 56.
CONTENTIONS OF THE PARTIES
filed this Motion urging the Court to find that, at the time
he worked on the DEEPWATER CHAMPION, he was a Sieracki
seaman. Plaintiff contends that because he was working aboard
the DEEPWATER CHAMPION within the waters of Guyana, South
America, the LHWCA does not extend to non-Jones Act American
maritime workers like Plaintiff working in foreign waters.
oppose Plaintiff’s motion arguing that any such injury
alleged by Plaintiff would be covered under the LHWCA. They
assert that the DEEPWATER CHAMPION was not in the
waters of a foreign sovereign, but rather was at all times in
the high seas-over 120 miles off the coast of Guyana.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
judgment is appropriate if no genuine issue of material fact
exists and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Under Rule 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 Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986);
see Stahl v. Novartis Pharms. Corp., 283 F.3d 254,
263 (5th Cir.2002). The party moving for summary
judgment must demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of
material fact but need not negate the elements of the
nonmovant’s case. Exxon Corp. v. Oxxford Clothes
XX, Inc., 109 F.3d 1070, 1074 (5thCir.1997).
When the moving party, has met its Rule 56(c) burden, the
nonmoving party, cannot survive a summary judgment motion by
resting on the mere allegations of its pleadings.
“[T]he nonmovant must identify specific evidence in the
record and articulate the manner in which that evidence
supports that party’s claim.” Johnson v. Deep
E. Tex. Reg'l Narcotics Trafficking Task Force, 379
F.3d 293, 301 (5thCir.2004).
the Court dismissed Plaintiff’s Jones Act claim,
Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint bringing an
unseaworthiness claim under the general maritime law. In the
alternative, Plaintiff stated a claim under the LHWCA.
Defendants assert that Plaintiff was, at all times, a
maritime worker covered by the LHWCA. Plaintiff now contends
that he was a Sieracki seaman at the time he served
on the DEEPWATER CHAMPION. Essentially, Plaintiff challenges
the characterization that his claims arise under the LHWCA.
He argues he is properly characterized as a so-called
“Sieracki seaman” such that he may bring
an action for unseaworthiness against the vessel owner,
Transocean, regardless of the traditional limitations on
vessel liability afforded under the LHWCA.
LHWCA provides a federal recovery scheme to a wide range of
maritime workers. Willis v. McDonough Marine
Service, 2015 WL 3824366, at *3 (E.D.La.,2015) (citing
Thomas J. Schoenbaum, 1 Admiralty and Maritime Law
§ 7–1 (5th Ed.2014)). The Act was passed primarily
to fill a gap created by Supreme Court rulings that
application of state workers’ compensation schemes to
maritime employees is unconstitutional. Id. Thus,
the statutory framework operates as a traditional
workers’ compensation scheme under which employers
receive immunity from tort liability in exchange for
providing no-fault compensation benefits to injured workers.
Seas Shipping v. Sieracki, 328 U.S. 85, 99 (1946),
the Supreme Court extended the remedy of unseaworthiness to
longshoremen “doing a seaman’s work and incurring
a seaman’s hazards.” See Schoenbaum, at
§ 7–10 (citing Sieracki). Thereafter, the
1972 Amendments to the LHWCA effectively created two mutually
exclusive categories of maritime workers: seamen and
longshoremen. These amendments eliminated the unseaworthiness
remedy for any employee covered under the LHWCA by enacting
33 U.S. C. § 905(b) which recognizes a limited statutory
cause of action on behalf of injured maritime workers against
vessel owners for negligence in maritime tort. Id.
Thus, a threshold inquiry for purposes of § 905(b) is as
to the existence of a duty of care owed by vessel owners to
workers. Id. The Supreme Court has accordingly
defined three such narrow duties. See Scindia Steam Nav.