A longshoreman died after stepping through a hole on an oil platform. The district court granted summary judgment, finding no fact issue about the “open and obvious” nature of the hole – a necessary element for recovery under the LHWCA. The Fifth Circuit reversed, finding conflicting testimony on the issue, and commenting on pictures of the scene (right): “True, the pictures taken directly over the hole, as one might expect, depict a visible opening. But the pictures taken from an angle–similar to the point of view of a person approaching the hole–depict the way in which the platform’s grating, in [a witness’s] words, can ‘play tricks on your eyes’ and make the opening difficult to see.” The Court reminded that even though the case would be tried to the bench: “Judicial efficiency is a noble goal, to be sure. But when an evidentiary record contains a material factual dispute (as this one does), we simply cannot bypass the role of the fact-finder, whoever that may be.” Manson Gulf LLC v. Modern American Recycling Service, Inc., No. 17-30007 (Dec. 18, 2017).
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