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Collins v. Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Co., LLC

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

October 3, 2018

TRACY COLLINS
v.
GREAT LAKES DREDGE AND DOCK CO., LLC OF LOUISIANA, ET AL.

          APPEAL FROM THE THIRTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF EVANGELINE, NO. 76112-A HONORABLE GARY J. ORTEGO, DISTRICT JUDGE

          Christopher Brent Coreil Attorney at Law COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE: Tracy Collins.

          Jonathan Clyde Vidrine COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE: Tracy Collins.

          Chad Patrick Pitre COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Co., LLC.

          Jefferson R. Tillery Hansford P. Wogan Jones Walker, L.L.P. COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Co., LLC.

          Court composed of Billy Howard Ezell, Shannon J. Gremillion, and D. Kent Savoie, Judges.

          SHANNON J. GREMILLION JUDGE

         Appellant, Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Co., LLC, appeals the motion for summary judgment granted in favor of Mr. Tracy Collins in this matter brought pursuant to the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C.A. § 30104, and general maritime law. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the judgment as amended.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL POSTURE

         Procedural posture

         On March 30, 2016, Mr. Collins filed a petition in the Thirteenth Judicial District (the trial court), Evangeline Parish, against Great Lakes alleging that he was injured on or about May 13, 2015, while performing deckhand duties aboard the vessel known as Derrick 62. Great Lakes sought to remove the case to federal district court. The federal court remanded the matter to the Thirteenth Judicial District Court. Great Lakes then answered the suit. The district court fixed the matter for jury trial to commence on November 20, 2017. Mr. Collins then filed a motion for partial summary judgment to have Great Lakes assessed with 100% fault in the accident that allegedly caused his injuries. The trial court originally fixed the hearing on this motion for June 27, 2017. Mr. Collins then filed an amendment to his motion, to which he attached various unsworn reports regarding the accident and an unsworn report from Dr. Thomas G. Fontenot, in which he relates that Mr. Collins presented at his office complaining of neck and low back pain. Great Lakes filed an opposition in which it objected to the exhibits to Mr. Collins's amended motion. It also attached depositions of two physicians who conducted independent medical examinations of Mr. Collins and concluded that his shoulder and neck complaints were not related to the incident.

         An amended pretrial order issued by the district court moved the trial date to January 8, 2018. The hearing on Mr. Collins's motion for summary judgment was reset for December 13, 2017. The trial court entertained argument on Mr. Collins's motion and rendered judgment in his favor after striking the exhibits Mr. Collins had attached to his supplemental motion. In its written reasons, the trial court found that Mr. Collins was a Jones Act seaman injured in the course and scope of his duties and granted his motion for summary judgment "as to the issue of liability of this defendant. . . ." The written reasons also provided:

The extent of plaintiff's injuries, along with the causal connection as to any alleged injury sustained as a result of the accident of May 13, 2015 is not an issue before this court at this time, and therefore, will not be addressed by this court pursuant to this Motion for Partial Summary Judgment.

         On January 5, 2018, the trial court signed the judgment appealed, which found Great Lakes 100% at fault and liable to Mr. Collins.

         Supporting evidence

         In support of his motion, Mr. Collins attached an affidavit he executed and his own deposition. In his affidavit, Mr. Collins attested that he was working on the dredge Alaska near Venice, Louisiana. Three other employees were attempting to connect two pipes while on a rocky jetty in the Mississippi River. There was no ring stopper on the pipe, which Mr. Collins stated was supposed to have been welded to the pipe, so the crew was forced to use a portable ring stopper. The other crew members were unable to apply a chain binder to facilitate the attachment of the ring stopper, so, according to Mr. Collins, he was asked to help. As Mr. Collins was pulling on the chain binder with "all [his] strength and weight," another crewman, Carlo, struck the top ...


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