United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah
B. Russell, Senior Judge United States District Court.
matter comes before the Court upon Motion by Defendant ACBL
River Operations, LLC, (“Defendant”), for summary
judgment. [DN 21.] Plaintiff Teresa Weatherly,
(“Plaintiff”), has responded, [DN 24], and
Defendant has replied. [DN 25.] This matter is ripe for
adjudication and, for the following reasons, IT IS HEREBY
ORDERED that Defendant's Motion, [DN 21], is DENIED as to
Plaintiff's claims for negligence under the Jones Act and
for unseaworthiness, and GRANTED as to Plaintiff's claim
for maintenance and cure.
case arises out of events occurring on or around September
16, 2015. [DN 10, at 1.] Plaintiff was employed by AEP River
Operations as a cook and “was assigned to the M/V
Leader for approximately two and a half years prior to
the…incident.” DN 21-1, at 1.] “The M/V
Leader's home port was Paducah, Kentucky.”
[Id.] Plaintiff was scheduled to have twenty-eight
days of leave, starting on the day of the incident, and was
preparing to disembark the M/V Leader when she was allegedly
injured. [Id. at 2.]
morning, Plaintiff had prepared breakfast for the
vessel's crew and had cleaned up the galley afterwards.
[DN 19, Weatherly Dep., p. 64.] This included prepping the
crew's lunch and unloading the dishwasher. [Id.
at 67-68.] After doing this, Plaintiff went upstairs to take
a shower and, after getting cleaned up, returned to the
galley to retrieve some personal belongings. [Id. at
65.] She was “off watch” at this time.
[Id.] Upon returning to the galley, Plaintiff picked
up some dishes that were air-drying on the galley's
island in order to move them to the galley table.
[Id. at 67-68.] According to Plaintiff's
deposition testimony, “[a]s I [Plaintiff] was going to
the table, I slipped on something wet, my leg went out away
from me and back behind me, all the plates broke. And
that's when I knew that I had done some damage because I
couldn't get up.” [Id. at 68.] Plaintiff
also testified in her deposition that the plates themselves
were dry, she does not know what kind of substance she
slipped on, how it got there, how long it had been there, or
how much of it was there. [Id. at 70-71.] Plaintiff
further testified that the weather that day was nice and so
nothing wet would have been tracked into the galley, and that
the floor had not been mopped that morning. [Id. at
she slipped and fell, Plaintiff was wearing flip-flops and
not the footwear that AEP River Operations required her to
wear on the job. [Id. at 73.] After she fell,
another crew member, Curtis Kuprel, who was the Second Mate
of the M/V Leader at that time, entered the galley and
assisted her. [Id. at 75.] Plaintiff was removed
from the vessel and taken by ambulance to a Paducah area
hospital. [Id. at 76.] Plaintiff testified in her
deposition that there was no delay in her evacuation from the
vessel and that she has no criticism of the “efforts
that were made to assist [her] after the injury.”
[Id. at 76-77.] It was later determined that she had
torn her hamstring. [Id. at 80.] On November 30,
2015, Plaintiff was cleared by her doctor to return to work
after a “return-to-work-physical, ” but she did
not begin working until February because she had bronchitis
at the end of the year. [Id. at 80-81.] Plaintiff
was assigned, against her wishes, to a new vessel in West
Virginia, but only worked on the vessel for around a month
because at that time she began to suffer from severe
depression. [Id. at 89-90.] She testified at her
deposition that she felt “betrayed” and
“humiliated” because she lost her position on the
M/V Leader, whose home port is Paducah, about one and a half
hours from her home, and was reassigned to the West Virginia
vessel, whose home port is around eleven hours from her home.
[Id. at 95-96.] During the period of time between
September 2015 when Plaintiff was injured and February 2016
when she returned to work, she was paid short-term disability
(i.e., her normal pay), and testified that she did not lose
any pay during that time period. [Id. at 128.] She
also testified that she did not personally incur any medical
expenses relating to the injury. [Id. at 128-29.]
asked what AEP River Operations did or failed to do that
caused her injury on the vessel, Plaintiff responded:
“I think that those boys should have to put down their
phones and go in there and clean up the galley like they
should after every meal. According to the captain on the boat
[that] is how the boat gets taken care of.”
[Id. at 129-30.] In essence, Plaintiff testified in
her deposition that the deckhands, who are responsible for
cleaning the galley, were inattentive that morning and were
using their cellphones instead of doing their job.
[Id.] Plaintiff conceded that she had not asked them
to go ahead and clean up the galley on the morning in
question. [Id. at 129.] Plaintiff voluntarily
resigned her post on July 3, 2017 for personal reasons. [DN
20, Weatherly Con't Dep., p. 4.] On October 30, 2017, she
was hired as a lineboat cook for Artco. [Id. at 5.]
Plaintiff's new home port is Saint Louis, Missouri.
[Id. at 6.] She is no longer receiving medical
treatment with respect to the hamstring injury she suffered
while working for AEP River Operations. [Id. at
judgment is proper where “the pleadings, the discovery
and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show
that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and
that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). When examining whether a
motion for summary judgment should be granted, the court is
required to resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable
inferences against the movant. See Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587
(1986). However, “not every issue of fact or
conflicting inference presents a genuine issue of material
fact.” Street v. J.C. Bradford & Co., 886
F.2d 1472, 1477 (6th Cir. 1989). Rather, the question is
whether the party who bears the burden of proof in the case
has presented a jury question as to each element in the case.
Hartsel v. Keys, 87 F.3d 795, 799 (6th Cir. 1996).
means that the plaintiff must present to the court more than
a mere scintilla of evidence supporting her position.
Id. Indeed, the plaintiff must present evidence on
which the trier of fact could reasonably find for the
plaintiff. Id. It is not enough for a plaintiff to
present speculation as to elements of the case, because
“the mere existence of a colorable factual dispute will
not defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment.
A genuine dispute between the parties on an issue of material
fact must exist to render summary judgment
inappropriate.” Monette v. Elec. Data Sys.
Corp., 90 F.3d 1173, 1177 (6th Cir. 1996).
first claim is for negligence under the Jones Act. “The
Jones Act…authorizes seamen to maintain negligence
actions for personal injury suffered in the course of
employment.” Churchwell v. Bluegrass Marine,
Inc., 444 F.3d 898, 907 (6th Cir. 2006). It
“incorporates all portions of FELA [the Federal
Employers Liability Act] that modify and extend the common
law as applied to actions by railroad employees.”
Id. Therefore, “under the Jones Act, an
employer has a duty to provide a safe workplace for its
employees, and to prevail under the Jones Act, a
‘plaintiff must show that her employer [breached this
duty by] failing to provide a safe workplace by neglecting to
cure or eliminate obvious dangers of which the employer or
its agents knew or should have known.'”
Id. (quoting Rannals v. Diamond Jo Casino,
265 F.3d 442, 449-50 (6th Cir. 2001)).
of negligence (duty and breach) is essential to recovery
under the Jones Act.” Perkins v. Am. Elec. Power
Fuel Supply, Inc.,246 F.3d 593, 598 (6th Cir. 2001)
(citing Jacob v. City of New York,315 U.S. 752, 755
(1942)). And “[w]hether an employer is negligent is
determined under the ‘ordinary prudence' standard
normally applicable in negligence cases.” Id.
(citing Gautreaux v. Scurlock Marine, Inc., 107 F.3d
331, 335 (5th Cir. 1997)). Where the two standards diverge,
however, is on the causation prong: in a Jones Act negligence
case, “once the plaintiff proves negligence, he need
only show that his employer's negligence is the cause, in
whole or in part, of his injuries…In essence, there is
a reduced standard for causation between the employer's
negligence and the employee's injury.” Id.
(internal citations omitted). In order “[t]o recover,
[though, ] the plaintiff must first establish ‘the
breach of a duty to protect against foreseeable risks of
harm.” Id. at 599 (quoting Hernandez v.
Trawler Miss Vertie Mae, Inc.,187 F.3d 432, 437 (4th
Cir. 1999)). If the “plaintiff establishes that the
employer breached his or her duty ...