GCMA files suit against ENSCONews // March 23, 2001
The GCMA's complaint asserts that ENSCO violated federal law by consistently failing to report accidents involving their employees to the US Coast Guard. The lawsuit was originally filed on 30 August 2000, but has remained under seal until today in compliance with federal law.
The suit was brought under the False Claims Act, a federal whistleblower statute and was filed in US District Court in Lafayette, Louisiana. GCMA contends that federal law requires ENSCO to report all employee accidents requiring a doctor's care.
In particular, ENSCO must file an accident report (known as a CG-2692) with the Coast Guard within five days of any such accident. GCMA alleges that for many years, ENSCO systematically failed to report such employee accidents to the Coast Guard except in cases involving fatalities.
GCMA's investigation of ENSCO's compliance with the law followed requests under the Freedom of Information Act, seeking copies of ENSCO's Form CG-2692 reports for employee accidents that were the subject of other lawsuits brought against the company.
Out of 44 accidents resulting in lawsuits in various federal and state courts, the US Coast Guard only had one CG-2692 on file for ENSCO.
The GCMA claims that its investigation shows that the US Coast Guard's marine safety database - which the Coast Guard uses to track accidents and make inspection decisions in the Gulf of Mexico - is effectively rendered useless by ENSCO's refusal to report all relevant accidents, said GCMA President Penny Adams.
GCMA's complaint also alleges that ENSCO failed to produce copies of the employee accident reports during the discovery process in prior lawsuits. A court transcript included with the GCMA's complaint shows that an ENSCO attorney denied that any accidentreports existed in conjunction with a particular plaintiff's injury.
GCMA subsequently determined that the accident report did exist, but that ENSCO had failed to provide the report to the plaintiff's counsel or to the Coast Guard.
Following that revelation, GCMA asked the Coast Guard to write to ENSCO and demand an explanation of why the Company had failed to file accident reports, said Richard Block, a GCMA board member.
Following the Coast Guard's inquiries, ENSCO's safety manager responded that ENSCO accident reporting to the Coast Guard had "fallen through the cracks" during a change in the ENSCO safety group in the preceding few months.
However, GCMA's lawsuit alleges that ENSCO's failure to report reaches back much further and covers at least a five-year period between 1993 and 1998.
GCMA's lawsuit charges that ENSCO violated the False Claims Act by providing the Coast Guard with a false explanation of the company's failure to report accidents.
The GCMA's lawsuit is in the early stages of litigation and no trial date has yet been scheduled. One of the association's first goals is to determine how many accident reports are maintained in ENSCO's records but have never been filed with the US CoastGuard.
The GCMA's lawsuit seeks the proper filing of all accident reports by ENSCO, modification of ENSCO's reporting requirements, and imposition of civil penalties.
Federal law provides that ENSCO can be fined up to $25,000 for each failure to report an accident. The False Claims Act also provides for treble damages and additional penalties of $5,000 to $10,000.