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Batiste v. Quality Construction & Production LLC

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

May 9, 2018





         Currently pending is defendant Alliance Offshore L.L.C.'s motion for summary judgment. (Rec. Doc. 121). 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 Alliance's motion and dismisses the plaintiff's claim against Alliance with prejudice.


         In October 2013, the plaintiff, Donald Batiste, was employed by Quality Construction and Production, LLC as a rigger. He and his crew were working on a construction project on an offshore platform in the Gulf of Mexico that was owned and operated by Arena Energy, LP. Helmerich & Payne International Drilling Company (“H&P”) was conducting drilling operations on the platform pursuant to a separate contract with Arena. The plaintiff claims that he was injured on October 26, 2013 while standing on the deck of a vessel engaged in the task of backloading material baskets to the vessel from the platform. He contends that he gave an “all stop” signal that was ignored by the H&P crane operator and that the crane operator proceeded to set a material basket down on a pipe that was laying on the vessel's deck. In his complaint, the plaintiff alleged that he was injured when the basket's contact with the pipe caused him to be flung into the side of the basket and also caused the pipe to rise up into the air and strike him in the head.

         The plaintiff asserted negligence claims against several defendants. In his second supplemental and amending complaint, the plaintiff asserted a claim against Alliance, contending that Alliance and others “were responsible for keeping the vessel steady during the transfers, keeping the deck clear from hazards, and providing a safe work environment.” (Rec. Doc. 60 at 2-3). In support of its motion for summary judgment, Alliance admitted that it was the owner and operator of the M/V NICHOLAS, the vessel involved in the incident, but argued that it is entitled to summary judgment in its favor because there is no evidence that Alliance committed any negligent act or omission that contributed to the plaintiff's alleged injuries in any way and no evidence that Alliance is responsible for the negligence of any other party. The plaintiff did not oppose Alliance's motion.


         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.[1] A genuine issue of material fact exists if a reasonable jury could render a verdict for the nonmoving party.[2]

         The party seeking summary judgment has the initial responsibility of informing the court of the basis for its motion and identifying those parts of the record that demonstrate the absence of genuine issues of material fact.[3] If the moving party carries its initial burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to demonstrate the existence of a genuine issue of a material fact.[4] All facts and inferences are construed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.[5]

         If the dispositive issue is one on which the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party may satisfy its burden by pointing out that there is insufficient proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim.[6] The motion should be granted if the nonmoving party cannot produce evidence to support an essential element of its claim.[7]

         B. The Governing Law

         As explained in a previous ruling (Rec. Doc. 124 at 8-12), jurisdiction in this case is premised on the jurisdictional provision of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (“OCSLA”), and the law of Louisiana, the adjacent state, governs the plaintiff's claims against the defendants other than Alliance. However, the accident occurred on the deck of Alliance's vessel. Therefore, it is arguable that the general maritime law or negligence principles under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act should apply.

         To state a negligence claim under the general maritime law, a plaintiff must demonstrate that (1) the defendant owed a duty; (2) the defendant breached the duty; (3) the plaintiff sustained damages; and (4) the defendant's wrongful conduct caused the plaintiff's damages.[8] These elements are virtually identical to those for asserting a negligence claim under Louisiana law. In order to prevail on a negligence claim under Louisiana law, a plaintiff must establish (1) that the defendant had a duty to conform his conduct to a specific standard; (2) that he failed to do so; (3) that the defendant's conduct was a cause-in-fact of ...

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