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Guidry v. Noble Drilling Services, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

April 4, 2018


         SECTION "F"



         Before the Court is the defendants' motion for summary judgment. For the following reasons, the motion is DENIED.


         This litigation arises out of a longshoreman's allegations that he suffered a disabling hip injury when he slipped on mud while performing a casing operation on a drill ship.

         Glen Guidry was employed as a field service representative by VAM USA, LLC, a subcontractor of Shell. VAM performed casing operations aboard the Noble Bully 1, a drill ship located in the Gulf of Mexico, which was owned by Noble Drilling Services. The drilling operation involved lowering a casing, a large-diameter pipe, into the ocean floor. The casing is made up of casing joints, or long steel pipes, which are attached with threads on each end that join them together.[1] Guidry would walk from his computer to the drill floor where he would wipe off the threads of the casing joint and inspect the joint for abnormalities before the crew assembled it. As the driller operator ran the casing pipe down into the ocean floor, oily mud would overflow from the casing and accumulate at the base of the drilling floor.

         On the early morning of May 11, 2015, Guidry was inspecting the joint casing while standing upon the drilling floor, which was covered in mud. Guidry slipped and allegedly sustained injuries to his back, ligaments, muscles, and nervous system. On May 4, 2016, he sued Noble Drilling Services, Inc, Noble Drilling Exploration Company, and Noble Drilling (U.S.), LLC, claiming that he was injured as a result of the defendant's negligence and seeking relief under general maritime law and the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act. It is undisputed that Guidry is not a Jones Act seaman. The defendants have moved for summary judgment.


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 instructs that summary judgment is proper if the record discloses no genuine dispute as to any material fact such that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. No genuine dispute of fact exists if the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). A genuine dispute of fact exists only "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         The mere argued existence of a factual dispute does not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion. See id. In this regard, the non-moving party must do more than simply deny the allegations raised by the moving party. See Donaghey v. Ocean Drilling & Exploration Co., 974 F.2d 646, 649 (5th Cir. 1992). Rather, he must come forward with competent evidence, such as affidavits or depositions, to buttress his claims. Id. Hearsay evidence and unsworn documents that cannot be presented in a form that would be admissible in evidence at trial do not qualify as competent opposing evidence. Martin v. John W. Stone Oil Distrib., Inc., 819 F.2d 547, 549 (5th Cir. 1987); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2). "[T]he nonmoving party cannot defeat summary judgment with conclusory allegations, unsubstantiated assertions, or only a scintilla of evidence." Hathaway v. Bazany, 507 F.3d 312, 319 (5th Cir. 2007)(internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Ultimately, "[i]f the evidence is merely colorable . . . or is not significantly probative, " summary judgment is appropriate. Id. at 249 (citations omitted); King v. Dogan, 31 F.3d 344, 346 (5th Cir. 1994) (“Unauthenticated documents are improper as summary judgment evidence.”).

         Summary judgment is also proper if the party opposing the motion fails to establish an essential element of his case. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). In deciding whether a fact issue exists, courts must view the facts and draw reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007). Although the Court must "resolve factual controversies in favor of the nonmoving party, " it must do so "only where there is an actual controversy, that is, when both parties have submitted evidence of contradictory facts." Antoine v. First Student, Inc., 713 F.3d 824, 830 (5th Cir. 2013)(internal quotation marks and citation omitted).



         To succeed in a negligence claim under general maritime law, “[t]he plaintiff must demonstrate that there was a duty owed by the defendant to the plaintiff, breach of that duty, injury sustained by [the] plaintiff, and a causal connection between defendant's conduct and the plaintiff's injury.” In re Cooper/T. Smith, 929 F.2d 1073, 1077 (5th Cir. 1991). “It is a settled principle of maritime law that a shipowner owes the duty of exercising reasonable care towards those lawfully aboard the vessel who are not members of the crew.” Kermarec v. Compagnie ...

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