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Mays v. Chevron Pipe Line Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana

June 18, 2019

PEGGY MAYS ET AL.
v.
CHEVRON PIPE LINE CO. ET AL.

          RULING AND ORDER

          BRIAN A. JACKSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court are Chevron's Motions for Judgment as a Matter of Law or New Trial (Docs. 233, 234) concerning the application of Pac. Operators Offshore, LLP v. Valladolid, 565 U.S. 207 (2012), and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), 43 U.S.C. § 1333(b), to James Mays's death.

         Section 1333(b) of the OCSLA extends the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA), 33 U.S.C. § 901, to injuries "occurring as the result of operations conducted on the outer Continental Shelf[.]" The United States Supreme Court has interpreted § 1333(b) to require an employee seeking LHWCA coverage to show a "substantial nexus" between his injury and his employer's extractive operations on the outer Continental Shelf. Valladolid, 565 U.S. at 222.

         Chevron argues that the Court misapplied the substantial-nexus test and that Plaintiffs failed to satisfy the test, as misapplied. These Motions (Docs. 233, 234) lack merit and are DENIED. Also before the Court is Chevron's Motion for Remittitur (Doc. 235) of Peggy Mays's damages award. For the reasons that follow, the Motion (Doc. 235) is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This dispute arises from a pipeline accident on a drilling platform in Louisiana territorial waters. (Doc. 1). James Mays was killed when components of a pressurized valve dislodged and struck him in the head. (Id.). Members of his family sued the pipeline operator, Chevron, for negligence. (Id.).[1]

         Following a four-day trial, a jury returned a verdict for Plaintiffs and against Chevron. (Doc. 222). The jury found Chevron to be 70% at fault and awarded Plaintiffs $2, 942, 549.79. (Id.). The breakdown was as follows:

• Funeral Expenses - $12, 549.79
• Loss of Support of Peggy Mays - $630, 000
• Loss of Love, Affection, and Consortium of Peggy Mays - $2, 000, 000
• Loss of Love and Affection of Daphne Lanclos - $100, 000
• Loss of Love and Affection of Brent Mays - $100, 000
• Loss of Love and Affection of Jared Mays - $100, 000

         The Court entered judgment on February 8, 2019. (Doc. 225). Chevron timely renewed its motions for judgment as a matter of law (Docs. 233, 234) and separately moved for remittitur of Peggy Mays's damages awards. (Doc. 235).

         II. LEGAL STANDARDS

         A. Renewed Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law

         Entry of judgment as a matter of law is appropriate if Chevron shows that a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for Plaintiffs on the issue. See FED. R. CIV. P. 50(a). In deciding if Chevron has made that showing, the Court draws reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs. See Alonso v. Westcost Corp.,920 F.3d 878, 882 (5th Cir. 2019). Because the Court's jurisdiction is based on diversity of citizenship, the Court looks to Louisiana law "for ...


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