Stanley Duplantis (plaintiff) worked for Grace Offshore Company (Grace) (defendant), previously Booker Drilling Company, as a roustabout on an oil platform. Shell Offshore, Inc. (Shell) (defendant) owned, but did not operate, the platform. While working, Duplantis slipped on a greasy board, fell onto the cover of one of Shell’s cranes, and was injured. Duplantis and his wife (plaintiff) sued Grace and Shell in federal court on June 21, 1990 for negligence. Shell denied any negligence and moved the court for summary judgment in its favor, on the ground that Duplantis had not shown that Shell owned the board Duplantis slipped on or was responsible for keeping the rig safe. Shell offered affidavits from Grace employees stating that the board belonged to Grace and that Grace was responsible for rig housekeeping. Shell’s witnesses alleged that the crane cover was kept below the crane’s pedestal, but Duplantis claimed that a portion of the cover went beyond the edge of the crane. All agreed, however, that the cover had not been moved since Duplantis started work. Duplantis opposed Shell’s motion, arguing that “Shell ha[d] failed to produce any competent evidence by which the ownership and placement of the board by it could be negated.” Duplantis submitted an unsworn, preliminary letter from an expert witness indicating that the housekeeping on the rig was inadequate and the cover was stored improperly. The court granted Shell’s motion, and the plaintiffs appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.