Jury will decide whether injured offshore oil platform worker is a 'borrowed servant,' federal judge rules

By Karen Kidd | Feb 21, 2019

NEW ORLEANS — A jury will have to decide whether an injured worker employed by a contractor on an offshore oil platform is a "borrowed servant," which would mean the platform's Texas-based owner is not liable, a federal judge ruled recently.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Nanette Jolivette Brown, on the bench in Louisiana's Eastern District, denied a motion for summary judgment filed by Energy XXI Services, headquartered in Houston, ruling instead that a jury will decide.

"Given the disputes of fact regarding the control the parties exercised and the force of the contract provision at issue, the court will deny summary judgment at this time," Brown said in her 21-page order. "Accordingly, the factual disputes will be resolved by the jury as fact-finder at trial, and then the court will determine plaintiff's borrowed employee status as a matter of law."

The case arose from injuries the plaintiff, Daniel Mayet, allegedly suffered in September 2016 on a mineral exploration and production platform known as "West Delta 31E," or "WD 31E," according to the background portion of Brown's order. Mayet alleges he had been employed as a lead operator on the platform for about 18 days by Wood Group PSN, which is not a party in the lawsuit, when his injuries occurred.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Nanette Jolivette Brown   From Wikipedia via laed.uscourts.gov/200th/judges/brown.php

Mayet claims he and other Wood Group employees were using the platform's crane to receive cargo boxes from a vessel when, while trying to place a stinger on the platform's stinger rack, he suffered a hernia and injury to his back that required surgery.

"Plaintiff asserts that the location and configuration of the stinger rack and configuration of platform equipment caused his injuries," Brown's order said.

In September 2017, Mayet filed his complaint against Energy XXI Services under Louisiana State Law, General Maritime Law and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. Last February, the parties filed a joint motion of dismissal, which the court granted against all Energy XXI entities except Energy XXI GOM, which owns and operates the platform.

In November, Energy XXI filed a motion for summary judgment that argued, among other things, Mayet was "a borrowed employee" when he was injured "and therefore, he has no tort remedy against defendants," Brown's order said.

Mayet countered that he was not "a borrowed servant" of Energy XXI and pointed to the master service agreement between Energy XXI and Wood Group. That agreement describes Wood Group and its employees as independent contractors of Energy XXI "and that neither Contractor [Wood Group] nor its personnel is a servant, agent or employee of Energy XXI," the order said.

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