Welding Contractor Must Indemnify Premises Owner for Exposures to its Own Employee United States District Court, Eastern District Louisiana, October 10, 2018
LOUISIANA — Wayne Bourgeois worked as a welder from 1989 to 1994 at Chevron Chemical (Chevron) in Belle Chasse, Louisiana. His employer was J.E. Merit, a predecessor to Defendant Jacobs Field Services North America, Inc. (Jacobs). As part of their contract to provide maintenance for the Chevron plant, including welders, Jacobs agreed to indemnify Chevron against loss, damage, injury or death connected with their work under the contract. Bourgeois developed mesothelioma and sued Chevron, who tendered the defense to Jacobs who declined to defend. Chevron litigated the matter, and ultimately settled it for $550,000, keeping Jacobs apprised of developments throughout the suit. Chevron then sued Jacobs, and both parties filed summary judgment motions.
The court determined that the threshold issue in the competing summary judgment motions was whether Chevron was required to establish actual liability or potential liability to Bourgeois when it demanded indemnification from Jacobs. The court concluded that Jacobs was afforded an opportunity to defend and settle the case on their own terms, but chose not to. The court further held that the indemnity agreements were in effect when Bourgeois was allegedly exposed to asbestos while employed by Jacobs and working at Chevron, so Chevron had demonstrated that they were potentially liable to Bourgeois. Finally, the court held that Chevron was entitled to recover attorney’s fees that it incurred while defending and settling the Bourgeois suit and in bringing the instant matter. However, the court declined to determine the reasonableness of those fees or the reasonableness of Chevron’s settlement with Bourgeois.