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Parker v. John W. Stone Oil Distributors, L.L.C.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

June 14, 2019

JEREMY A. PARKER
v.
JOHN W. STONE OIL DISTRIBUTORS, L.L.C.

         SECTION "L" (2)

          ORDER & REASONS

          ELDON E. FALLON U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, R. Doc. 28. The motion is opposed R. Doc. 35. Plaintiff has filed a reply. R. Doc. 43. The Court now rules as follows.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case arises from injuries Plaintiff Jeremy Parker, a Jones Act seaman, allegedly sustained while working as a tankerman aboard Defendant's vessel, the M/V PRESAGER. Plaintiff claims that a co-worker pulled on a face wire and a line popped, resulting in a 10-pound shackle falling approximately ten feet and hitting Plaintiff in the head. Plaintiff alleges this impact caused serious injuries to his neck and head and rendered him unfit for duty as a seaman. According to the Complaint, the sole and proximate cause of the accident was Defendant's negligence and maintenance of an unseaworthy vessel. Accordingly, Plaintiff seeks to recover past, present, and future physical, mental and emotional pain and suffering; loss of wages and wage-earning capacity; medical expenses; past and future physical disability; and past, present, and future maintenance and cure.

         Defendant contests the cause of Plaintiff's accident and asserts that Plaintiff placed himself in an unsafe position in violation of Defendant's safety rules. Further, Defendant alleges that Plaintiff failed to inspect the line in question prior to its use.

         II. PRESENT MOTION

         Plaintiff moves for partial summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) on his claims that Defendant was negligent, Plaintiff was not contributorily negligent, and Defendant's vessel was unseaworthy. According to Plaintiff, it is undisputed that Plaintiff's injuries were a result of Defendant's negligence and provision of an unseaworthy vessel, and not a result of anything that Plaintiff did.

         III. LAW AND ANALYSIS

         Summary judgment is proper “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). “Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which the party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Id. The court must find “[a] factual dispute [to be] ‘genuine' if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party [and a] fact [to be] ‘material' if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing substantive law.” Beck v. Somerset Techs., Inc., 882 F.2d 993, 996 (5th Cir. 1989) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)).

         When ruling on a motion for summary judgment, a court may not resolve credibility issues or weigh evidence. See Delta & Pine Land Co. v. Nationwide Agribusiness Ins. Co., 530 F.3d 395, 398 (5th Cir. 2008); Int'l Shortstop, Inc. v. Rally's Inc., 939 F.2d 1257, 1263 (5th Cir. 1991). Moreover, the court must assess the evidence and “review the facts drawing all inferences most favorable to the party opposing the motion.” Reid v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 784 F.2d 577, 578 (5th Cir. 1986). But “unsubstantiated assertions, ” “conclusory allegations, ” and merely colorable factual bases are insufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment. See Hopper v. Frank, 16 F.3d 92, 97 (5th Cir. 1994); Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50.

         Here, Plaintiff seeks an entry of partial summary judgment on his claims that Defendant was negligent, Plaintiff was not contributorily negligent, and Defendant's vessel was unseaworthy. Specifically, Plaintiff argues that: (1) Plaintiff's injuries could have been avoided if Defendant had inspected the work area and equipment; (2) the line in question only popped because of its deteriorated condition, and it would have been taken out of service if Defendant had inspected it, R. Doc. 28-1 at 6; and (3) Defendant cannot show that Plaintiff did anything wrong or was contributorily negligent, R. Doc. 28-1 at 8. Defendant opposes the motion, arguing that the case is rife with disputed facts, such as the cause(s) of Plaintiff's accident, that preclude the entry of summary judgment. R. Doc. 35 at 1. Defendant contends that the accident was caused because Plaintiff placed himself in an unsafe position in violation of Defendant's safety rules and because Plaintiff failed to inspect the line in question prior to its use. R. Doc. 35 at 1. The Court will discuss each of Plaintiff's claims in turn.

         a. Liability under the Jones Act

         Under the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. § 688, a seaman's employer is liable for damages if the employer's negligence caused the seaman's injury, either in whole or in part. Gautreaux v. Scurlock Marine, Inc., 107 F.3d 331, 335 (5th Cir. 1997) (en banc). An employer is also liable if its employees' negligence played “any part, even the slightest” in causing the injury or death for which damages are sought. Id. (citing Rogers v. Missouri Pacific R. Co., 352 U.S. 500, 506 (1957)). However, the Fifth Circuit clarified that the employer's standard of care is not greater than that of ordinary negligence under the circumstances. Gautreaux, 107 F.3d at 339. “[A] Jones Act employer is not an insurer of a seaman's safety; the mere occurrence of an injury does not establish liability.” Marvin v. Central Gulf Lines, Inc., 554 F.2d 1295, 1299 (5th Cir.1977), cert. denied, ...


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