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Angelle v. Spartan Offshore Drilling LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

July 31, 2019


         SECTION "L" (2)

          ORDER & REASONS

         Before the Court is a motion to continue filed by Defendant Spartan Offshore Drilling, LLC (“Spartan”). R. Doc. 58. Plaintiff Peter Angelle opposes the motion. R. Doc. 62. Spartan has filed a reply. R. Doc. 68. The Court discussed the matter with counsel during a telephone status conference on July 26, 2019. R. Doc. 66. The Court now rules as follows.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This maritime personal injury case arises from injuries Mr. Angelle allegedly sustained while aboard the SPARTAN 208, a jack-up drilling vessel owned, operated, and controlled by Spartan. R. Doc. 22 at ¶ 3.[1] Mr. Angelle asserts that on or about July 18, 2017, while checking the filtration unit on the vessel, he “tripped on a packer stem sticking out of a pallet stowed near the filter unit . . . . fell forward into a hand rail, lost his footing and fell to the vessel deck.” Id. at ¶¶ 5-6. Mr. Angelle claims the incident caused injuries to his lumbar and cervical spine, right shoulder and connective joints, tissues, and nerves, which require medical care, treatment, and surgery. Id. at ¶ 7.

         Mr. Angelle asserts his injuries were caused by Spartan's negligent “fail[ure] to act with due care under the circumstances, ” “fail[ure] to provide [him] with a safe work place free of unreasonably dangerous hazards aboard its vessel, ” and “the vessel negligence of the SPARTAN 208.” Id. at ¶ 8. Due to Spartan's alleged negligence, Mr. Angelle seeks “damages for past, present and future physical and emotional pain and suffering, permanent physical disability and scarring, past and future medical expenses, loss of wages and wage earning capacity, and loss of fringe benefits in an amount to be determined in this cause.” Id. at ¶ 9.

         Following the accident, Mr. Angelle was treated at an Urgent Care clinic and was eventually referred to Dr. Patrick Juneau, a neurosurgeon in Lafayette, LA, who Plaintiff began treating with for his spinal injuries on August 10, 2017. R. Doc. 62 at 1. Dr. Juneau ordered an MRI of Mr. Angelle's lumbar spine, which took place on August 22, 2017. Id. After reviewing the results of the MRI, on September 14, 2017, Dr. Juneau stated,

As I look at this MRI, to my eye he has a little foraminal narrowing on the right side at the L4-5 level. This is seen on axial image #19. I do not see a disc herniation at any level in the lumbar spine. I think that his lumbar symptoms are most likely related to a lumbar radiculopathy resulting from some inflammation in the nerve root exiting at the right L4-5 level.

R. Doc. 58-5 at 1. As a result of this MRI, Dr. Juneu recommended Mr. Angelle “undergo some outpatient physical therapy to his lower back” and “a series of lumbar epidural steroid injections.” Id. Mr. Angelle underwent a steroid injection on December 20, 2017. R. Doc. 58-1 at 3.

         Mr. Angelle returned to Dr. Juneau on April 4, 2018. Id. At this visit, Mr. Angelle reported that “the lumbar injection did improve his symptoms for about a day and then the pain came right back, ” but that he “d[id] not want to undergo anymore of these steroid injections because he d[id] not think it is a longlasting cure.” Id. Dr. Juneau then re-reviewed Mr. Angelle's August 22, 2019 MRI, finding Mr. Angelle “d[id] have symptoms of a right L5 radiculopathy, resulting from a disc protrusion at the right L4-5 level.” R. Doc. 58-6 at 1. As a result, Dr. Juneau recommended more physical therapy, but stated that, if physical therapy was not successful, he would recommend a right L4-5 microdiscectomy L4/L5 bilateral decompressive laminectomy and posterior lumbar fusion. Id.

         On August 23, 2018, Plaintiff underwent an independent medical evaluation (“IME”) with Dr. Christopher Cenac, Sr. in Houma, Louisiana. R. Doc. 62 at 2. Dr. Cenac issued his initial report on August 23, 2018 and a supplemental report on October 31, 2018. Id. In his supplemental report, Dr. Cenac stated his opinion regarding Mr. Angelle's August 22, 2017 MRI, finding “[t]here [wa]s no evidence of an acute traumatic structural spinal or disc injury on either imaging study.” R. Doc. 62-2 at 1. Attached to its motion, Spartan provided a picture of Mr. Angelle wearing a back brace on the day of his IME with Dr. Cenac; however, Spartan also provided a picture of Mr. Angelle the day before the IME in which he was not wearing the brace. R. Doc. 58-1 at 5-7.

         On December 11, 2018, Plaintiff saw Dr. Ilyas Munshi, another neurosurgeon in Lafayette, LA, at the request of Dr. Juneau. R. Doc. 62 at 2. In his report from the visit, Dr. Munshi provided his interpretation of the August 22, 2017 lumbar MRI: “Lumbar Spine MRI Interpretation Findings consistent with spondylolisthesis are noted at ¶ 4-5 and Grade 1. Findings consistent with herniated nucleus pulposus are noted at ¶ 4-5 (right), small in size and moderate in size.” Id. at 3. In the same report, Dr. Munshi also stated, “[Mr. Angelle's] scans show a herniation at ¶ 4/5 with a slip, ” and concurred with Dr. Juneau's surgery recommendation. Id. Mr. Angelle underwent surgery on December 26, 2018, which was performed by Dr. Juneau and Dr. Ilyas.

         Spartan deposed Dr. Juneau on June 25, 2019. R. Doc. 58-1 at 4. During this deposition, Spartan asked Dr. Juneau “how he found no disc herniation on September 14, 2017, but then found a disc protrusion on April 4, 2018, ” to which Dr. Juneau replied:

A. [A protrusion and a herniation] mean different things to different ...

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