Mallard Bay Drilling v. Herman, No. 99-60124

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtW. EUGENE DAVIS
Citation212 F.3d 898
Parties(5th Cir. 2000) MALLARD BAY DRILLING, INC., Petitioner, v. ALEXIS HERMAN, SECRETARY OF LABOR, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, Respondent
Decision Date02 June 2000
Docket NumberNo. 99-60124

Page 898

212 F.3d 898 (5th Cir. 2000)
MALLARD BAY DRILLING, INC., Petitioner,
v.
ALEXIS HERMAN, SECRETARY OF LABOR, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, Respondent.
No. 99-60124
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT
June 2, 2000

Page 899

Appeal from the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission

Before POLITZ and DAVIS, Circuit Judges, and RESTANI.*

W. EUGENE DAVIS, Circuit Judge:

Mallard Bay Drilling, Inc. ("Mallard") appeals the order of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission affirming a citation issued against it by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration ("OSHA"). The order affirmed the decision of the Administrative Law Judge, which found that Mallard's drilling barge -- the MR. BELDON -- was a "workplace" within the meaning of the Occupational Safety and Health Act ("OSH Act")1 and that OSHA's jurisdiction was not preempted by the Coast Guard's regulatory authority over vessels. For the reasons that follow, we reverse.

I.

On June 16, 1997, four Mallard employees were killed and two others seriously injured in an explosion on the MR. BELDON, a Mallard drilling barge. On that date, the MR. BELDON was drilling an oil well on Little Bayou Pigeon, a navigable waterway within the territorial waters of Louisiana. The explosion occurred while crew members tried to regain control of the well after a blow out. The Coast Guard took the lead role in investigating the explosion. Based on the information collected by the Coast Guard, OSHA issued a citation against Mallard charging three violations of the OSH Act. Mallard did not challenge the merits of the allegations; rather, it asserted that OSHA lacked authority to regulate working conditions aboard the MR. BELDON. It also argued that the MR. BELDON was not a

Page 900

"workplace" within the meaning of Section 4(a) of the OSH Act.2

The ALJ affirmed the citation, finding that the MR. BELDON was a "workplace," that Mallard's employees were not seamen, and that OSHA's jurisdiction was not preempted by the Coast Guard's regulatory authority over vessels. Mallard then filed a Petition for Discretionary Review with the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, which was denied. Mallard now appeals.

II.

Mallard contends that the United States Coast Guard has exclusive jurisdiction over the regulation of working conditions of seamen aboard vessels such as the MR. BELDON, thus precluding OSHA's regulation under Section 4(b)(1) of the OSH Act.3 As our discussion below demonstrates, precedents from this court compel us to agree.

By its own terms, the OSH Act does not apply to "working conditions of employees with respect to which other Federal agencies...exercise statutory authority to prescribe or enforce standards or regulations affecting occupational safety or health."4 Under 14 U.S.C. § 2, the Coast Guard "shall administer laws and promulgate and enforce regulations for the promotion of safety of life and property on and under the high seas and waters subject to the jurisdiction of the United States covering all matters not specifically delegated by law to some other executive department...."

It is uncontested that the Coast Guard had jurisdiction to investigate the marine casualty in this case, pursuant to 46 U.S.C. § 6301. The dispute concerns whether the Coast Guard's jurisdiction is exclusive. Our case law is controlling on this point. Pursuant to the statutory grant of authority recited above, the Coast Guard has exclusive authority over the working conditions of seamen. See Clary v. Ocean Drilling and Exploration Co., 609 F.2d 1120 (5th Cir. 1980); Donovan v. Texaco, Inc., 720 F.2d 825 (5th Cir. 1983). "OSHA regulations do not apply to working conditions of seamen on vessels in navigation." Donovan, 720 F.2d at 826, 827 (emphasis added); see also Clary, 609 F.2d at 1121.

As in Clary, the "vessel" in this case is a drilling barge. The employees working on the MR. BELDON are "seamen" under our case law. See Colomb v. Texaco, Inc., 736 F.2d 218 (5th Cir. 1984); Producers Drilling Co. v. Gray, 361 F.2d 432 (5th Cir. 1966). The safety procedures at issue in this case relate to "working conditions" of seamen.

In Clary, the plaintiff seaman brought suit for injuries sustained aboard a drilling barge on which he was working. 609 F.2d at 1121. He alleged that OSHA regulations were violated because the steel plate welded to the deck (which he tripped over) was not color coded yellow so as to make it more visible. Id. This court ruled that the district court was correct in refusing to allow the plaintiff to...

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9 practice notes
  • Lady v. Neal Glaser Marine Inc., No. 99-60382
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • 26 Septiembre 2000
    ...regulations with respect to vessels on the navigable waters of the United States are elaborate."); Mallard Bay Drilling, Inc. v. Herman, 212 F.3d 898, 900-02 (5th Cir. 2000) (holding that the Coast Guard had sole jurisdiction, to the exclusion of OSHA, over the working conditions of seamen ......
  • Chao v. Mallard Bay Drilling, 00-927
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • 9 Enero 2002
    ...area described in §4(a) a State and §4(a) attaches no significance to the fact that it was anchored in navigable waters. Pp. 9-10. 212 F.3d 898, ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT Stevens, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which all Me......
  • Heredia v. Bierman, CASE NO. 3:19-CV-2625-X-BK
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Northern District of Texas
    • 4 Febrero 2021
    ...is nothing upon which this court may pass judgment, since "[f]ederal courts do not render advisory opinions." Orix Credit Alliance, 212 F.3d at 898 (quoting Life Partners, Inc. v. Life Ins. Co. of N. Am., 203 F.3d 324, 325 (5th Cir.1999)). It is not the function of district courts "to sit i......
  • Bank of Am., N.A. v. Estrada, 1:20-CV-196-LY
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Texas
    • 26 Febrero 2021
    ...threatened dispute has "taken on final shape so that the court can see what legal issues it is deciding." Orix Credit Alliance, Inc., 212 F .3d at 898 (quoting El Paso Building & Const. Trades Council v. El Paso Chapter Assoc. Gen. Contractors of Am., 376 F.2d 797, 800 (5th Cir. 1967)). The......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
9 cases
  • Lady v. Neal Glaser Marine Inc., No. 99-60382
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • 26 Septiembre 2000
    ...regulations with respect to vessels on the navigable waters of the United States are elaborate."); Mallard Bay Drilling, Inc. v. Herman, 212 F.3d 898, 900-02 (5th Cir. 2000) (holding that the Coast Guard had sole jurisdiction, to the exclusion of OSHA, over the working conditions of seamen ......
  • Chao v. Mallard Bay Drilling, 00-927
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • 9 Enero 2002
    ...area described in §4(a) a State and §4(a) attaches no significance to the fact that it was anchored in navigable waters. Pp. 9-10. 212 F.3d 898, ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT Stevens, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which all Me......
  • Heredia v. Bierman, CASE NO. 3:19-CV-2625-X-BK
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Northern District of Texas
    • 4 Febrero 2021
    ...is nothing upon which this court may pass judgment, since "[f]ederal courts do not render advisory opinions." Orix Credit Alliance, 212 F.3d at 898 (quoting Life Partners, Inc. v. Life Ins. Co. of N. Am., 203 F.3d 324, 325 (5th Cir.1999)). It is not the function of district courts "to sit i......
  • Villas at Parkside Partners v. City of Farmers, Civil Action No. 3:06-CV-2371-L.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Northern District of Texas
    • 28 Mayo 2008
    ...is nothing upon which this court may pass judgment, since "[f]ederal courts do not render advisory opinions." Orix Credit Alliance, 212 F.3d at 898 (quoting Life Partners, Inc. v. Life Ins. Co. of N. Am., 203 F.3d 324, 325 (5th Cir.1999)). It is not the function of district courts "to sit i......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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