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Henderson v. Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations, LLC

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division

May 7, 2018

Robert Henderson, Plaintiff,
Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations, LLC, et al., Defendants.


          Gray Miller, United States District Judge

         Pending before the court is a motion for summary judgment filed by defendant Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations, LLC (“Black Elk”). Dkt. 45. Having considered the motion, response, reply, objections, and applicable law, the court is of the opinion that the motion should be GRANTED.

         I. Background

         This case involves plaintiff Robert Henderson's alleged injuries sustained while on an offshore platform owned by Black Elk. Dkt. 19 at 3. Bagwell Energy Services, Inc. (“Bagwell”) employed Henderson as a welder while working on the Black Elk platform, which was located on the Louisiana Outer Continental Shelf. Id. Bagwell and Black Elk entered into a Master Service Agreement (“MSA”) to govern the rights and obligations of the parties with respect to the work on the platform. Dkt. 45-3 at 21-34.

         The MSA provided:

[Bagwell] shall be an independent contractor with respect to the performance of all Work hereunder and neither [Bagwell] nor anyone employed by [Bagwell] shall be deemed for any purpose to be the employee, agent, servant, or representative of BLACK ELK in the performance of any Work or any part thereof pursuant to this Agreement. BLACK ELK shall have no direction or control of the details of the Work, [Bagwell], or its employees and agents except in the results to be obtained. The actual performance and supervising of all Work hereunder shall be by [Bagwell], but BLACK ELK or its representatives shall have unlimited access to the premises to determine whether Work is being performed by [Bagwell] in accordance with all of the provisions of this Agreement. At BLACK ELK's discretion, the Work may be reviewed or tested by a BLACK ELK representative and be subject to his approval and acceptance.

Id. at 25. It further provided:

[Bagwell] is responsible for initiating, maintaining, and supervising all necessary safety precautions and programs in connection with the Work. [Bagwell] shall take all necessary precautions for the safety of its employees, subcontractors, agents[, ] and invitees at the work site.

Id. at 22.

         While on the Black Elk platform, Henderson and other Bagwell employees attended safety meetings conducted by Black Elk company man, Terry Hale. Dkt. 54-1 at 3. At the safety meeting on August 19, 2014, Hale and a Bagwell supervisor agreed that certain items, including handrail pipe, needed to be moved from one side of the platform to the other. Id. at 4. They further agreed and indicated to the Bagwell employees that the materials should be manually moved. Id. While the evidence indicates that Hale wanted the materials moved manually, Henderson admits that Hale did not actually tell Bagwell employees how to do their job, but rather just made recommendations. Id. at 3.

         Per the agreed upon procedures by Hale and the Bagwell supervisor, Henderson began moving materials across the platform. Id. at 7. On his second trip, Henderson carried two pieces of pipe up a flight of stairs. Id. While climbing the stairs, he sustained an injury to his back. Id. Henderson admits that Hale never told him to carry two pieces of pipe together. Id. As a result of the injury, Henderson sued Black Elk for negligence and gross negligence. Dkt. 19. Black Elk now seeks summary judgment, arguing that it did not owe a duty to Henderson and thus cannot be liable for negligence. Dkt. 45.

         II. Legal Standard

         A court shall grant summary judgment when a “movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “[A] fact is genuinely in dispute only if a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Fordoche, Inc. v. Texaco, Inc., 463 F.3d 388, 392 (5th Cir. 2006). The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (1986). If the moving party meets its burden, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to set forth specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). The court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant and draw all justifiable inferences in favor of the non-movant. Envtl. Conservation Org. v. City of Dallas, 529 F.3d 519, 524 (5th Cir. 2008).

         III. ...

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