Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Kinnerson v. Arena Offshore, LP

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

September 13, 2019

RYAN R. KINNERSON
v.
ARENA OFFSHORE, LP, ET AL

         SECTION "L" (1)

         I. FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

         This case arises from injuries Plaintiff Ryan Kinnerson (“Kinnerson”) sustained while being transferred in a personnel basket from a fixed offshore platform to the M/V Miss Claire. The basket was being lowered to the vessel by a temporary crane owned and operated by Defendant Sparrows Offshore, LLC's (“Sparrows”). Kinnerson alleges that, as the personnel basket approached the deck of the M/V Miss Claire, the deckhand located on the back deck of the M/V Miss Claire and serving as both the crane's signalman and rigger, grabbed the basket's tagline to control the basket's descent. When the deckhand grabbed the basket's tagline, the tagline broke, causing the deckhand to fall backward onto the vessel's deck. The deckhand's radio allegedly became inoperable during this incident, so the deckhand could no longer communicate with the Sparrows crane operator. The basket continued downward and landed on the vessel's railing. As the basket teetered on the railing, Kinnerson jumped out of the basket and onto the deck of the M/V Miss Claire, sustaining severe disabling personal injuries.

         Kinnerson brought suit against several defendants, including Arena Offshore, LP (“Arena”), Sparrows, SeaTran Marine, LLC (“SeaTran”), and Paloma Energy Consultants, LP (“Paloma”). All of the Defendants except Sparrows settled with Kinnerson. Sparrows timely answered and denies all allegations in Kinnerson's complaint. Sparrows avers that any injuries sustained by Kinnerson were caused by his own negligence or the negligence of others.

         This matter came before the Court without a jury on August 26, 2019. The Court has carefully considered the testimony of all the witnesses, the exhibits entered into evidence during trial, and the record. Pursuant to Rule 52(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court hereby enters the following findings of fact and conclusions of law. To the extent that any findings of fact may be construed as conclusions of law, the Court adopts them as such. To the extent that any conclusions of law constitute findings of fact, the Court adopts them as such.

         II. FINDINGS OF FACT

         1. On and prior to May 25, 2015, Kinnerson was employed by Oceaneering International, Inc. (“Oceaneering”) as a technician aboard Arena's fixed offshore oil platform located on the Outer Continental Shelf in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana. The Arena platform was known as the Eugene Island 338 platform. See Tr. at 3 ll. 14-18; 8 ll. 10-12. See also R. Doc. 165 at 2.

         2. Arena decided to drill a new well from the platform and hired several contractors to furnish services, personnel, and equipment to perform the drilling and construction work. Sparrows had a construction agreement with Arena to provide a crane with an operator during the construction work on the platform. R. Doc. 165 at 2.

         3. SeaTran provided transportation services to and from the platform using its vessel, the M/V Miss Claire. R. Doc. 165 at 2.

         4. Because of the construction work on the platform, the standard platform crane was moved, and a substitute temporary “Bullfrog” crane was being used to raise and lower men and equipment on and off the platform to the M/V Miss Claire. When a standard platform crane is in operation, it is located near the edge of the platform so that the crane operator can see both what is on the deck of the platform and what is on the deck of the vessel below. The Bullfrog crane is much larger than the standard platform crane. It has a higher capacity (i.e. it could lift heavier weights) and was placed near the middle of the platform so that it could reach all sections of the platform and be used more efficiently in the construction operation. On this occasion, the Bullfrog crane was being used to transport men and equipment to the M/V Miss Claire. See R. Doc. 165 at 2; Tr. at 126 ll. 23-25, 127 ll. 1-4; Pl. Tr. Ex. 34 at 153 ll. 21-23.

         5. The Bullfrog crane was being operated by Arnold Breaux, a Sparrows employee who was in the course and scope of his employment. Breaux is an experienced and certified crane operator. Tr. at 35 ll. 2-13, 72 ll. 15-25, 73 ll. 1-2.

         6. The Captain of the M/V Miss Claire was Robert Weiss, an experienced and licensed captain employed by SeaTran. Dewey Palmer (“Palmer”) was employed by SeaTran to serve as the deckhand on the vessel. Pl. Tr. Ex. 35 at 9 ll. 10-18, 10 ll. 4-16; Pl. Tr. Ex. 36 at 14 ll. 17-25, 15 l. 1.

         7. The seas were six to eight feet, south-southwest and winds were 20 knots south-southwest. In preparation for the personnel basket transfer, Captain Weiss positioned his vessel with the starboard side to the platform. This position was reasonable, and the Captain held his position throughout the transfer. See Pl. Tr. Ex. 35 at 15 ll. 7-17, 21 ll. 5-23.

         8. At approximately 3:45 p.m., Kinnerson and three other individuals climbed into the personnel basket, which at the time was located on the deck of the platform, so they could be lowered by the Bullfrog crane from the platform deck to the deck of the M/V Miss Claire. The deck of the platform was about 100 feet above the deck of the M/V Miss Claire. Tr. at 125 ll. 2-9, 126 ll. 23-25; Pl. Tr. Ex. 35 at 39 ll. 2-6.

         9. Due to the Bullfrog crane's placement near the middle of the upper deck of the platform, the Bullfrog crane operator was not able to see the personnel basket once it went below a level about halfway between the platform deck and the vessel below. Tr. at 74 ll. 14-24, 75 ll. 15-19.

         10. Because of the lack of visibility of the load going down from the platform, the transfer is known as a “blind lift.” In a blind lift, it is necessary to have a signalman who can see both the platform and the deck of the vessel, so the crane operator can be guided in lowering the personnel basket in a safe and proper manner. This is particularly critical in rough seas and windy weather conditions, such as those that existed at the time of the transfer in question. See Tr. at 40 ll. 21-25, 41 ll. 1-8, 42 ll. 6-24.

         11. In this instance, Palmer, the deckhand on the M/V Miss Claire, served as the sole signalman. There is conflicting testimony on this point, but the Court finds that the credible testimony (i.e. the testimony of Arnold Breaux, the crane operator, and Captain Robert Weiss) supports the conclusion that the sole signalman was the deckhand on the deck of the M/V Miss Claire. Although the deckhand could communicate with the crane operator by means of a handheld radio, they could not see each other. Furthermore, on this occasion, Palmer had a dual function: he was serving as a signalman directing the crane operator with a handheld VHF radio and, at the same time, he was serving as a rigger guiding the basket into a proper and safe location and helping the men to safely exit the basket. See Tr. at 42 ll. 14-24, 43 ll. 8-12.

         12. The four men climbed into the personnel basket, which was located on the deck of the platform. Breaux, the crane operator, then lifted the basket off the deck of the platform, swung it over the side of the platform, and began lowering it to the waiting vessel below. Tr. at 126 ll. 6-11, 127 ll. 1-8.

         13. When the personnel basket was approximately 10 to 30 feet off the deck of the vessel- and out of sight of the crane operator-the deckhand reached up to catch the tagline attached to the bottom of the basket so that he could guide the basket to the proper space on the deck of the vessel. As he pulled on the tagline in an effort to guide the basket, the tagline-which was made of the wrong material and was in poor condition-broke and the deckhand fell backwards to the deck of the vessel. The personnel basket swung to the side of the vessel and hit the rail. The deckhand's radio was stored in his back pocket and when he got back up, he started yelling into the radio in an effort to stop the basket from descending. The deckhand then noticed the radio was inoperative, as apparently the radio battery had become dislodged at some point and the radio had ceased to function. Pl. Tr. Ex. 35 at 41 ll. 15-23, 42 ll. 18-25; Pl. Tr. Ex. 36 at 31 ll. 4-25, 32 ll. 1-21, 33 ll. 17-25, 61 ll. 11-19; Tr. at 127 ll. 1-12.

         14. Due to the deckhand's radio becoming inoperable, he could not communicate with the crane operator and inform him about the broken tagline and the spinning and swaying basket. Pl. Tr. Ex. 36 at 61 ll. 4-24, 62 ll. 3-10.

         15. The personnel basket struck the vessel's port railing and came to rest about four feet above the vessel's deck. As the basket teetered on the vessel's railing, Kinnerson and the other men quickly jumped to the vessel's deck. Kinnerson testified that he landed in a “twisted” position. Tr. at 127 ll. 9-22; Pl. Tr. Ex. 35 at 48 ll. 3-16; Pl. Tr. Ex. 36 at 62 ll. 11-18.

         16. The Captain of the M/V Miss Claire, using the vessel's radio, told the crane operator that the men had gotten out of the basket but it “was a close call.” The crane operator then raised the basket back up to the deck of the platform and the vessel proceeded to take the men to shore. See Tr. at 66 ll. 12-23.

         17. At the time of the incident and for a day thereafter, Kinnerson did not notice any significant pain or discomfort, but soon he began having pain in his neck and back. The pain in his back increased and he sought medical help. Kinnerson was initially seen on June 2, 2015 by Dr. Steven Guillory, Occupational Medicine Clinic (“OMC”) on referral from Kinnerson's employer, Oceaneering. Pl. Tr. Ex. 23a at 8, 139-40.

         18. Kinnerson's chief complaints at that time were to his lower cervical spine in the C6-7 and lower area, the right mid- to upper- thoracic muscle between the scapula and spine, and in the right trapezius muscle. Dr. Guillory's initial impression was cervical pain, non-radiating, right trapezius pain, lumbar muscle pain, non-radiating, and some difficulty sleeping. Dr. Guillory's plan consisted of hot and cold packs as directed, rest, and decreased activity, no lifting more than 20 pounds and return for follow up three days later (i.e., June 5, 2015). Pl. Tr. Ex. 23a at 8-10, 139-40.

         19. Kinnerson returned to OMC on June 5, 2015. He complained of increasing discomfort in his lower and upper back between his scapula. He rated his pain as a 9 of 10 on a 1-10 scale. He also complained of spasms in his upper and lower back together with numbness and tingling which he attributed to his injury. Pl. Tr. Ex. 23a at 9-10, 153.

         20. OMC's Dr. Tony Alleman ordered MRIs of Kinnerson's cervical, lumbar and thoracic spine. Pl. Tr. Ex. 23a at 156-57, 160.

         21. Thoracic MRI imaging results obtained on June 10, 2015 at Imaging at Lafayette Surgical Specialty Hospital were interpreted by the radiologist, Dr. Jeffrey Laborde, as a T7-8 small central and left lateral focal disc herniation with no definite cord or nerve root pathology. P1. Tr. Ex. 23a at 171.

         22. Kinnerson returned to OMC on June 15, 2015, with continuing complaints of discomfort and pain. He rated his pain as an 8 out of 10 on a scale of 1-10. He was not sleeping well due to pain and numbness, which he attributed to his injury. He stated that nothing stopped his pain. Pl. Tr. Ex. 23a at 11, 163.

         23. Kinnerson was next seen on July 14, 2015 by Dr. Louis Blanda, Jr., Lafayette Bone and Joint Clinic, for evaluation of neck and back pain. Dr. Blanda testified by trial deposition. He summarized Kinnerson complaints on the July 14, 2015 visit as involving pain from the base of his neck to his tailbone and across his bilateral scapula region. He noted that Kinnerson's symptoms were aching and stabbing in nature; that Kinnerson described numbness, pins and needles sensation, and a burning pain; that Kinnerson rated his pain 10 on a scale of 0-10; that Kinnerson had numbness and a stabbing pain into his left posterior thigh; and that Kinnerson had a shooting pain and numbness into his left arm. Pl. Tr. Ex. 44 at 11, 15.

         24. Kinnerson indicated to Dr. Blanda on this first visit that Kinnerson's pain was constant and increased with activity. Kinnerson told Dr. Blanda that he had difficulty sleeping; that coughing, sneezing, walking, and sitting aggravated his symptoms; that he got some relief with lying flat with a heating pad; that he did not have any history of prior injuries to his lower back; and that he worked one day (June 4, 2015) since the incident. Kinnerson told Dr. Blanda that he saw the doctor on June 5, 2015 and did not return to work after that. Pl. Tr. Ex. 44 at 15-16.

         25. Dr. Blanda recommended that Kinnerson undergo a course of physical therapy; prescribed him Norco and Elavil; scheduled a return visit in 4-6 weeks; and placed Kinnerson on no- work status. Kinnerson subsequently underwent a course of 12 physical therapy treatments by Fran Mancuso, PT, between July 27, 2015 and August 19, 2015. Pl. Tr. Ex. 44 at 17- 18; Pl. Tr. Ex. 19.

         26. Dr. Blanda next saw Kinnerson on August 25, 2015. At that point, Kinnerson had completed his 12-session physical therapy course. Dr. Blanda noted on this visit that the therapy was aggravating Kinnerson's condition. He summarized Kinnerson's pain complaints on this visit as pain in his mid- and lower thoracic region with bilateral radiating chest pain. In the thoracic spine, the pain was characterized as aching, constant, deep, diffused, and spasmodic. Causative factors included lifting, rising from a sitting position, rotating, standing and walking. Range of motion was restricted and presented with pain on motion. Inspection of the upper scapula area evidenced spasm bilaterally. Dr. Blanda felt the T7-T8 disc herniation could be responsible for Kinnerson's symptoms and ordered a T7-T8 thoracic epidural steroid injection. Pl. Tr. Ex. 44 at 18-22.

         27. On September 17, 2015, Kinnerson underwent the thoracic epidural steroid injection, which was performed by Dr. Steven Staires at Lafayette Surgical Specialty Hospital. Pl. Tr. Ex. 44 at 102-03.

         28. Kinnerson returned to see Dr. Blanda on October 6, 2015, at which time he reported that the injection provided no significant pain or physical relief. Dr. Blanda noted on physical exam that Kinnerson's mid- thoracic pain continued to radiate around the intercostal nerves. Kinnerson rated his pain as an 8 on a scale of 1-10. Dr. Blanda felt that surgery might be an option and recommended a Jewett brace at this visit. Pl. Tr. Ex. 44 at 22-23.

         29. Kinnerson next saw Dr. Blanda for follow-up on December 10, 2015 with complaints of continued thoracic pain. On that visit, Dr. Blanda recommended continued conservative treatment. Pl. Tr. Ex. 44 at 24-26.

         30. Kinnerson saw Dr. Blanda again for follow-up on February 11, 2016 with continuing complaints of upper back pain. Kinnerson presented with headaches, tingling, burning, and anxiety. On physical exam both his neck and thoracic spine were tender. There was positive neck spasm and Spurling's test was positive to the shoulders on that visit. Dr. Blanda ordered another MRI of the thoracic spine. Pl. Tr. Ex. 44 at 26-29.

         31. Kinnerson underwent his second thoracic MRI on February 18, 2016 at Imaging at Lafayette Surgical Specialty Hospital. The findings of the radiologist, Dr. Jeffrey Laborde, were as follows:

Impression:
T7-T8 : Positive for a central and left lateral focal disc herniation with cord ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.