Articles Posted in Premises Liability

Jerry D. Franklin, Jr., has brought suit against his employer, Lebeouf Bros. Towing, LLC, for injuries resulting from their negligence.

According to the lawsuit, the Tangipahoa Parish resident was a crewman aboard the H. J. Dupre when it was offshore in 2014.  On or about July 11 of that same year, Franklin alleges that he was instructed to manually move a 20-foot crossover asphalt transfer hose from the deck of one barge to another without an adequate lifting device.  In complying with these instructions, Franklin states that he suffered severe lower back injuries.  The injuries are alleged to be so serious as to require extensive medical treatment and surgical intervention.

The suit alleges negligence on the part of Lebeouf Bros. Towing, and that they breached their duty when it failed to provide safe equipment, adequate crew and proper supervision owing to the un-seaworthiness of the vessel.  The plaintiff seeks maintenance and cure, alleging sever physical and psychological pain, loss of enjoyment of life, lost wages and earning capacity, and permanent disability.  The total sum sought in relief and expenses is $3.65 million.

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.

A 1-year old child was electrocuted by exposed wiring in a air conditioning unit while playing outside of her Addis apartment.  Kristiana Tillman was playing with other children from ages 5 to 10 when it is believed she came into contact with the wires.  She was barefoot and the ground around the unit was wet, according to the report of chief investigator Yancy Guerin of West Baton Rogue Parish Coroner’s office.  Guerin also reported that the unit lacked a cover to hold the wiring.  The child was left in the care of her aunt, who went into their apartment for a minute when the event occurred, Guerin believes.

Addis Police Chief Ricky Anderson said that the police did not suspect foul play and are still investigating.  However, he did believe that “it was piss-poor maintenance to leave the unit exposed like that.”

Potential criminal ramifications aside, this tragic case presents us with a potential example of comparative fault.  Louisiana’s concept of comparative fault revolves around the idea that if there are multiple sources of harm, the total responsibility for the injury shall be portioned out  between those sources.  While no lawsuit for damages as a result of negligence has been filed, we can speculate the potential parties: the victim’s family being the plaintiffs and the apartment complex owners being the defendants.  If the apartment complex owners outsource their maintenance tasks to a repair company, then it is likely that that company will be named as a party—if it can be determined that the unit was left uncovered after a repair—which would reduce the percentage of liability for the complex owners.

A Gretna man was thrown from his go-kart while racing through a track curve and collided with the pavement.  The individual claims that the vehicle he was riding in hit rocks and other debris located on the track, which caused him to be ejected at a speed which caused him significant injuries.  The injured racer brought suit against NOLA Motor Club LLC, as well as others, alleging vicarious liability as well as numerous failures on the part of the company and its staff.

The root of all Louisiana liability law is the somewhat oddly phrased Article 2315 of the Civil Code.  “Every act whatever of man that causes damage to another obliges him by whose fault it happened to repair it.”  Essentially, this means that if you perform an act that damages someone else you are required to right those damages.  However, real life is rarely so clean cut and to the point.  Almost every phrase of that sentence can be muddied by circumstance.  What if someone else acted with you?  What if the injured person also played some part in the act?  What if it is unclear whether or not it was your specific act that actually injured the person?  Thus, the law had to be broken down further into neater categories.

The vicarious liability theory applicable to this go-karter’s case would be that of employer liability.  Article 2320 states, albeit also somewhat antiquatedly, “Masters and employers are answerable for the damage occasioned by their servants and overseers, in the exercise of the functions in which they are employed.”  As such, NOLA Motor Club is responsible for the action, or lack of actions, of their employees that cause injury to someone as long as such performance was within their normal duties as an employee.  This is why it is important for companies to advise and train their employees with the greatest of care.  However, sometimes even the most rigorous and stringent training cannot prevent some injuries from occurring.  Even so, an employer by their very nature takes responsibility for the acts of its employees that occur during normal operations.

Under Louisiana law, property owners have a duty to keep their property in a reasonably safe condition for invited guests or other individuals who have a legal right to be on the property. Determining how far this duty extends, or what this duty encompasses, depends on how this person is legally classified.

Perhaps the greatest duty is owed to invitees, who are defined as “a person who goes on the premises at the express or implied invitation of the owner.” For invitees, property owners owe an invitee a duty to keep the property in reasonably safe condition for use which is consistent with the purpose of the invitation, including the discovery of reasonably foreseeable conditions which may be dangerous.

Second to invitees, with regard to a property owner’s duty, are licensees. A licensee is one who enters premises with the occupier’s express or implied permission but only for the entering person’s own purposes which are unconnected with the occupant’s interest. For licensees, the property owner or occupier must only warn him or her of any latent, non-apparent dangers or defects which are actually known to the occupier or property owner.

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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