United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lafayette Division
TROY A. MAILLET, ET AL.
GULF CRANE SERVICES, INC., ET AL.
PATRICK J. HANNA, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
pending is defendant Gulf Crane Services Inc.'s motion to
designate responsible third parties (Rec. Doc. 31). The
motion is unopposed. Considering the evidence, the law, and
the arguments of the parties, and for the reasons fully
explained below, the motion is GRANTED.
complaint, plaintiff Troy A. Maillet alleged that he was
injured during a personnel basket transfer while working as a
safety technician for Total Safety U.S., Inc. on Platform
537-B, located at High Island Block 537 off the coast of
Texas on June 12, 2015. Defendant Gulf Crane Services Inc.
contends that Ira a/k/a Tony Morrison, Eagle Consulting, LLC,
Eagle employees Micah Young and Jerry Deese, and the
plaintiff's employer, Total Safety U.S., Inc., all caused
or contributed to the cause of the incident in which Mr.
Maillet was allegedly injured. However, none of those parties
were sued by the plaintiff. Gulf Crane now seeks to have
these parties designated as responsible third parties.
noted in the parties' Rule 26(f) report, the
plaintiff's claims are governed by Texas substantive law.
(Rec. Doc. 29 at 4). Federal district courts sitting in Texas
have repeatedly held that Section 33.004 of the Texas Civil
Practice and Remedies Code is substantive law. Therefore, it is
applicable to this case. In its motion, Gulf Crane invokes
that statute and seeks to have Morrison, Eagle Consulting,
Young, Deese, and Total Safety designated as responsible
third parties in accordance with the operation of that
every cause of action based in tort under Texas law, the
trier of fact is required to apportion responsibility among
each claimant, defendant, settling person, and
“responsible third party.” Texas law defines
a “responsible third party” as:
any person who is alleged to have caused or contributed to
causing in any way the harm for which recovery of damages is
sought, whether by negligent act or omission, by any
defective or unreasonably dangerous product, by other conduct
or activity that violates an applicable legal standard, or by
any combination of these. . . .
33.004 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code allows
defendants to “seek to designate a person as a
responsible third party by filing a motion for leave to
designate. . . on or before the 60th day before the trial
date.” The purpose of the statute is to allow the
trier of fact to allocate responsibility among all persons
responsible for a claimant's injuries even if they are
not subject to the court's jurisdiction, immune from
suit, unknown, or subject to some other impediment to the
imposition of liability on them. Leave to designate must be
granted “unless another party files an objection to the
motion for leave on or before the 15th day after the date the
motion is served.” When an objection is timely filed, a
court may deny leave only if the objecting party establishes
that the defendant “did not plead sufficient facts
concerning the alleged responsibility of the person to
satisfy the pleading requirement of the Texas Rules of Civil
Procedure.” If the court grants leave to designate
third parties, another party “may move to strike the
designation of a responsible third party on the ground that
there is no evidence that the designated person is
responsible for any portion of the claimant's alleged
injury or damage” after allowing adequate time for
discovery. In that case, the burden shifts to the
defendant to produce “sufficient evidence to raise a
genuine issue of fact regarding the designated person's
responsibility for the claimant's injury or
damage.” If an adequate showing is not made, the
court must grant the motion to strike the
designation. Additionally, before trial, the trial
court “must determine whether there is sufficient
evidence to support the submission of a question to the jury
regarding the designated parties'
the statute is clear that, after a timely motion to designate
a person as a responsible third party has been filed, the
motion must mandatorily be granted unless another party files
a timely objection and establishes that the defendant failed
to plead sufficient facts concerning the alleged
responsibility of the designated third party. If the motion
for leave to designate a responsible third party is granted,
the person named in the motion is so designated without
further action by the court or any party. The defendant
then bears the burden at trial of producing evidence that the
designated person is responsible for some portion of the
plaintiff's damages. If sufficient evidence is presented
with regard to the conduct of each designated party, the
trier of fact is called upon to decide the percentage of
responsibility that falls to each claimant, defendant,
settling person, and designated third party.
motion was filed in March 2017 and, at that time, the trial
of this matter was scheduled for January 2018. Thus, the
motion was filed more than sixty days before trial in
compliance with the statute. The standard for designating
responsible third parties is permissive, and the statute
expressly states that “[a] court shall
grant leave to designate the named person as responsible
third party unless another party files a [timely]
objection.” In this case, no objection has been
filed by any party to the litigation, and the fifteen-day
time period for timely objections passed long ago.
this Court finds that defendant Gulf Crane's motion to
designate responsible third parties meets the statutory
requirements, and this Court further finds that no objection
to the proposed designation was filed. Therefore, IT IS
ORDERED that defendant Gulf Crane's motion to designate
responsible third parties (Rec. Doc. 31) is GRANTED, and Ira
a/k/a Tony Morrison, Eagle Consulting, ...