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Dean v. Sea Supply, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

July 12, 2018

JOHNNY DEAN, SR.
v.
SEA SUPPLY, INC. ET AL

         SECTION "L"(3)

          FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         This case arises out of injuries allegedly sustained by Plaintiff Johnny Dean, Sr. (“Plaintiff”) on August 29, 2015 while he was employed as a captain on the M/V JESSICA ELIZABETH. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that he slipped and fell in the engine room and sustained injuries to his shoulder, neck, and back.

         On August 29, 2016, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendants Sea Supply, Inc., Sea Supply, Inc. COB, and the M/V JESSICA ELIZABETH (“Sea Supply”), the owner of the M/V JESSICA ELIZABETH, and Plaintiff's employer at the time of the accident. He seeks damages under the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. § 30104, and general maritime law for Defendant's alleged negligence and vessel unseaworthiness. He also seeks maintenance and cure until he reaches maximum medical improvement. Defendant denies liability claiming that Plaintiff's injuries were caused in whole or in part by Plaintiff's own actions.

         This matter came on for trial without a jury on June 26, 2018. The trial lasted three days. The Court has carefully considered the testimony of all of the witnesses, the exhibits entered into evidence during the trial, as well as the record. Pursuant to Rule 52(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court hereby enters the following findings of fact and conclusions of law. To the extent that any findings of fact may be construed as conclusions of law, the Court hereby adopts them as such. To the extent that any conclusions of law constitute findings of fact, the Court adopts them as such.

         II. FINDINGS OF FACT

         (1) Plaintiff Johnny Dean, Sr. is an individual of the age of majority and a resident of Louisiana.

         (2) Defendant Sea Supply is the owner and operator of the M/V JESSICA ELIZABETH, a 95-ton offshore supply vessel.

         (3) At all relevant times, Plaintiff was employed by Defendant Sea Supply, as a seaman or member of the crew of the M/V JESSICA ELIZABETH, in the capacity of captain. As a captain, Plaintiff was responsible for the operation of the vessel as well as managing the crew and the vessel's safety, including implementing and enforcing the safety rules.

         (4) The M/V JESSICA ELIZABETH has four engines. The engines are numbered 1-4 starting on the port side of the engine room. The No. 4 engine is located on the starboard side of the vessel against the vessel's gunwale. The engine room floor and stairs are made of aluminum diamond plate.

         (5) On August 29, 2015, Plaintiff was working the “night shift” - midnight to noon. When Plaintiff began his shift, the M/V JESSICA ELIZABETH was tied up to a platform in Ship Shoal 209-A located in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana; she had been tied up for the night. Sometime around 6:30 a.m., the vessel began making runs in the field, transporting men and materials to the various rigs. Plaintiff noticed that the No. 4 engine was having trouble starting.

         (6) Plaintiff's deckhand during the night shift was Torris Bright. Bright went down to the engine room early in the morning of August 29, 2015 and tried to start the No. 4 engine. However, he could not get it to start. Plaintiff instructed him to start the other three engines and get ready for their runs that day. Plaintiff instructed Bright to try to start the No. 4 engine later in the morning as well, but it still would not start. At this point, Plaintiff decided to check on the No. 4 engine himself.

         (7) Later on that morning, Plaintiff went down to check on the No. 4 engine and attempted to start it himself but it would not start. Plaintiff testified that at this point he believed that the starter was jammed and that it would need to be replaced. Plaintiff returned to the wheelhouse and told Bright that they would change the starter after eating lunch.

         (8) Plaintiff testified that he went down to change the starter before Bright had finished eating lunch. Plaintiff gathered tools and began to work on the starter. Plaintiff testified that he gathered various wrenches and some absorbent pads which he intended to place on the bottom of the bilge so he could stand on them while working on the starter. He testified that there were cleaning rags in the rudder room but they were under other materials and not readily accessible. At this time, the vessel had returned to the vicinity of the platform waiting for the crew change and further instructions.

         (9) To reach the starter for the No. 4 engine, Plaintiff had to stand in the bilge. Plaintiff testified that the bilge was wet and oily so he placed some absorbent pads in the bilge to stand on. Notwithstanding the absorbent pads, Plaintiff got oil on the bottom of his shoes and was aware of it.

         (10) After finishing his lunch, Bright came down to the engine room to assist Plaintiff. Bright stood on the deck plating next to the No. 4 engine. Bright was not standing in the bilge with Plaintiff. Bright was wearing steel-toed, slip resistant shoes while working on the starter.

         (11) Plaintiff testified that the wrenches he had selected would not fit. He needed an additional ...


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