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Turner v. BP Exploration & Production, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

December 18, 2019

WINFRED JAVON TURNER
v.
BP EXPLORATION & PRODUCTION, INC. ET AL.

         SECTION "L" (2)

          ORDER & REASONS

          ELDON E. FALLON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. R. Doc. 18. The motion is unopposed. Having considered the parties' arguments and the relevant law, the Court now rules as follows.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case arises from Plaintiff Winfred Turner's alleged exposure to harmful substances and chemicals after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. R. Doc. 1 ¶ 11. Plaintiff alleges that while employed to perform response activities after the spill, he was exposed to “oil, other hydrocarbons, and other substances released from the MC252 Well, Corexit EC9500, Corexit EC9527, and other dispersants and decontaminants.” R. Doc. 1 ¶ 11. Plaintiff contends that exposure to these chemicals legally and proximately caused him to develop numerous medical conditions, including chronic rhinosinusitis, chronic damage to conjunctiva, and chronic contact dermatitis. R. Doc. 1 ¶ 3.

         On October 23, 2018, Plaintiff filed the instant lawsuit against Defendants BP Exploration & Production, Inc. and BP America Production Company pursuant to the Medical Benefits Class Action Settlement (“MSA”) reached in In re Oil Spill by the Oil Rig “Deepwater Horizon” in the Gulf of Mexico, on April 20, 2010, MDL No. 2179. R. Doc. 1 ¶ 1. Plaintiff seeks to recover damages for medical expenses, pain and suffering, mental anguish, scarring and disfigurement, permanent disability, physical impairment, loss of enjoyment of life, other economic losses, increased risk of injury or death, medical expenses, and court costs.[1] R. Doc. 1 ¶ 17.

         Defendants timely answered the complaint, admitting Plaintiff was a cleanup worker but generally denying the other allegations contained therein. R. Doc. 4. Defendants raise a number of affirmative defenses, including failure to state a claim, superseding and intervening causes, preexisting medical conditions, comparative negligence, failure to mitigate damages, and release of claims. R. Doc. 4 at 5-8.

         II. PENDING MOTION

         Defendants seek summary judgment of Plaintiff's claims. R. Doc. 18. Defendants argue that summary judgment is appropriate because a Back-End Litigation Option claim, such as this one, requires Plaintiff to demonstrate that his injuries were legally caused by exposure to oil and other spill-related chemicals and substances. R. Doc. 18-1 at 2. Causation, Defendants argue, must be proven with expert testimony. R. Doc. 18-1 at 4. Because Plaintiff failed to identify any expert witnesses or disclose any expert reports by November 20th, the Court's Scheduling Order's deadline for written expert reports, R. Doc. 12, Defendants contend that Plaintiff is unable to prove causation, an essential element of his claim, as a matter of law. R. Doc. 18-1 at 5.

         III. LAW & ANALYSIS

         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is proper “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). “Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which the party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Id. A party moving for summary judgment bears the initial burden of demonstrating the basis for summary judgment and identifying those portions of the record, discovery, and any affidavits supporting the conclusion that there is no genuine issue of material fact. Id. at 323. If the moving party meets that burden, then the nonmoving party must use evidence cognizable under Rule 56 to demonstrate the existence of a genuine issue of material fact. Id. at 324.

         A genuine issue of material fact exists if a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1996). “[U]nsubstantiated assertions, ” “conclusory allegations, ” and merely colorable factual bases are insufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment. See Hopper v. Frank, 16 F.3d 92, 97 (5th Cir. 1994); Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50. In ruling on a summary judgment motion, a court may not resolve credibility issues or weigh evidence. See Int'l Shortstop, Inc. v. Rally's Inc., 939 F.2d 1257, 1263 (5th Cir. 1991). Furthermore, a court must assess the evidence, review the facts and draw any appropriate inferences based on the evidence in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment. See Daniels v. City of Arlington, 246 F.3d 500, 502 (5th Cir. 2001); Reid v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 784 F.2d 577, 578 (5th Cir. 1986).

         B. ...


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