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Guidry v. Epic Diving & Marine Services LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lafayette Division

September 6, 2019

Epic Diving & Marine Services LLC



         Before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant, Epic Diving & Marine Services, LLC (“Epic”) [Rec. Doc. 31], Plaintiff, Frederick J. Guidry's, Memorandum in Opposition [Rec. Doc. 38] and Epic's Reply [Rec. Doc. 42].[1] For the reasons that follow, the Motion will be denied.


         The record provides that at the time of the incident, September 19, 2016, Plaintiff was employed by Epic as a nighttime Engineer aboard the M/V EPIC EXPLORER. The M/V EPIC EXPLORER is a dive support vessel that was engaged in saturation diving operations in the Gulf of Mexico. It is undisputed that Mr. Guidry was a Jones Act seaman and contributed to the mission of the M/V EPIC EXPLORER.

         Prior to going to work aboard the M/V EPIC EXPLORER, Plaintiff was directed by Epic to submit to a merchant mariner physical examination by Dr. Mark Freeman in order to be approved for employment. Mr. Guidry informed Dr. Freeman and his staff that he was diagnosed with high blood pressure and that he took blood pressure medication on a regular basis. R. 38-3, Exh. C, pp. 5-6. Following completion of the physical, Dr. Mark Freeman certified that Mr. Guidry was fit for duty.

         Plaintiff began his work day on September 19, 2016, at 6:00 p.m. He performed his normal and routine duties, including performing engine room checks, lock-out/tag-out procedures, and starting the engines for use of the four-point anchor systems. R. 38-8, Exh. H, Depo. Of Plaintiff, pp. 59-60, 134-136. Following the setting of the four- point anchors, Guidry reported to the engine room area to change the oil in the port dive generator. Id. at p. 136. The deposition testimony of two crewmembers, Ora Perkins and Roy Evans, who were working with Plaintiff provides that when all power is on and there is ventilation the temperature in the engine room is normally around 90 to 110 degrees. R. 38-6, Exh. F, Depo. Of Perkins, pp. 37-39; R. 38-7, Exh. G, Depo. Of Evans, pp. 90-91. Perkins further stated that when the blowers are out or in case of a power failure, the temperatures can go from “150 to 200 real quick”- in a few minutes. R. 38-6, p. 38.

         On that day, Plaintiff was working in the engine room environment with the ventilation working. In order to change the oil, he reached for a stack of oil absorbent pads that had been placed by other crew members on top of a main electrical panel located in the engine room. These oil absorbent pads had been weighted down by other crew members with a 2 to 3 inch stainless steel coupling in order to prevent the oil absorbent rags from blowing around during the engine ventilation. R. 38-6, pp. 32-33; R. 38-7, pp. 50, 52-54. As Plaintiff grabbed the oil absorbent pads, the coupling fell across the main electrical panel and into a cut out modification in the side of the electrical panel. Upon entering the main electrical panel, this metal coupling made contact with the bus bars causing a catastrophic power failure of ship lighting and ventilation. R. 31-4, pp. 95-96, 109-110, 115. This caused “blackout” conditions and an extreme temperature spike in the engine room where Mr. Guidry was working. R. 38-3, Exh. D, Depo. Of Verrett, p. 40, R. 38-6, pp. 38-39.

         When the power went out, Plaintiff was required to remove the back panel in an attempt to restore power. This prevented him from being able to complete the oil change on the port dive generator, leaving dive support only on one generator. According to Guidry, the starboard dive generator had been having problems, making it imperative that the oil change be completed on the port dive generator at the time the power went out.[2] R. 38--8, pp.122-123. Therefore, Plaintiff set about attempting to restore the power. He was assisted by Evans and Perkins. Both men confirmed not only the spike in temperature, but also that Guidry appeared to be sweating profusely and struggling physically during the blackout conditions. R. 38--6, pp. 49-50; R. 38--7, pp. 66-67. Captain Melvin Verrett testified in deposition that he had worked with Guidry on the vessel on approximately 1 ½ hitches and during that time Guidry never appeared to have any difficulties physically doing his job, including going up and down stairs on the vessel. k He stated that when he saw Guidry on the day of the incident he appeared healthy and able to do his job. Id., pp. 38-39. Other vessel workers confirmed that Guidry appeared to be able to do his job without difficulty. R. 38-5, Exh. E, Depo. Of Dixon, pp. 15-16; R. 38-6, pp. 42-43; R. 38-7, pp. 16-17.

         After leaving the area where the repair work was being conducted, Plaintiff sat under a jet cooling fan and ultimately reported to the galley. R. 31-4, p. 121. While in the galley, he was conversing with Jimmy Marano, a medic aboard the ship, when he passed out. Marano checked for vital signs, determined that Guidry had no pulse and instituted CPR and emergency lifesaving procedures. After two (2) hits from an AED device, Guidry regained consciousness and was ultimately transferred for medical care by helicopter to Texas. R. 31-3, Deposition of Marano, pp. 49-57.

         After his release from the hospital, Plaintiff began treatment with Dr. Kevin Courville, a board certified cardiologist, in Lafayette, Louisiana on October 6, 2016. Dr. Courville performed a left heart catheterization and coronary stint on two (2) occasions. In addition, Dr. Courville was required to implant a defibrillator due to continued cardiac problems. Dr. Courville was deposed on October 10, 2018, as to his opinions and recommendations regarding Guidry, R. 38-11, Depo Of Courville Exh. K, and he submitted an Affidavit which is attached to Plaintiff's Opposition, R. 38-1, Exh. A.

         Plaintiff filed this action under the Jones Act and general maritime law on November 13, 2017 contending he suffered an acute plaque rupture and myocardial infarction (“AMI”) on September 19, 2016 while working for EPIC which were precipitated and contributed to by dangerous environmental conditions as well as from an unseaworthy condition and failure to provide a safe place to work aboard the M/V EPIC EXPLORER.


         Epic contends that Guidry cannot bring a successful cause of action under the Jones' Act because he cannot establish that EPIC's negligence “caused the seaman's injury, in whole or in part.” Epic argues that Guidry's pre-existing severe coronary artery disease made him more susceptible to a spontaneous acute myocardial infarction (“AMI”) at any time, without any external precipitating event such as he alleges. Epic further argues that it is just as likely that the AMI was caused by the stress of Guidry's “ordinary activities on the night of the event” including climbing stairs and carrying buckets of oil.

         Plaintiff's argument as to causation is that crew members on board the M/V EPIC EXPLORER stated the Guidry was physically able to do his job and hours before the incident, Guidry appeared healthy and able to perform his job duties without difficulty. After the power outage, with the temperatures spiking, however, members of the crew noticed that Guidry was sweating profusely and “looking bad.” Plaintiff maintains that, based on the foregoing observations, Dr. Courville's opinion is that the events of the blackout more likely than not were contributing and precipitating factors to Guidry's AMI. Plaintiff contends that because the opening into the electrical panel which allowed the ...

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