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Washington v. Fieldwood Energy LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

January 2, 2018

DONALD WASHINGTON
v.
FIELDWOOD ENERGY LLC

         SECTION "H"

          ORDER AND REASONS

          JANE TRICHE MILAZZO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court are Defendant Fieldwood Energy LLC's Second Motion for Summary Judgment or Alternatively for Reconsideration (Doc. 72) and Motion for Reconsideration (Doc. 73). For the following reasons, the Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED, and the Motion for Reconsideration is GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Donald Washington alleges that he was injured when he slipped and fell while working aboard an oil and gas production platform located on the Outer Continental Shelf. Plaintiff was a cook employed by a third party, Taylors International (“Taylors”), and assigned to the platform VR 272A. Plaintiff alleges that he was injured when he slipped and fell on unsecured stairs while carrying steaks. Plaintiff's Complaint alleged that Defendant Fieldwood Energy LLC (“Fieldwood”) is liable to him under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (“OCSLA”) as the owner/operator of the platform, and Defendant Wood Group PSN, Inc. (“Wood Group”) is vicariously liable to him for the negligence of its employee, Justin Roberts.

         Defendant Fieldwood moved for summary judgment, arguing that Plaintiff was a borrowed employee of Fieldwood and thus his exclusive remedy was under the Longshore and Harbor Worker's Compensation Act (“LHWCA”). Defendant Wood Group also moved for summary judgment, arguing that its employee Justin Roberts was a borrowed employee of Fieldwood, and it therefore cannot be vicariously liable for his actions. In deciding these motions, the Court held that Justin Roberts was the borrowed employee of Fieldwood and therefore dismissed Plaintiff's claims against Wood Group. The Court, however, denied Fieldwood's Motion for Summary Judgment, holding that there were material issues of fact regarding Plaintiff's status as a borrowed employee of Fieldwood.

         Fieldwood has now filed the two instant motions, which it has styled as a Second Motion for Summary Judgment or Alternatively Motion to Revise the Order and Reasons (Doc. 72) and a Motion to Revise Order and Reasons (Doc. 73). Despite what Fieldwood has titled these motions, each motion asks for reconsideration of this Court's prior Order and Reasons and will be treated as motions for reconsideration under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b). Fieldwood is not entitled to a second motion for summary judgment. Although this Court continued the trial date after its ruling on Defendants' initial summary judgment motions, it did not reset a dispositive motion deadline. The dispositive motion filing deadline in this matter was June 13, 2017. Accordingly, Fieldwood's purported Second Motion for Summary Judgment, filed on August 29, 2017, was untimely. This Court will treat this motion as one for reconsideration.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         A Motion for Reconsideration of an interlocutory order is governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b), which states that: “[A]ny order or other decision, however designated, that adjudicates fewer than all the claims or the rights and liabilities of fewer than all the parties does not end the action as to any of the claims or parties and may be revised at any time before the entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims and all the parties' rights and liabilities.” “Under Rule 54(b), ‘the trial court is free to reconsider and reverse its decision for any reason it deems sufficient, even in the absence of new evidence or an intervening change in or clarification of the substantive law.'”[1]“‘[T]he power to reconsider or modify interlocutory rulings is committed to the discretion of the district court, and that discretion is not cabined by the heightened standards for reconsideration' governing final orders.'”[2]

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         Although presented in separate motions, Fieldwood challenges both of the Court's prior holdings regarding the borrowed employee status of Plaintiff and Justin Roberts. This Court will consider each of Fieldwood's arguments for reconsideration in turn.

         A. Plaintiff's Borrowed Employee Status

         In its motion for reconsideration of this Court's holding that material issues of fact exist as to Plaintiff's status as a borrowed employee, Fieldwood asserts substantially the same arguments already addressed by this Court. It adds, however, a second declaration from Fieldwood employee, James Pena, and a new declaration from Taylors COO, Barry Johnson. Fieldwood does not present any reason why these declarations were not, or could not have been, included with its prior motion.[3] Even so, this additional evidence and argument does not persuade this Court to change its opinion.

         Fieldwood's motion contests this Court's findings on three of the Ruiz factors regarding borrowed employee status. In Ruiz v. Shell Oil Co., the Fifth Circuit delineated nine factors concerning whether an individual qualifies as a “borrowed employee.” Fieldwood contests this Court's findings on the first three factors: (1) who has control over the employee and the work he is performing; (2) whose work is being performed; and (3) whether there was an agreement, understanding, or meeting of the minds between the original and the borrowing employer.[4]

         Regarding the second factor-whose work is being performed-this Court held that Plaintiff was performing the cooking and cleaning work of Taylors, not the oil and gas production work of Fieldwood, and therefore, that factor weighed in favor of a finding that Plaintiff was not a borrowed employee.

         In its Motion for Reconsideration, Fieldwood complains about this Court's reliance on Rollans v. Unocal Expl. Corp., which expressly held that a cook aboard a platform was performing the work of its actual employer who contracted with the platform operator to provide catering services.[5] Fieldwood argues that this Court should have instead followed the Fifth Circuit's holding in Melancon v. Amoco Production Co., which held that a welder was doing the work of the platform operator, Amoco, because his “work assisted Amoco in the production of hydrocarbons by maintaining the production equipment and platforms in the Amoco field.”[6] It went on to note that, “It is irrelevant that Melancon's primary job was welding, ...


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