Emergency Evacuation Plan Does Not Create Legal Duties

Tuesday, April 02, 2002
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has ruled that an Emergency Evacuation Plan for a mobile offshore drilling unit (MODU) does not create legal duties to third parties. U.S. Coast Guard requires the operator of MODUs located on the U.S. outer continental shelf to prepare and submit an emergency evacuation plan. Two employees on a MODU alleged that they were injured while being evacuated to shore as a hurricane approached. The employees brought suit against the MODU owner, the MODU operator, and the owner of the vessel chartered to evacuate the employees. The trial court held that, because the USCG-approved emergency evacuation plan (as prepared and submitted by the MODU operator) provided that the MODU owner's person-in-charge had some duties, the MODU owner could be held liable for a portion of the employees' injuries. The appellate court reversed, holding that the purpose of the emergency evacuation plan was very limited and its barebones allocation of tasks could not form a basis for affixing legal responsibility on any party beyond that which is undertaken by contract or

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