Articles Posted in Offshore Injury

Late last month, a tank owned by Texas Petroleum exploded on Catfish Lake near Golden Meadow. The United States Coast Guard responded to a call by sending a helicopter and a locally stationed unit. Local Firefighters and state hazardous materials units also responded, successfully dousing the fire.

During an evacuation, one person was injured, suffering burns to his body. The person was transported to Terrebonne General Hospital where he was stabilized. Authorities established a three quarters of a mile perimeter around the explosion, but put out the fire before any residents were threatened.

The tank held crude oil before the oil was to be sent into the pipeline system. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

MORGAN CITY – As many as eight people were hurt in an explosion reported at a natural gas well in the Gulf of Mexico Tuesday afternoon.

Authorities said the incident was reported sometime before 3 o’clock after a well ignited. The victims reportedly suffered varying burn injuries in the explosion.

The patients were taken by boat to a dock in Morgan City. Helicopters were expected to land there to move those victims to a hospital.

An average of 16,500 car accidents occur daily across the United States. In the blink of an eye, a rear-end car accident can completely turn one’s life upside down by causing life-altering injuries. Such an event can leave one lost as to what to do next, scared as to the daunting recovery process that lies ahead, and confused as to where to even begin. Some insight into the expected process of legal settlements may aid you or a loved one in making important decisions following a tragic accident.

In Louisiana, a car accident resulting in an injury, death, or property damage resulting in over $500 requires the parties by law to contact the local police department. Following the accident, an injured party should seek legal assistance. This will significantly offset the post-accident burdens of both filing a claim with the negligent party’s insurance company and gathering  supporting evidence like medical examinations, photos, and witness testimony.

Further, an attorney can file suit against a negligent party, thereby holding that party liable for their actions. The lawsuit must be brought within 1 year of the date of the accident or else the claim is forever lost. Once the legal process begins, parties will work tirelessly to reach what is known as a settlement. A settlement resolves the dispute by dropping the claim before reaching trial in return for a monetary compensation. Settlement processes can last anywhere from a few months to a few years depending on the severity of the injuries and the accident. In the settlement process, the injured party seeks recompense for physical pain and suffering, repair or replacement of their car, medical expenses, mental anguish from the accident, lost wages, as well as other forms of damages.

ST. MARTINVILLE, LA – November 11, 2019

A Jones Act seaman was injured on January 29, 2016, when his coworker was piloting an Oceaneering survey vessel at high speeds while on his phone and slammed into a piling in the Empire Canal (Plaquemines Parish). The plaintiff was on the back deck of the vessel, an admittedly common practice at Oceaneering at the time, and he was slammed into the cab upon impact injuring his back.

Oceaneering contested liability arguing that the plaintiff should not have been on the back deck of the vessel while traveling at high speeds. Plaintiff successfully recovered under the Jones Act and unseaworthiness claims based on evidence that the pilot was on the phone, the crew was improperly trained, and that Oceaneering failed to have rules regarding phone use while operating vessels, having a lookout, or passengers working on the back deck while moving.

The U.S. Coast Guard and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are calling for stronger safety measures aboard oil platforms after an explosion on a Lake Pontchartrain oil rig left multiple workers injured and one worker missing. Five workers sustained critical burns from the blast, while two others sustained trauma-related injuries. A search-and-rescue mission was sent out for the missing employee, whose body was recovered five days after the explosion. The explosion occurred on October 15th, two miles from Kenner and around twenty miles north of New Orleans in an incorporated area of Jefferson Parish.

According to the City of Kenner Government, the platform (used for the transfer of oil) ignited because of cleaning chemicals that were not sufficiently hosed off. The explosion could be heard from miles away and houses up to 10 blocks away “actually shook from the boom.” Many of the employees on the platform were rescued subsequent to the explosion as fires continued to burn on the platform.

The environmental impact of the explosion is yet to be determined. The Coast Guard will continue to test the surrounding waters to determine if large amounts of oil were deposited into Lake Pontchartrain. Many Kenner residents have gone to social media to voice their concerns about the potential future environmental impacts of the explosion. Lake Pontchartrain is part of a larger ecosystem called the Pontchartrain Basin, an area consisting of many rivers, bayous, and swamps that could potentially be impacted by oil from the explosion. South Louisiana citizens are fearful of a similar situation to the Deepwater Horizon disaster seven years ago.

In an important maritime law decision protecting seaman all over the county, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the Louisiana verdict secured for an injured maritime worker. Attorney Blake R. David (lead counsel) and J. Derek Aswell of Broussard & David represented the plaintiff. Guidry v. Tanner Marine, 16-61 (La. App. 3rd Cir. 10/19/16), 206 So.3d 378, writ denied (La. 1/23/17) 209 So.3d 90; writ denied (U.S. 6/12/17) 2017 WL 1494663.

In Guidry v. Tanner Services, a St. Landry Parish trial court found Ernest Guidry to be a seaman under the Jones Act and awarded general and special damages of $3,885,911.69. A 16,000 pound vibrating hammer fell on Guidry causing the amputation of his four fingers, a crushed foot, herniated discs in his neck and back, concussion, depression, post-traumatic stress, and total and permanent disability. The verdict was upheld by the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court of Louisiana, and the Supreme Court of the United States — the final judgment with judicial interest totaled over $4,280,000.00.

Defendant, Tanner Services, LLC, was awarded a contract to construct a bulkhead in Grand Isle, Louisiana beginning in January 2012. The Defendant used three barges and two tugboats to move the equipment, supplies, and store materials, as well as to act as “floating docks” or “work stations” for a crane and preparatory welding. The project also used floating mats described as a large piece of wood similar to a “raft.” Guidry spent the majority of his time on the floating raft. Previously, Guidry had been strictly a land-based shop welder for Tanner. The trial court found that he was reassigned to do maritime work, and that this reassignment changed his status to a Jones Act seaman who can recover for his catastrophic losses from his at-fault employer. The court also found that the raft was an appurtenance to the crane barge.

Jerome Moroux of the law firm Broussard and David, recently obtained a settlement of over $3.2MM on behalf of an offshore worker who sustained  an injury while entering a vessel in Vermilion Parish. The incident was unwitnessed and occurred as the worker was crossing the gangway that was not properly secured on the vessel.

Initially, the worker believed he had sustained only a twisted ankle. As he continued working offshore, however, plaintiff’s pain continued to worsen. He was ultimately diagnosed with CRPS in his right ankle and received a spinal cord stimulator in his low back for right ankle pain. Plaintiff also treated for depression following his injury.

The case was defended by ABC Boats and Doe’s employer, which denied liability and the extent of damages claimed. As to liability, defendants asserted that plaintiff misjudged the step from the gangway to the deck; defendants focused on the fact that plaintiff had provided multiple accounts of the accident to his various doctors and company representatives. Additionally, ABC Boats’s Captain testified that he observed the gangway one hour before the accident and it was properly secured; also, three passengers boarded the vessel in the hour before plaintiff and had no problems with the gangway. Concerning damages, defendants questioned the diagnosis of CRPS and denied that plaintiff’s psychological trauma were in any way related to the accident.

In the District Court of Harris County, Texas, a jury awarded over $40 million to owners of oil production facilities nearly 12 years after Hurricane Rita struck the Gulf Coast. The oil company plaintiff hired experienced trial lawyers to bring their claim before the civil justice system and hold their insurer accountable for the damages suffered.

In 2005, Prime Natural Resource owned oil and gas drilling platforms off of the coast of Morgan City. These platforms were insured by underwriters at Lloyd’s, London. Hurricane Rita struck Prime’s wells in September 2005 causing over $20 million in damages, including debris removal and restoration. Despite being aware of the damages for over 10 years, the insurance company repeatedly claimed its policy did not cover this particular damage. The policy covering the oil and gas drilling platform was a Wellsure policy, one often used in the energy industry. The Underwriters admitted that they insured the platform, but refused to pay for any individual parts of the well damaged by the Hurricane.

Both the trial court and court of appeals refused to look beyond the language of the insurance contract granting summary judgment in favor of Lloyd’s. The court’s looked to the intent of the parties in interpreting the policy. On appeal Prime brought four causes of action in front of the District Court: (1) breach of contract, (2) unfair or deceptive acts under the insurance code, (3) failure to promptly pay claims, and (4) breach of common law duty of good faith. After a six-week trial, the jury awarded $27.3 million in punitive damages, while also finding the insurers both breached a contract, as well as, violated the state insurance code. In addition to the punitive damages, Prime was awarded $10.9 million in bad faith, $1.8 million in actual damages, and $1.6 million in legal fees.

A recent Fifth Circuit per curiam opinion proves to be a lesson for maritime and admiralty attorneys in how to preserve issues on appeal, particularly in Jones Act jury trials.

In 2014, Plaintiff Richard Bosarge applied for employment with Cheramie Marine, L.L.C. and was hired as a relief captain. While on duty, Mr. Bosarge sustained injuries to his back when he was tossed out of his bunk when his vessel hit a large wave. Cheramie responded by arguing that the waves were not violent and alleging that Mr. Bosarge never reported any injuries to his superiors, other than some seasickness.

Mr Bosarge sued his employer under the Jones Act to recover for his back injuries. During his pre-employment physical examination, Mr. Bosarge denied having any prior back pain or injury, although he had sought medical care for back pain in the past. At trial, Defendant’s medical expert was able to compare pre-injury and post-injury MRIs of Mr. Bosarge’s back, and testified that the post-injury MRI showed less injury than the pre-injury MRI. The jury returned a zero verdict and Plaintiff appealed.

Blake R. David of the maritime law firm Broussard & David, LLC obtained a jury verdict of $3,885,911.69 on behalf of a welder who sustained injuries when a vibrating hammer fell and struck him. The verdict, awarding general damages and pre-judgment interest was affirmed by the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal. On January 23, 2017, the Louisiana Supreme Court denied the application for writ of certiorari on general damages and seaman status – allowing the award to stand.

Plaintiff Ernest L. Guidry, was a welder for Defendant Tanner Services, LLC for approximately two years before he was seriously injured. The defendant was awarded a contract to build a bulkhead on Grand Isle. Tanner had both land division and maritime division crews. Plaintiff had previously worked for Tanner as a shop welder in Eunice, Louisiana, but was reassigned to the Tanner Marine Division before his injury. The project utilized three barges and two tugboats on which a floating mat and other supplies were housed. After the reassignment, Plaintiff spent his working time on the water performing preparatory work for the project, which included welding connectors, welding sheet piles, and cutting holes in the sheet piles. Plaintiff also attended job safety analysis meetings each morning on vessels with the marine division crew. Plaintiff spent approximately 90% of his time working on the water, particularly the floating mat. Plaintiff was severely injured when the vibrating hammer used to drive in piles fell and struck him. The strike caused Plaintiff to fall into the water and caused multiple injuries, including a crushed foot, a concussion, herniated discs, depression, anxiety, the amputation of four fingers, and total and permanent disability.

Defendant contended Plaintiff was not entitled to seaman status under the Jones Act, barring recovery under that statute for the serious and permanent injuries Plaintiff sustained. However, both the trial court and Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal disagreed. Both courts found Plaintiff contributed to the vessel’s function and accomplishment of the vessel’s mission and the plaintiff’s connection to the vessel fleet was substantial in duration and nature because of the amount of time he spent on the floating mat and the work he performed on the mat. These facts entitled Plaintiff to seaman status under the Jones Act, making that statute an avenue of recovery for the severe injuries Plaintiff received. Additionally, the Third Circuit Court of Appeal found that the award of general damages and prejudgment interest on the damages was not an abuse of discretion.