Steve D, Landers v. Kevin Gros Offshore, LLC, et al

[B]Case Name: [/B]Steve D. Landers v. Kevin Gros Offshore, LLC, et al.
[B]Date Decided: [/B]December 29, 2009
[B]Court: [/B]U.S.D.C. Eastern District of Louisiana
[B]Judge: [/B]Judge Lemmon
[B]Citation: [/B]2009 WL 5215971 (E.D.La.) [B]Background:
[/B]Plaintiff, Steve D. Landers, brought this action against the owner/operator of an offshore supply boat, Kevin Gros Offshore and unknown insurance companies. Landers brought this action for Seaman’s Damages under general maritime law and the Jones Act. Landers also brought this action for maintenance and cure.

Landers alleged that the vessel, M/V ROSEANNA, was docked and a gangway connected to the shore. Lander claimed he was assigned to the task of removing the gangway from the vessel and he stood on the vessel and pushed the gangway to the dock. A broken piece of the gangway caught on the dock causing him to sustain a back inury.

Landers added Bollinger Shipyards as a defendant in a second supplemental and amending petition for Seaman’s damages. In his claim, Landers alleged that the M/V ROSEANNA sustained in her hull next to an interior water tank while sailing in the Gulf of Mexico. Moreover, Landers alleged that Kevin Gros scheduled a trip to Bollinger shipyard to examine the hole, and according to Landers, its employees placed the gangway between the vessel and the dock.

Landers claimed when the ROSEANNA was ready to depart, Bollinger employees failed to [I]timely remove the gangway [/I]and that he and another crew member attempted to do so. Landers further alleged that as the gangway slid away from Bollinger’s dock, it stopped and sprang back causing him to sustain a back injury.

Landers settled with Kevin Gros and the insurance companies who were dismissed from this action.

Landers then filed his Third Supplemental and Amending Petition for Seaman’s Damages adding Bollinger Amelia Repair LLC (not Bollinger Shipyard) claiming negligence under general maritime law. Landers claimed that Ameila repair was negligent in using a defective gangway, failed to warn of a hidden defect in the gangway, failed to remove the gangway from the vessel in a timely manner, failed to secure the gangway between the vessel and the dock as mandated by the Code of Federal Regulations and the Bollinger safety manual, and for other maritime negligent acts and omissions to be proven at trial.

Bollinger Amelia filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that it [I]did not owe a duty [/I]to Landers to provide him a means of accessing the vessel, provided a reasonably safe dock as required by Louisiana law, did not own the gangway at issue, that the gangway was safe, and pursuant to the Pennsylvania Rule, the vessel owner is [I]strictly liable for its violation of a statute[/I].

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

[/B]Bollinger Amelia asserted it did not owe a duty to the plaintiff under general maritime law, specifically that the vessel owner has the non-delegable duty, under the doctrine of seaworthiness, to supply a safe means of accessing the vessel. Landers countered asserting that under general maritime law, Bollinger, as the [I]dock owner[/I], owed a duty to provide a safe berth. Once Bollinger undertook to provide a gangway, it assumed a duty to provide a safe gangway, according to Landers.

This court noted that the vessel owner’s duty to provide a safe means of accessing vessel extended to the gangway regardless of who supplied, owned, or controlled it and thus, absent a maritime status between the parties a dock owner’s duty to a vessel’s crew member arises under state law. This Court found no maritime relationship between Landers and Bollinger and accordingly, any duty owed to Landers by Bollinger Amelia arises under Louisiana law.

Bollinger however, argued that Landers alleged that he was injured by a defective gangway for which the vessel owner is responsible, and that (2) it did not own the gangway allegedly causing the injury and (3) the gangway was not defective.

However, this Court found that Louisiana sufficiently stated a cause of action under Louisiana law. Landers’ petition clearly stated that he sought relief against Bollinger Amelia for back injuries he sustained by pushing the gangway. Moreover, Landers sufficiently alleges that the gangway was defective and that Bollinger’s employees placed it between the dock and the vessel.

However, under Louisiana Law, tort claims are prescribed one year from the day of the injury and because Landers’ filed this claim nearly 2 years after his injury, his claims under Louisiana law were prescribed. Accordingly this Court granted Bollinger’s motion for summary judgment.

It is important to understand that different states would/could have treated this action differently. Here, there was no maritime status between the plaintiff and defendant, dock owner. Absent a maritime status between the parties, the duty a dock owner owes to crew member(s) is governed by state tort law. [/B]

[B]Louisiana’s “statute of limitations” under the tort claim, was 1-year after the date of injury. Some states may have a greater amount and therefore, this claim could have seen a different result under another state’s law. [/B]

[B]Accordingly it’s important to file a claim with reasonable promptness after an injury occurs to avoid this kind of result. [/B]

[B]Steve Gordon [/B]