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Robinson v. Ergon, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

July 9, 2018

DELMON ROBINSON
v.
ERGON, INC., ET AL.

         SECTION: “J” (2)

          ORDER & REASONS NATURE OF MOTION AND RELIEF REQUESTED

          CARL J. BARBIER UNITED STATES IE DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Rec. Doc. 32) filed by Defendant, Magnolia Marine Transport Company, and an opposition thereto (Rec. Doc. 33) filed by Plaintiff, Delmon Robinson. Having considered the motion and legal memoranda, the record, and the applicable law, the Court finds that the motion should be GRANTED.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         This litigation derives from an accident which occurred aboard the M/V LAMPTON, a vessel owned and operated by Magnolia Marine Transport Company (“Magnolia”). Plaintiff, Delmon Robinson (“Robinson”), alleges that on August 2, 2014, he was injured when a cheater bar he was using to tighten a winch gave way and accidently struck his left kneecap. Shortly after the incident, Robinson underwent an arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. On April 28, 2015, Robinson's treating physician, Dr. Porter, released him to return to work after concluding that he had reached maximum medical improvement (“MMI”). As a result of Dr. Porter's evaluation, Magnolia ceased the maintenance and cure payments that it had been paying to Robinson since the day of the accident.

         Robinson began treating again with Dr. Porter in January 2017. At that point, Dr. Porter noted that Robinson was “headed for [a] total knee arthroplasty, ” but only prescribed Mobic, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication, and instructed Robinson to return for treatment as needed. Robinson returned for treatment on April 17, 2017, with complaints of persistent pain, which resulted in Dr. Porter ordering an MRI. The results of the MRI showed that Robinson had a medial meniscal tear in his left knee. On May 8, 2017, Dr. Porter determined that Robinson required another knee surgery. After conducting an informal mediation, Magnolia reinstated Robinson's maintenance and cure payments beginning on May 8, 2017, continuing to date.[1]

         On September 19, 2017, Robinson filed the instant suit against Magnolia and others, seeking compensatory damages, maintenance and cure, punitive damages, and attorney's fees. Magnolia now moves for partial summary judgment on Robinson's claims for punitive damages and maintenance and cure. Essentially, Magnolia argues that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law because Robinson: (1) has reached MMI, (2) concealed preexisting injuries to his left knee, and (3) engaged in willful misconduct by using marijuana during the term of his employment. The motion is now before the Court on the briefs and without oral argument.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate when “the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56); Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994). When assessing whether a dispute as to any material fact exists, a court considers “all of the evidence in the record but refrains from making credibility determinations or weighing the evidence.” Delta & Pine Land Co. v. Nationwide Agribusiness Ins. Co., 530 F.3d 395, 398 (5th Cir. 2008). All reasonable inferences are drawn in favor of the nonmoving party, but a party cannot defeat summary judgment with conclusory allegations or unsubstantiated assertions. Little, 37 F.3d at 1075. A court ultimately must be satisfied that “a reasonable jury could not return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Delta, 530 F.3d at 399.

         If the dispositive issue is one on which the moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party “must come forward with evidence which would ‘entitle it to a directed verdict if the evidence went uncontroverted at trial.'” Int'l Shortstop, Inc. v. Rally's, Inc., 939 F.2d 1257, 1264-65 (5th Cir. 1991). The nonmoving party can then defeat the motion by either countering with sufficient evidence of its own, or “showing that the moving party's evidence is so sheer that it may not persuade the reasonable fact-finder to return a verdict in favor of the moving party.” Id. at 1265.

         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 merely pointing out that the evidence in the record is insufficient with respect to an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325. The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party, who must, by submitting or referring to evidence, set out specific facts showing that a genuine issue exists. See Id. at 324. The nonmovant may not rest upon the pleadings, but must identify specific facts that establish a genuine issue for trial. See, e.g., id. at 325; Little, 37 F.3d at 1075.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Maintenance and Cure

         Magnolia contends that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on Robinson's maintenance and cure claim because Robinson has reached MMI. Robinson contends that summary judgment is inappropriate because a fact question remains as to whether he has reached MMI. In addition, Robinson contends that he is entitled to ...


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