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Cardoso-Gonzalez v. Anadarko Petroleum Corp.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

November 9, 2017

NOEL CARDOSO-GONZALEZ, Plaintiff
v.
ANADARKO PETROLEUM CORPORATION, ET AL., Defendants

         SECTION: “E” (1)

          ORDER AND REASONS

          SUSIE MORGAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Defendant Gulf South Services, Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment.[1] The motion is unopposed by Plaintiff Noel Cardoso-Gonzales. Accordingly, the Court considers the Defendant's statement of uncontested facts to be admitted pursuant to Local Rule 56.2. Although the motion for summary judgment is unopposed, summary judgment is not automatic, and the Court must determine whether the Defendant has shown an entitlement to judgment as a matter of law.[2]

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Noel Cardoso-Gonzales alleges that on August 13, 2016, he was working aboard the LUCIUS spar when an unsecured cable tray fell from overhead, striking him between the shoulder and neck and causing severe and disabling injuries.[3] Plaintiff was employed at the time by Omni Energy Services Corp., an independent contractor providing blasting and painting services aboard the LUCIUS.[4] On November 23, 2016, Plaintiff filed suit against (1) Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, the owner and/or operator of the LUCIUS; (2) W-Industries of Louisiana, LLC, which provided electrical services on the LUCIUS, including the installation of cable trays;[5] (3) Dolphin Services, L.L.C., which provided construction services on the LUCIUS, including the installation of braces and supports;[6] (4) Safezone Safety Systems, LLC; and (5) Gulf South Services, Inc. (“GSSI”), the spar's scaffolding supplier.[7] Plaintiff asserts a negligence claim against GSSI.[8]

         GSSI moves for summary judgment on the grounds that Plaintiff has failed to produce evidence sufficient to state a negligence claim against GSSI under Louisiana law.[9]The motion is unopposed.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate only “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”[10] “An issue is material if its resolution could affect the outcome of the action.”[11]When assessing whether a material factual dispute exists, the Court considers “all of the evidence in the record but refrains from making credibility determinations or weighing the evidence.”[12] All reasonable inferences are drawn in favor of the nonmoving party.[13]There is no genuine issue of material fact if, even viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, no reasonable trier of fact could find for the nonmoving party, thus entitling the moving party to judgment as a matter of law.[14]

         If the dispositive issue is one on which the moving party will bear the burden of persuasion at trial, the moving party “must come forward with evidence which would ‘entitle it to a directed verdict if the evidence went uncontroverted at trial.'”[15] If the moving party fails to carry this burden, the motion must be denied. If the moving party successfully carries this burden, the burden of production then shifts to the nonmoving party to direct the Court's attention to something in the pleadings or other evidence in the record setting forth specific facts sufficient to establish that a genuine issue of material fact does indeed exist.[16]

         If the dispositive issue is one on which the nonmoving party will bear the burden of persuasion at trial, the moving party may satisfy its burden of production by either (1) submitting affirmative evidence that negates an essential element of the nonmovant's claim, or (2) demonstrating there is no evidence in the record to establish an essential element of the nonmovant's claim.[17] When proceeding under the first option, if the nonmoving party cannot muster sufficient evidence to dispute the movant's contention that there are no disputed facts, a trial would be useless, and the moving party is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law.[18] When, however, the movant is proceeding under the second option and is seeking summary judgment on the ground that the nonmovant has no evidence to establish an essential element of the claim, the nonmoving party may defeat a motion for summary judgment by “calling the Court's attention to supporting evidence already in the record that was overlooked or ignored by the moving party.”[19] Under either scenario, the burden then shifts back to the movant to demonstrate the inadequacy of the evidence relied upon by the nonmovant.[20] If the movant meets this burden, “the burden of production shifts [back again] to the nonmoving party, who must either (1) rehabilitate the evidence attacked in the moving party's papers, (2) produce additional evidence showing the existence of a genuine issue for trial as provided in Rule 56(e), or (3) submit an affidavit explaining why further discovery is necessary as provided in Rule 56(f).”[21] “Summary judgment should be granted if the nonmoving party fails to respond in one or more of these ways, or if, after the nonmoving party responds, the court determines that the moving party has met its ultimate burden of persuading the court that there is no genuine issue of material fact for trial.”[22]

         “[U]nsubstantiated assertions are not competent summary judgment evidence. The party opposing summary judgment is required to identify specific evidence in the record and to articulate the precise manner in which that evidence supports the claim. ‘Rule 56 does not impose upon the district court a duty to sift through the record in search of evidence to support a party's opposition to summary judgment.'”[23]

         ANALYSIS

         Plaintiffs assert a negligence claim against GSSI. To prove negligence under Louisiana law, a plaintiff must show (1) the defendant had a duty to conform its conduct to a specific standard of care; (2) the defendant failed to conform its conduct to the standard of care; (3) the defendant's substandard conduct was a cause in fact of the plaintiff's injuries; (4) the defendant's substandard conduct was a legal cause of the injuries; and (5) actual damages.[24] The threshold question is whether the defendant owed a duty, which is a question of law.[25] In Louisiana, an independent contractor does not owe a duty to protect another independent contractor's employee “where it does not employ, share a contract, or actually supervise the plaintiff.”[26]

         The Court finds that there is no genuine dispute of material fact regarding the summary judgment evidence put forth by GSSI, and that therefore GSSI is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. First, there is no dispute that GSSI owed no duty to Plaintiff over and above the duty it owed to the general public. Mr. Cardoso-Gonzales was employed by Omni, and GSSI neither supervised Mr. Cardoso-Gonzales nor shared a contract with him.[27]

         Second, there is no evidence to suggest that GSSI breached its ordinary duty of care. There is no evidence that any equipment owned by GSSI was involved in the accident, and no evidence that anyone employed by GSSI interacted in any way with the unsecured tray.[28] All parties agree that there is ...


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