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Comeaux v. Atos Origin it Services, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

April 4, 2018

LORI COMEAUX
v.
ATOS ORIGIN IT SERVICES, INC., et al.

         SECTION: “G” (3)

          ORDER

          NANNETTE JOLIVETTE BROWN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Defendant Halliburton Energy Services' (“HESI”) “Motion to Dismiss Certain Claims Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6).”[1] In this matter, Plaintiff Lori Comeaux (“Plaintiff”) brings claims for negligence individually and on behalf of decedent, Melvin A. Comeaux, Jr., under the Jones Act, general maritime law, and Louisiana law.[2]

         On December 27, 2017, HESI filed the instant motion.[3] Therein, HESI argues that Plaintiff's claims for damages related to the decedent's alleged future medical expenses fail as matter of law because those damages do not exist given the decedent's death.[4] HESI also argues that Plaintiff's claims for non-pecuniary damages fail as a matter of law because those damages are not recoverable by a seaman under the Jones Act or general maritime law.[5] Finally, HESI contends that Plaintiff's claims for punitive damages fail because punitive damages are not recoverable under the Jones Act or general maritime law.[6]

         On January 9, 2018, Plaintiff filed a memorandum in opposition to the motion to dismiss.[7]In the memorandum, Plaintiff first asserts that she is not pursuing future medical expenses.[8]Second, Plaintiff contends that heirs of a deceased seaman are entitled to recovery non-pecuniary and punitive damages.[9] Moreover, Plaintiff contends that non-pecuniary and punitive damages are available because “decedent was not a Jones Act employee of all defendants at all times of his exposure to toxic substances that resulted in his death, nor was he a Jones Act employee of HESI during the entirety of his exposure attributable to their conduct.”[10]

         On January 19, 2018, with leave of Court, HESI filed a reply brief in further support of the motion to dismiss.[11] In the reply, HESI contends that seamen are not entitled to punitive damages under Fifth Circuit law, and to the extent Plaintiff argued in the opposition that the decedent was not a Jones Act seaman, there is no factual basis to support this allegation in the complaint.[12]

         On February 5, 2018, with leave of Court, Plaintiff filed a First Supplemental and Amended Complaint.[13] In the amended complaint, Plaintiff alleges “additionally and in the alternative, that decedent's work during the relevant time period was not constantly in the capacity as crewman upon defendants' vessels or in the service of those vessels.”[14] Therefore, Plaintiff makes an alternative claim that decedent was not a Jones Act seamen at all relevant times.[15]

         Courts vary in how they proceed when a plaintiff files an amended complaint while a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is still pending.[16] Many district courts-including this Court-routinely deny as moot motions to dismiss that are filed prior to an amendment of a complaint.[17] Although courts may address the merits of a motion to dismiss even after an amended complaint is filed, as a general rule, “if applying the pending motion to the amended complaint would cause confusion or detract from the efficient resolution of the issues, then it makes sense to require the defendant to file a new motion specifically addressing the amended complaint.”[18]

         Here, Plaintiff has amended the complaint to allege an alternative claim that decedent was not a Jones Act seamen at all times relevant to the claims asserted in this litigation. In the motion to dismiss, HESI contends that Fifth Circuit law precludes non-pecuniary and punitive damages for seamen. Therefore, the Court concludes that, should HESI wish to challenge the amended complaint, it would be more efficient for the Court to consider any arguments regarding dismissal in a motion that is better tailored to the causes of action now pending in this matter. Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that HESI's “Motion to Dismiss Certain Claims Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)”[19] is DENIED AS MOOT.

---------

Notes:

[1] Rec. Doc. 10.

[2] See Rec. Doc. 1.


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