LLF Admiralty Win in Federal Court

A win for Lamothe Law Firm attorney Richard Martin and our client! Defense motions to dismiss were denied March 20, 2017 in Willis D. O’Berry vs. ENSCO PLC, et al., No. 16-3569 “E” (E.D. La.). Mr. O’Berry, a Jones Act seaman from Mississippi, was injured during required helicopter escape at sea certification. The injury took place in a swimming pool in Saudi Arabia operated by ENSCO’s alleged agent, SMTP Global. The Order also denied a forum non conveniens motion. However, the important portion of the Order was that Judge Morgan found U.S. jurisdiction over ENSCO PLC pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(k)(2).

A lack of general or specific federal jurisdiction does not preclude jurisdiction under Rule 4(k)(2). An added bonus is that jurisdiction under Rule 4(k)(2) is not hogtied to the usual venue restrictions of 28 USC Sec. 1391.

The upshot of this ruling is that ENSCO PLC, a very large independent offshore drilling company, can no longer hide behind a jurisdictional shell game. Now it can probably be sued in virtually any U.S. district court.

In addition, ENSCO PLC’s subsidiary and co-defendant ENSCO Limited, a Cayman Island company, answered our complaint without challenging jurisdiction. ENSCO Limited is the Eastern Hemisphere analogue to ENSCO Offshore, Inc., which drills locally in the Gulf of Mexico. ENSCO routinely “transfers” personnel between the two subsidiaries, likely to avoid Jones Act suits in the U.S.A.

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