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Collins v. Cenac Marine Services, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

November 22, 2017

DAVID COLLINS
v.
CENAC MARINE SERVICES, LLC ET AL.

         SECTION I

          ORDER AND REASONS

          LANCE M. AFRICK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff David Collins (“Collins”) alleges that he slipped and fell down a flight of stairs on a vessel owned by defendant Cenac Marine Services, LLC (“Cenac”). At the time, Cenac employed Collins.

         Before the Court is Cenac's motion[1] for partial summary judgment on the grounds that Cenac does not owe maintenance and cure related to mental health conditions preexisting Collins' employment with Cenac. Collins opposes[2] the motion.

         I.

         Summary judgment is proper when, after reviewing the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits, the court determines that there is no genuine dispute of material fact. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. “[A] party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility 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). The moving party need not produce evidence negating the existence of material fact, but need only point out the absence of evidence supporting the other party's case. Id.; Fontenot v. Upjohn Co., 780 F.2d 1190, 1195 (5th Cir. 1986).

         Once the party seeking summary judgment carries its initial burden, the nonmoving party must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine dispute of material fact for trial. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). The showing of a genuine issue of material fact is not satisfied by creating “‘some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, ' by ‘conclusory allegations, ' by ‘unsubstantiated assertions, ' or by only a ‘scintilla' of evidence.” Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (citations omitted). Instead, a genuine issue of material fact exists when the “evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         The party responding to the motion for summary judgment may not rest upon the pleadings, but must identify specific facts that establish a genuine issue. Id. However, the nonmoving party's evidence “is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in [the nonmoving party's] favor.” Id. at 255; see also Hunt v. Cromartie, 526 U.S. 541, 552 (1999).

         Moreover, “[a]lthough the substance or content of the evidence submitted to support or dispute a fact on summary judgment must be admissible . . ., the material may be presented in a form that would not, in itself, be admissible at trial.” Lee v. Offshore Logistical & Transp., LLC, 859 F.3d 353, 355 (5th Cir. 2017) (quoting 11 Moore's Federal Practice-Civil ¶ 56.91 (2017)). “This flexibility allows the court to consider the evidence that would likely be admitted at trial . . . without imposing on parties the time and expense it takes to authenticate everything in the record.” Maurer v. Independence Town, No. 16-30673, 2017 WL 3866561, at *3 (5th Cir. Sept. 5, 2017).

         II.

         “Maintenance and cure is a contractual form of compensation afforded by the general maritime law to seamen who fall ill or are injured while in the service of a vessel.” Jauch v. Nautical Serv., Inc., 470 F.3d 207, 212 (5th Cir. 2006) (per curiam) (paraphrasing McCorpen v. Cent. Gulf S.S. Corp., 396 F.2d 547, 548 (5th Cir. 1968)). “The shipowner's obligation is deep-rooted in maritime law and is an incident or implied term of a contract for maritime employment.” McCorpen, 396 F.2d at 548. Thus, “[a] seaman may recover maintenance and cure even for injuries or illnesses pre-existing the seaman's employment unless that seaman knowingly or fraudulently concealed his condition from the vessel owner at the time he was employed.” Jauch, 470 F.3d at 212 (paraphrasing McCorpen, 396 F.2d at 548).

         As the Fifth Circuit has explained, “[i]n cases involving pre-existing conditions, courts distinguish between nondisclosure and concealment.” Id.

If a vessel owner does not require a pre-employment medical examination or interview, a seaman must disclose his condition “when in [the seaman's] own opinion the shipowner would consider it a matter of importance.” If, however, the vessel owner does require the seaman to submit to medical examination as part of its hiring process, a seaman who misrepresents or conceals any material medical facts, disclosure of which is plainly desired, risks forfeiture of his maintenance and cure benefits.

Id. (quoting McCorpen, 396 F.2d at 548-49).

         In order to establish the so-called McCorpen defense, a vessel owner must prove three elements: “(1) the claimant intentionally misrepresented or concealed medical facts; (2) the non-disclosed facts were material to the employer's decision to hire the claimant; and (3) a connection exists between the withheld information and the injury complained of in the lawsuit.” Brown v. Parker Drilling Offshore Corp., 410 F.3d 166, 171 (5th Cir. 2005) (Clement, J.).

         III.

         Cenac asserts the McCorpen defense with respect to Collins' preexisting mental health issues. It argues that the facts material to the defense are undisputed and conclusively show that the defense applies in this case. Collins counters that a genuine ...


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