Court says it has no jurisdiction in suit claiming injuries while working on ship near Venezuela

By Takesha Thomas | Dec 4, 2018

NEW ORLEANS – The U.S. District Court Eastern District of Louisiana recently dismissed a negligence claim against a oil company that was being sued by a former employee who was injured and lost several toes in an on-the-job accident in waters off Venezuela.

In a Nov. 20 filing, the court granted a motion to dismiss filed by Petrosaudi Oil Services Ltd., Procurement Services Inc. and Saturn Drillships Pte. Ltd. that claimed lack of personal jurisdiction in the suit brought by Ellis Skoglund who was seriously injured while moving equipment below deck on one of the company's boats. Skoglund filed the negligence claim under the Jones Act for unseaworthiness and failure to fulfill maintenance and cure obligations. 

The court ruling also dismissed Skoglund's opposition to the lack of personal jurisdiction claim. 

Petrosaudi, a Venezuelan company, had argued that U.S. courts lacked personal jurisdiction since they were a foreign company, adding that the claims were subject to the courts of England and Wales, which has proper jurisdiction instead based on "a forum selection clause and choice of-law clause included in the employment contract."

According to court filings, the companies argued that since their principal places of business are the Cayman Islands, Singapore and Barbados, they are subject to those laws. Their motion also said Skoglund's employment agreement contains a valid and enforceable forum selection clause.

The court ruling said, "Considering the fact that defendants are not at home in Louisiana or the United States, and that plaintiff’s employment agreement contains a valid and enforceable forum selection clause, dismissal is appropriate." 

Attorneys for Skoglund argued that the "de facto" principal business office for Petrosaudi was Houston. They also said the forum selection clause in the employment contract, "coupled with a choice of law clause, amounts to a prospective waiver of a statutory right and therefore is void as against public policy." 

Skoglund worked as a deck foreman for Petrosaudi aboard the drillship Petrosaudi Saturn in waters off Venezuela. His suit said he was "moving equipment below deck on the ship when the hoist and trolley failed, dropping the equipment on his foot." The accident resulted in Skoglund losing "several toes, a traumatic brain injury, a brain bleed, legal blindness and other injuries." Skoglund was taken for emergency medical treatment in Trinidad and Tobago before being sent to Houma, Louisiana, for additional treatment.  

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