Ledet v. Smith Marine Towing Corp., 122111 FED5, 11-30413

Docket Nº:11-30413
Opinion Judge:PER CURIAM:
Party Name:CHAD DAVID LEDET, Plaintiff-Appellee v. SMITH MARINE TOWING CORPORATION, Defendant-Appellant
Judge Panel:Before REAVLEY, SMITH, and PRADO, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:December 21, 2011
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
 
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CHAD DAVID LEDET, Plaintiff-Appellee

v.

SMITH MARINE TOWING CORPORATION, Defendant-Appellant

No. 11-30413

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

December 21, 2011

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana USDC No. 2:10-CV-1713.

Before REAVLEY, SMITH, and PRADO, Circuit Judges.

PER CURIAM:[*]

At issue in this case is Plaintiff–Appellee Chad Ledet's recovery from injuries sustained while working as a deckhand aboard the M/V SMITH HUNTER, a sea-going tug owned by Defendant–Appellant Smith Marine Towing Corporation ("Smith Marine"). Because we do not find clear error in the district court's finding that Ledet was not contributorily negligent nor in its damage award, we AFFIRM.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The facts, as found by the district court, are as follows.

On October 17, 2009, Ledet was assigned to the SMITH HUNTER, a sea-going tug owned by Smith Marine. The crew working with Ledet on that date consisted of Captain Randy Martin, Relief Captain Todd Delaune, and Sean Martin, Captain Martin's son. The SMITH HUNTER was towing an unloaded offshore deck barge, the Tideland No. 21, from a dock near Amelia, Louisiana to the Eugene Island Sea Buoy in order to release it to the awaiting HARVEY INVADER, a substantially larger tug. The Tideland No. 21 was equipped with its own towing equipment, or "chain bridle, " which consisted of two chains attached to its front corners connected by a "fishplate" and a pendant wire that extended from the fishplate to the SMITH HUNTER. The "socket" of the pendant wire was attached to the "hard eye" of the SMITH HUNTER's "snatch line" by a "shackle." The snatch line is a double rope connected to the SMITH HUNTER'S towing wench, which is located in the center stern of the vessel. A "shackle" is a metal device that can be opened and closed. Captain Martin testified that the Tideland No. 21's chain bridle made it different from the barges he had towed on other occasions. In other instances, the tug's towing gear attached directly to the barge, without the use of a pendant wire.

Before arriving at the Eugene Island Sea Buoy, Captain Martin, Ledet, and Sean Martin convened for a joint safety analysis (JSA), during which they discussed the method for releasing the Tideland No. 21 and its towing equipment to the HARVEY INVADER. Captain Martin instructed Ledet and Sean Martin that they would retrieve the Tideland No. 21's pendant wire to a point where it would be positioned over the stern deck of the SMITH HUNTER. Captain Martin would then have one of the deckhands insert the SMITH HUNTER's starboard norman pin into its holster at the extreme stern of the vessel. A norman pin is a four-foot medal rod that sticks up two to three feet from the grating in the stern of the vessel when in place. Once the norman pin was inserted, Captain Martin would pivot the vessel so that the Tideland No. 21's pendant wire was resting against the norman pin and then instruct the deckhands to tie the pendant wire to the norman pin. The purpose of securing the pendant wire was to allow Martin to create slack in the pendant wire and the snatch line so that the two could be unshackled. During the JSA, there was a miscommunication as to which rope Captain Martin intended for the deckhands to use when tying the pendant wire. Captain Martin wanted the pendant wire tied with a soft, nylon rope that Sean Martin had prepared for that purpose, but Captain Martin did not specify that to Ledet.

After the pendant wire was attached to the norman pin, the deckhands—while standing on the port side of the vessel—would then disconnect the shackle linking the Tideland No. 21's pendant wire to the SMITH HUNTER's snatch line. Once the shackle was disconnected, the deckhands would then throw a 100-foot line attached to the Tideland No. 21's towing gear to the HARVEY INVADER from the starboard side of SMITH HUNTER, allowing the HARVEY INVADER's crew to pull the barge's towing gear onto that vessel.

At the JSA, Ledet proposed an alternate method for disconnecting the Tideland No. 21's towing gear that he had seen used by other captains. Ledet suggested...

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