United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana
RULING AND ORDER
JOHN W. deGRAVELLES UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
THE PLAINTIFF'S ALLEGATIONS
case, Plaintiff Charles Spring sues “Oil Company
Defendants” Shell Oil Company; Shell Offshore Inc.;
SWEPI, LP; and Chevron USA, Inc. (Doc. 1-1 at 1).
case concerns radioactive scale “co-produced during oil
and gas production” that adheres to pipe and other oil
production equipment. (Id. at 2). When the scale
within a pipe builds up enough to slow the flow of oil or
gas, oil companies like Defendants send the pipe to a
facility to be de-scaled. (Id. at 2-3).
1973 and 1983, Plaintiff worked for Shield Coat, Inc., at the
French Jordan and Shield Coat Facility (“FJSC
facility”) in Houma, Louisiana, which performs pipe
descaling work. (Id. at 2). Plaintiff worked with
pipe containing scale, and the FJSC facility's pipe
cleaning process pulverized the scale and caused it to become
airborne, exposing Plaintiff to dangerous levels of
radiation. (Id.). The pipe and scale were never
marked or otherwise identified as radioactive. (Id.
at 3). Defendants owned some of the pipes submitted to the
FJSC facility, and Defendants' employees were often
present to observe the de-scaling of the pipe. (Id.
February 2017, a “lump” was discovered on
Plaintiff's thyroid gland, and Plaintiff claims that the
lump was caused by radiation exposure. (Id. at 5).
Plaintiff also claims that he has an increased risk of cancer
and “fear of cancer” and that he has
“breathing problems.” (Id. at 4-5).
alleges, inter alia, that Defendants are
“strictly liable for all damages caused by [scale],
having garde of the contaminated pipe and although
the pipe may have been temporarily in the control of the pipe
cleaning yard, the pipe at all times remained under the
custody, control, direction, [and] supervision of
[Defendants] and [Defendants] controlled what cleaning
processes were to be administered to [Defendants'] pipes
and controlled its movement and storage.” (Id.
at 4). Plaintiff's prayer for compensatory damages
includes a request for the costs associated with medical
monitoring. (Id. at 5).
Motion before the Court seeks to partially dismiss this
action under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).
(“Motion, ” Doc. 12; see also Doc. 15
(Chevron's request to adopt portions of Motion), Doc. 17
(Order granting request)). Defendants argue that Plaintiff
has failed to state a strict liability claim, as he has not
plausibly alleged that: (1) the pipe was defective in and of
itself, rather than made dangerous by the temporary presence
of a foreign substance; (2) any defect caused Plaintiff's
injury, as it was not the presence of scale but the cleaning
process used at the FJSC facility that pulverized and
aerosolized the scale; and (3) at the time when the pipe was
cleaned it was in Defendants' garde, rather than in the
garde of a pipe cleaning contractor or Shield Coat. (Doc.
12-1 at 5-9).
also oppose Plaintiff's request for damages for medical
monitoring. (Id. at 9). They maintain that such
damages are available only when a disease is presently
“manifest, ” and Plaintiff has made only vague
and unclear allegations concerning specific medical
conditions from which he suffers or his future prognosis.
(Id. at 9-10). Defendants also argue that Plaintiff
has failed to address factors necessary to support a request
for medical monitoring damages, including whether an
available and adequate monitoring procedure exists; whether
the procedure is reasonably necessary; whether the procedure
has been prescribed by a qualified physician; the
public's level of risk of contracting any particular
disease; Plaintiff's comparative risk; and whether there
is some demonstrated clinical value of early detection.
(Id. at 10).
Offshore and SWEPI further claim that they were incorporated
and formed in December 1981 and October 1983, respectively,
and they cannot be sued for any acts or omissions prior to
those dates. (Id. at 4-5).
does not oppose Shell Offshore and SWEPI's request to
dismiss claims against them arising prior to when they were
incorporated and formed. (Doc. 22 at 1-2). Otherwise,
Plaintiff opposes the Motion, arguing that he has stated a
strict liability claim and claim for medical monitoring under
the liberal pleadings standards of Rule 12(b)(6).
(Id. at 2-5). In reply, Defendants generally contend
that Plaintiff's factual allegations in support of his
claims are vague and conclusory and are therefore not
entitled to a presumption of truth. (Doc. 23 at 1-3).
Johnson v. City of Shelby, Miss., --- U.S. __, 135
S.Ct. 346 (2014), the Supreme Court analyzed the standards
applicable to motions under Rule 12(b)(6), explaining that
“[f]ederal pleading rules call for a ‘short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief, ' Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2); they do not
countenance dismissal of a complaint for imperfect statement
of the legal theory supporting the claim asserted.” 135
S.Ct. at 346-47 (citation omitted).
Rule 8(a), the Fifth Circuit has explained:
The complaint (1) on its face (2) must contain enough factual
matter (taken as true) (3) to raise a reasonable hope or
expectation (4) that discovery will reveal relevant evidence
of each element of a claim. “Asking for [such]
plausible grounds to infer [the element of a claim] does
not impose a probability requirement at the pleading
stage; it simply calls for enough facts to raise a ...