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Washington v. Fieldwood Energy LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

June 12, 2018

DONALD WASHINGTON
v.
FIELDWOOD ENERGY LLC

         SECTION “H”

          ORDER AND REASONS

          JANE TRICHE MILAZZO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court are Defendant Wood Group's Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiff's Claim (Doc. 105) and Motion for Summary Judgment on Intervenor's Claim (Doc. 104). For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiff's claim is GRANTED, and its Motion for Summary Judgment on Intervenor's claim is DENIED AS MOOT.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Donald Washington alleges that he was injured when he slipped and fell while working aboard an oil and gas production platform located on the Outer Continental Shelf. Plaintiff was a cook employed by a third-party, Taylors International (“Taylors”), and assigned to the platform VR 272A. Plaintiff alleges that he was injured when he slipped and fell on unsecured stairs while carrying steaks. Plaintiff's Complaint alleges that Defendant Fieldwood Energy, LLC (“Fieldwood”) is liable to him under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (“OCSLA”) as the owner/operator of the platform. Plaintiff's Complaint further alleges that Defendant Wood Group PSN, Inc. (“Wood Group”), an independent contractor of Fieldwood, is vicariously liable to him for the negligence of its employee, Justin Roberts. Plaintiff alleges that Justin Roberts should have known the steps on which Plaintiff fell were unsecured and repaired them. Finally, Liberty Mutual Insurance Company (“Liberty Mutual”) has intervened in this matter, seeking recovery of the amounts it paid out on behalf of Washington as the Longshore and Harbor Worker's Compensation Act insurer for Taylors. Liberty Mutual asserts subrogation against any recovery received by Washington in settlement or judgment.

         In deciding previous motions, the Court found that there were material issues of fact as to whether Plaintiff was a borrowed employee of Fieldwood. However, it found that Justin Roberts was a borrowed employee of Fieldwood but declined to dismiss Plaintiff's vicarious liability claims against Roberts's nominal employer Wood Group. Fieldwood has since reached settlement with Plaintiff, and only Plaintiff's and Intervenor's claims against Wood Group remain.

         The Court now considers two motions filed by Wood Group. In the first, Wood Group moves for summary judgment, holding that its employee Justin Roberts cannot be found to have been negligent because he did not owe or breach a duty to Plaintiff. In the second, Wood Group argues that Liberty Mutual's subrogation claims should be dismissed because it waived subrogation in the Master Service Agreement between Taylors and Fieldwood. Having found that Defendant is entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiff's claims against it, Liberty Mutual's claims likewise fall and this Court need not address Defendant's arguments thereto.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.”[1] A genuine issue of fact exists only “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”[2]

         In determining whether the movant is entitled to summary judgment, the Court views facts in the light most favorable to the non-movant and draws all reasonable inferences in his favor.[3] “If the moving party meets the initial burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to produce evidence or designate specific facts showing the existence of a genuine issue for trial.”[4] Summary judgment is appropriate if the non-movant “fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case.”[5] “In response to a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the non-movant must identify specific evidence in the record and articulate the manner in which that evidence supports that party's claim, and such evidence must be sufficient to sustain a finding in favor of the non-movant on all issues as to which the non-movant would bear the burden of proof at trial.”[6] “We do not . . . in the absence of any proof, assume that the nonmoving party could or would prove the necessary facts.”[7] Additionally, “[t]he mere argued existence of a factual dispute will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion.”[8]

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         Plaintiff argues that Wood Group is vicariously liable for the negligence of its employee Justin Roberts in failing to inspect and repair the steps upon which Plaintiff fell. The parties agree that Louisiana law applies to this dispute through OCSLA. Louisiana employs the duty-risk analysis in negligence cases, under which plaintiffs bear the burden to prove that:

(1) the defendant had a duty to conform his conduct to a specific standard (the duty element); (2) the defendant's conduct failed to conform to the appropriate standard (the breach element); (3) the defendant's substandard conduct was a cause in fact of the plaintiff's injuries (the cause-in-fact element); (4) the defendant's substandard conduct was a legal cause of the plaintiff's injuries

(the scope of liability or scope of protection element); and (5) the actual damages (the ...


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