Baker v. American River Transportation Company, LLC
ORDER AND REASONS granting 18 Motion for Partial Summary Judgment; Further Ordered that plaintiff's 28 Motion for Denial or Continuance of Defendants Motion for Partial Summary Judgment Under FRCP 56 is Denied. Signed by Judge Ivan L.R. Lemelle. (ijg)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
AMERICAN RIVER TRANSPORTATION
ORDER AND REASONS
Before the court is Defendant’s “Motion for Partial Summary
Judgment” (Rec. Doc. 18), Plaintiff’s “Opposition to Motion for
Summary Judgment” (Rec. Doc. 29), Defendant’s “Reply Memorandum in
Further Support of Motion for Partial Summary Judgment” (Rec. Doc.
32), Plaintiff’s “Motion for Denial or Continuance of Defendant’s
Motion for Partial Summary Judgment Under FRCP 56” (Rec. Doc. 28),
and Defendant’s “Response/Memorandum in Opposition to Plaintiff’s
Motion for Denial or Continuance of Motion for Partial Summary
Judgment” (Rec. Doc. 26). For the reasons set forth below,
IT IS ORDERED that the Defendant’s Motion for Partial Summary
Judgment is GRANTED. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff’s Motion
for Denial or Continuance of Defendant’s Motion for Partial Summary
Judgment Under FRCP 56 is DENIED as moot and unnecessary as a
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
deckhand on defendant’s towboat, the M/V Louisiana Sun (Rec. Docs.
18-3 and 29-1). Baker was injured on November 3, 2015, while
attempting to loosen a wire cable that attached a barge to the M/V
Louisiana Sun (Rec. Docs. 18-3 and 29-1). On behalf of ARTCO, Baker
was provided immediate medical treatment at Prime Occupational
Medicine, where he was diagnosed with a laceration to his lower
lip and a chipped tooth (Rec. Docs. 18-2). Baker was also referred
to, and seen by, a dentist to evaluate his chipped tooth (Rec.
Doc. 18-3). He was cleared and returned to work shortly after,
until his termination about three (3) months later on February 16,
2016 (Rec. Docs. 18-13 and 29-1). On September 12, 2016, Baker
unseaworthiness, and maintenance and cure, alleging that the wire
injury that occurred on November 3, 2015, struck his face, injured
his lip and teeth, as well as his eye, and introduced foreign
bodies into his bloodstream and eye (Rec. Doc. 2).
ARTCO contends that Baker will be unable to carry his burden
of proof at trial, i.e., that Baker’s eye injury arose during or
within the scope of his course of employment with ARTCO. (Rec.
opportunity to provide evidence” that his eye injury was a result
of his service on the M/V Louisiana, and that Baker has failed to
deliver. (Rec. Doc. 18-1). Baker’s response counters that ARTCO
has not proved that there are no genuine issues of material fact.
Baker further contends that ARTCO’s motion is premature (Rec. Doc.
29), and moves under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(d) to defer
ruling on this motion until after discovery is completed. (Rec.
FACTUAL AND LEGAL FINDINGS
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, summary judgment is
affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322
(1986) (quoting FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c)). See also TIG Ins. Co. v.
Sedgwick James of Wash., 276 F.3d 754, 759 (5th Cir. 2002). A
genuine issue exists if the evidence would allow a reasonable jury
to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The movant must point to
affidavits, if any,’ which it believes demonstrate the absence of
a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323.
Although the Court must consider the evidence with all reasonable
inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, the
non-movant must produce specific facts to demonstrate that a
genuine issue exists for trial.
Webb v. Cardiothoracic Surgery
Assocs. of N. Texas, 139 F.3d 532, 536 (5th Cir. 1998).
Further, “[w]hile Rule 56(d) motions for additional discovery
are broadly favored and should be liberally granted, the party
filing the motion must demonstrate how additional discovery will
create a genuine issue of material fact.” Jacked Up, L.L.C. v.
Sara Lee Corp., 854 F.3d 797, 816 (5th Cir. 2017) (quoting Smith
v. Reg’l Transit Auth., 827 F.3d 412, 422-23 (5th Cir. 2016)). “In
particular, the party opposing summary judgment must set forth a
plausible basis for believing that specified facts, susceptible of
collection within a reasonable time frame, probably exist and
indicate how the emergent facts, if adduced, will influence the
outcome of the pending summary judgment motion.” Id. (citations
and internal quotation marks omitted). Therefore, it is necessary
to consider the basis for ARTCO’s motion for summary judgment and
the facts that Baker alleges could be discovered to present a
genuine issue of material fact.
In the instant matter, Baker has not provided sufficient
sustained during the scope of his employment with ARTCO. Under
Rule 56, it is Baker’s responsibility to present essential facts
that the eye injury arose within the scope of his employment. Baker
alleges his eye injury was the result of the abovementioned
November 2015, incident where a wire struck him in the face (Rec.
Doc. 2). However, the uncontested facts show that on multiple
occasions ARTCO requested any and all evidence substantiating the
claim for maintenance and cure for Baker’s injury (Rec. Doc. 29-1
and 18-13, ¶15). To date, Baker has not provided any medical
records or evidence substantiating allegations that his eye injury
was a result of either the wire incident or any other injury during
his employment with ARTCO.1
Baker’s argument hinges on the idea that there is genuine
specifically “exclude” the eye as part of his injury. However,
that is an erroneous interpretation of a plaintiff’s burden of
proof. The absence of evidence is not evidence. Baker is required,
and has failed, to point to specific facts that would create a
genuine issue of triable fact regarding any injury to his eye. The
uncontested facts prove at best that Baker received an injury to
Plaintiff qualifies this admission, saying that “[a]lthough plaintiff may not have supplied defendant with all the
present medical records, he signed authorizations for them to be obtained by defendant. As well, it has yet to be
determined if there is no evidence supporting plaintiff’s claim for injury to his eye.”
his face in November 2015. He received medical treatment for his
injuries and shortly thereafter returned to work. The uncontested
facts also show that sometime after his termination in February
2016, Baker inquired about medical treatment for an eye injury. He
fails, however, to provide any evidence that would allow for an
evaluation that his eye injury arose at any time while Baker was
in the service of the ARTCO.
Baker does not contest the need for reasonable reliance upon
medical expert opinion for causation purposes. However, he has not
offered such evidence relative to his alleged eye injury. Further,
his reliance upon two recently completed witness depositions has
not shown evidence of an eye injury while in the service of the
vessel at issue. Suggestion and speculation on this limited issue
does not create admissible evidence of a material factual dispute.
In the alternative, Baker requested a continuance of the
submission of the instant matter. The scheduling order provided a
discovery closure date of August 29, 2017. However, no relevant
evidence has been presented to this Court by recent depositions,
and none appear forthcoming.
New Orleans, Louisiana, this 1st day of September, 2017.
SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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