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Rabalais v. BP Exploration & Production, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

June 20, 2019


         SECTION I

          ORDER & REASONS


         Before the Court is defendants BP Exploration & Production Inc. and BP America Production Company's (together, “BP”) motion[1] for summary judgment. Plaintiff Joshua Frances Rabalais's (“Rabalais”) response in opposition to BP's motion for summary judgment was due on June 18, 2019, but to date, no opposition has been filed.[2] Accordingly, the Court considers the motion unopposed. For the following reasons, the motion is granted.


         On January 11, 2013, U.S. District Judge Carl J. Barbier approved the Deepwater Horizon Medical Benefits Class Action Settlement Agreement (“MSA”), which includes a Back-End Litigation Option (“BELO”) permitting certain class members who follow procedures outlined in the MSA to sue BP for later-manifested physical conditions.[3]

         Individuals who worked as clean-up workers in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill are members of the class covered by the MSA.[4] A later-manifested physical condition, pursuant to the MSA, is a

physical condition that is first diagnosed in a Medical Benefits Settlement Class Member after April 16, 2012, and which is claimed to have resulted from such Medical Benefits Settlement Class Member's exposure to oil, other hydrocarbons, or other substances released from the MC252 Well and/or the Deepwater Horizon and its appurtenances, and/or exposure to dispersants and/or decontaminants used in connection with the Response Activities, where such exposure occurred on or prior to . . . April 16, 2012 for Clean-Up Workers.[5]

         This case arises from Rabalais's alleged exposure to oil and gas dispersants while he worked as a clean-up worker in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.[6]Rabalais was diagnosed on May 15, 2014 with chronic damage to conjunctiva, chronic rhinosinusitis, and chronic dermatitis at the site of contact.[7]

         BP does not dispute that Rabalais was a clean-up worker after the oil spill and that he is a member of the class covered by the MSA.[8] BP also does not dispute that Rabalais's alleged conditions, diagnosed after April 16, 2012, fit within the MSA's definition of a later-manifested physical condition.[9]

         Defendants move for summary judgment, however, arguing that Rabalais cannot prove legal causation.[10] Specifically, BP argues that Rabalais must prove that his alleged conditions were legally caused by his exposure to substances related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and that he will not be able to meet his burden of proof at a bench trial before this Court.[11]


         Summary judgment is proper when, after reviewing the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits, the Court determines that there is no genuine dispute of material fact. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. “[A] party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The party seeking summary judgment need not produce evidence negating the existence of a material fact; it need only point out the absence of evidence supporting the other party's case. Id.; see also Fontenot v. Upjohn Co., 780 F.2d 1190, 1195 (5th Cir. 1986).

         Once the party seeking summary judgment carries its burden, the nonmoving party must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine dispute of material fact for trial. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). The showing of a genuine issue is not satisfied by creating “‘some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts,' by ‘conclusory allegations,' by ‘unsubstantiated assertions,' or by only a ‘scintilla' of evidence.” Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (citations omitted).

         A genuine issue of material fact exists when the “evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). “Although the substance or content of the evidence submitted to support or dispute a fact on summary judgment must be admissible . . ., the material may be presented in a form that would not, in itself, be admissible at trial.” Lee v. Offshore Logistical & Transp., LLC, 859 F.3d 353, 355 (5th Cir. 2017) (citations omitted). The party responding to the motion for summary judgment may not rest upon the pleadings but must identify specific facts that establish a genuine issue. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. The nonmoving party's ...

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