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Taylor v. B&J Martin, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

September 27, 2019


         SECTION “A” (1)



         Before the Court is a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Rec. Doc. 54) filed by the Defendant B&J Martin, Inc. (“B&J Martin”). B&J Martin seeks to dismiss the Plaintiff Allen Taylor's claims for maintenance and cure and punitive damages on the following grounds: (1) Taylor has reached maximum medical improvement (“MMI”) and (2) Taylor willfully concealed and/or misrepresented preexisting injuries to his back on his pre-employment medical history questionnaires. (Rec. Doc. 54-1, p. 1, B&J Martin's Memorandum in Support). Taylor opposes the motion (Rec. Doc. 59), and B&J Martin has replied. (Rec. Doc. 62). The motion, submitted for consideration on August 21, 2019, is before the Court on the briefs without oral argument.

         I. Background

         A. General Facts and Procedural History

         In June of 2009, B&J Martin employed Taylor as a seaman as part of a work release program. (Rec. Doc. 54-1, p. 2, B&J Martin's Memorandum in Support). Upon that program's completion, B&J Martin later rehired Taylor in July of 2011. Id. Taylor remained employed by B&J Martin up until the day that the alleged incident occurred. Id. Before beginning employment on either occasion, B&J Martin required Taylor to fill out and complete a medical information questionnaire supplied by B&J Martin. Id.; (Rec. Doc. 54-1, B&J Martin's Memorandum in Support). Although Taylor fully completed B&J Martin's 2009 questionnaire, he only partially filled out B&J Martin's 2011 questionnaire. (Rec. Doc. 54-2, B&J Martin's 2009 Questionnaire); (Rec. Doc. 54-3, B&J Martin's 2011 Questionnaire).

         While working aboard the F/V DUSTY DAWN on October 14, 2015, Taylor was descending a flight of stairs one morning when he stepped on a cigarette lighter which caused him to slip and fall to the vessel's deck. (Rec. Doc. 1, ¶ 5-6, Plaintiff's Complaint). This fall allegedly caused lumbar spine damage, specifically to his L5-S1 disc, which required three successive surgeries to correct. (Rec. Doc. 54-1, p. 6-8, B&J Martin's Memorandum in Support). However, B&J Martin now moves this Court to grant partial summary judgment finding that: (1) Taylor has reached MMI, (2) Taylor is not entitled to any maintenance and cure damages because of B&J Martin's valid McCorpen defense, and (3) Taylor cannot claim punitive damages because B&J Martin dutifully fulfilled its maintenance and cure obligations to date. Id. at 1.

         B. Medical Testing, Diagnosis, and Treatment

         A week after the fall occurred, Taylor went to Dr. Ralph Katz who recommended an MRI on Taylor's lumbar spine and prescribed pain medication. Id. at 6. After reviewing the MRI results, Dr. Katz administered an epidural steroid injection on November 10, 2015. Id. However, Taylor still complained of back pain, so Dr. Katz performed a microscopic laminectomy discectomy right L5-S1 surgery on September 6, 2016. (Rec. Doc. 54-11, p. 2, Dr. Katz's Operative Note).

         Unfortunately, Taylor failed to receive any relief from this first surgery, so he decided to visit a second doctor, Dr. Manish Singh. (Rec. Doc. 54-11, p. 1, Dr. Singh Operative Note). Dr. Singh then recommended that Taylor undergo a second surgery which occurred on September 6, 2016. Id. This consisted of a re-exploration of the previous LS-Sl discectomy with right-sided LS laminotomy and microdiscectomy of the recurrent disc herniation. Id.

         After failing to find relief from either of the two previous surgeries, Taylor next visited Dr. David Ferachi on August 15, 2017. (Rec. Doc. 54-12, p. 16, Dr. Ferachi Procedure Report). Dr. Ferachi diagnosed him with lumbar degenerative disc disease, spondylosis, and lumbar radiculopathy. Id. at 13. Dr. Ferachi subsequently performed a one-level lumbar fusion on November 10, 2017. Id. at p. 49. But, like the previous surgeries, this third procedure failed to provide Taylor with any permanent relief from his pain. Id. Dr. Ferachi even informed Taylor at a subsequent follow-up appointment that he had no further treatment options to offer and placed Taylor at MMI on March 19, 2019. (Rec. Doc. 54-13, p. 4, Dr. Ferachi's Note). In the hope of finding some type of enduring solution, Taylor then visited Dr. Andrew Todd on April 29, 2019 for a second opinion. (Rec. Doc. 54-14, p. 2, Dr. Todd's Report). Dr. Todd reviewed Taylor's MRI and, on May 20, 2019, determined that:

I see nothing to address, from a spine surgery point of view. He has attempted a spinal cord stimulator and unfortunately he has not gained relief from that. The only other modality that I believe could be helpful for him would be to consider an intrathecal pump and that is something he can certainly discuss with his pain management physician in Georgia. Unfortunately, I have nothing to offer him from a surgical point of view and this is something he will have to continue to pursue via pain management. (Rec. Doc. 54-15, Dr. Todd's Note)

         Thus, as a result of Dr. Ferachi and Dr. Todd's statements, B&J Martin stopped making maintenance and cure payments to Taylor on May 23, 2019.[1] (Rec. Doc. 54-8, April Foret's Declaration). Before that day, B&J Martin paid for all of Taylor's maintenance and cure expenses which included three surgeries, pain management, physical therapy, and other medical expenses starting since October 14, 2015. Id.

         II. Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate only if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any," when viewed in the light most favorable to the non-movant, "show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact." TIG Ins. Co. v. Sedgwick James, 276 F.3d 754, 759 (5th Cir. 2002) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50 (1986)). A dispute about a material fact is "genuine" if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Id. (citing Anderson, 477 ...

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