Legal Matters

Former rig worker loses ‘anxiety’ appeal

by Walter Pierce

Hayward Allen III sued PHI claiming a minor mishap involving a PHI helicopter on an offshore rig made him too anxious to work. An appeals court says, “meh.”

The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal has ruled against a former offshore worker who sued PHI Inc. claiming a Christmas Eve 2009 mishap aboard an offshore rig caused him so much anxiety about flying in helicopters that he’s no longer able to work.

According to the ruling from the appellate court:

On Dec. 24, 2009, one of PHI’s helicopters landed on the helipad of the offshore rig where [Hayward] Allen was working. After landing, the helicopter rolled over. The five passengers and two crew members quickly exited the helicopter and none were [sic] injured.

Allen was scheduled to return home and was waiting on the platform to board the helicopter. He claims he can no longer work because he is afraid of helicopters since the accident. He claims to have suffered emotional distress including chest pains, sleep problems, anxiety, and elevated blood pressure.

Allen filed suit against Shell Exploration and Production Company, the rig operator, and PHI. Lafayette District Court Judge Rick Michot granted Shell summary judgment, freeing it of liability in the case, but declined to do so for PHI.

At trial, however, Michot did, according to the 3rd Circuit’s opinion, follow state law in not allowing a report on the incident by the National Transportation Safety Board to be admitted into evidence. Michot also barred the testimony of a witness — a PHI employee — Allen wanted to call at the 11th hour.

Allen called several witnesses at trial including a board-certified psychiatrist who testified he believed Allen suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. But the appeals court sided with Michot in finding that Allen failed to prove PHI’s negligence, writing in its opinion released Dec. 9, “His own testimony indicates that he did not see the helicopter turn over, any debris or parts flying, and he was never hit by anything.”