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Court dismisses oil-rig roustabout’s negligence charge in back injury

oil rig

A roustabout failed to show that an oil rig owner was negligent when he injured his back moving a washing machine on the rig’s platform.

In Hosey v. Shell Oil Co., the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana in New Orleans on Wednesday granted summary judgment to the company, finding it had no control over the method or manner used by contractors in moving the machine.

David Hosey was working as a roustabout for Helmerich & Payne International Drilling Co., which had been contracted by Shell Offshore Inc., a New Orleans-based subsidiary of Shell Oil Co., to provide personnel and supervision on the oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

In December 2018, Mr. Hosey was tasked with moving a washing machine into a shipping container. He and another roustabout discussed using a dolly, but they were locked up for the evening during the time they needed to move the washer. Consistent with H&P’s policy, the two opted to work together to manually lift the machine.

A few hours later, Mr. Hosey said he felt pain in his back, and he contended that he did not have access to a dolly to move the machine. He filed a complaint against Shell Oil and Shell Offshore, alleging that negligence caused the back injury, and sought to recover for general damages, lost wages, lost earning capacity, pain and suffering, past and future medical expenses, and loss of society and services. His wife also brought a claim for loss of consortium.

The companies moved for summary judgment, which the district court granted.

The court held that Mr. Hosey presented no evidence that Shell Oil owed a duty to him because it neither owned nor operated the oil rig. The court also held that Shell Offshore maintained no operational control over Mr. Hosey. Although he argued that Shell Offshore was negligent because it “owed a duty to provide unfettered access to dollies” to enable roustabouts to work safely, the court held that the company’s policy did not render all dollies inaccessible, it just required that anyone opting to use a dolly needed to contact the warehouse manager or locate the key in the control room to access them.

The court further noted that Mr. Hosey presented no evidence that Shell Offshore authorized the method the roustabouts chose to move the washing machine, or that restricted access to dollies dictated his decision to manually lift the washing machine.