Rodrigue v. Aetna Casualty and Surety Company, Adm. No. 810.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Louisiana)
Citation266 F. Supp. 1
Docket NumberAdm. No. 810.
PartiesPaulette Boudreaux RODRIGUE as the personal representative of Butley J. Rodrigue, bringing this suit for the benefit of Paulette Boudreaux Rodrigue, Angela Rae Rodrigue, and Butley J. Rodrigue, Jr. v. The AETNA CASUALTY AND SURETY COMPANY, Rubin W. Mayronne, Jr., d/b/a Mayronne Drilling Company, and Humble Oil and Refining Company.
Decision Date27 March 1967

A. Deutsch O'Neal, Sr., Philip E. Henderson, O'Neal & Waitz, Houma, La., for plaintiff.

Alexander C. Cocke, New Orleans, La., for Humble Oil & Refining Co.

Richard C. Baldwin, Joel Borello, Adams & Reese, New Orleans, La., for Humble Oil and Refining Co. and Mayronne Drilling Co.

WEST, District Judge:

Plaintiff's husband, Butley J. Rodrigue, now deceased, was, on March 7, 1964, an employee of Loomis Hydraulic Testing Company. This company was engaged in the business of testing oil well pipes and tubing for leaks or damage. Defendant Humble Oil and Refining Company was the owner of a fixed platform from which a well was being drilled some eighteen miles out from Grand Isle, Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico. Humble had contracted with the defendant, Rubin W. Mayronne, Jr., d/b/a Mayronne Drilling Company, to drill this well for them. Humble also contracted with Loomis to perform the testing services needed at the proper time during the drilling operation. While in the course of his employment with Loomis, and while in the process of preparing to test the pipes and tubing of Humble's well, Butley J. Rodrigue fell from the derrick to his death. Plaintiff, the widow of the deceased, filed suit on her behalf and on behalf of her minor children, contending that both Humble and Mayronne were guilty of negligence proximately causing the death of her husband, Butley J. Rodrigue. She initially brought three suits, one based upon the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, 43 U.S.C.A. § 1331 et seq., one for wrongful death under Article 2315 of the Louisiana Revised Civil Code, and this suit under the provisions of the Death on the High Seas Act, 46 U.S.C.A. § 761 et seq. This Court dismissed the first two suits and allowed plaintiff to proceed on the admiralty side of the Court under the Death on the High Seas Act.

After hearing the evidence in this case, it is the Court's opinion that Rubin W. Mayronne, Jr., d/b/a Mayronne Drilling Company, is alone liable to plaintiff for the damages proximately caused by the death of Butley J. Rodrigue.


1. On March 7, 1964, the deceased, Butley J. Rodrigue, was employed as a "helper" by Loomis Hydraulic Testing Company.

2. On that day, Humble Oil and Refining Company was the owner of the fixed platform from which its well No. 22-R, located eighteen miles out from Grand Isle, Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico was being drilled by Mayronne Drilling Company. Whether or not Humble also owned the derrick from which Rodrigue fell is not clear from the record, but such a finding is unnecessary since, as hereinafter pointed out, it was, in any event, under the complete control of Mayronne at all times pertinent hereto.

3. Rubin W. Mayronne, Jr., d/b/a Mayronne Drilling Company, hereinafter called "Mayronne," an independent contractor, was actually drilling this well for Humble by virtue of a drilling contract entered into between it and Humble. Mayronne was at all times in charge of the drilling operation and was at all times in control of the platform, derrick, and rig used in this drilling operation.

4. In addition to contracting with Mayronne for the drilling of the well, Humble also contracted with Loomis, an independent contractor, for its services in connection with the testing of the piping and tubing for leaks or damage. Loomis was to perform its services when required by Mayronne, and the services were to be performed on the platform and/or derrick controlled by Mayronne. Loomis was to be notified by Humble when the drilling being done by Mayronne had progressed to the point where Loomis could perform the services contracted for.

5. On March 6, 1964, Humble called for the services of Loomis and Mr. U. J. Derouen, a Loomis "operator," and Butley J. Rodrigue as his "helper," were assigned by Loomis to the job. They arrived at the well site at about midnight and were met by Mr. Jack Webb, Humble's Production Superintendent, who informed them that Mayronne would not be ready for them for several hours. Derouen and Rodrigue then went to bed on Humble's tender which was tied up to the platform. They were awakened at 4:00 a. m. on March 7, and informed that the well was now ready for testing.

6. In order to do the required testing it was necessary to hoist a heavy sheave to the crown, or top, of the derrick where it was to be fastened. As Derouen's helper, Rodrigue was assigned the job of climbing to the crown of the derrick to fasten the sheave after it had been hoisted aloft by an air hoist operated by Mayronne.

7. The crown of the derrick was between 120 and 125 feet high. At the 85 foot level there was located what is known as a monkey board. This is a platform on which the derrick man works during drilling operations. This monkey board or platform is attached to the side of the derrick and extends inward toward the center of the derrick. From his position on the monkey board the derrick man can rack the pipe coming out of the hole and perform such other duties as are required of him. At this level, where the monkey board is located, there is, extending around the outside of the derrick, what is called a runaround. This is a walkway about three and one-half feet wide with a steel grating floor which runs completely around the outside of the derrick. There is a steel ladder attached to the outside of the derrick which extends all the way from the floor level of the derrick to the crown. This ladder passes the monkey board and at that point is located along the outside of the derrick passing between the outer edge of the monkey board and through a three and one-half foot square hole in the floor of the runaround. It was by way of this ladder that Rodrigue climbed to the crown of the derrick. The runaround is equipped with a guard rail made of one inch angle iron about three or four feet above the floor. At the crown level there is another runaround similar to the one at the monkey board level.

8. Since the weather was cold, and in order to protect the derrick man from wind while he was working on the monkey board, either Mr. Benjamin F. Parker, Mayronne's derrick man, or some other Mayronne employee, had installed a canvas windbreak around the monkey board. This windbreak was made by wrapping a piece of heavy canvas twelve feet high, around the derrick at the monkey board level, enclosing the monkey board and shielding it from the wind. Instead of passing this canvas between the ladder and the derrick, it was, in this instance, passed on the outside of the ladder, thus covering about twelve feet of the ladder. There was a four foot flap or opening cut in the canvas at the monkey board level to permit a person to pass through it when going from the runaround to the monkey board, or from the monkey board back to the runaround.

9. There was no reason why this canvas windbreak could not have been attached to the derrick so that it would pass between the derrick and the ladder, thus leaving the ladder exposed and unobstructed for use. As it was installed, covering up a twelve foot section of the ladder, it was necessary for one using the ladder to descend from the crown to use the ladder in a normal fashion until he reached the canvas, and then to either try to descend the next twelve feet by attempting to step on the canvas-covered rungs of the ladder, which would be extremely difficult and dangerous, if not impossible, or to swing himself to the inside of the ladder when he reached the canvas so that he could use the unobstructed side of the rungs of the ladder to negotiate that twelve foot section. If he selected the second alternative, after having reached the monkey board level he would have to crawl through the flap opening in the canvas to reach the outside of the ladder and continue his descent. If the latter procedure were used during the negotiation of this twelve foot section of the ladder covered by the canvas, his weight would be pulling him away from the ladder which, because of the shape of the derrick, leans inward from the bottom upward,...

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4 cases
  • Ray v. Logistics
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of Louisiana
    • December 2, 2010
    ...owner and two of its independent contractors, which were engaged in drilling and related services. See Rodrigue v. Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co., 266 F. Supp. 1, 3 (E.D. la. 1967), aff'd, 395 F.2d 216 (5th Cir. 1968), rev'd, 395 U.S. 352 (1969). In the case that was consolidated with Rodrigue in th......
  • Rodrigue v. Aetna Casualty and Surety Company
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 9, 1969
    ...Lands Act would not make the inconsistent state remedy applicable.1 The admi- ralty action proceeded to trial and judgment of $75,000, 266 F.Supp. 1, which is not now before us. On appeal of the dismissal of the civil actions, the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the District......
  • Higginbotham v. MOBIL OIL CORPORATION, 8268.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of Louisiana
    • January 9, 1969
    ...States v. Gavagan, 280 F.2d 319 (5th Cir. 1960), cert. den. 364 U.S. 933, 81 S.Ct. 379, 5 L.Ed.2d 365 (1961); Rodrigue v. Aetna Casualty and Surety Co., 266 F.Supp. 1 (D.C.La.1967). Therefore, plaintiff's action must rise or fall strictly on the Death on the High Seas Act, 46 U.S.C. § 761 e......
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of Louisiana
    • March 13, 1970
    ...the suit based upon the Death on the High Seas Act, and that suit went on to judgment for the plaintiff in the amount of $75,000, 266 F.Supp. 1 (E.D.La.1967), and was subsequently affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, 395 F.2d 216 (CA 5-1968). Certiorari was ......

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