United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lafayette Division
B. WHITEHURST, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by
Defendant, Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling, Inc.
(“Transocean”) [Rec. Doc. 83] and
Transocean's Supplemental Memorandum in Support, [Rec.
Doc. 127], Plaintiff, Jonathan Lebrun's, Memorandum in
Opposition [Rec. Doc. 92] and Plaintiff's Supplemental
Memorandum in Opposition [Rec. Doc. 126]. For the reasons
that follow, the Motion will be granted.
Jonathan Lebrun, worked for Baker Hughes Oilfield Operations,
Inc. (“BHOOI”) from December 2005 until April 24,
2015. According to Karen Johnson, a Risk Management Analyst
II for Transocean, Plaintiff was assigned to work aboard
Transocean's drillship, DEEPWATER CHAMPION, for
eighty-one (81) days in 2013 through 2014. R. 83-7, Decl.
Of Johnson. His last hitch was from March 13, 2015 until
April 24, 2015. Johnson further states that Plaintiff worked
a total of 104 days on the DEEPWATER CHAMPION. Id.
alleges that while he was aboard the DEEPWATER CHAMPION he
collected geological samples from the drilling mud returns
inside an enclosed “shaker shack” located above
the main deck. He further alleges that, as part of his
duties as a mud sampler, he had to enter and exit the shaker
shack via the room's “vacuum sealed, 1/4 inch steel
blast-proof shaker house door” multiple times per day.
Plaintiff contends he injured his lower back by having to
repeatedly pry open the shaker house door using his foot
against the wall during his 12-hour shifts.
was terminated by Baker Hughes on April 24, 2015, due to a
company-wide Reduction in Force caused by the downturn in the
oilfield in 2014-2015. R. 83-8, Decl of Guidry.
Plaintiff 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. 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; alternatively, Plaintiff alleged his action arises under
the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act
(“LHWCA”) and the general maritime law. R.
56. On August 18, 2017, the Court denied Plaintiff's
Motion for Summary Judgment for Sieracki Seaman status.
R. 109. Thus, as a Longshoreman, Plaintiff retained
a negligence claim against Transocean, the operator of the
Motion for Summary Judgment, Transocean seeks dismissal of
Plaintiff's negligence action with prejudice, at
plaintiff's costs. Transocean contends that it had no
“turnover duty” to Plaintiff related to the
condition of the shaker shack door that Plaintiff alleged
caused his back injury because the door was an “open
and obvious” condition which is not encompassed in the
“turnover duty.” Plaintiff filed an Opposition
Memorandum reiterating that his back injury was caused by
Transocean's negligence based on the vacuum seal on the
shaker shack door.
October 18, 2017, the Court conducted a hearing with oral
argument on the Motion. During the hearing, for the first time,
counsel for Plaintiff argued there was no issue of
“turnover duty' in this case because Plaintiff had
no control over any aspect of the DEEPWATER CHAMPION; he
worked in the shaker shack with Transocean shaker hands; and,
Transocean never gave up any responsibility over the shaker
shack. Unofficial Hearing Transcript, 10/18/2017.
Rather, Plaintiff argued that the real issue in this case is
whether or not Transocean breached the “active
control” duty by maintaining control over the venting
system and thereby control of the vacuum door through which
Plaintiff had to enter and exit the shaker shack.
Id. Plaintiff conceded that there was no question
that the door was an open and obvious condition, but argued,
presumably in the alternative, that the “no
alternative” exception to the open and obvious
condition excluded any such issue. Id. Following
conclusion of the arguments, the Court ordered the parties to
separately file Supplemental Memoranda related to
Plaintiff's argument as to the “no
alternative” exception and Transocean's
“active control” duty. The parties complied with
the Court's order. R. 126, 127.
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 (5th Cir.2004).
905(b) of the LHWCA grants covered maritime workers an
exclusive remedy against a “vessel” for injuries
caused by the vessel's negligence. See 33 U.S.C.
§ 905(b). The Act defines “vessel” broadly
to include both the physical vessel on which the worker was
injured and “said vessel's owner, owner pro hac
vice, agent, operator, charter or bare boat charterer,
master, officer, or crew member.” 33 U.S.C. §
902(21). As the operator of the DEEPWATER CHAMPION,
Transocean moves the Court to find that there is no genuine
dispute as to any material fact that Transocean's
negligence did not substantially cause and/or contribute to
Plaintiff's lumbar injuries and resulting surgery.
Scindia Steam Navigation Co. v. De Los Santos, 451
U.S. 156 (1981), the U.S. Supreme Court articulated the scope
of a vessel's duties to longshoremen and harbor workers
under § 905(b). The Scindia Court explained
that a stevedore was required to provide “a reasonably
safe” place to work and to take such safeguards with
respect to equipment and working conditions as necessary to
avoid injury to longshoremen, but the ship owes no such duty
to them, and a vessel may rightfully expect that a stevedore
would perform his task properly without supervision by the
ship. Id. at 170. Transocean also relies on
Helaire v. Mobil Oil Co., 709 F.2d 1031, 1036 (5th
Cir.1983), in which the Fifth Circuit stated that
“[t]he most basic principle which emerges from Scindia
is that the primary responsibility for the safety of the
longshoremen rests upon the stevedore.” Therefore,
Transocean argues that the Supreme Court and the Fifth
Circuit have consistently recognized that the responsibility
for the safety of a maritime worker lies with the employer,
such as Baker Hughes, and not the vessel operator, in this
the Supreme Court has outlined three general duties that
vessel owners/operators owe to covered workers under section
The first, which courts have come to call the “turnover
duty, ” relates to the condition of the ship upon the
commencement of stevedoring operations. The second duty,
applicable once stevedoring operations have begun, provides
that a shipowner must exercise reasonable care to prevent
injuries to longshoremen in areas that remain under the
“active control of the vessel.” The third duty,
called the “duty to intervene, ” concerns the