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Brown v. Channel Fueling Service, Inc.

574 F. Supp. 666 (1983)

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Brown v. Channel Fueling Service, Inc.

United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana

574 F. Supp. 666 (1983)

Facts

Wesley Brown (plaintiff) worked for Channel Fueling Service, Inc. (Channel Fueling) (defendant). Gremar Compania (Gremar) (defendant) owned the vessel Aphrodite B, and Nola Marine (defendant) owned the tugboat Karen Wayne. One morning, Aphrodite B and Karen Wayne collided. The collision caused the cargo of heavy crude oil to spill from Aphrodite B and flow downriver. Brown was working on a Channel Fueling fuel barge, Channel Fueler 10, six miles downstream from the collision site. The oil reached Channel Fueler 10 six hours after the collision. The parties stipulated that oil from the collision washed onto the deck of Channel Fueler 10 and congealed into a soft tar-like substance. Brown’s normal duties included cleaning the barge’s deck. Two days after the collision, after cleaning most of the deck, Brown lost his footing and fell because of the congealed oil. Brown sued Channel Fueling, Gremar, and Nola Marine for negligence. Gremar moved for summary judgment, arguing that its conduct was not the legal cause of Brown’s injury. Gremar also argued that did not owe a duty to Brown and therefore did not breach a duty to Brown. Brown and Channel Fueling argued that Gremar’s vessel owed a general duty to refrain from negligent acts, and that courts have found causation in situations in which the negligence and injury were far more remote than in this case. Gremar did not deny that the vessels colliding and causing oil to spill into the river was negligence to some classes of persons. However, Gremar disputed that it was negligent as to Brown, arguing that Brown’s injuries were not proximately or substantially caused by any of Gremar’s conduct. Gremar argued that the mere fact that a person working on a barge six miles downriver may slip and fall while cleaning oil two days after a collision was outside the scope of any duty it owed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Schwartz, J.)

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