David Ryan Collier v. Ingram Barge Co

[B]Case Name: [/B][I]David Ryan Collier v. Ingram Barge Co.
[/I][B]Date Decided: [/B]January 8, 2010
[B]Court: [/B]U.S.D.C. W.D. Kentucky
[B]Judge: [/B]Judge Russell
[B]Citation: [/B]2010 WL 145108 (W.D.Ky.)[B]Background:
[/B]Plaintiff, David Collier, brought this action against employer Ingram Barge Co. under the Jones Act and LHWCA, Longshore Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act.

Collier alleged he is a seaman who worked for Ingram as a crew member and has sued Ingram for negligence under the Jones Act, unseaworthiness under general maritime law, and §905(b) of the LHWCA.

Collier began working as a tankerman trainee for Ingram. Collier reporting to Calvin Hall who worked in an office on shore, Collier was responsible for servicing Ingram’s line boats by providing them with fuel, lubricants, and water. Collier performed these duties from fuel flats which stored gasoline, diesel, lube oil, and potable water.

Collier was allegedly injured when he tripped over a lock line on the deck of Ingram’s fuel flat.

Ingram moved for summary judgment.

[/B]Did this Court grant Ingram’s motion for summary judgment?

[/B]First, Ingram argued that Collier was not a “seaman” under the Jones Act and therefore cannot recover for unseaworthiness under general maritime law. Moreover, Ingram argued that Collier alleged only employer negligence under the LHWCA which there is no recovery.

Specifically, Ingram argued that Collier did not have a substantial connection to the vessel in terms of duration and nature. Ingram argued that his duties were land-based and that he was not exposed to the perils of the sea. Ingram countered arguing that his duties as a tankerman trainee exposed him to maritime hazards on a regular basis.

Ingram further contended that Collier was not a seaman because he slept at his home on shore and never aboard any of Ingram’s vessels. The fuel flats were “floating service stations” and provided a service that were usually provided dockside.

Collier, on the other hand, asserted he is a seaman. He was told he was a crewmember and that his loyalty was to the vessels and that he was paid daily like the crewmembers of Ingram’s line boats. Moreover, he only performed minor shore-side duties on rare occasions. Collier estimated 60-70% of his services were performed while being exposed to maritime hazards associated with snapping lines, being knocked over, or falling overboard.

Ultimately this Court found that there were genuine issues of material fact whether Collier was a Jones Act “seaman”.

Second, Ingram argued that under S905(b) of the LHWCA, it could not be sued for negligence as an [I]employer[/I]. Ingram asserted that Collier’s allegations are claims of employer negligence and not recoverable under 905(b) which provides for recovery from a negligent vessel owner. Ingram further stated that Collier admitted in his deposition that the injury occurred during the daytime and he could have seen the lock line if he had looked down and therefore, the turnover duty was *not breached.

Collier countered arguing that Ingram did not exercise ordinary care to make sure the vessels he was working aboard were reasonably safe to work upon and therefore Ingram breached their turnover duty as a vessel owner.

Ultimately, this Court recognized that vessel owners can be liable for failing to keep the work area free from debris or other hazards and that there was a genuine issue of material fact whether the line Collier tripped on was obvious or could have been anticipated by a reasonably competent longshoremen (who was a “trainee”).

Accordingly this Court denied Ingram’s motion for summary judgment.

Whether each side has “better” or “more credible” established evidence is not determinative whether a motion for summary judgment will be granted. [/B]

[B]Summary Judgment is rarely granted in negligence cases and whether the defendant’s duty was breached is a question of fact. As such, a motion for summary judgment asserting that the plaintiff has not introduced any evidence creating a genuine issue of material fact, will usually be denied. [/B]

[B]Steve Gordon [/B]*