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Hale v. Wood Group PSN Inc.

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

September 25, 2018

ORVEL P. HALE
v.
WOOD GROUP PSN, INC., ET AL.

          MEMORANDUM RULING

          CAROL B. WHITEHURST, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Before the Court is the Rule 59 Motion of defendants, ENI U.S. Operating Co., Inc., Bordelon Marine, LLC, and Wood Group PSN, Inc., for a New Trial on Damages, or Alternatively, for Remittitur with respect to the Judgment entered on February 1, 2018 [Doc. 139]. Defendants asked for a stay on the execution of the Judgment pending disposition of the pending motion pursuant to Rule 62(b), and on February 22, 2018, the court granted the motion to stay [Doc. 146]. Plaintiff, Orvel P. Hale, opposes the motion [Rec. Doc. 155], and defendants filed a Reply brief [Doc. 161]. Plaintiff then filed a Motion For Leave to File a Sur-Reply Brief [Doc. 165], which is herein GRANTED. the following reasons, the defendants' motion for new trial and/or remittitur is DENIED.

         I. Background

         The plaintiff, Orvel P. Hale, who was employed by Oceaneering International, Inc.'s Asset Integrity Inspection Business Unit, alleged that he sustained personal injuries while transferring via personnel basket from the M/V WES BORDELON, an offshore supply vessel owned and operated by Bordelon Marine, LLC, to ENI's unmanned, fixed platform, the Vermilion 313C, which was located offshore Louisiana. At the time of the incident, ENI was the leaseholder and operator of Vermilion 313B, C and D fixed platforms, offshore Louisiana; Vermilion 313C was an unmanned platform on which was mounted a pedestal crane. ENI contracted with Oceaneering International, Inc. for Oceaneering to perform inspections, materials testing, and integrity management services for its assets, including Vermilion 313C, in which the parties agreed that Oceaneering International, Inc. was an independent contractor. Mr. Hale was employed by Oceaneering as a Level I Erosion/Corrosion Technician. ENI contracted with Bordelon Marine, LLC to provide an offshore supply vessel, the M/V WES BORDELON, for marine transportation in support of services for Vermilion 313B, C, and D.

         The matter was tried by a jury on January 22-26 and January 29-30, 2018 [Doc. 117-121, 127-28]. The medical testimony at trial showed that Mr. Hale suffered from a disc bulge at ¶ 4-5 and disc herniation at ¶ 5-S1 caused by an eight to ten foot fall onto his back. Hale's axial mechanical low back pain with radiation into his left lower extremity was treated conservatively with anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, and bilateral L5-S1 transforaminal epidural steroid injections with some pain relief. Subsequently, Hale underwent a bilateral L5-S1, transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion with permanent placement of bilateral rods and pedicle screw instrumentation. Hale was given a fifteen percent (15%) permanent partial impairment rating due to his lumbar injury, surgical fusion, and residual ongoing pain complaints.

         The medical testimony at trial also showed that Hale suffered from a disc bulge at ¶ 3-4, disc protrusion (ruptured disc) at ¶ 5-6, and prominent disc extrusion at ¶ 6-7 caused by the fall onto his back. Hale was treated conservatively for his neck injury with anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, and epidural steroid injections with some pain relief. Subsequently, Hale underwent surgery for his C6-7 disc extrusion with a C-7 right arm radiculopathy. The surgical procedure that was performed was a right C6-7 anterior cervical discectomy, bilateral foraminotomies, and total disc arthroplast using a Mobile-C mechanical device. Subsequently, Hale was given a fifteen percent (15%) permanent partial impairment for his neck injury and resultant residual ongoing neck pain. Due to Hale's cervical surgery, Hale has a 24% risk of an additional cervical surgery within ten years as a result of the development of adjacent segment disease.

         Hale also suffered from a T7-8 disc protrusion caused by the fall. Again, Hale was treated conservatively with anti-inflammatory medications and two epidural steroid injections. He then underwent two medial branch nerve blocks, all of which provided very little relief from his intrascapular pain. At the time of trial, Hale had been given three possible extreme thoracic surgical options with each surgical procedure having a high rate of morbidity and/or paralysis: (1) transthoracic discectomy surgery; (2) lateral extra cavity approach surgery; or (3) posterior thoracic approach surgery. Hale's other treatment options, if Hale declines his surgery alternatives on the basis of risk versus reward, were to undergo, for his lifetime, chronic pain management consisting of the insertion of an intrathecal pump to transmit narcotics directly into his spinal fluid, or the placement of a spinal cord stimulator to interfere with the pain signals sent to his brain, or undergo up to three epidural steroid injections a year for the remainder of his lifetime.

         At the time of trial, Hale had not reached maximum medical improvement related to his thoracic spine injuries and intrascapular pain complaints, which Hale described as excruciating. He developed chronic pain syndrome due to his ongoing intrascapular pain complaints.

         Hale was assessed a 30% permanent partial impairment rating to his body as a whole. Hale's physical activity restrictions were to avoid pushing, pulling, and lifting anything greater than 20 pounds. Hale is prevented from ever working offshore in the future and at the time of trial, Mr. Hale had not been released to perform any work due to his thoracic and intrascapular pain complaints. Hale's vocational rehabilitation counselor determined that Hale was vocationally disabled due to his thoracic and intrascapular pain complaints, and Hale had not reached maximum medical improvement related to his thoracic spine injuries. Hale's injuries also resulted in cessation of his previous recreational pursuits of golf, hunting, fishing, 4-wheeler riding, and archery. His resultant chronic pain syndrome caused severe strains upon his personal relationships with his disabled daughter and also his son.

         On January 30, 2018, the jury returned a verdict for plaintiff Orvel P. Hale in the total amount of $3, 238, 666.02 - with 10% comparative fault in the amount of $323, 866.60 - and against defendants, Wood Group PSN, Inc., Bordelon Marine, LLC and ENI U.S. Operating Co., Inc. On February 1, 2018, the Court entered a judgment for plaintiff on all claims [Doc. 137]. The Judgment reads in pertinent part as follows:

In accord with the jury verdict rendered on the 30th day of January, 2018,
IT IS ORDERED that judgment be and is hereby entered in favor of plaintiff, Orvel P. Hale, and against defendant, Wood Group PSN, Inc., in the amount of One Million Nine Hundred Forty-Three Thousand, One Hundred and Ninety-Nine Dollars and 61 Cents ($1, 943, 199.61) with pre-judgment interest from the date of judicial demand to the date of entry of judgment at the Louisiana rate of judicial interest and post-judgment interest at the rate provided for by Title 28, United States Code, Section 1961, from date of entry of judgment until paid.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that judgment be and is hereby entered in favor of plaintiff, Orvel P. Hale, and against defendant, Bordelon Marine, LLC, in the amount of Six Hundred Forty-Seven Thousand, Seven Hundred Thirty-Three Dollars and 20 Cents ($647, 733.20) with pre-judgment interest from the date of judicial demand to the date of entry of judgment at the Louisiana rate of judicial interest and post-judgment interest at the rate provided for by Title 28, United States Code, Section 1961, from date of entry of judgment until paid.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that judgment be and is hereby entered in favor of plaintiff, Orvel P. Hale, and against defendant, ENI U.S. Operating Co., Inc., in the amount of Three Hundred Twenty-Three Thousand Eight Hundred Sixty-Six Dollars and 60 Cents ($323, 866.60) with pre-judgment interest from the date of judicial demand to the date of entry of judgment at the Louisiana rate of judicial interest and post-judgment interest at the rate provided for by Title 28, United States Code, Section 1961, from date of entry of judgment until paid.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that defendants Wood Group PSN, Inc., Bordelon Marine, LLC, and ENI U.S. Operating Co., Inc. are taxed with the costs of this proceeding, as may be permitted under 28 U.S.C. §1920, pursuant to Rule 54(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.[1]

         Defendants ENI, Bordelon Marine, and Wood Group filed the instant motion, arguing: (1) the award of $2, 250, 000 in general damages (past physical pain and suffering ($100, 000); future pain and suffering ($1, 500, 000); past mental pain and suffering ($75, 000); future mental pain and suffering ($225, 000); past physical disability, impairment and inconvenience ($25, 000); future physical disability, impairment and inconvenience ($75, 000); past loss of enjoyment of life ($25, 000); future loss of enjoyment of life ($200, 000) ...


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