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Zachary v. Superior Energy Services and Shell Oil Co.

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

May 8, 2018




         Currently pending is the motion for summary judgment filed by defendants Shell Offshore, Inc. and Shell Oil Company. (Rec. Doc. 46).[1] The motion is unopposed. Considering the evidence, the law, and the arguments of the parties, and for the reasons fully explained below, this Court grants the motion and dismisses the plaintiff's claims against Shell Offshore, Inc. and Shell Oil Company with prejudice.


         The plaintiff, Rico Patrick Zachary, claims that he was injured due to an incident that occurred on September 25, 2014 while he was working as a derrick hand for Weatherford International, Inc. on a fixed platform located at Ship Shoal 241 in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana. He alleged that the two Shell entities (collectively referred to as “Shell” hereinafter) owned the platform.

         The following uncontested facts were established by Shell. Shell and Weatherford entered into a Global Well Services Arrangement (“GWSA”) that governs the way in which Weatherford was to perform certain oilfield services for Shell. The GWSA states that Weatherford is an independent contractor, that Shell has the right to inform Weatherford of the results to be obtained through Weatherford's efforts, but that Weatherford retains “complete control, supervision[, ] and direction of the method and manner of obtaining such results.” (Rec. Doc. 47-1 at 10 - Paragraph 28.5 of the agreement).

         On August 30, 2013, pursuant to the GWSA, Shell and Weatherford entered into a contract by which Weatherford's Pulling and Jacking Unit 4 was to be delivered to Shell's platform at Ship Shoal 241. Under the contract, Weatherford was also obligated to provide a crew to perform services on Shell's platform using the pulling unit. Weatherford's pulling unit was temporarily located on Shell's platform between August 2013 and October 2014. The pulling unit could be, and actually was, removed from the platform without substantial damage to the pulling unit or the platform.

         Shell did not design, manufacture, own, inspect, maintain, control, operate, or have custody of the pulling unit provided by Weatherford for work on Ship Shoal 241. Instead, Weatherford was responsible for the inspection, maintenance, and operation of the pulling unit. Shell did not instruct the Weatherford crew or direct the manner or method in which Weatherford performed its work for Shell.

         At the time of the accident, the plaintiff had been employed by Weatherford for about four and a half years, and he had been assigned to Pulling Unit 4 on Shell's Ship Shoal 214 platform for about two and a half months. In his deposition testimony, the plaintiff described Weatherford's pulling units as mini drilling rigs that are used to pull pipe from the ground. He stated that Weatherford's pulling units are kept in Weatherford's yard when not in use, and all of them are used in offshore operations. He further stated that, when a Weatherford pulling unit is needed for a job, a Weatherford crew is sent out to the jobsite to operate the pulling unit. He stated that only Weatherford employees are allowed to operate Weatherford's pulling units.

         The plaintiff was on the Weatherford crew sent out to Ship Shoal 241 to operate Pulling Unit 4. The crew consisted of a derrick hand (the plaintiff), two floor hands, a driller, and a supervisor. In addition to the pulling unit itself, the Weatherford crewmembers brought out to the platform all of the other equipment they needed for the job, including slings, tools, and face shields. While the Weatherford crew was on the platform, they performed regular inspections of the pulling unit, including inspections of the pipe stops on the pulling unit. During these inspections, the plaintiff did not see anything wrong with the pipe stops.

         On the day of the accident, the plaintiff worked the six a.m. to six p.m. shift. Immediately before the accident, while operations were at a standstill and the crew was preparing for their next task, he had noticed that hydraulic fluid had leaked onto the rig floor. He went to get some oil pads out of a Weatherford tool box to clean it up. He testified that, after he closed the tool box, something hit his right shoulder and knocked his hard hat off. He later learned that the object that hit him was the arm of a pipe stop that had broken off from the Weatherford pulling unit. No. operations were taking place at the time, and the plaintiff stated that the pipe stop was completely stationary before the arm allegedly broke off and fell, striking him.

         In his deposition testimony, the plaintiff stated that his supervisor on the job was a Weatherford employee, that he received all of his instructions from either his Weatherford supervisor or the Weatherford driller, that neither he nor any other member of the Weatherford crew received any step-by-step directions from Shell, and that no one from Shell operated any of Weatherford's equipment, including but not limited to the pulling unit or the pipe stops on the pulling unit. He also testified that he did not know of anything that Shell did to cause the pipe stop to fall.


         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. A genuine ...

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