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Barrios v. Centaur, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

February 1, 2019

DEVIN BARRIOS ET AL.
v.
CENTAUR LLC ET AL.

          FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

          JANE TRICHE MILAZZO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Devin Barrios and his wife, Megan Barrios, bring claims for damages he sustained in an accident that occurred while he was working a construction job for Centaur, LLC. Plaintiffs bring claims under the Jones Act and general maritime law against Devin Barrios's employer, Centaur, LLC. Plaintiffs also bring claims for negligence under the Longshore and Harbor Worker's Compensation Act against Centaur and River Ventures, LLC. This matter went to trial November 13 through 19, 2018. Having considered the evidence admitted at trial and the arguments of counsel, this Court makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law. To the extent a finding of fact constitutes a conclusion of law, and vice versa, the Court adopts it as such.

         FINDINGS OF FACT

         1. At all material times, Plaintiff Devin Barrios was employed by Centaur, LLC (“Centaur”) and was acting in the course and scope of his employment when he was injured on January 25, 2016.

         2. Centaur, a marine construction company, was hired by United Bulk Terminals Davant, LLC (“UBT”) to build a concrete containment wall around the edge of its dock facility.

         3. Barrios worked as a member of Centaur's construction crew performing manual labor.

         4. Centaur leased a barge to assist in the containment wall project. The barge moved by winch along the dock to assist in the project.

         5. The barge was a vessel in navigation. The mission of the barge was to assist Centaur in building the containment wall.

         6. The Court found the testimony of Brandon Lavergne to be unreliable.

         7. The Centaur crew stored tools for the containment wall project on the barge. They held safety meetings, took breaks, and ate lunch aboard the barge. They also unpacked and packed up tools aboard the barge.

         8. The Centaur crew occasionally performed tasks like drilling holes, cutting rebar, and pouring forms aboard the barge, but the majority of the dock construction work was performed on the dock.

         9. Barrios spent less than 30% of his time on the barge in service of its mission.

         10. Barrios is not a seaman.

         11. UBT hired River Ventures, LLC (“River Ventures”) to provide a crew boat, the M/V TROOPER, to ferry Centaur workers and occasionally their equipment from the parking lot to the area of the dock upon which they were working.

         12. River Ventures is the owner/operator of the M/V TROOPER.

         13. John Hanna is the owner/operator of River Ventures.

         14. John Ochello was the Captain of the M/V TROOPER and an employee of River Ventures. Captain Ochello remained in operational control of the M/V TROOPER at all times.

         15. Barrios was a passenger on the M/V TROOPER, not a member of its crew.

         16. On the morning of January 25, 2016, Plaintiff and other members of the Centaur crew rode from the parking lot to the barge on the M/V TROOPER. They loaded a wheeled, portable generator from a crew member's truck in the parking lot on to the M/V TROOPER for transport to the barge.

         17. Plaintiff was injured while transferring the portable generator from the M/V TROOPER to the barge.

         18. The generator weighed more than 150 pounds.

         19. At the time of the injury, the Centaur crew transferred the generator in a manner that had been done several times before.

         20. While transferring the generator with the assistance of another crewmember, Plaintiff placed one foot on the crew boat and one foot on the rub rail of the barge. After the generator was lifted from the crew boat and placed onto the barge, the crew boat and barge began to separate from each other, and Plaintiff fell into the water below. As he was falling, he grabbed onto the generator, which caused the generator to fall into the water and strike Plaintiff on the head.

         21. Plaintiff fell into freezing cold water and had to swim out from underneath the barge before being rescued by the M/V TROOPER further down the river.

         22. The rope tied to the life ring aboard the M/V TROOPER was tangled around the life ring. A member of the Centaur crew threw the ring and its rope to Plaintiff in the water but could not hold onto the end of the rope because it was tangled.

         23. Plaintiff's fall into the water was a harrowing experience. He testified that he “swam toward the light” but did not know to which light he was swimming or, apparently, whether he was dead or alive.

         24. Captain Ochello did not moor the crew boat to the barge before allowing the Centaur crew to perform the transfer of the generator.

         25. Instead of mooring the crew boat, Captain Ochello used the “twin screwing” method wherein he attempted to hold the vessel against the barge using the thrust of the engines.

         26. This Court found the testimony of Robert Borison, an expert in Marine Safety, and Patrick Cuty, an expert in Vessel Operations, Root Cause Analysis, & Transfer of People and Equipment to and from Vessels, credible that tying off the crew boat to the barge would have prevented the separation from occurring.

         27. Captain Ochello was negligent for failing to tie the M/V TROOPER to the barge during the transfer and/or for failing ...


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