386 F.2d 540 (5th Cir. 1967), 23835, Loffland Bros. Co. v. Roberts

Docket Nº:23835.
Citation:386 F.2d 540
Party Name:LOFFLAND BROTHERS COMPANY, Appellant, v. Everett B. ROBERTS et al., Appellees. O. D. CASING CREWS, INC., Appellant, v. CONTINENTAL OIL COMPANY, Appellee.
Case Date:August 09, 1967
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
 
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Page 540

386 F.2d 540 (5th Cir. 1967)

LOFFLAND BROTHERS COMPANY, Appellant,

v.

Everett B. ROBERTS et al., Appellees.

O. D. CASING CREWS, INC., Appellant,

v.

CONTINENTAL OIL COMPANY, Appellee.

No. 23835.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.

August 9, 1967

Page 541

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 542

Robert B. Acomb, Jr., A. R. Christovich, Jr., New Orleans, La., for appellant.

George B. Matthews, Charles E. Lugenbuhl, August J. Bubert, New Orleans, La., for appellee.

Before JONES, GEWIN and SIMPSON, Circuit Judges.

GEWIN, Circuit Judge:

This rather complex, multiparty suit arose out of an accident which severely injured Everett B. Roberts while he was engaged in a casing operation on a fixed offshore drilling platform located on the Outer Continental Shelf off the coast of Louisiana. The platform was owned and operated by Continental Oil Company (Continental), and the drilling operations were being performed by Loffland Brothers Company (Loffland) pursuant to a contract with Continental. O. D. Casing Crews, Inc. (O. D. Casing) was the casing contractor and Roberts' employer. Casing operations were performed under a standing contract between O. D. Casing and Continental. Roberts brought this suit against Loffland and Continental in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana for recovery of damages resulting from personal injuries sustained when the stabbing board on which he was working fell some forty feet to the platform floor: 1 Loffland filed third party claims for indemnity against O. D. Casing and Continental. Continental also filed a claim for indemnity against O. D. Casing. Finally, American Mutual Liability Insurance Company (American), the compensation insurer of O. D. Casing, intervened for the amount of compensation

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and medical expenses paid to Roberts.

Roberts' cause was tried by a jury and a verdict on special interrogatories was returned in favor of Continental and against Loffland. A judgment was entered against Loffland in the amount of $137,081.05 plus costs in accordance with the verdict. American was awarded a judgment against Roberts in the amount of $19,135.46. The district court dismissed Loffland's third party claim against both Continental and O. D. Casing. By supplemental judgment, the district court awarded Continental its attorneys' fees and costs under its contract with O. D. Casing. Loffland appeals from the entire judgment and O. D. Casing appeals from that portion of the judgment awarding Continental attorneys' fees and costs. We affirm.

Early in the evening of February 5, 1962, Roberts, other members of the casing crew, and a Loffland drilling crew left Grande Isle, Louisiana, by boat for the Continental drilling platform. The platform was a fixed structure embedded in the Outer Continental Shelf some fifteen to twenty miles off the Louisiana coast. Roberts and the other members of the O. D. Casing's crew were going out to run casing, or pipe, in the well hole. Roberts was employed as a stabber. That job required him to work upon a movable board located within the derrick proper. The board moved on two vertical pipes and was lifted by means of an air hoist. The board is used mainly in casing operations and permits a man, the stabber, to hold the upper portion of a joint or piece of casing while the lower end of the joint is attached to the joint below. The exact position of the stabbing board varies with the length of the joint of casing being worked, but is usually positioned approximately forty feet above the floor of the platform.

The seas were beginning to run high as the two crews left Grande Isle, and radio broadcasts received on the boat reported the wind velocity to be 40 to 45 miles per hour. Upon their arrival at the platform the men changed clothes and ate. At about 11:00 P.M. they reported to the rig floor and began preparations for the casing operation. There was some general discussion with respect to the weather and Loffland's driller, Theo Perrin, testified that he told Continental's drilling supervisor, Charles E. Smith, that he thought the wind was too high for casing operations to be safely performed. Several other members of both the drilling and casing crew testified that they had worked in winds as high and higher than the wind that night. In any event, Smith ordered the casing operation to proceed.

Roberts and other members of the casing crew took the stabbing board down from its stored position and prepared it for use. Roberts then rode the board up some forty feet. He attached his safety line to the railing on the board prior to taking the board up, and testified he intended to attach the line to a fixed portion of the derrick after he had determined the exact position from which he would have to work. When he reached the forty foot point, he stopped the board, disconnected the safety line from his belt, and came down the derrick ladder to the platform floor, walking a girder to reach the ladder. He put on a jumper coat and took off his hard hat and replaced it with a cap. He testified that he took off the hard hat because he was afraid that the wind would blow it off and injure someone or that the chin-strap would choke him due to the high wind.

Roberts also testified that he told the driller, Perrin, to watch the traveling block as it was running close to the stabbing board. The traveling block is a hoist or large hook, weighing several tons, which is used to raise and lower drill pipe or casing. The block is powered by the drawworks which are located on the floor of the platform and operated by the driller. The block is suspended from the crown of the derrick by several lines of cable which run through pulleys or sheaves in both the crown and in the block. The cable is attached to the drawworks at one end, and the other end, running over the last sheave in the

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crown, is attached to the floor of the platform. This latter portion of the cable is known as the 'dead-line' as it does not move. Several of the witnesses testified that either Perrin, Smith, or Loffland's foreman told them to 'snubb off' the deadline so as to reduce the sway in the block. Snubbing off the deadline involves attaching a line from a fixed part of the derrick to the deadline.

After the conversation with Perrin, Roberts climbed back up the ladder and got on the stabbing board. He then reattached the safety line to his belt. At that moment or immediately thereafter he saw the traveling block swing under the board. He shouted to the driller but was too late. The block hit the underside of the board and raised it upward. The block then slipped out from under the board causing it to fall back to its original position. The force of the fall broke either the sheave or the eye bolt holding the board and it fell some forty feet to the floor of the platform. Roberts fell with the board and suffered severe and substantial injuries to his head, legs and feet. The roughnecks who had been assigned to snubb off the dead-line testified that the traveling block had been raised before they could finish snubbing off the line.

After the accident in question occurred, two joints of casing were run, but they were subsequently pulled out as the wind prevented the crews from finishing the job. The drill pipe was then replaced in the hole and circulated. The casing operation was completed the following day.

The jury found that Roberts' injuries were proximately caused by the negligence of Perrin in starting the upward movement of the traveling block before the snubbing of the dead-line had been completed and before Roberts had an opportunity to tie his safety belt to a fixed part of the derrick. It absolved Smith, and therefore Continental, of any negligence. In addition, it found Roberts was contributorily negligent to the extent of 10% Of the damages. The district court dismissed Loffland's claims against Continental on the ground that the jury had not found Continental guilty of any negligence. The court also dismissed the third party claim against O. D. Casing. It held that O. D. Casing was not liable on an indemnity theory for the negligence of Roberts and that since this was an action in admiralty Loffiand was not entitled to contribution. Finally, the court held that O. D. Casing was liable under the indemnity clause of its contract with Continental for Continental's attorneys' fees and costs.

On this appeal Loffland contends for the first time that under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act Louisiana law applies and that it is entitled to judgment since the jury found Roberts contributorily negligent. Loffland also asserts that the district court misled the jury and caused it to focus on the alleged negligence of Perrin by submitting the special interrogatories relating to Perrin's negligence in specific terms while submitting the interrogatories relating to Roberts' negligence in general terms, that the answers to the interrogatories are conflicting, that the supplemental instructions as to damages were confusing, and that the court erred in not telling the jury that Roberts had received compensation for his medical bills. It further alleges that it was entitled to a recovery over against O. D. Casing on an implied warranty of workmanlike service theory, and that the court erred in not submitting the negligence of O. D. Casing to the jury. Finally, O. D. Casing contends that it was not liable for attorneys' fees and costs under its contract with Continental.

The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, 43 U.S.C. § 1333, extends the Constitution, laws and jurisdiction of the United States to the seabed and soil of the Outer Continental Shelf and to all artificial islands and fixed structures erected on the Outer Continental Shelf. To the extent...

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