SKV client Grand Isle Shipyard, Inc. yesterday won a criminal appeal in the Fifth Circuit that unanimously affirmed the dismissal of 8 charges alleging violations of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) and its implementing regulations. SKV shares this victory with co-counsel Harry Rosenberg of Phelps Dunbar, who argued the appeal.
The government indicted Grand Isle and multiple co-defendants in 2015, with the charges stemming from an explosion in November 2012 on an offshore platform in the Gulf of Mexico leased and operated by Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations. Grand Isle was a contractor on the platform. Among other counts not part of the appeal, the indictment charged Grand Isle and several co-defendants with failing to conduct pre-work inspections, failing to make piping safe, and failing to obtain written authorization to perform welding-related “hot work,” all in violation of OCSLA and its regulations. Phelps Dunbar and SKV argued that neither OCSLA nor its regulations authorize the government to indict contractors. The district court and now the Fifth Circuit agreed. In its opinion, the Fifth Circuit wrote: “It was novel for the government to indict these appellees for violating the welding regulations. . . . No prior judicial decision countenanced this action, which is at odds with a half century of agency policy, and we will not do so now.”
The decision is a major victory for Grand Isle and for the offshore contractor industry. Two industry associations had filed amicus briefs supporting Grand Isle’s position.
SKV partners Shaun Clarke and Dane Ball and associate Alex Wolf assisted with the briefing before the district court and the Fifth Circuit. Several charges remain pending against Grand Isle in the district court.
Read more about the decision here: https://www.law360.com/articles/968736/5th-circ-won-t-revive-charges-for-fatal-oil-platform-blast