Articles Posted in Boating Accidents

Blake David

Blake David of Broussard & David, LLC, Lafayette, was recently named Maritime Section Chair for the Louisiana Association for Justice (LAJ). The Maritime Section of this legal group concerns itself with improving the skill and knowledge of lawyers who represent workers injured in offshore accidents so that their families receive fair compensation from negligent parties and their insurers. The Maritime Section is one of LAJ’s larger sections, due to the increased industrial activity in Louisiana state waterways, rivers, canals, marshes and also given Louisiana’s proximity to work performed offshore in the Gulf of Mexico and the Outer Continental Shelf.

Mr. David has 14 years of experience practicing maritime and admiralty law. His area of practice focuses on personal injury and wrongful death litigation with an emphasis on offshore/maritime, trucking accident, aviation, products liability, industrial accident, and automobile claims. He speaks annually at the Louisiana State Bar Association Admiralty Symposium and is frequently invited to address attorney organizations around the state.

Mr. David was raised in Lafayette and is a founding partner of Broussard & David, LLC. He is the past president of the Lafayette Bar Association, past president of the American Inn of Court of Acadiana, and founding board member and past president of the Federal Bar Association’s Lafayette Chapter. Mr. David is AV-rated by Martindale-Hubbell and recognized by Louisiana Super Lawyers (2012-2016), National Trial Lawyers (2012-2016) and National Association of Distinguished Counsel, which is awarded to the nation’s top one percent of attorneys (2015).

 

A boating incident between a recreational boat and an oilfield crew boat resulted in one fatality and left two others injured in Cameron Parish last Thursday.

Wildlife and Fisheries reported that the accident occurred around 8 a.m. on October 8th.  The oilfield crew boat, which was carrying two, and the other boat carrying a family of three collided in a curve in a canal in Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge.

The family, a father and his two adult sons, were flung from their boat by the impact.  They were pulled from the water by the members of the crew boat who then docked at a nearby landing and contacted an ambulance.

Up to four people have been left dead and two injured after an explosion occurred at Transcontinental Gas Pipeline Company, a Williams Partners’ subsidiary, on Bayou Black Drive in Terrebonne Parish.

After the explosion occurred at 11 a.m. on October 8th, 2015, it was initially reported that the 13 employees stationed at the facility were uninjured and accounted for.  Four contractors who were performing scheduled maintenance at the facility are being treated for injuries sustained as a result of the incident, the severity of which is unknown at this time.

However, Terrebonne Parish Sheriff on the scene Jerry Larpenter reported that he believed at least believed three people were dead at the plant and one other worker had died at the hospital after being recovered by hazmat teams from the site.  The hazmat suits are required due to the heat remaining at the explosion site.  Two other individuals suffered serious injuries.

Related to an international hostage situation that occurred in 2011, Wren Thomas has brought suit against his then-employers, citing a blatant disregard for safety that to permanent and debilitating injuries.

In July of 2011, Thomas was employed collectively by Edison Chouest LLC, Galliano Marine Services, LLC, and Offshore and Service Vessels, LLC, as a captain and crew member of the American marine vessel C-Retriever to work off of the Nigerian coast, according to the complaint.

The suit posits that the trend of international piracy incidents involving the defendants’ vessels and crews should have caused the defendants’ to increase protection of its assets and employees in Nigerian waters.  Defendants’ allegedly failed to do so, despite numerous alleged incidents involving employees being set upon, maltreated and kidnapped.  Indeed, the suit states that Thomas expressed concerns to his employers about his vessel’s current status in regard to anti-piracy, citing the craft’s age, subpar speed, and somewhat outdated piracy measures.  According to the suit, Thomas, after expressing such concerns, received death threats, both veiled and direct, via the defendants’ radio system.

A family is suing BP for the wrongful death of their father as a result of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Incident.  Nedjelka Mjehovic, Vlaho Mjehovic and Borislava Mjehovic have accused BP of negligence that resulted in the wrongful death of their father, Miro Mjehovic, filing suit on his behalf.

Detailed in the complaint, Miro was the captain of a vessel that performed clean-up duties under the direction of BP.  Miros was employed by U.S. Maritime Services of New Orleans but was hired by BP following the Deepwater Horizon Incident.  He was performing his duties off the coast of St. Bernard parish and Plaquemines parish when he came into dermal and airborne contact with crude oil containing volatile compounds which, according to the plaintiffs, are widely regarded as toxic and carcinogenic.  As a result of this alleged contact, Miro developed dermal, respiratory, and cardiopulmonary complications culminating in acquired hemophilia, which he died from in 2012 despite medical care.

In their complaint, the Mjehovics state that their father should have been better protected from hazardous chemical exposure and that BP should have taken such precautions.  The suit claims breach of duty and three counts of negligence, stemming from failure to prevent the Deepwater Horizon explosion, failure to cap the Macondo well properly, and failure to warn personnel and properly equip employees.

Robert James Dick, Jr., an employee of Blackwater Diving LLC, was conducting an underwater burn on a conductor when he was allegedly injured by an explosion.  This event took place on or about June 21 and the explosion allegedly resulted in severe physical damage, psychological trauma, loss of enjoyment and capacity, permanent impairment, and medical expenses for Dick.

The plaintiff was employed by Blackwater as a seaman, a commercial diver, and a crewman of a marine vessel.  He has alleged negligence on the part of his employer and is seeking maintenance and cure.

As a part of his suit, Dick has invoked the Jones Act and claimed that Blackwater was negligent in failing to provide a safe workplace and safe equipment.  The Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, is a federal statute that provides for the promotion and maintenance of the American merchant marine.  The Jones Act specifically applies to shipping between two points of the same country, whether in-land or along the coasts.  This is collectively referred to as cabotage.  The Act took contemporary legislation regarding the recovery rights of railroad workers and extended the principles therein to sailors of such vessels.  It allowed seaman to bring action against ship owners based on claims of unseaworthiness or negligence, rights not afforded by common international maritime law.

A Jefferson Davis Parish man filed a lawsuit against his employer and an equipment manufacturer for injuries sustained during a workplace incident.

Wendell Simar was working on a rig and was required to use a swing rope and cable in order to board a vessel adjacent to the rig.  The facts of the suit allege that when Simar attempted to use the apparatus, the cable broke, causing the claimant to fall.  Simar struck the side of the vessel before careening into the water below.  The lawsuit states that Simar severely injured his back in the process.

Maritech Resources, Tetra Technologies Inc., and Supreme Offshore Services Inc., were named as defendants in the suit.  The suit alleges that the cable in question was in disrepair and thus posed a risk of injury.  Simar’s argument is that the defendants breached their duty of reasonable care by failing to adequately inspect equipment and provide a safe work environment.

Several local oil and gas companies recently received a setback by two federal judges in an ongoing environmental lawsuit filed by Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes. Finding that the claims asserted by the plaintiff-parishes were based in Louisiana law and involved at least one Louisiana-based oil company, U.S. District Court Judges Lance Africk and Ivan Lemelle remanded the lawsuits from federal court back to state court. Filed in November 2013, the defendant oil companies immediately had the lawsuits removed, or switched, to federal court where they hoped to have the dispute resolved. Oftentimes, large and foreign corporations will seek to have their disputes decided in federal court, where judges aren’t elected by State citizens and, thus, will likely be more sympathetic. State court also usually hosts a much more “local” jury which large, foreign corporations fear may risk having the case decided on inappropriately considered evidence. For these reasons, among many others, the defendant oil companies fought hard to keep these lawsuits in federal court. But, as Judges Africk and Lemelle ruled, there just wasn’t enough to satisfy federal jurisdictional requirements.

The lawsuits themselves, filed by Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes, are seeking relief from the courts for environmental damages allegedly caused by the defendant oil companies’ construction of canals through fragile wetlands. Because these lawsuits, and many others like it, arise from facts and circumstances that occurred as long as multiple decades ago, they’re often referred to as “legacy lawsuits.”

Despite the judges’ rulings, a spokesman for Shell, Chevron, and BP, who are all defendants in the lawsuit, maintain that this lawsuit properly belongs in federal court because it involves “important federal issues dealing with navigable waterways and oil, gas and pipeline operations directly affecting mineral production from the Outer Continental Shelf of the United States.”

On February 2nd, after two long years of litigation, the final phase of the BP oil spill trial finally saw its last day in court. This last phase—the penalty phase—served as a chance for attorneys representing both sides to argue for reduction or expansion of BP’s potential fines under the Clean Water Act.

Presiding Judge Carl Barbier of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana limited the amount of potential fines by potentially billions of dollars when he found the size of the spill to be 3.19 million barrels instead of the federal government’s estimate of 4.09 million barrels. This difference represented up to $17.6 billion in fines.

Despite this, Judge Barbier’s ruling on the merits—that BP was “grossly negligent”—bumped their potential liability far beyond the liability under a finding of ordinary negligence. Specifically, a finding a “gross negligence” opened BP up to a statutory maximum of $4,300 for each barrel spilled.

Back in October, we wrote about an ongoing lawsuit filed by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority against eighty-eight oil and gas companies operating off the Louisiana coast. Last Friday, February 13, 2015, this lawsuit saw its final days in court, as Federal Judge Nannette Jolivette Brown dismissed the lawsuit under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for the plaintiff’s failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

The Levee Authority filed this lawsuit ostensibly under its authority to “ensure the physical and operational integrity of the regional flood risk management system.” Their central contention was that the defendant oil and gas companies’ operations “have led to coastal erosion in the Buffer Zone, making south Louisiana more vulnerable to severe weather and flooding.” The Buffer Zone is an area in which the defendant oil companies currently operate and extends from the Mississippi River “through the Breton Sound Basin, the Biloxi Marsh, and the coastal wetlands of eastern New Orleans and up to Lake St. Catherine.”

The Levee Authority’s specific claims were that the defendants dredged a network of access canals for transportation of oil and gas products, which killed off much of the vegetation, caused sedimentation inhibition, erosion, and subsequent submergence of coastal land. Additionally, the Levee Authority claimed that the defendant oil companies failed to properly maintain the access channels and canals, which exacerbated erosion of canal banks, creating wider, deeper canals than permitted.

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