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Goldsmith & Ogrodowski's Admiralty Update: 7/17/08
After injuring his shoulder in January 2003, David Catrette informed Transocean in March 2003, that he had injured his shoulder.
He continued to work for Transocean through December 2003.
Upon his voluntary retirement in 2004, he informed Transocean that he continued to experience pain in his shoulder.
A claims agent working on behalf of Transocean advised Catrette that an MRI revealed that there was no tear in his shoulder.
The claims agent failed to mention that both a radiologist and orthopedist had detected evidence of arthritis in that shoulder.
In addition, the Transocean attorney who reviewed the release with Catrette (who had no legal representation of his own) merely read the contract aloud, stopping occasionally to ask if Catrette understood what was being read to him.
In Transocean Offshore USA Inc. v. Catrette, 2007 U.S. App. LEXIS 27870 (5th Cir.) and Steverson v. Globalsantafe Corp., 508 F.3d 300 (5th Cir.), the
In Transocean, David Catrette suffered a work-related injury to his right shoulder while employed by Transocean as a Jones Act seaman.Transocean documented this injury in a series of reports and, upon Catrette's request, sent him for medical treatment.In the course of this treatment, the examining doctor conducted an MRI and recommended a course of physical therapy but conveyed the test results and therapy recommendation only to Transocean's agent.The next year, Catrette, without the benefit of this MRI or physical therapy information, signed a release of all his rights against Transocean in exchange for $4,000.00.Catrette subsequently underwent another MRI which revealed a possible tendon tear in his shoulder.In light of this discovery, Catrette filed suit against Transocean in Louisiana state court, which was subsequently dismissed.Transocean then filed an action in the Eastern District of Louisiana seeking to enforce the release and filed for partial summary judgment.In response, Catrette counterclaimed alleging that the release was invalid because he did not have a full understanding of his injury or his rights.The district court found the release invalid because Catrette "was not fully informed of the condition of or future prognosis as to his shoulder" and "was not fully advised of his legal rights at the time he executed the release."
, the Fifth Circuit agreed with the decision of the district court, looking specifically to the lower court's analysis of the medical and legal information provided to Catrette
.As a basis for the finding that Catrette was not fully aware of his medical situation, the district court cited the facts that (1) Transocean's agent informed Catrette that there was no tear in his shoulder; (2) Catrette was not shown the MRI Report; and (3) Catrette was not informed that he could ask a doctor of his choosing to review the findings.Similarly, in determining that Catrette was not fully advised of his legal rights, the district court noted that Catrette had no legal representation at the time he executed the release, and the attorney hired by Transocean to go over the release with Catrette "simply read the contract . . . stopping on several occasions to ask if [Catrette] understood what was being read to him."