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Godines v. Precision Drilling Company, L.P.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Eleventh District

May 31, 2018


          On Appeal from the 238th District Court Midland County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. CV-52178

          Panel consists of: Willson, J., Bailey, J., and Wright, S.C.J. [2]



         Appellants, the surviving spouse and children of Amando Godines, Sr., [1] sued Precision Drilling Company, L.P., among others who are not parties to this appeal, for wrongful death under negligence and gross negligence theories. Precision answered the suit and moved for summary judgment on traditional and no-evidence grounds. Precision argued that (1) proof of its status as a workers' compensation subscriber conclusively barred the negligence claim and (2) Appellants produced no evidence of gross negligence-no evidence of Precision's awareness of the risk, of a vice principal's gross negligence, or of proximate cause. The trial court granted summary judgment for Precision, and on appeal, Appellants raise four issues. We affirm.

         I. Summary Judgment Evidence

         Precision worked with a trucking company, Briley Trucking, Ltd., to move an oil and gas rig from one well site to another. At the original well site, Briley sought approval from Precision to transport the derrick using the "two-truck method, " in which the derrick was only partially collapsed (or "scoped in") and moved using two trucks. Because the derrick dolly needed repairs, the two-truck method provided Precision a way to move the rig more quickly. Precision supervisors, Benjamin Franco and Salvador Ulloa, raised concerns with the Briley "truck pusher" that moving the derrick in this manner was dangerous. The Briley truck pusher and Precision supervisors called Precision's drilling superintendents, Roger Dean Moran and Roel Soza, to discuss the move. After the Briley truck pusher told Moran that he could perform the move safely, the superintendents approved the two-truck method.

         To prepare the rig move, two tractor-trailers trucks were backed up to one another. Briley and Precision partially collapsed sections of the derrick and secured them using pins. The derrick rested horizontally on both trailers, with one truck facing forward and the other truck facing backwards. Briley drove the rig over ten miles on a highway and rough lease roads to the new well site.

         When the trucks arrived at the new well site, the suspension equipment was not ready for the derrick. The Precision crew was using the crane for tasks involved with building the substructure of the rig. Precision and Briley supervisors testified that they planned to finish the substructure, have a "Job Safety Analysis" (JSA) meeting, and then suspend the derrick with either the crane or the pole trucks. The parties dispute whether a JSA meeting took place before the crew "scoped in" the derrick at the original well site, but the parties agree that no JSA meeting occurred to discuss "scoping out" the derrick at the new well site. The derrick remained on the tractor-trailers for almost two hours while the Precision crew worked on the substructure.

         At some point, the Briley truck pusher at the new well site had a radio conversation about the status of the derrick, and he walked toward the derrick to check the "diaper pins, " which held the larger pins in place under the derrick. The truck pusher testified that he picked up a sledgehammer and was only going to remove the diaper pins, as opposed to the larger pins, and that Godines insisted on removing the diaper pins because it was his job. The truck pusher also testified that Godines took the sledgehammer, but another Precision crew member testified that the truck pusher gave it to him. Other testimony also suggested that the Briley truck pusher instructed Godines to remove the pins. In any event, all Precision supervisors testified that the derrick was not ready to scope out and that they did not instruct Godines to check the pins.

         Godines was fatally injured after he positioned himself underneath the derrick and removed one of the load-bearing pins. After Godines removed the pin, the remaining pin sheared off and the derrick collapsed on top of him.

         II. Issues Presented

         On appeal, Appellants' first issue is a global issue, which asks whether the trial court erred when it granted summary judgment. In the second issue, Appellants assert that the trial court erred when it considered late-filed evidence. Third, Appellants argue that the evidence precludes summary judgment on no-evidence grounds. Finally, Appellants argue that Precision failed to meet its burden on traditional grounds.

         III. Analysis

         We first consider Appellants' second and fourth issues concerning the late-filed summary judgment evidence and its effect on the negligence claim. Then we consider the first and third issues related to the no-evidence summary judgment on the gross negligence claim.

         A. Issues Two and Four: The trial court did not abuse its discretion when it granted leave to file the workers' compensation policy late, and the exclusive remedy provision of the Texas Workers' Compensation Act bars Appellants' negligence claim.

         In their second issue, Appellants argue that the trial court improperly considered Precision's late-filed summary judgment evidence. Because of that, in their fourth issue, Appellants assert that Precision failed to conclusively establish that it was covered by workers' compensation insurance and that the exclusive remedies provision barred their negligence claim.

         1. Second ...

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