Gulf Offshore Co. v. Mobil Oil Corp.

Decision Date12 December 1979
Docket NumberNo. B2159,B2159
Citation594 S.W.2d 496
Parties10 Envtl. L. Rep. 20,753 GULF OFFSHORE COMPANY, a Division of the Pool Company, Appellant, v. MOBIL OIL CORPORATION et al., Appellees. (14th Dist.)
CourtTexas Court of Appeals

Charles D. Kennedy, Bradley A. Jackson, Royston, Rayzor, Vickery & Williams, Houston, for appellant.

Frank Caton, Gary L. Marks, Crain, Caton, James & Oberwetter, Joseph D. Jamail, S. Gus Kolius, John B. Neibel, Nat B. King, Jamail & Kolius, Houston, for appellee.


SALAZAR, Justice.

Appellant, Gulf Offshore Company, a Division of the Pool Company, appealed from a judgment for indemnity rendered in favor of appellee, Mobil Oil Corporation. Appellant Gulf Offshore was third party defendant below and appellee Mobil was defendant and third party plaintiff. Steven Gaedecke was plaintiff in the trial court.

Steven Gaedecke, an employee of third party defendant-appellant Gulf Offshore, sued defendant-appellee Mobil, and L. A. Levy, Inc., Arthur Levy Boat Service, Inc. and Offshore Crews, Inc., for personal injuries sustained on a vessel owned by Levy and chartered by Mobil. Mobil later filed a third party complaint against Gulf Offshore, alleging liability for indemnity pursuant to certain provisions in the contract for well completion operations which was executed by Gulf Offshore as the contractor-indemnitor and Mobil as platform owner-indemnitee.

Prior to trial, plaintiff Gaedecke settled with the Levy defendants for a guaranteed recovery of $100,000.00 and proceeded to take a non-suit against them. Plaintiff also reached agreement with defendant Mobil, that if Mobil did not obtain indemnity from Gulf, plaintiff's recovery against Mobil would be limited to $200,000.00 plus the compensation lien. Also present in the trial court was intervenor, Employers' National Insurance Company.

On September 22, 1975, plaintiff Gaedecke was safely aboard the vessel Salton-Seahorse, having been evacuated pursuant to the implementation of Mobil's hurricane evacuation plan. Defendant Mobil had arranged for the vessel, owned and operated by Levy, to stand by for the evacuation. Following preparation for evacuation, all machinery was shut down, and after evacuation from the platform of all but two platform workers employed by Gulf Offshore by use of the crane, even its generator was shut off. As the last two workers, the crane operator and his helper, attempted to evacuate from the platform using a rope to swing onto the deck of the Salton-Seahorse, plaintiff heard some party yell down to him to go aft and provide assistance. A large wave washed across the aft area of the vessel where he had positioned himself and plaintiff was swept along the deck of the vessel and ended up against a pallet loaded with sand. Plaintiff Gaedecke suffered injuries primarily to his back.

At trial in response to special issues, the jury returned a verdict which found that defendant, Mobil Oil Corporation, failed to exercise that degree of care that should have been exercised by a reasonably prudent offshore platform operator in waiting until approximately 9:00 a. m. on September 22, 1975, to evacuate the platform and in the selection of the method used to evacuate the crew from the platform; that such were a proximate cause of the plaintiff's injuries; that $900,000.00 would be a sum which would fairly and reasonably compensate plaintiff for injuries suffered; and that plaintiff's injuries were incident to, or resulted directly or indirectly from, the work to be performed by Gulf Offshore under its contract with Mobil. The trial court entered judgment based on the jury's answers to the special issues and granted indemnity to Mobil from Gulf Offshore for $900,000.00 less the compensation lien of $32,712.09. Gulf Offshore appeals from the judgment of indemnity.

Defendant Mobil and third party defendant Gulf Offshore entered into contract number 1159, which concerned oil well completion operations to be performed by Gulf Offshore on defendant Mobil's platform wells situated in Grande Isle, Block 95, offshore of the State of Louisiana. Section 15 set out the provisions made concerning insurance and indemnity:


15.1 At any and all times during the term of this agreement, Contractor agrees to maintain in force and submit evidence of insurance equal to or in excess of the requirements detailed in Exhibit B attached hereto and made a part hereof.

15.2 All insurance shall be carried in a company or companies acceptable to Mobil and shall be maintained in full force and effect during the term of this agreement, and shall not be canceled (sic), altered, or amended without ten (10) days prior written notice having first been furnished Mobil. Upon request Mobil shall be furnished certified copies of all such insurance policies.

15.3 In the event Contractor is a self-insurer and Mobil has consented to Contractor's being a self-insurer as to any one or more of the risks as to which coverage is required, evidence of such consent must be in writing and approved by a representative of Mobil authorized to enter into such consent agreement.

15.4 Contractor shall protect, indemnify and save Mobil Harmless against any and all claims, demands and causes of action of every kind and character arising in favor of any person, including both Mobil's and Contractor's employees, on account of personal injuries or death, or damage to property occurring, growing out of, incident to, or resulting directly or indirectly from, the work to be performed by Contractor hereunder, whether such loss, damage, injury or liability arises from or is contributed to by the negligence of Mobil or its employees, and whether due to imperfection of any material furnished by Mobil, or the premises themselves or any equipment thereon, whether latent or patent, or for any other cause whatsoever; and for damages for infringement of any patent as more particularly set forth in Paragraph 23 hereof.

Appellant's first point of error addresses the threshold question of the jurisdiction of the courts of the State of Texas to entertain causes of action filed pursuant to the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, 43 U.S.C.A. §§ 1331-1356 (1979). There is no dispute as to the applicability of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to this case. 43 U.S.C.A. § 1333(a)(1) (1975), in effect at the time of this accident, states that:

The Constitution and laws and civil and political jurisdiction of the United States are extended to the subsoil and seabed of the outer Continental Shelf and to all artificial islands, and all installations and other devices permanently or temporarily attached to the seabed, which may be erected thereon for the purpose of exploring for, developing, or producing resources therefrom, or any such installation or other device (other than a ship or vessel) for the purpose of transporting such resources, to the same extent as if the outer Continental Shelf were an area of exclusive Federal jurisdiction located within a State.

The section of the Act in effect in this case, 43 U.S.C.A. § 1333(b) (1975), governing jurisdiction specifies that:

The United States district courts shall have original jurisdiction of cases and controversies arising out of or in connection with any operations conducted on the outer Continental Shelf for the purpose of exploring for, developing, removing or transporting by pipeline the natural resources, or involving rights to the natural resources of the subsoil and seabed of the outer Continental Shelf, and proceedings with respect to any such case or controversy may be instituted in the judicial district in which any defendant resides or may be found, or in the judicial district of the adjacent State nearest the place where the cause of action arose.

We note that nowhere in this section does the word "exclusive" appear. Appellant argues that the Act vests exclusive jurisdiction of the subject matter of the plaintiff's main cause of action and the indemnity action in federal district court. We do not read 43 U.S.C.A. § 1333(b) (1975) so as to oust our state courts of subject matter jurisdiction in this case.

No authoritative case law, either state or federal, has resolved the issue of the exclusivity of federal court jurisdiction over actions filed pursuant to the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. In Fluor Ocean Services, Inc. v. Rucker Company, 341 F.Supp. 757 (E.D.La.1972), and Borne v. Tenneco Oil Company, et al., 1973 A.M.C. 388 (E.D.La.1972), Judge Rubin held that the Act conferred exclusive jurisdiction on the U.S. district courts for causes of action arising out of operations conducted on the outer Continental Shelf and further held in Fluor that the intent of Congress was to make such operations subject to the exclusive control and jurisdiction of the federal government. We disagree for the reasons stated in the foregoing paragraph. We also note that in the penultimate paragraph of the opinion in Fluor, Judge Rubin merely found that the federal district court had original jurisdiction.

Judge Rubin wrote that as a matter of policy, ". . . in an area where the federal government had exerted exclusive sovereignty, such as the outer Continental Shelf, a single federal forum would be more appropriate than multiple state forums to decide disputes that arise there." Fluor Ocean Services, Inc. v. Rucker Company, supra at 760. We do not believe this to be necessarily so. The Act provides that the Constitution and laws of the United States govern the outer Continental Shelf, 43 U.S.C.A. § 1333(a)(1) (1975), and where applicable and not inconsistent with this Act or with federal laws, the laws of the adjacent state are declared to be the law of the United States regarding the outer Continental Shelf. 43 U.S.C.A. § 1333(a)(2) (1975). The end result would be an application of the same laws no matter where the forum was...

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6 cases
  • Gulf Offshore Company v. Mobil Oil Corporation
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • July 1, 1981
    ...Louisiana law requires the instruction and, if it does not, whether Liepelt displaces the state rule in an OCSLA case. Pp. 484-488. 594 S.W.2d 496, affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded. Charles D. Kennedy, Houston, Tex., for petitioner. Frank Caton, Houston, Tex., for respondent ......
  • Hale v. Co-Mar Offshore Corp.
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    • July 26, 1984 under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, 43 U.S.C. § 1333, stands as another possibility. Cf. Gulf Offshore Company v. Mobil Oil Corporation, 594 S.W.2d 496 (Tex.Civ.App.1979), aff'd in part, vacated in part on other grounds, 453 U.S. 473, 101 S.Ct. 2870, 69 L.Ed.2d 784 (1980) (Loui......
  • Gulf Offshore Co., a Division of the Pool Co. v. Mobil Oil Corp.
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    • January 28, 1982
    ...for Mobil against Gulf Offshore. On appeal to this court the trial court judgment was affirmed. Gulf Offshore Co. v. Mobil Oil Corp., 594 S.W.2d 496 (Tex.Civ.App.-Houston (14th) 1979). After the Texas Supreme Court refused writ of error, n.r.e., the Supreme Court of the United States grante......
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    ...if covered by liability insurance, and then only to the limits of the insurance. Art. 2212b, § 4(c). See also Gulf Offshore Co. v. Mobil Oil Co., 594 S.W.2d 496, 505 (Texas Ct. of Civ.App.1979). The same result may be achieved under New Mexico law through an insurance contract. 56-7-2(A)(4)......
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