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Young v. Freeport McMoran Oil & Gas, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

October 22, 2019

CURTIS YOUNG
v.
FREEPORT MCMORAN OIL & GAS, LLC, ET AL.

         SECTION: "A" (2)

          FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

          JAY C. ZAINEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This is a civil action brought by plaintiff Curtis Young pursuant to the Jones Act and general maritime law against his employer, defendant Offshore Marine Contractors, Inc. (“OMC”). Plaintiff seeks damages for personal injuries allegedly sustained while working as a deckhand aboard the L/B JAMIE G. EYMARD. Plaintiff alleges that on August 29, 2016, while the vessel was on navigable waters, he was injured when an unsecured ladder fell on his shoulder and back areas. Plaintiff seeks recovery for back ailments that he contends are causally-related to the incident aboard the JAMIE EYMARD.

         Defendant disputes Plaintiff's contention that he sustained an injury on August 29, 2016 while working aboard the vessel.

         The case was tried to the Court, sitting without a jury, on August 21-22, 2019. Having considered the testimony and evidence at trial, the depositions submitted in lieu of live testimony, the arguments of counsel, and applicable law, the Court now enters the following Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law in accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(a). To the extent that any finding of fact may be construed as a conclusion of law, the Court hereby adopts it as such. To the extent that any conclusion of law constitutes a finding of fact, the Court adopts it as such.

         I. FINDINGS OF FACT

         On August 29, 2016, plaintiff Curtis Young was assigned to the L/B JAIME G. EYMARD, a vessel owned and operated by OMC. The JAIME EYMARD is a lift boat with three leg towers used to jack the vessel up and down. Young was an experienced seaman and experienced at working on lift boats. His job was physically demanding.

         At the time of trial, Young had been employed off and on by OMC for roughly 16 years, intermittently from 2003 until trial in 2019. During his employment Young had been subject to random drug testing. In recent years Young had not failed a drug test. But it is unclear how many times after 2015 Young was actually selected for random drug testing. Even if selected for drug testing, legal drugs taken pursuant to a valid doctor's prescription would not trigger a positive result.

         In connection with his re-hire in September 2013, Young did not divulge that he had pre-existing back pain. At the time Young did not believe that he had significant back problems. Young's medical records indicate, however, that he had made the first of many visits to Dr. Anu Vellanki's medical office in January 2010, wherein he complained of non-radiating back pain of moderate intensity in his lumbar spine region.

         There is no evidence that Young sought medical treatment for back pain until five years later when on January 5, 2015 he went to the emergency room complaining of recurring low back pain. The medical record associated with that visit states that the problem had started “several weeks ago.” In fact, in December 2014, while working aboard another of OMC's vessels, Young requested and obtained 100 Aleve caplets.

         On January 6, 2015, the day immediately following the emergency room visit, Young treated with Dr. Anu Vellanki and again complained of low back pain, with a self-reported severity level of 10/10. The symptoms were again characterized as a chronic problem with an acute exacerbation. Dr. Vellanki prescribed pain medication (Norco) and a muscle relaxer.

         The next time Young was off hitch was January 21, 2015, and on January 28, 2015, he returned to Dr. Vellanki with the same complaints. The doctor recommended physical therapy to Young, and he recommended that Young see an orthopedist and seek physical therapy. Dr. Vellanki prescribed Mr. Young 60 tramadol to be taken twice a day with two refills, and 45 cyclobenzaprine, a muscle relaxer, with another two refills. This is an aggregate 90-day supply of pain medication and muscle relaxers.

         Young worked until February 18, 2015. On February 24th, Young saw an orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Chad Loup. He again complained of lower back pain. He was recommended physical therapy and an MRI, and he was prescribed more medication. He filled the prescription, but he did not get the MRI or attend physical therapy. Instead, he returned to work.

         On March 24, 2015, while off hitch, Young went to the Willis Knighton emergency room with the same complaints of back pain for which he had seen Dr. Loup and Dr. Vellanki. He ...


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