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Broussard v. Gulfport Energy Corp.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

June 5, 2019

BRADLEY BROUSSARD
v.
GULFPORT ENERGY CORPORATION, ET AL.

          APPEAL FROM THE FIFTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF LAFAYETTE, NO. 2015-2233 HONORABLE PATRICK L. MICHOT, DISTRICT JUDGE.

          Randall Kurt Theunissen S. Brian Perry Allen & Gooch, Counsel for Defendants/Appellees: Wet Tech Lighting, Inc. Wet Tech Energy, Inc.

          Robert A. Mahtook, Jr. Mahtook & LaFleur, LLC, Counsel for Defendant/Appellee: AFX Petrologix, LLC.

          Leo Raymond McAloon, III Gieger, LaBorde & Laperouse, LLC One Shell Square, Counsel for Defendant/Appellee: Shamrock Management, LLC.

          Marc D. Moroux Juneau David, APLC, Counsel for Defendant/Appellee: Gulfport Energy Corporation.

          Thomas M. Flanagan Sean Brady Andy Dupre Anders F. Holmgren Flanagan Partners LLP, Counsel for Plaintiff/Appellant: Bradley Broussard.

          J. Kyle Findley Kala Sellers Adam Lewis Arnold & Itkin, LLP, Counsel for Plaintiff/Appellant: Bradley Broussard.

          F. Douglas Ortego LeBas Law Offices, Counsel for Intervenor: American Interstate Insurance Company.

          Court composed of Sylvia R. Cooks, Billy Howard Ezell, and Phyllis M. Keaty, Judges.

          PHYLLIS M. KEATY JUDGE.

         Plaintiff/Appellant, Bradley Broussard, appeals the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendant/Appellee, Shamrock Management, L.L.C. For the following reasons, the trial court's judgment is affirmed.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         This personal injury matter stems from injuries sustained by Broussard on January 21, 2015, while working in the course and scope of his employment with AFS Petrologix, LLC, on platform 114 in the East Hackberry Field in Calcasieu Lake, State Lease 50. Broussard was inspecting a navigational light on top of a pole when it broke, causing him to fall into the water below and sustain injuries. As a result, Broussard filed an Original Petition for Damages on May 6, 2015, against Gulfport Energy Corporation as the owner and/or operator of the platform based upon negligence and premises liability. Broussard's workers' compensation insurer, American Interstate Insurance Company, filed a Petition of Intervention. On April 26, 2016, Broussard filed his First Amended Petition for Damages, naming Wet Tech Lighting, Inc., Wet Tech Energy, Inc., and Shamrock Management, L.L.C., as additional Defendants. In his amended petition, Broussard alleged that Wet Tech Lighting, Wet Tech Energy, and Shamrock were negligent by failing to properly inspect and maintain the navigational light and pole.

         On March 20, 2018, Shamrock filed a motion for summary judgment, alleging that it was not liable for Broussard's injuries. Shamrock stated that it did not own or operate the platform and had no employees working for Gulfport on the date of the incident at any location. Broussard filed an opposition memorandum. Following a hearing on May 14, 2018, the trial court granted Shamrock's motion for summary judgment. The trial court's written judgment was signed on May 30, 2018, which Broussard now appeals.

         On appeal and in his sole assignment of error, Broussard contends that the trial court legally erred "in finding the absence of disputed material facts and granting summary judgment as a matter of law."

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The standard of review utilized by an appellate court when reviewing a trial court's grant of a motion for summary judgment is de novo. Duncan v. U.S.A.A. Ins. Co., 06-363 (La. 11/29/06), 950 So.2d 544. Under this standard of review, the appellate court uses the same criteria as the trial court in determining if summary judgment is appropriate pursuant to La.Code Civ.P. art. 966. Id. The criteria enunciated in La.Code Civ.P. art. 966(A)(3) provides that "a motion for summary judgment shall be granted if the motion, memorandum, and supporting documents show that there is no genuine issue as to material fact and that the mover is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." "A fact is 'material' when its existence or nonexistence may be essential to [a] plaintiff's cause of action under the applicable theory of recovery." Smith v. Our Lady of the Lake Hosp., Inc., 93-2512, p. 27 (La. 7/5/94), 639 So.2d 730, 751. Additionally, a fact is material if it potentially insures or precludes recovery, affects a litigant's ultimate success, or determines the outcome of the legal dispute. Id.

         Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure Article 966(D)(1) explains the mover's burden of proof on summary judgments as follows:

The burden of proof rests with the mover. Nevertheless, if the mover will not bear the burden of proof at trial on the issue that is before the court on the motion for summary judgment, the mover's burden on the motion does not require him to negate all essential elements of the adverse party's claim, action, or defense, but rather to point out to the court the absence of factual support for one or more elements essential to the adverse party's claim, action, or defense. The burden is on the adverse party to produce factual support sufficient to establish the existence of a genuine issue of material fact or that the mover is not entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

         DISCUSSION

         Broussard contends the trial court legally erred by finding the absence of disputed material facts and granting summary judgment as a matter of law. His argument stems from a contract between Gulfport and Shamrock whereby the latter ran production operations and performed platform inspections through its employee, Terry Benoit. Broussard asserts that Benoit was employed by Shamrock on the date of the accident and that his negligent inspections render Shamrock vicariously liable. Even if this court finds that Benoit was not employed by Shamrock on the date of the accident, Broussard asserts that Benoit was negligent in his inspections before December 2014, during his employment with Shamrock.

         In opposition, Shamrock contends that Benoit was not its employee on the date of the accident. According to Shamrock, Benoit stopped working for it approximately five and one-half weeks prior to the incident, which is when the contract between Shamrock and Gulfport terminated. Shamrock further submits that there is no evidence that Benoit performed negligent visual inspections prior to the ...


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