799 F.3d 317 (5th Cir. 2015), 14-30422, Johnson v. Globalsantafe Offshore Servs., Inc.

Docket Nº:14-30422
Citation:799 F.3d 317
Opinion Judge:STEPHEN A. HIGGINSON, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:JAMES JOHNSON, Plaintiff - Appellant v. GLOBALSANTAFE OFFSHORE SERVICES, INCORPORATED, Defendant - Appellee
Attorney:For James Johnson, Plaintiff - Appellant: Timothy John Young, Esq., Tammy Dianne Harris, Esq., Young Firm, New Orleans, LA. For Globalsantafe Offshore Services, Incorporated, Defendant - Appellee: Christopher Dove, Esq., Locke Lord, L.L.P., Houston, TX; Charles Bruce Colvin, Michael Robert Carson...
Judge Panel:Before DENNIS, PRADO, and HIGGINSON, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:August 13, 2015
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
SUMMARY

After plaintiff was shot and seriously injured by a Nigerian gunman who invaded the drilling rig plaintiff was working aboard, he filed suit alleging that the negligence of other rig hands caused his injury and that GSF, a corporate parent and indirect subsidiary of the drilling company, was vicariously liable for such negligence under the general maritime law. The district court granted summary... (see full summary)

 
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799 F.3d 317 (5th Cir. 2015)

JAMES JOHNSON, Plaintiff - Appellant

v.

GLOBALSANTAFE OFFSHORE SERVICES, INCORPORATED, Defendant - Appellee

No. 14-30422

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

August 13, 2015

Page 318

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

For James Johnson, Plaintiff - Appellant: Timothy John Young, Esq., Tammy Dianne Harris, Esq., Young Firm, New Orleans, LA.

For Globalsantafe Offshore Services, Incorporated, Defendant - Appellee: Christopher Dove, Esq., Locke Lord, L.L.P., Houston, TX; Charles Bruce Colvin, Michael Robert Carson Riess, Esq., Kingsmill Riess, L.L.C., New Orleans, LA; Monique Marie LaFontaine, Locke, Lord, Bissell & Liddell, L.L.P., New Orleans, LA.

Before DENNIS, PRADO, and HIGGINSON, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 319

STEPHEN A. HIGGINSON, Circuit Judge.

James Johnson, a superintendent aboard a drilling rig, was shot and seriously injured by a Nigerian gunman who invaded the rig. He claims that the negligence of other rig hands caused his injury, and he seeks to hold GlobalSantaFe Offshore Services, Inc. (" GSF" ) vicariously liable for the rig hands' negligence under the general maritime law. The district court granted GSF's motion for summary judgment, holding that no reasonable jury could find that GSF was the rig hands' employer. We AFFIRM.

FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

On November 8, 2010, James Johnson was working as a drilling superintendent on the HIGH ISLAND VII, a drilling rig located near the Nigerian coast. Prior to the evening of November 8, rig hands had moved a ball valve, attached to the blow-out preventer, in front of the stairs leading from the rig to a platform, in order to work on the blow-out preventer. When a boat was seen approaching the rig, the rig hands sought to raise the stairs, but the stairs were blocked by the ball valve. Nigerian gunmen used the stairs to board the rig, and one gunman shot Johnson in the leg. Johnson's leg was severely injured and required months of hospitalization, several surgeries, and a muscle transplant.

Johnson brought claims for negligence under the Jones Act and for unseaworthiness, maintenance and cure, and negligence under the general maritime law against PPI Technology Services, L.P. (" PPI" ), PSL, Ltd. (" PSL" ), Transocean Ltd., and Afren, PLC. Johnson later amended his complaint to add GSF as a defendant. These companies are related to one another in complex ways. Transocean Ltd., which has over 360 direct and

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indirect subsidiaries, owns and operates a large fleet that provides contract drilling services worldwide. In 2007, GlobalSantaFe Corporation, which GSF identifies as its corporate parent, merged with Transocean Inc., a subsidiary of Transocean Ltd. See Bricklayers & Masons Local Union No. 5 Ohio Pension Fund v. Transocean Ltd., 866 F.Supp.2d 223, 246 (S.D.N.Y. 2012). After the merger, GSF became an indirect subsidiary of Transocean Ltd. Under a contract signed March 11, 2010, Sedco Forex International, Inc. (" Sedco" ), in association with Transocean Support Services Nigeria Limited, agreed to provide the HIGH ISLAND VII and drilling rig services to Afren Resources Limited. The HIGH ISLAND VII was owned by GlobalSantaFe International Drilling Inc., whose relationship to GSF is unclear. In March 2010, Johnson contracted with PSL to work for " Afren" on PSL's behalf.

The district court dismissed Afren, PLC following Johnson's motion for voluntary dismissal. The district court also dismissed Johnson's claims against Transocean Ltd. because Johnson did not offer any information or argument opposing Transocean Ltd.'s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. The district court further dismissed Johnson's claims against PSL, finding that the court lacked personal jurisdiction over PSL. The district court ultimately granted PPI's motion for summary judgment, and that decision recently was affirmed on appeal. Johnson v. PPI Tech. Servs., L.P., 605 F.App'x 366, 367 (5th Cir. 2015). The district court granted GSF's motion for summary judgment on Johnson's claims for negligence under the Jones Act and for negligence and unseaworthiness under the general maritime law. Johnson appeals only the district court's grant of summary judgment to GSF on his claim for negligence under the general maritime law.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

We review de novo a district court's grant of summary judgment, applying the same criteria used by the district court. Gowesky v. Singing River Hosp. Sys., 321 F.3d 503, 507 (5th Cir. 2003). We may award summary judgment if, viewing all evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant, the record demonstrates that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Estate of Sanders v. United States, 736 F.3d 430, 435 (5th Cir. 2013); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A genuine issue of material fact exists " if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). " When the burden at trial rests on the nonmovant, the movant must merely demonstrate an absence of evidentiary support in the record for the nonmovant's case." Int'l Ass'n of Machinists & Aerospace Workers, AFL-CIO v. Compania Mexicana de Aviacion, S.A. de C.V., 199 F.3d 796, 798 (5th Cir. 2000) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986)). We may affirm a grant of summary judgment " based on any rationale presented to the district court for consideration and supported by facts uncontroverted in the summary judgment record." Amazing Spaces, Inc. v. Metro Mini Storage, 608 F.3d 225, 234 (5th Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

DISCUSSION

In the absence of contrary regulation by Congress, federal courts have authority under the Admiralty Clause of the Constitution to develop federal common law governing maritime claims. See U.S. Const. art. III, § 2, cl. 1; Exxon Shipping Co. v.

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Baker, 554 U.S. 471, 489-90, 128 S.Ct. 2605, 171 L.Ed.2d 570 (2008); Romero v. Int'l Terminal Operating Co., 358 U.S. 354, 360-61, 382, 79 S.Ct. 468, 3 L.Ed.2d 368 (1959). " Drawn from state and federal sources, the general maritime law is an amalgam of traditional common-law rules, modifications of those rules, and newly created rules." E. River S.S. Corp. v. Transamerica Delaval, Inc., 476 U.S. 858, 864-65, 106 S.Ct. 2295, 90 L.Ed.2d 865 (1986) (footnote omitted).

Our court has noted that " [t]he recognized principle of agency law that imposes vicarious liability upon employers for the wrongful acts committed by employees while acting in the course of their employment is well ingrained in the general maritime law." Stoot v. D & D Catering Serv., Inc., 807 F.2d 1197, 1199 (5th Cir. 1987). As stated in Stoot, the vicarious liability analysis requires two inquiries: (1) whether the defendant is the employer of the tortfeasor; and (2) whether the tortfeasor committed the tort while acting in the course of his employment. We focus on the first question and find that we need not reach the second question.1

As the district court observed, we have not expressly articulated a test for establishing an employment relationship in the context of a claim that the defendant is vicariously liable for negligence under the general maritime law. However, given that our court has imported the general...

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