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Rodriguez v. Encana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, San Antonio Division

March 1, 2018




         On this date, the Court considered the status of the above-captioned case. After careful consideration, the Court hereby DENIES Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration (docket no. 62), DENIES Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Amend Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint (docket no. 63), and GRANTS Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (docket no. 59).


         I. Factual Background

         Plaintiff Ruben Rodriguez filed his First Complaint with this Court on September 27, 2016, and named Encana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc. (“Encana”) as Defendant. Docket no. 1. On August 28, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Leave to File First Amended Complaint to join Helmerich & Payne International Drilling Company (“H&P”) as a co-Defendant. Docket no. 36. On October 11, 2017, the Court granted Plaintiff's motion, Docket no. 48, and Plaintiff's live Amended Complaint was entered on the same date. Docket no. 49. Plaintiff brings claims for negligence and breach of contract against Encana and breach of contract against H&P. Id. On November 8, 2017, the Court granted H&P's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's breach of contract claim for failure to state a claim. Docket no. 54.

         Plaintiff alleges that on February 7, 2013, H&P entered into a “day work” contract for the purposes of drilling and completing an oil well in Karnes County, Texas, and that H&P was to be the contractor. Docket no. 49 at 4. Plaintiff states that pursuant to that contract between Plains Exploration (“Plains”) and H&P, H&P assumed certain responsibilities, including providing proper and well-maintained equipment, ensuring all operations are conducted in a safe manner, and promptly correcting and reporting all known or suspected hazards or unsafe conditions. Id. Plaintiff states that Plains assigned its interest in the contract to Encana on May 28, 2014. Id.

         The “day work” contract states, in relevant part:

IN CONSIDERATION of the mutual promises, conditions and agreements herein contained and the specifications and special provisions set forth in Exhibit “A”, Attachments (1) and (2) to Exhibit “A”, Exhibit “A-1”, Exhibit B, and Appendix E, and Exhibit “B” attached hereto and made a part hereof (the “Contract”), [Encana] engages [H&P] as an independent contractor to drill the hereinafter designated well or wells in search of oil or gas on a Daywork Basis.
For purposes hereof, the term “Daywork” or “Daywork Basis” means [H&P] shall furnish equipment, labor, and perform services as herein provided, for a specified sum per day under the direction, supervision and control of [Encana] (inclusive of any employee, agent, consultant or subcontractor engaged by [Encana] to direct drilling operations). When operating on a Daywork Basis, [H&P] shall be fully paid at the applicable rates of payment and assumes only the obligations and liabilities stated herein. Except for such obligations and liabilities specifically assumed by [H&P], [Encana] shall be solely responsible and assumes liability for all consequences of operations by both parties while on a Daywork Basis, including results and all other risks or liabilities incurred in or incident to such operations.

Docket 59-3 at 1.

         Plaintiff states that his employer, Frank's International (“Frank's”), entered into a separate contract with Encana. Docket no. 49 at 7. This contract was “to provide casing well services” at the oil well site, and Plaintiff alleges that Encana “had an absolute duty to direct, supervise and control any subcontractor which was engaged by the operator.” Id.

         On August 26, 2014, Plaintiff was employed by Frank's and was allegedly injured at work after he took off a protector from the casing and was caught by the pipe wrangler and vee-door pole. Id. at 3. Plaintiff allegedly suffered injuries to his left shoulder, left wrist, lower abdomen, and right calve. Id.

         Plaintiff alleges it was determined that on August 26, 2014, the H&P motorman of the rig took his lunch break and assigned another H&P employee to run the pipe wrangler, who was allegedly distracted and ran the pipe wrangler backward instead of forward. Id. at 3. Plaintiff alleges that the pipe wrangler was not properly functioning for a period of time, and the crew from Frank's informed both Encana and H&P. Id. Plaintiff states that Frank's crew was told that the cost to repair was prohibitive and that they were to continue working. Id. Plaintiff alleges that, because of Encana and H&P's actions, he was severely injured and suffered permanent damage to his left shoulder, left wrist, lower abdomen, and right calve. Id.

         Plaintiff alleges the pipe wrangler is the exclusive design of H&P and was broken for a substantial length of time. Id. at 5. Plaintiff states that when he and his crew pointed this fact out to Defendant's employees, they were ridiculed and called “cry baby's.” Id. Plaintiff alleges Defendant stated that to fix the pipe wrangler would require them to shut down the job for an undetermined length of time, leading to a loss of $28, 000 daily, and Defendant continued the job despite having actual knowledge that the pipe wrangler was not functioning properly. Id.

         Plaintiff alleges Encana is negligent by failing to correct an obviously dangerous condition, properly supervise its subcontractors, and shut down the job after becoming aware that the pipe wrangler was in a defective condition and was highly dangerous. Id. at 6. Plaintiff further alleges that Encana breached the “day work” contract by failing to properly supervise H&P employees and failing to stop work after it knew the pipe wrangler was not functioning properly and presented a danger to all employees. 6-7.

         Encana states that under the “day work” contract, H&P was hired as an independent contractor to drill the designated oil well and responsible for furnishing the specified drilling rig, as well as the five-man drilling crew. Docket no. 59 at 4. Encana states that H&P was responsible for “inspecting and maintaining the drilling rig's equipment and ensuring that its employees were qualified and trained to operate the equipment in a safe manner.” Id. Because the pipe wrangler that allegedly caused Plaintiff's injury was a component of the drilling rig furnished by H&P, Encana states, H&P was contractually responsible for maintaining and safely operating it. Id.

         Encana engaged Frank's as an independent contractor to run the casing into the oil well pursuant to a pre-existing master service agreement that was dated February 4, 2014 (the “MSA”). Id. The MSA states that Frank shall have “complete and sole control over [its] employees and the details of the [w]ork performed and the methods by which the [w]ork is accomplished.” Docket no. 59-5 at 6.

         Encana states that during operations on the oil well, it hired a consultant named Joseph Lane, who was present at the oil well site. Docket no. 59 at 4. Lane was referred to as the “company man, ” but Encana states he was employed by New Tech Engineering, not Encana, and his job was to confirm that H&P and Frank's complied with the drilling program and contractual commitments, particularly with respect to safety. Id. at 4-5. Encana alleges that Lane was not qualified to or allowed to touch or run the equipment at the site, and that he did not instruct any employees on the means or methods of accomplishing their work. Id. at 5. Rather, Encana states that Frank's casing crew, which included Plaintiff, was directed by Victor Nava, a supervisor with nearly twenty years of oilfield experience. Id.

         Before the casing operation began, Encana alleges that everyone at the site attended a safety meeting, at which Lane provided general information, but Nava provided specific safety instructions for the casing operation. Id. Encana alleges that at this meeting, no one stated any issue with the pipe wrangler. Id. After the meeting, however, an H&P employee allegedly told Frank's crew that the pipe wrangler was malfunctioning, but Lane was allegedly not present for the conversation and was unaware of any pipe wrangler malfunction. Id. at 5-6.

         Encana states that when Plaintiff was operating the vee-door at the site, he worked with H&P's motorman. Id. at 6. When the motorman took a break, Encana states the floorhand assigned to replace him by H&P got distracted with conversation, pivoted the pipe wrangler up instead of down, and Plaintiff's shirt was apparently snagged by the pipe wrangler, which led to his injuries. Id. at 6-7. Encana states ...

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