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Andrew Stakelum and Marcella Burke Andrew Stakelum and Marcella Burke, King & Spalding.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit recently held that its two-question Doiron test for determining whether oilfield services contracts are maritime contracts also applies when evaluating the maritime-contract status of contracts for any other type of services, in Barrios v. Centaur, 942 F.3d 670 (5th Cir. 2019). This decision is important for any company working in the Gulf of Mexico because it simplifies the maritime-contract classification process for their undertakings. Because Doiron is no longer read to be limited to oilfield service contracts, entities such as offshore construction and decommissioning companies, whose service contracts could not always be neatly characterized as “facilitat[ing] the drilling and production of oil and gas,” should have an easier time qualifying their contracts as maritime contracts. It should also enable contracting parties to better assess their maritime or non-maritime status when entering into a service contract because the tests are relatively clear and are not reliant on after-the-fact tort considerations. This clarity is especially important for any type of company working in the Gulf of Mexico, where the maritime or non-maritime status of a contract could determine the governing law. Notably, a non-maritime contract governing services in the Gulf could be subject to Louisiana and Texas’ construction and oilfield anti-indemnity statutes, which could make the contract’s key risk allocation provisions unenforceable.

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