Justia U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Admiralty & Maritime Law
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After a shift foreman was injured and disabled while working on an oil and gas storage facility, he filed a claim with the Department under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act. The ALJ found that the foreman fulfilled the Act's requirements, the Board affirmed the ALJ's findings, and IMTT petitioned for review. The Fifth Circuit denied the petition for review, holding that the foreman fulfilled the Act's situs requirement; he was engaged in maritime employment; he had not reached maximum medical improvement; and he adequately sought alternative employment. View "International-Matex Tank Terminals v. Director, Office of Workers' Compensation Programs" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff, an employee of Centaur, was injured while offloading a generator from a crew boat to a barge, he filed suit against the owner and operator of the boat (River Ventures) and Centaur for vessel negligence under general maritime law and the Jones Act. River Ventures cross-claimed against Centaur for contractual indemnity, and the district court granted summary judgment to Centaur. The Fifth Circuit reversed, holding that the district court misapplied In re Larry Doiron, Inc., 879 F.3d 568 (5th Cir.) (en banc), cert. denied, 138 S. Ct. 2033 (2018), and erroneously concluded that the Dock Contract at issue was non-maritime. The court held that Doiron's two-part test applied as written to all mixed-services contracts: in order to be maritime, a contract must be for services to facilitate activity on navigable waters and must provide, or the parties must expect, that a vessel will play a substantial role in the completion of the contract. Applying the Doiron test, the court held that the Dock Contract at issue required services to be performed to facilitate the loading, offloading, and transportation of coal and petroleum coke via vessels on navigable waters. Furthermore, Doiron's second prong was satisfied where the Dock Contract made clear that the parties expected DB-582 to play a significant role in the completion of the work. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Barrios v. Centaur, LLC" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff was injured on the deck of a ship, he filed suit against the United States, the ship's owner, for negligence under the Jones Act and unseaworthiness under general maritime law. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment against plaintiff, holding that no summary-judgment evidence, however it might have been developed, reached the fact of whether plaintiff slipped on grease. Furthermore, plaintiff's claim of unseaworthiness likewise failed. View "Jones v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit denied Wood Group's petition for review of the Board's conclusion that Wood Group's employee satisfied the situs and status requirements for coverage under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act. In this case, the employee was injured while unloading a vessel on a platform customarily used for that task. The court held that the Board correctly applied the plain language of the Act and affirmed its conclusion that the employee met the situs requirement. Furthermore, because the employee's injury occurred when he was loading/unloading a vessel, and because he regularly loaded/unloaded vessels, the status requirement was satisfied. View "Wood Group Production Services v. Director, Office of Workers' Compensation Programs" on Justia Law

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In this personal injury Jones Act case, the Fifth Circuit held that the district court did not err by failing to act on an allegation that defendant provoked plaintiff's attorney to withdraw. In this case, all evidence in the record indicated that the attorney made a showing of good cause and provided reasonable notice to his client; the district court took procedural care in resolving the withdrawal motion; and plaintiff's claims to the contrary failed. However, the court held that the district court erroneously granted summary judgment to defendant because plaintiff lacked expert medical evidence of causation. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Gowdy v. Marine Spill Response Corp." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in this maritime case involving an allision, holding that the owner of the stationary, "innocent" vessel does not have to be reimbursed for the medical expenses of an employee who fraudulently claimed his preexisting injuries had resulted from the allision. In this case, because the employee's back condition did not result from the allision, Enterprise Marine did nothing that caused or contributed to a need for maintenance and cure for that particular medical problem. Therefore, Enterprise Marine did not owe reimbursement for the back surgery. Furthermore, Enterprise Marine did not have a contractual obligation to reimburse where an agreement between the parties did not cover a situation in which it later became clear that the employee's claims were fraudulent. View "4-K Marine, LLC v. Enterprise Marine Services, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the vessel owner in an action alleging that the vessel owner breached its duties under the Jones Act to provide plaintiff with prompt and adequate medical care after he suffered a stroke while working aboard the vessel. The court held that plaintiff failed to show that there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the vessel owner acted negligently by calling 911. Furthermore, there was no genuine issue of material fact as to whether the vessel owner was vicariously liable for the Teche Regional Medical Center physicians' alleged malpractice. View "Randle v. Crosby Tugs, LLC" on Justia Law

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After an underwater sonar device (towfish) used by Tesla struck the mooring line of an offshore drilling rig owned by Shell, Shell filed suit against Tesla and International, the company who chartered a vessel for Tesla to pull the towfish, seeking damages arising from the accident. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Shell and apportioned 75% of the liability to Tesla and 25% to International. Tesla and International appealed, and while the appeal was pending, Tesla and Shell entered into a settlement agreement. The district court subsequently determined that Tesla was entitled to contribution from International toward the settlement amount. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment holding that International's vessel was a towing vessel and subject to towing regulations. The court also affirmed the jury's allocation of fault and the district court's calculation of the contribution owed by International. View "Shell Offshore, Inc. v. Tesla Offshore, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's summary judgment determination that Nature's Way, as the owner of a tugboat, was also "operating" an oil barge that the tugboat was moving at the time of a collision, as the term was used in the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA). The court held that the ordinary and natural meaning of "operating" under the statute would apply to the exclusive navigational control that Nature's Way exercised over the barge at the time of the collision. Therefore, the National Pollution Funds Center violated the Administrative Procedures Act by determining that Nature's Way was an operator of the barge and thus denying reimbursement on the grounds that its liability should be limited by the tonnage of the tugboat and not the tonnage of the barges. View "United States v. Nature's Way Marine, LLC" on Justia Law

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After a marine accident that resulted in damages estimated to exceed $60 million, Valero, Shell and Motiva asked the court to resolve whether the excess insurers of one of the involved vessels may limit their liability to that of the insured vessel. The district court held that the Protection and Indemnity policy covering the vessel has a Crown Zellerbach clause thereby permitting the excess insurers to limit their liability to that of the insured vessel. The Fifth Circuit dismissed the appeal based on lack of appellate jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1292(a)(3), holding that the district court's Order and Reasons failed to determine the rights and liabilities of the parties. The court found no compelling reason to distinguish between a district court's determination of a contractual entitlement rather than statutory entitlement to limit liability. The court joined the Eleventh Circuit in holding that neither decision was reviewable on appeal under section 1292(a)(3). View "SCF Waxler Marine, LLC v. Aris T M/V" on Justia Law