January 2018

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As previously reported here, the Fifth Circuit in September ruled that the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) has no criminal jurisdiction under its current regulations over offshore contractors (USA v. Moss, 872 F.3d 304 (5th Cir. 2017)). A companion case regarding BSEE’s civil jurisdiction over offshore contractors (Island Operating Co. v. Jewell et al., Case No. 16-145 (W.D. La. Dec. 23, 2016)) technically remained pending on appeal before the Fifth Circuit after the court’s rejection of BSEE’s criminal jurisdiction. As this blog noted, however, the Moss court’s opinion was very broad and “expressly acknowledged that while it was only squarely faced with the question of whether BSEE’s criminal indictments in the case were valid, this question necessarily implicated whether BSEE’s regulations even applied at all (criminally or civilly) to offshore contractors.” Thus, while the civil jurisdiction case in Island Operating technically remained pending, the writing was essentially on the wall. (more…)

The Fifth Circuit en banc (In re Larry Doiron, Inc., 2018 WL 316862, at *7 (5th Cir. Jan. 8, 2018)) has handed down an historic re-working of the test for determining whether oilfield contracts are maritime or non-maritime in nature. Harkening back to the United States Supreme Court’s eminently practical, simple maritime contract test in Norfolk S. Ry. Co. v. Kirby, 543 U.S. 14, 22 (2004) that considers whether “the situation presented … [has] a genuinely salty flavor,” the en banc decision in In Re Larry Doiron, Inc. simplifies decades’ worth of confusing and often inconsistent jurisprudence to give a more streamlined and hopefully predictable rule for determining whether oilfield contracts are maritime or not. (more…)

In another recent case on the Scindia duties,[1] the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Manson Gulf, L.L.C. v. Modern American Recycling Service, Inc.,[2] remanded a case dismissed by the District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana on summary judgment against the vessel owner on the grounds that there was a material dispute of fact as to whether a hole in a decommissioned oil platform (and decommissioning work has become a semiregular theme on this blog) was open and obvious or a danger that a “reasonably competent stevedore” should have anticipated. Notably the Court also addressed whether the West exception for independent contractors injured by the conditions/defects they were hired to repair or inspect applied to a stevedore retained to remove an oilfield structure for scrap metal. The Court found that the narrow West exceptions do not apply in this case. (more…)