Articles Posted in Offshore Injury

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.

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.

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.

A Macy’s Department Store in Metairie recently became the subject of a premises liability action filed by a customer who reportedly slipped on a rug while shopping in the store.

The plaintiff reported that, in early December of 2013, she tripped and fell on a rug that was placed on the floor. As a result of her fall, the plaintiff claims that she injured her knee in the process. Attorneys for the plaintiff claim that the placement of the rug “created and represented an unreasonable risk of harm,” as well as demonstrating the merchant’s failure to properly inspect the premises and maintain a reasonably safe condition. The plaintiff seeks over $50,000 in compensatory damages.

The plaintiff’s lawsuit falls under the recognized theory of liability known “premises liability.” Premises liability against merchants is recognized in Louisiana and governed by Louisiana Revised Statutes 9:2800.6. This statute provides: “A merchant owes a duty to persons who use his premises to exercise reasonable care to keep his aisles, passageways, and floors in a reasonably safe condition. This duty includes a reasonable effort to keep the premises free of any hazardous conditions which reasonably my give rise to damage.”

When an individual suffers an injury at the hands of another, it can be a devastating experience to both the individual and his or her family. It can impose unforeseen medical costs, result in an inability to work, create a dire financial hardship, or otherwise create a very difficult experience for everyone involved. But this is why we have the civil justice system: to make the victim “whole” by providing a means for obtaining legal relief against the wrongdoer.

In pursuit of fairness and equity, however, the law sometimes recognizes considerations in favor of the wrongdoer. One of the most prominent of these considerations are statutes of limitations—or, as we say here in Louisiana, “prescription”. Prescription describes the procedural device that places a time limit on a plaintiff’s right to pursue a claim. So, for instance, if you were injured as a result of another person’s negligence, you have one year to file the claim in court before prescription bars you from filing the lawsuit altogether. While there are many nuances to this general rule and different prescriptive periods for different causes of action, it generally operates in this way. As mentioned above, prescription works in favor of the wrongdoer and for good reason. It ensures that injured plaintiffs pursue their claims with reasonable diligence, it gives defendants certainty about the timing of a potential claim against them so they can adequately prepare a defense, and it keeps the lawsuit temporally close to when the injury occurred so that potential witnesses and evidence to be presented at trial are still available.

But lawsuits can sometimes get overly complicated, leading to oversights and inaccuracies by parties to the suit, attorneys, and judges. One classic instance of such an oversight is where the plaintiff names the improper defendant in the lawsuit, and in the meantime, prescription on the claim against the proper defendant runs. What happens in this situation? Do the courts let procedural rules trump the overarching goals of equity and fairness in the justice system?

Operating in violation of both the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), ATP Infrastructure Partners LP (ATP-IP) has agreed to pay a $1 million civil penalty to settle a federal lawsuit over illegal discharges of oil and chemicals from an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico.

The lawsuit, instituted by the United States, was resolved by way of joint judicial enforcement action involving the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), and the Justice Department.

In its complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, the United States alleged that ATP-IP “violated Section 311(b)(3) of the CWA when oil and other pollutants were discharged into the Gulf of Mexico from the ATP Innovator.” Violation of this provision in the CWA opened up ATP-IP to possible civil penalties. The United States also urged that ATP-IP was liable for injunctive relief under OCSLA, “as the owner of the ATP Innovator … [for] hidden piping configuration [that] was being used to inject a chemical dispersant into the facility’s wastewater discharge outfall pipe to mask excess amounts of oil being discharged into the ocean.”