In a new unpublished decision, the Fifth Circuit affirmed a district court’s grant of summary judgment against an injured worker. The plaintiff was injured while “attempting to inspect a lower compartment on [a] ship.” He fell down a ladder after climbing under a locked chain.
Following his injury, the injured plaintiff filed suit under Section 905(b) of the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, general maritime law, and state law. The district court held that it lacked jurisdiction because the vessel on which the plaintiff was injured had never been completed. Further, the defendant enjoyed government contractor immunity such that it was shielded from liability. Finally, the district court determined that the mechanism of the plaintiff’s injury was an open and obvious condition.
The Fifth Circuit agreed, stating:
- The ship had not yet earned vessel status. Although the ship had completed sea trials, it “was still being outfitted and inspected prior to final delivery.”
- The defendant had government contractor immunity. It “prepared drawings regarding the design and installation of the ladder” in accordance with Navy parameters and with the Navy’s blessing.
- The safety chain which contributed to the plaintiff’s injury “was in place so that personnel would not fall through the open hatch in the deck.” The plaintiff chose to climb under the locked chain rather than opening it with a key. “The risk created by climbing under a chain meant to prevent individuals from falling into a hatch was open and obvious.”
Crace v. Huntngton Ingalls, Inc., No. 16-30205, 2016 WL 6110040 (5th Cir. Oct. 19, 2016).