On June 23, 1977, the date of the alleged accident, Berry was employed as a hoistman for CRC Western Wireline Services, Inc. (hereinafter "CRC"). His petition alleges that he received serious injuries to his back and legs during workover operations on a lease well owned and operated by Sohio Natural Resources Company, formerly Sohio Petroleum Company (hereinafter
Berry timely filed his tort suit alleging that the injuries he sustained were caused by the negligence of Holston and/or Sohio. The acts of negligence complained of consisted of improperly and unsafely stacking a large quantity of pipe in close proximity to the working area thus not allowing a reasonable amount of space for the CRC crew to perform its work. All of the defendants filed motions for summary judgment. Of import to this case is the motion filed by Sohio. In its motion, Sohio claims that it was plaintiff's statutory employer under La.R.S. 23:1061;
In support of its motion Sohio attached several depositions as well as supporting affidavits. From the attachments it is clear that CRC is a specialized support company performing wireline services which are undisputedly necessary for the operation of Sohio's trade, business or occupation (i.e. discovering, extracting and producing minerals from the ground). By the very nature of CRC's business, the wireline service that it performs requires a degree of skill, training, experience and equipment not generally found outside the field. In fact it is so specialized that it supports a host of independent wireline companies. Basically the process involves the attachment of certain special tools to an electrically charged cable and then lowering those tools down into the hole to perform the necessary tasks. Because of the nature of the work, Sohio has no employees of its own which do this type of work. Sohio has always contracted out this type of work to those entities with the skill and equipment to handle the job properly. In addition, most, if not all, oil companies with operations similar to Sohio contract out this work.
In its original appearance before our brothers of the Third Circuit Court of Appeal, that court affirmed the trial court's granting of Sohio's motion for summary judgment finding that Berry was Sohio's statutory employee. Berry v. Holston Well Service, Inc., 467 So.2d 90 (La.App. 3d Cir.1985). In their opinion, the cases of Lewis v. Exxon Corp., 441 So.2d 192 (La. 1983) and Benson v. Seagraves, 436 So.2d 525 (La.1983) were distinguished on the ground that those cases involved "new construction" and on that factual basis were not controlling. We granted writs intially in this case and rendered an order transferring
In a second opinion, the court of appeal reaffirmed their earlier decision. Berry v. Holston Well Service, Inc., 479 So.2d 944 (La.App. 3d Cir.1985). The court likewise distinguished our decision in Rowe on the ground that Rowe involved routine maintenance activities in a plant, whereas here the wireline work was part of the complex, integrated, interdependent and interrelated operations required for the safe and efficient discovery, recovery and production of minerals. In essence the Third Circuit has created what might be called an "oilfield exception "to the principles of statutory employment. We again granted writs on application of the plaintiff to determine if, based on the facts of this case, Sohio is plaintiff's statutory employer. 481 So.2d 1341 (La.1986).
For the following reasons we reverse the judgments of the lower courts granting Sohio's motion for summary judgment. We hold that under the facts of this case and the principles announced herein Sohio was not Berry's statutory employer. Sohio and its insurer are therefore amenable to tort suit, and the case will be remanded to the trial court for further proceedings in accordance with law.
STATUTORY EMPLOYMENT DOCTRINE
Pursuant to section 1061, employees of contractors are under certain circumstances considered to be the employees of the owner or principal. Lewis, supra. As originally enacted the purpose behind this fiction of the law was to prevent principals from evading their compensation responsibilities by interposing a "straw man" between them and those "employees" who are doing the whole or a part of their trade, business or occupation. Rowe, supra (Lemmon, J. concurring); Lewis, supra; 1C A. Larson, The Law of Workmen's Compensation, § 49.00 (1982); 13 W. Malone & H. Johnson, La.Civil Law Treatise—Worker's Compensation, § 121 (1980). Although its purpose was self-evident, beginning with the case of Thibodaux v. Sun Oil Co., 218 La. 453, 49 So.2d 852 (1950), this Court developed the doctrine of tort immunity for principals (i.e. statutory employers) vis-a-vis their contractor's employees (i.e. statutory employees).
This jurisprudential doctrine was later codified in 1976 when the legislature amended certain sections of the Act. See 1976 La.Acts, No. 147, § 1; Rowe, supra (Lemmon, J. concurring). Since the time of Thibodaux and through the present, most of the cases involving a claim by the injured employee against the principal were cases sounding in tort, and in most instances the employee had already received compensation from his immediate employer. Malone & Johnson, supra, § 126. In this context, courts have struggled to determine what is or is not a statutory employment relationship. The primary reason advanced for the difficulty was the fact that section 1061 was "being interpreted in a context for which it was never intended" (i.e. How should the question of a principal's
Initially, the courts of this state, including this Court, had determined that a contractor was performing a part of the principal's trade, business or occupation, and thus falling under the statute, when the contract work was an integral and/or essential part (or other synonyms) of the trade, business or occupation of the principal. See for example Barnes v. Sun Oil Co., 362 So.2d 761 (La.1978); Thibodaux, supra; Melancon v. Tassin Amphibious Equip. Corp., 427 So.2d 932 (La.App. 4th Cir.), writ denied 433 So.2d 166 (La.1983); Klohn v. Louisiana Power & Light Co., 394 So.2d 636 (La.App. 1st Cir.1980), writ denied 399 So.2d 612 (La.1981); Stelly v. Waggoner Estates, 355 So.2d 12 (La.App. 1st Cir.1977), writ denied 356 So.2d 1011 (La.1978); Vizena v. Travelers Ins. Co., 238 So.2d 238 (La.App. 3d Cir.), writ denied 256 La. 885, 239 So.2d 542 (1970); Shird v. Maricle, 156 So.2d 476 (La.App. 3d Cir.1963); Mau v. Industrial Steel Products Co., Inc., 119 So.2d 654 (La.App. 2d Cir.1960); Stansbury v. Magnolia Petroleum Co., 91 So.2d 917 (La.App. 1st Cir. 1957). This almost limitless standard yielded inconsistent and often illogical results since almost everything could be said to be integrally related to the principal's trade, business or occupation. See Slocum v. Lamartiniere, 369 So.2d 201 (La.App. 3d Cir.), writ denied 372 So.2d 569 (La.1979) (New construction of a building was found to be within the trade, business or occupation of a grocery.); Foster v. Western Electric Co., Inc., 258 So.2d 153 (La.App. 2d Cir.1972) (Operating a cafeteria on the premises of a large industrial plant fell under the statute.).
Beginning with the case of Benson and followed by the cases of Lewis and Rowe, it is obvious that this Court has shifted its interpretive analysis regarding the statutory employer defense from one which favored a liberal application of the doctrine to one which is more restrictive. Rowe, supra (Lemmon, J. concurring). In so doing we have abandoned the "integral relation" test for a test that we feel is more in line with the purpose of sections 1032 and 1061. See Boudreaux v. Exxon Co., U.S.A., 441 So.2d 79 (La.App. 3d Cir.1983), writ granted and case remanded 445 So.2d 429 (La. 1984), on remand 451 So.2d 85 (La.App. 3d Cir.), writ denied 458 So.2d 119 (La.1984). The reason for the change was that the former test was being interpreted too expansively, see Malone & Johnson, supra, § 126, thus transforming a doctrine which was originally designed to provide secondary protection to an injured employee into one which grants immunity to principals regardless of whether they actually pay compensation. 1 A. Larson, Workmen's Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Death, § 49.11 (Desk ed. 1985). As a result, principals have been elevated to a more preferred position than an injured employee's immediate employer in that the quid pro quo existing between the employee and his immediate employer (i.e. compensation regardless of fault for tort immunity) does not exist between the employee and the principal. La.R.S. 23:1032; 1061; contra 33 U.S.C. § 901 et seq. (Under the Longshoremen's and Harbor Worker's Compensation Act, in order for a principal to claim tort immunity it must have paid compensation benefits to the injured employee.). Although the shift is very clear, we have failed to succinctly set forth the method of analysis presently used by this Court in resolving the difficult question of statutory employment.
From a reading of Benson and its progeny the following general rules or method of analysis can be gleaned. Basically, a determination of whether a statutory employment relationship exists involves a three level analysis. In the first level, the primary focus is on the scope of the contract work. "The specific task to which an individual employee is put should not be determinative of his coverage under
If it is determined that the contract work is non-specialty, then the inquiry shifts to a comparison of the principal's trade, business or occupation and the contract work to see if the latter can be considered a part of the principal's trade, business or occupation. The jurisprudence has forged several guidelines, in no way exhaustive, which can aid a court in resolving this factual issue:
These guidelines are not absolute or rigid, but are instead to be applied relatively, taking into consideration the size, complexity, integration (either horizontal or vertical), or the lack thereof, etc. of the principal. What may be nonrecurring to a small concern, may for an industry giant be regular. Similarly while the type of contract work may be non-specialized (i.e. manual labor), for a small concern it may well be beyond the expertise or capability of its employees. 1 A. Larson, Workmen's Compansation for Occupational Injuries and Death, § 49.13 (Desk ed. 1985). Basically, the factors developed by the jurisprudence strive to answer the overriding question of "whether [the contract work] is, in that business, normally carried on through employees rather than independent contractors." Id. (emphasis added)
Lastly, the court must determine if the principal is engaged in the work at the time of the alleged accident. La.R.S. 23:1032. At this level "[i]t is irrelevant that the principal has the financial resources or expertise to enter into a particular trade, business or occupation. In order for any person to come within the scope of the
Armed with a full understanding of the reasoning process presently used by this Court in determining whether a statutory employment situation exists, our opinions are logically consistent.
Lewis is a non-specialty case. The contract work in Lewis was construction. When we apply the factors, it is apparent that the magnitude of the contract work exceeded what could reasonably be classified as Exxon's trade, business or occupation. The construction was not routine and customary, but was the result of an emergency. Because of the magnitude of the project, Exxon's normal employees were not capable of handling the project. Lastly, while Exxon admitted that it had done this type of work previously, it was not engaged in this enterprise at the time of the injury.
DECISION ON THE MERITS
The plea of "statutory employer" under the provisions of section 1061 is an affirmative defense and the burden of proof is upon the party asserting it—here Sohio. Lewis, supra; Benson, supra; Duplechin v. Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co., 265 So.2d 787 (La.App. 3d Cir.1972); James v. Lykes Bros. S.S. Co., 175 So.2d 444 (La. App. 4th Cir.), writ denied 248 La. 358, 178 So.2d 653 (1965). To meet its burden Sohio submitted several depositions and affidavits
To reinterate, the affidavit of Raymond Broussard, a graduate in petroleum engineering who has been in the oil business for twenty-five years with Sun Oil Co. and Sohio and who at the time of the alleged accident was the district manager for Sohio over six states and the Gulf of Mexico, states that the usual and customary procedure in the industry is that oil companies perform the function of workover operations, including associated operations such as wireline service, by using independent oil well servicing companies.
Similarly, the affidavit of R.L. Packer, an employee of Sohio for twenty-one years and presently a district superintendent, confirms that it is usual for oil companies to hire independent contractors to perform workovers and related operations. The clear import of his affidavit is to the effect that Sohio, as well as other oil companies, do not have employees and/or equipment capable of performing wireline work. In conclusion Packer states: "[I]f these operations were not performed by independent contractors it would be necessary for Sohio to hire [and presumable train and equip] workers and employees of its own to perform these operations...."
Considering the facts as set forth in the supporting affidavits and applying the analysis previously set forth, it is clear that this case is a "specialty" case. Wireline service (the contract work) is a highly specialized, separate support industry of the oil business. It requires a degree of training, experience, skill and equipment not normally found outside the wireline field. It is so specialized that there is a need for numerous wireline service companies to service the industry's needs. We hold that wireline work is "specialized per se," and therefore, as a matter of law, Sohio is not Berry's statutory employer.
Even assuming that wireline work was a non-specialty field, our decision would be no different. Workovers, involving wireline work are not so routine and customary. If they were, Sohio, as well as other oil companies, would hire their own employees trained in wireline work. As has been stated, Sohio has neither the manpower nor the equipment to do wireline work. Lastly, no industry participant does wireline work with its own employees. Considering all these factors, it is clear that wireline work is not the type of work normally done by employees, but instead, is a type of work done by independent contractors.
For the assigned reasons, the judgments of the lower courts granting Sohio's motion for summary judgment are reversed. Sohio is therefore amenable to tort suit and the case is remanded to the trial court for a trial on the merits against both Sohio and its insurer in accordance with law.
REVERSED AND REMANDED.
DENNIS, J., concurs with reasons.
La.R.S. 23:1061 (1985).
LA R.S. 23:1032 (1985).
Only one reported case since Benson is not aligned with the reasoning expressed herein. See Butler v. Home Ins. Co., 448 So.2d 801 (La.App. 2d Cir.), writ denied 450 So.2d 954 (La.1984). To the extent that it is inconsistent with the views expressed herein it is overruled.