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Lafosse v. Anadarko Petroleum Corp.

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lafayette Division

February 28, 2018




         Pending before the Court is the Defendant, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation's, Partial Motion for Summary Judgment seeking a determination of what substantive law is applicable to the plaintiff's claims against it. [Rec. Doc. 38]. Even though the motion is not dispositive of the case, the Court issues this report and recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1)(A). The plaintiff opposes the motion [Rec. Doc. 50] and Anadarko filed a reply. [Rec. Doc. 52]. For the reasons which follow, the Court finds that the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act determines the choice of law in this case, and the substantive law of the state of Texas as surrogate federal law is applicable because Texas is the adjacent state.

         Factual Background

         The following facts are undisputed. The plaintiff was employed by Magnolia Torque and Testing, Inc. as a torque technician. Magnolia was under contract with Anadarko to work aboard the Nansen spar in East Breaks blocks 602 and 646 in the Gulf of Mexico. According to a chart prepared by the United States Department of Interior, East Breaks blocks 602 and 646 are on direct southerly line from the coast of Texas approximately midway between Galveston and Sabine Pass, Texas.[1]

         The plaintiff concedes the Nansen spar is a platform located on the outer continental shelf. The undisputed facts bear out this concession. The spar is attached to the seabed of the OCS through a mooring system which consists of cables, chains and anchors. It has no means of propulsion. Since its installation in 2002, it has not moved to another location and there are no plans to move it in the future. It serves as an oil and gas production platform. This Court has found a similar spar to qualify as a fixed platform for purposes of OCS jurisdiction and applicable choice of law.[2]

         At the time of the plaintiff's alleged accident, Magnolia had a two person crew working to provide support services aboard the Nansen. The plaintiff was allegedly injured in the course and scope of his employment when a pneumatic wrench he was using to loosen a nut slipped off the nut and struck him in the face.

         Applicable Law and Analysis

         A. The Summary Judgment Standard

         Under Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. A fact is material if proof of its existence or nonexistence might affect the outcome of the lawsuit under the applicable governing law.[3]

         The party seeking summary judgment has the initial responsibility of informing the court of the basis for its motion and identifying those parts of the record that demonstrate the absence of genuine issues of material fact.[4] If the moving party carries its initial burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to demonstrate the existence of a genuine issue of a material fact.[5]

         B. The basis of this Court's jurisdiction is not the general maritime law

         In his original complaint, as well as in his inserts to the Rule 26(f) report, the plaintiff alleged that jurisdiction fell under the general maritime law and the Longshore and Harborworker's Compensation Act, specifically 33 U.S.C. §905(a) and (b) as well as 933. It is undisputed that plaintiff is deemed a longshoreman by application of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, 43 U.S.C. Section 1333(b).

         “A party seeking to invoke federal admiralty jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1333(1) over a tort claim must satisfy conditions both of location and of connection with maritime activity. A court applying the location test must determine whether the tort occurred on navigable water or whether injury suffered on land was caused by a vessel on navigable water.”[6]

         It is also well-settled law that the LHWCA, specifically, 33 U.S.C. §905(b), does not “create a new or broader cause of action in admiralty than that which previously existed. . . To be cognizable under § 905(b), a tort must occur on or in navigable waters subject, of course, to the provisions of the Admiralty Extension Act, and there must be the traditional admiralty nexus.”[7]

         It is undisputed that the tort alleged in this case did not occur on navigable water. It is also undisputed that this “platform-located” incident was not caused by a vessel on navigable water such that the Admiralty Extension Act might apply. Therefore, this Court does not have jurisdiction under the general maritime law.

         While the plaintiff does not correctly invoke OCSLA for jurisdictional purposes, ‘because jurisdiction is invested in the district courts by [the OCSLA jurisdictional] statute ‘[a] plaintiff does not need to expressly invoke OCSLA in order for it to apply.'”[8] The jurisdictional statute provides federal district courts with jurisdiction over " cases and controversies arising out of, or in connection with . . . any operation conducted on the outer Continental Shelf which involves exploration, development or production of the minerals, of the subsoil and seabed of the outer Continental Shelf . . ."[9] “OCSLA asserts exclusive federal question jurisdiction over the OCS by specifically extending '[t]he Constitution and laws and civil and political jurisdiction of the United States ... [to the OCS] and all installations and other devices permanently or temporarily attached to the seabed . . . for the purpose of exploring for, developing, or producing resources therefrom.'”[10]

         In Deepwater Horizon, the most recent Fifth Circuit case where the court was called upon to determine if OCSLA jurisdiction was present, the court applied a "but-for" two-pronged test asking whether: (1) the activities that caused the injury constituted an “operation” “conducted on the outer Continental Shelf” that involved the exploration and ...

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