«LEGAL ASPECTS OF OFFSHORE OIL AND GAS OPERATIONS OLIVER L. STONE* The states' own title to the lands, minerals and other things underlying the ...»
The deceased was an employee of the Humble Oil and Refining Company, working on a drilling barge located in the outer shelf. He was aboard a helicopter that crashed into the Gulf (in the outer shelf) shortly after its takeoff from the landing platform on the drilling barge. His widow joined Humble's insurance carrier under the Louisiana Direct Action Statute 5 permitting direct suit against insurers, claiming that the law was available here because the Outer Shelf Act made Louisiana law applicable. The precise question did not have to be decided because the court held that the Act did not apply to occurrences in the waters overlying the shelf, but only to its subsoil and seabed and the artificial islands and fixed structures erected thereon. There is, however, some dicta in the case to the effect that the Louisiana Direct Action Statute is limited to accidents occurring within the State of Louisiana, and hence would not apply
to occurrences on structures located in the outer shelf. ' Notwithstanding such dicta, the court leaves the question open by saying:
If the helicopter in which the appellant's husband was killed had cracked up on the drilling barge before completing its take-off, it could be urged that the accident occurred within the area over which the United States had declared its jurisdiction. Such a case is not before us and is not decided by us. In the case before us the plane bad left the barge and was over the high seas, and hence there is no adoption by the federal act of the Louisiana law applicable to the situation here present.
82. Id. State taxation laws are expressly made inapplicable.
83. Pure Oil Co. v. Snipes, see text. Petition for certiorari does not appear to have been filed.
84. 290 F.2d 622 (5th Cir. 1961).
85. 15A L.S.A.-R.S. 22:655 (1958).
86. The Court said: "The Louisiana statute contains venue requirements that an action be brought in the parish where the accident... occurred.... Thus is shown, we think, an intent on the part of the Louisiana Legislature that the accident or injury upon which a direct action may be maintained be one occurring within a parish of the State." 290 F.2d 622, 625 (5th Cir. 1961).
OFFSHORE OIL AND GAS OPERATIONSJULY 1969] In Touchet v. Travelers Indemnity Company,8 the court, by way
of dictum, said:
Having thus disposed of plaintiff's action, discussion of his suit against Travelers under the Louisiana Direct Action Statute...
is unnecessary. We are constrained to say, however, that this statute cannot be given extra-territorial effect. See Guess v. Read, 290 F. 2d 622 (5 Cir. 1961).'9 The foregoing dictum, as well as that in the Guess case, I believe, is an incorrect interpretation of Section 4(a) (2)9" of the Outer Shelf Act. Otherwise, it renders meaningless the "adoption of State law" provision. In Guess, the court appears to look to the intent of the legislature of the adjacent state to determine if such state's laws were adopted by Congress. This is focusing on the wrong end.
State legislatures, with but rare exception, deal with and intend their laws to apply only to occurrences within the state. In some instances they so provide; in others, that result is clearly implicit.
It would be a strange state law, of extremely doubtful validity, that provided that it was intended to reach out and apply to occurrences in other states, or to other areas over which the federal government had exclusive jurisdiction." But it is an entirely different matter when one sovereign expressly adopts as its own, and to be administered by its courts, the body of law existing on a specific date in another sovereign. That is what Congress did in the Outer Shelf Act.
What an individual coastal state may have intended as to the territorial extent of its laws or the place of occurrence of the event giving rise to invocation of the law, is irrelevant as to the question of whether Congress adopted that law as federal law. The only relevant intent is that of Congress. And that intent, in the present context, is clearly evident from the words used.
Suppose that, instead of adopting adjacent state law as a body, Congress had listed all the laws which were in effect on August 7, 1953, in all the coastal states, and then provided that those laws
88. 221 F. Supp. 376 (1963).
89. Id. at 379.
90. 43 U.S.C.A. §1333(a) (2) (1958).
91. We, of course, are not here concerned with the doctrine of extraterritoriality as between nations where, usually based upon treaty, a nation's laws are extended to its nationals while within the territory of another nation.
NATURAL RESOURCES JOURNAL [VOL. 8were adopted except as inconsistent with federal law. Suppose further (in reference to the Guess case) that the list had included the Louisiana Direct Action Statute. Certainly, in that event, it could not be plausibly urged that the statute could not be invoked in a case arising out of an occurrence on a fixed platform in the outer shelf. Yet, in reality, that is what Congress had done by electing to adopt the laws as a body and not individually. The only difference is in approach to the desired end, not in the end accomplished.92
92. There is an interesting line of cases dealing with whether a workman on offshore structures (both the fixed platform and the mobile, submersible types) is a "seaman" or "member of a crew" of a vessel. The leading case appears to be Gianfala v.
Texas Company, 350 U.S. 879 (1955), in which the Court held the question is one of fact for the jury. Other cases of interest are Offshore Co. v. Robison, 266 F.2d 769 (5 Cir. 1959) ; Noble Drilling Corp. v. Saunier, 335 F.2d 62 (1964) ; Texas v. Savoie, 240 F.2d 674- (5 Cir. 1957) ; and Sirmons v. Baxter Drilling, Inc., 239 F. Supp. 348 (D.C.W.D. La. 1965). Excellent articles on this and related topics on the outer shelf appear in Slovenko, Oil and Gas Operations: Legal Considerations in the Tidelands and on Land.