In re: In the Matter of Texas Petroleum Investment Company
ORDER & REASONS: ORDERED that Claimants' Motion to Dismiss Limitation Action Due to Lack of Federal Subject Matter Jurisdiction Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), or in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment (R. Doc. 19) is DENIED. Signed by Judge Carl Barbier on 11/22/16. (sek)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
IN THE MATTER OF
THE COMPLAINT OF TEXAS
PETROLEUM INVESTMENT COMPANY
FOR EXONERATION FROM OR
LIMITATION OF LIABILITY
SECTION: “J” (4)
ORDER AND REASONS
Before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss Limitation Action Due
to Lack of Federal Subject Matter Jurisdiction Pursuant to Rule
12(b)(1), or in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment (R. Doc. 19)
(Claimants), an opposition thereto (R. Doc. 25) filed by Limitation
Petitioner Texas Petroleum Investment Company (TPIC), and a reply
memorandum filed by Claimants (R. Doc. 28). Having considered the
motion and legal memoranda, the record, and the applicable law,
the Court finds that the motion should be DENIED.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
This litigation derives from the alleged injury of Timmy
Charpentier while working on TPIC’s Point Au Fer facility, a fixed
platform located in Terrebone Parish, Louisiana, on August 9, 2012.
(R. Doc. 7-1, at 2.)
Mr. Charpentier, an employee of Shamrock
Management, was allegedly struck by a blast from the pressure
permanent, disabling injuries.
Claimants filed suit in state
court against HUB Energy Services (HUB) on June 19, 2013, alleging
that HUB, as owner of the compressor, was liable for improperly
compressor that injured Mr. Charpentier.
(R. Doc. 1-2, at 2.)
Claimants filed their First Amended Petition on August 8, 2013,
naming TPIC as a defendant in its capacity as owner of the platform
on which Mr. Charpentier was allegedly injured.
(R. Doc. 1-3.)
Supplemental and Amending Petition, alleging for the first time
causes of action under the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. § 30104, and
general maritime law unseaworthiness against TPIC as owner of the
vessel DA-JA-VOO that Mr. Charpentier used to travel to and from
the Point Au Fer platform.
(R. Doc. 12-5.)
TPIC timely filed a
limitation action in this Court under the Limitation of Liability
Act, 46 U.S.C. §§ 30501-30512, seeking to limit its liability to
the value of the DA-JA-VOO.
(R. Doc. 1.)
TPIC claims the value
proceedings outside the limitation action and set the monition
period for six months, until September 8, 2016. (R. Doc. 5.)
Claimants filed a claim in the limitation action on March 22, 2016.
(R. Doc. 6.)
On September 13, 2016, Claimants filed the instant motion to
dismiss the limitation action or, in the alternative, for summary
(R. Doc. 19.)
TPIC filed its opposition on September
memorandum on October 12, 2016 (R. Doc. 28).
The motion is now
before the Court on the briefs and without oral argument.
jurisdiction over this limitation action because Mr. Charpentier
was injured on a fixed platform in state waters, and not on a
Thus, Claimants argue that no admiralty jurisdiction
exists over the incident giving rise to this litigation. Claimants
alternatively argue that summary judgment should be granted in
their favor for two reasons: first, Claimants argue that no genuine
issue of material fact exists as to whether the vessel contributed
condition of the compressor on the platform was within TPIC’s
privity and knowledge as vessel owner.
TPIC asserts that as long as Claimants continue to
allege that TPIC failed to provide Mr. Charpentier with a seaworthy
vessel, the Limitation of Liability Act is applicable.
argues that genuine issues of material fact exist as to TPIC’s
privity and knowledge.
12(b)(1) Motion to Dismiss
In deciding a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), “the
district court is ‘free to weigh the evidence and resolve factual
disputes in order to satisfy itself that it has the power to hear
Krim v. pcOrder.com, Inc., 402 F.3d 489, 494 (5th
Cir. 2005). The party asserting jurisdiction must carry the burden
of proof for a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss.
Wolcott, M.D., P.A. v. Sebelius, 635 F.3d 757, 762 (5th Cir. 2011).
The standard of review for a facial challenge to a motion to
dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) is the same as that for a motion to
dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6).
Benton v. United States, 960
F.2d 19, 21 (5th Cir. 1992); see also 13 Charles Alan Wright &
Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 3522 (3d ed.
If a court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, it should
dismiss without prejudice.
In re Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co.,
624 F.3d 201, 209 (5th Cir. 2010).
Summary judgment is appropriate when “the pleadings, the
discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits
show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and
that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (citing Fed. R.
Civ. P. 56(c)); Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075
(5th Cir. 1994).
When assessing whether a dispute as to any
material fact exists, a court considers “all of the evidence in
the record but refrains from making credibility determinations or
weighing the evidence.”
Delta & Pine Land Co. v. Nationwide
Agribusiness Ins. Co., 530 F.3d 395, 398 (5th Cir. 2008).
reasonable inferences are drawn in favor of the nonmoving party,
allegations or unsubstantiated assertions.
Little, 37 F.3d at
A court ultimately must be satisfied that “a reasonable
jury could not return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”
530 F.3d at 399.
If the dispositive issue is one on which the moving party
will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party “must
come forward with evidence which would ‘entitle it to a directed
verdict if the evidence went uncontroverted at trial.’”
Shortstop, Inc. v. Rally's, Inc., 939 F.2d 1257, 1264-65 (5th Cir.
The nonmoving party can then defeat the motion by either
countering with sufficient evidence of its own, or “showing that
the moving party’s evidence is so sheer that it may not persuade
the reasonable fact-finder to return a verdict in favor of the
Id. at 1265.
If the dispositive issue is one on which the nonmoving party
will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party may
satisfy its burden by merely pointing out that the evidence in the
record is insufficient with respect to an essential element of the
nonmoving party’s claim.
See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325.
then shifts to the nonmoving party, who must, by submitting or
referring to evidence, set out specific facts showing that a
genuine issue exists.
See id. at 324. The nonmovant may not rest
upon the pleadings, but must identify specific facts that establish
a genuine issue for trial.
See, e.g., id. at 325; Little, 37 F.3d
Motion to Dismiss
The Limitation of Liability Act “allows a vessel owner to
limit liability for damage or injury, occasioned without the
owner’s privity or knowledge, to the value of the vessel or the
owner’s interest in the vessel.”
Inc., 531 U.S. 438, 446 (2001).
Lewis v. Lewis & Clark Marine,
The owner of a vessel may file a
complaint (formerly, a petition) for limitation of liability in
federal district court, but “[t]he Limitation of Liability Act
does not confer jurisdiction upon federal courts.”
Outboard Motor Co., 956 F.2d 114, 115 (5th Cir. 1992).
To file a
limitation action, the suit must fall within the court’s admiralty
jurisdiction under the U.S. Const. art III, § 2 and 28 U.S.C. §
connection requirements must be satisfied.
Jerome B. Grubart,
Inc. v. Great Lakes Dredge & Dock, 513 U.S. 527, 534 (1995).
of the locality requirement is set out in the Admiralty Extension
Act, which provides that admiralty jurisdiction “extends to and
includes cases of injury or damage, to person or property, caused
by a vessel on navigable waters, even though the injury or damage
is done or consummated on land.”
(formerly, 46 App. U.S.C. § 740).
46 U.S.C. § 30101(a) (2006)
Here, the Court looks to “where
the wrong ‘took effect’ rather than the locus of the tortious
Petrobras Am., Inc. v. Vicinay Cadenas, S.A., 815 F.3d
211, 216 (5th Cir. 2016) (citing In re La. Crawfish Producers, 772
F.3d 1026, 1029 (5th Cir. 2014)).
The connection with maritime
activity requirement is satisfied when two conditions are met.
re La. Crawfish Producers, 772 F.3d at 1029.
The first condition
is that “the general features of the type of incident involved”
indicate that the “incident has a potentially disruptive impact on
condition is that “the general character of the activity giving
rise to the incident must show a substantial relationship to
traditional maritime activity.
In re La. Crawfish Producers, 772
F.3d at 1029 (citing Grubart, 513 U.S. at 534).
connection test is met in this case because the injury allegedly
sustained by Mr. Charpentier occurred on a “fixed platform firmly
connected to the water bottom.” (R. Doc. 19-1, at 6); see Hufnagel
v. Omega Serv. Indus., Inc., 182 F.3d 340, 351-52 (5th Cir. 1999)
(holding that an accident occurring on an off-shore fixed drilling
platform did “not support the application of maritime law”).
caused by the compressor on the platform and that “[t]he M/V DAJA-VOO did not cause this incident.”
Thus, Claimants argue
that even though they are alleging Jones Act and unseaworthiness
claims, the Court lacks admiralty jurisdiction and should dismiss
the limitation action.
The Court is not persuaded by Claimants’ contortions to avoid
contrary in this motion, the fact remains that Claimants’ Second
Supplemental and Amending Petition explicitly alleges that TPIC
“fail[ed] to provide [Mr. Charpentier] with a seaworthy vessel and
a safe place to work” and invokes the Jones Act.
(R. Doc. 12-5,
A seaman must establish the causation element of an
unseaworthiness claim by “prov[ing] that the unseaworthy condition
played a substantial part in bringing about or actually causing
the injury and that the injury was either a direct result or a
reasonably probable consequence of the unseaworthiness.”
Omega Protein, Inc., 487 F. App’x 839, 844 (5th Cir. 2012) (citing
Johnson v. Offshore Express, Inc., 845 F.2d 1347, 1354 (5th Cir.
Servs., Inc. v. Weaver Shipyards & Dry Docks, 702 F.2d 585, 58788 (5th Cir. 1983) (noting that a “suit for breach of a maritime
contract and maritime tort” qualified as an election “to bring the
suit under admiralty jurisdiction”); In re Complaint of Hunt
Petroleum Corp., No. 95-3046, 1996 WL 204371, at *1 (E.D. La. Apr.
25, 1996) (holding that a plaintiff who made claims under the Jones
act “sufficiently involve[d] the vessel so as [to] invoke the
statutory limitation of liability provisions”).
The Court will
not permit Claimants to allege that the unseaworthy condition of
simultaneously disavow and avoid admiralty jurisdiction.
re Crescent Energy Servs., LLC, No. 15-819, 2015 WL 7574771, at *2
unseaworthiness claims, [the claimant] has acknowledged that [the
[The claimant] cannot make these claims and then argue
Claimants’ Jones Act and unseaworthiness
claims fall squarely within the Court’s admiralty jurisdiction.
Claimants premise their motion for summary judgment upon two
First, they argue that the Limitation of Liability Act
requires an offending vessel, and that both parties agree no such
vessel exists in this case.
Second, Claimants argue that no issue
of material fact exists as to whether the negligence alleged in
this case occurred with TPIC’s privity and knowledge.
unconventional as it is unavailing.
Claimants begin by calling
forth the language of the Limitation of Liability Act: “Except as
otherwise provided, this chapter . . . applies to seagoing vessels
and vessels used on lakes or rivers or in inland navigation,
including canal boats, barges, and lighters.” 46 U.S.C. § 30502.
Therefore, the argument goes, a limitation action is only available
when the incident giving rise to the litigation involves a vessel
in some concrete way.
Because Claimants state in the instant
motion that the accident giving rise to the present suit “did not
arise from a maritime accident and  certainly was not caused by
a vessel,” Claimants argue that the Limitation of Liability Act
cannot apply here.
The Court rejects this argument for the same
reason it rejects Claimants’ lack of jurisdiction argument.
described above, an unseaworthiness claim necessitates an injury
caused by a vessel.
By alleging that TPIC failed to provide Mr.
Charpentier with a seaworthy vessel, Claimants inherently allege
that TPIC’s vessel contributed to Mr. Charpentier’s injury.
Claimants’ second contention is that the alleged negligence
leading to Mr. Charpentier’s injuries was within TPIC’s privity
limitation action. The Limitation of Liability Act provides vessel
owners with the right to limitation when the injury was caused
“without the privity or knowledge of the owner.”
46 U.S.C. §
Thus, “if the vessel’s negligence or unseaworthiness is
the proximate cause of the claimant’s loss, the plaintiff-inlimitation must prove it had no privity or knowledge of the
unseaworthy conditions or negligent acts.”
Trico Marine Assets,
Inc. v. Diamond B Marine Servs., Inc., 332 F.3d 779, 789 (5th Cir.
Setting aside the fact that Claimants base their motion for
summary judgment on “the condition of the compressor” which is
located on a fixed platform and not a vessel, material issues of
fact exist here as to whether TPIC had knowledge and privity over
the allegedly negligent condition of the compressor.
19-1, at 10.)
Privity exists when the vessel owner “personally
Trico Marine Assets, Inc., 332 F.3d at
When a vessel owner is a corporation, knowledge “is judged
not only by what the corporation’s managing officers actually knew,
but also by what they should have known” regarding the conditions
that could lead to injury.
Pennzoil Producing Co. v. Offshore
Express, Inc., 943 F.2d 1465, 1473-74 (5th Cir. 1991); see also In
re Int’l Marine, L.L.C., No. 12-358, 2013 WL 3293677, at *8 (E.D.
La. June 28, 2013) (referring to the same knowledge standard when
the vessel owner was a limited liability company).
argues that it did not own the compressor at issue in this case;
the compressor was owned by HUB.
and servicing the compressor.
HUB was responsible for testing
In fact, a HUB employee performed
service on the compressor the day before the incident occurred
giving rise to this lawsuit.
There is at least a genuine issue of
allegedly negligent condition of the compressor.
Jurisdiction Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), or in the Alternative, for
Summary Judgment (R. Doc. 19) is DENIED.
New Orleans, Louisiana this 22nd day of November, 2016.
CARL J. BARBIER
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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