United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ORDER AND REASONS
L. C. FELDMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is Blake Rigby's motion for summary judgment.
For the reasons that follow, the motion is GRANTED.
case arises from a broken ankle suffered by the plaintiff
when he jumped off the bow of a boat onto a slick dock four
feet below at the conclusion of an overnight recreational
Blake Rigby is a charter boat captain, operating charters and
leisure fishing trips from the Venice Marina into the Gulf of
Mexico eight to ten times each month using a 38-foot Fountain
boat with outboard engines. His charter company is called
Triple Tail Charters, but it is not a formally formed entity
and it does not own any boats. In the summer of 2016, the
boat Rigby used, the 38-foot Fountain boat, was solely owned
by Allen Reynolds.
2016, Robert Andrew Ray planned an overnight fishing trip for
a few friends and co-workers. He hired and paid Captain Rigby
to take him and the group fishing offshore in
Louisiana.There is some debate concerning whether the
trip was a charter or a leisure fishing excursion with
friends of the boat owner, Allen Reynolds.
22, 2016, the group of co-workers and friends, including
Michael Dean Vicars, Paul Stiles, John David Anthony, Robert
Andrew Ray, and Nelson Zane Westmoreland, drove from Houston
to Venice for the overnight offshore fishing trip. Once they
arrived in Venice, they unloaded their bags at a house they
had rented and then went to the marina. The group brought
sandwiches and beverages, including beer, onboard with them;
fishing gear was provided for them. The group's plan was
to stay out all night fishing and return to the marina in the
morning. They arrived at the marina in Venice at around 4:00
p.m. and left the dock at 4:30 p.m. Captain Rigby pulled the
boat up to the dock and the passengers climbed aboard at the
Rigby navigated the boat approximately 80 miles from the
marina and around to different platforms so that the group
could fish for tuna. There were intermittent rain showers
while they fished offshore. The group took turns fishing and
sleeping throughout the night. Around 12:30 a.m., Stiles told
Westmoreland that it was probably time to stop drinking beer.
Westmoreland was a little drunk at that time, but he stopped
drinking, sat down, and ate a sandwich.
they returned to the Venice Marina at around 6:30 a.m. the
next morning, Captain Rigby positioned the boat, bow first,
as is customary at Venice Marina. Dock workers tied off the
boat. According to Captain Rigby, the usual and customary
manner of exiting vessels onto the dock at Venice Marina is
by climbing down from the bow of the boat onto the dock. This
was also true of the fishing trip patrons, who exited the
boat from the bow, just as they had entered. There was a
3½ to 4 foot drop between the bow of the vessel and
the floor of the dock, which was roughly the same when they
had boarded the boat the day before. Captain Rigby gave no
instructions on how to disembark, and no one asked Rigby to
provide an alternative means of egress from the bow of the
Venice Marina dock was wet that morning. There was a lot of
traffic and activity, including boats leaving, boats
arriving, people pulling fish towards a cleaning station, and
a man hosing down the dock. Vicars, Ray, and Anthony were in
a rush to disembark because they wanted to get to the
restroom. Vicars and Anthony went to the front of the bow and
jumped down to the dock, and Ray recalls either sitting down
and sliding off the boat at the bow, or lowering his hands
and dropping his feet to the dock. Stiles also went to the
front of the bow to exit, but he does not remember if he
jumped down or sat down first and then scooted down to the
dock. None of them fell or injured themselves. Westmoreland
was the last patron to disembark. Westmoreland squatted down
or sat at the edge of the boat and then jumped to the dock
below. Upon contact with the dock, his feet came out from
under him, causing him to severely fracture his right ankle.
While laying on the dock, Westmoreland noticed that the dock
was wet and that he was covered with fish slime and algae.
27, 2017, Nelson Zane Westmoreland sued Blake Rigby, Triple
Tail Charters, and Deep Delta Houseboats, L.L.C., d/b/a
Venice Marina,  alleging that Rigby's negligence in
failing to provide a safe means of egress and the
marina's unsafe condition caused his severe ankle
surgery. He seeks to recovery under general maritime and
Louisiana law. Rigby now seeks summary relief dismissing the
plaintiff's claims against him.
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, 586 (1986). A genuine dispute of
fact exists only "if the evidence is such that a