United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
OWEN BOWDRE CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Townsend sued Defendants BP Exploration and Production, Inc.
and BP America Production Company for injuries he allegedly
suffered because he was exposed to crude oil and dispersants
while performing clean-up work following the Deepwater
Horizon oil spill in April 2010. The matter is before
the court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.
(doc. 45). For the reasons stated in this Memorandum Opinion,
the court finds that the motion is due to be GRANTED.
Robert Townsend worked as a deck hand on a crew boat in the
Gulf of Mexico between Brownsville, Texas and Key West,
Florida during the months of August and September 2010. (doc.
53 at 12). Townsend's vessel delivered cargo to boats in
Mobile Bay that were assisting with the containment of the
oil spill. (doc. 53, at 4). Townsend claims that he was
exposed to “chemical dispersants and crude oil, ”
as well as a “fish-kill” that occurred during
August and September 2010. (doc. 53, at 4-5). Townsend states
that he has experienced the following health problems as a
result of the exposure: shortness of breath, abdominal pain,
lymph gland enlargement, acute sinusitis, upper respiratory
infection, hypertension, chronic back pain, stomach pain,
swollen lymph nodes, headaches, dizziness, severe sea
sickness, high blood pressure, kidney pain, contact
dermatitis, and what he believes to be nerve damage. (doc. 1,
at 2; doc. 53 at 5). These medical issues prevent Townsend
from passing physical examinations required for him to be
able to return to work aboard vessels in the Gulf of Mexico.
He also fears they may lead to his death. (doc. 1 at 2).
“Medical Benefits Class Action Settlement Agreement,
” approved by the United States District Court for the
Eastern District of Louisiana on January 11, 2013, governs
claims arising from clean-up efforts surrounding the
Deepwater Horizon oil spill. (doc. 47, at 6). The
MBCASA defines the “Medical Benefits Settlement
Class” so as to include “all natural persons who
resided in the United States as of April 16, 2012, and who .
. . worked as clean-up workers at any time between April 20,
2010, and April 16, 2012.” (doc. 47-1 at 6). Plaintiff
falls under this definition and is therefore a class member
whose claims are governed by the MBCASA. (doc. 53 at 12).
MBCASA provides class members with a “Back-End
Litigation Option” process to seek compensation against
BP for “Later-Manifested Physical Conditions.”
Plaintiff chose this means to file suit against BP for his
LMPC injuries. The MBCASA defines LMPCs as
a physical condition that is first diagnosed in a [class
member] after April 16, 2012, and which is claimed to have
resulted from . . . exposure to oil, other hydrocarbons, or
other substances released from the . . . Deepwater
Horizon . . . and/or exposure to dispersants and/or
decontaminants used in connection with the response
activities . . . on or prior to April 16, 2012 for clean-up
(doc. 47-1 at 18). Plaintiff submitted signed emergency room
discharge letters from June 2014; July 2014;and October 2015
(doc. 53 at 15-17), as well as a Patient Plan from April 2015
(doc. 53 at 19) to show his injuries are correctly classified
STANDARD OF REVIEW
district court reviews a motion for summary judgment it must
determine two things: (1) whether any genuine issues of
material fact exist; and if not, (2) whether the moving party
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(c). The moving party “always bears the initial
responsibility of informing the district court of the basis
for its motion, and identifying those portions of ‘the
pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and
admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,
' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine
issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P.
56). The moving party can meet this burden by offering
evidence showing no dispute of material fact or by showing
that the non-moving party's evidence fails to prove an
essential element of its case on which it bears the ultimate
burden of proof. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23.
the moving party meets its burden of showing the district
court that no genuine issues of material fact exist, the
burden then shifts to the non-moving party “to
demonstrate that there is indeed a material issue of fact
that precludes summary judgment.” Clark v. Coats &
Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991). The
non-moving party must “go beyond the pleadings and by
[its] own affidavits, or by the ‘depositions, answers
to interrogatories, and admissions on file, ' designate
‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue
for trial.'” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324
(quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)).
evidence and inferences drawn from the underlying facts must
be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving
party. Graham, 193 F.3d at 1282. The non-moving
party “need not be given the benefit of every inference
but only of every reasonable inference.” Id.
The evidence of the non-moving party “is to be believed
and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in [its]
favor.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. After both
parties have addressed the motion for summary judgment, the
court must grant the motion if no genuine issues of
material fact exist and if the moving party is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56.
prevail on his claims, Plaintiff must prove exposure to the
dispersants and crude oil, their toxicity, and that their
toxicity caused his illnesses. McClain v. Metabolife
Intern., Inc., 401 F.3d 1233, 1237 (11th Cir. 2005).
“This type of proof requires expert testimony.”
Id. Thus, to survive summary judgment, Plaintiff
must put forth reliable expert testimony showing that there
is a genuine issue for trial. However, even when taking
Plaintiff's factual allegations as true and viewing ...