Jurgens and Bercaw Establish a Tension Leg Platform Is Not a Vessel
Jack Jurgens and Jim Bercaw succeeded in obtaining a partial summary judgment from District Judge Lance M. Africk that the MATTERHORN SEASTAR, a floating tension leg platform (“TLP”) secured to the Outer Continental Shelf off the coast of Louisiana, is not a vessel as a matter of law. The plaintiff had filed suit against W&T Offshore, Inc., the owner and operator of the MATTERHORN SEASTAR, under the Jones Act, the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act ("LHWCA"), and general maritime law for alleged personal injuries he claimed to have received while working on the MATTERHORN SEASTAR. The plaintiff’s potential recovery against W&T under the foregoing statutes and general maritime law depended on whether the MATTERHORN SEASTAR is a vessel.
The MATTERHORN SEASTAR is a floating oil and gas production structure that has been secured to the seabed since 2003 by six mooring tendons, seven casing production risers, and two export pipelines, and it will remain in that moored location until at least 2020. Additionally, it would take W&T several months of preparation and activities, including the disassembly of the TLP, to ultimately move the MATTERHORN SEASTAR from its moored location.
In the wake of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision of Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach, Fla., _____ U.S. _____ (2013), the test for whether a structure qualifies as a vessel is whether a reasonable observer would consider the structure to be designed to a practical degree for carrying people or things over water. Based on the undisputed evidence, Judge Africk concluded that no reasonable observer would consider the MATTERHORN SEASTAR to be designed to a practical degree for carrying people or things over water. As a result, the MATTERHORN SEASTAR is not a vessel as a matter of law, and the plaintiff’s claims against W&T under the Jones Act, the LHWCA, and general maritime law were dismissed, with prejudice.