Faced with the issue of whether maritime or state law should be applied to determine the validity of an indemnity clause in a Master Services Contract (MSC), the Fifth Circuit affirmed that where there is no historical treatment of the contract in question (1), it would consider six factors established in Davis (2).
In Doiron, the Apache Corporation and STS (3) entered a broad-form blanket MSC, under which STS agreed to perform flow-back services, a process designed to dislodge solid objects from inside a well, on Apache’s well located off shore of Louisiana. The MSC also contained an indemnification provision, which required STS to defend and indemnify Apache and its company groups against all claims of property injury or bodily injury. During the flow-back operation, Larry Doiron Inc. (LDI), one of the Apache Company groups, supplied a crane barge for use by STS employees. Subsequently, the crane knocked over an STS employee, causing him to suffer severe injuries. LDI then made a formal demand to STS for defense and indemnification. STS rejected the demand and argued that the Louisiana Oilfield Indemnity Act applied to the MSC instead of maritime law. Pursuant to the Act, indemnity clauses in agreements pertaining to wells for oil, gas or water are void as against public policy. But, under maritime law, the enforcement of such provisions is not barred. Therefore, if the MSC was construed under the Act, STS had no duty to defend or indemnify LDI.
Reprinted courtesy of Richard W. Brown, Saxe Doernberger & Vita, P.C. and Afua S. Akoto, Saxe Doernberger & Vita, P.C.
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