Kat Statman

Dippin’ Dots, Quilt Museums and the Intricacies of Maritime Federal Venue - Southern District of Texas Considers Forum Selection Clauses under FELA and the Jones Act

Many folks across this great country might not be familiar with Paducah, Kentucky. As a public service, the Court provides some basic background information about this relatively small community first settled as Perkin in 1821 and renamed Paducah in 1827 by William Clark (of the famed Lewis & Clark expedition). Paducah is located in the far western part of Kentucky at the confluence of the Tennessee and Ohio rivers, halfway between St. Louis and Nashville. Approximately 25,000 men, women, and children reside in Paducah. Designated by UNESCO as a Creative City of Crafts and Folk Art, the city is home of the National Quilt Museum and, as the local convention and visitor’s bureau likes to boast, “a haven for creative thinkers and doers who find inspiration here.” There is a laundry list of famous people who grew up in Paducah, including Alben W. Barkley (the 35th Vice President of the United States during the presidency of Harry S. Truman), John Scopes (the teacher accused for teaching the theory of evolution in the legendary Scopes trial) and PGA golfer Kenny Perry. Saving the best for last, Paducah is also the corporate headquarters for Dippin’ Dots, a favorite treat of this judge and his family.

With this opening paean to Paducah, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas addressed an intriguing legal question in In the matter of Complaint of Marquette Transportation Company Gulf-Inland LLC: can a limitation of liability action in federal court, filed in response to a Jones Act claim in state court, be transferred to a different venue than the pending state court action under a contractually bargained for forum-selection clause? See 2018 WL 4443141, 3:18-cv-00074 (S.D. Tex. 2018). (more…)

The 5th Circuit, in Thomas v. Hercules Offshore Services, L.L.C.[1], concluded per curiam that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) safe workplace regulations had been preempted by the United States Coast Guard (“USCG”) regulations for injuries occurring on the Outer Continental Shelf (“OCS”) on a foreign-flagged jack-up drilling rig (or as the opinion described the rig, a “mobile offshore drilling unit” (“MODU”) in the parlance of the USCG’s OCS regulations at 33 CFR Subchapter N and 46 CFR Subchapter I-A).  As a result, the owners of the MODU were not negligent for injuries sustained by a galley hand who tripped and fell over a raised doorsill that was constructed in compliance with the USCG’s specific regulations for accommodation space specifications (46 C.F.R. §§108.197, 205).[2] (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…)