Maritime status leads to partial summary judgment in indemnity case

By Charmaine Little | Dec 11, 2018

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana ironed out an indemnity case last month between two parties that were sued after a man was hurt at work.

U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey ruled on the case.

Robert L. Quiroz filed the lawsuit against C&G Welding, Offshore Specialty Fabricators LLC, Montco Inc., and Phoenix Safety after he was doing work on a D/B Swing Thompson and fell through a deck plate. At the time, C&G was his payroll employer and OSF was his borrowing employer. He sued for negligence. C&G had previously entered into an agreement with Montco, and OSF was one of Montco’s subcontractors.

In response to Quiroz’s lawsuit, OSF asked for C&G to defend and indemnify it as OSF Underwriters said the contract between C&G and Montco requires C&G to defend and indemnify Montco as well as its contractors and subtractors, and their insurers and underwriters for any lawsuits against them. OSF Underwriters then filed a cross-claim against C&G after C&G denied the defense and indemnity requests. OSF followed up with a motion for partial summary judgement, which the court granted.

Since C&G said its contract isn’t obligated to comply with general maritime law because Quiroz’s accident was on a fixed platform off the Louisiana Coast (so the Louisiana Oilfield Anti-Indemnity Act blocks OSF Underwriters’ cross claim), the court had to decide if the contract between C&G and Montco is a maritime or non-maritime agreement. It used a two-prong test from a Doiron Inc. case and asked the questions: “Is the contract one to provide services to facilitate the drilling or production of oil and gas on navigable waters?” and “If the answer to the above question is ‘yes,’ does the contract provide or do the parties expect that a vessel will play a substantial role in the completion of the contract?” according to the lawsuit.

For the first question, the court determined the work order that relates to the case details that barges will be included with the removal of the platform structures. Since the Fifth Circuit Court already determined the plugging and abandoning of oil wells is included in the process of oil and gas drilling, the court said the first question is sufficiently answered.

When it comes to the second, the court determined D/B Swing Thompson was “expected for use by the parties and played a substantial role,” according to the lawsuit. Therefore D/B Swing Thompson was required as a work platform to complete the project, satisfying the second question. 

Since both questions were satisfied, the court ruled that the contract was valid for maritime, and granted the motion for partial summary judgment.

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