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Sightlines, Inc. v. Louisiana Leadership Institute

United States District Court, Middle District of Louisiana

November 10, 2014

SIGHTLINES, INC.
v.
LOUISIANA LEADERSHIP INSTITUTE

RULING ON PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT

SHELLY D. DICK UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

This matter is before the Court on a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment[1] filed by Plaintiff, Sightlines, Inc. Defendant, Louisiana Leadership Institute (LLI), has filed an Opposition to the motion, to which Sightlines has filed a Reply.[2] For the following reasons, Sightlines’ Motion for Partial Summary Judgment is GRANTED.

I. STATEMENT OF MATERIAL FACTS

As an initial matter, the Court finds those facts submitted in Sightline’s Statement of Uncontested Material Facts[3] are deemed to be admitted for the purposes of this motion due to LLI’s failure to controvert them as required by Local Rule 56.2. Local Rule 56.2 requires the non-moving party to submit disputed facts as to which there is a genuine issue to be tried. As this Court recently explained, “wherever [the non-moving party] fails to direct the Court to specific evidence in the record to controvert the supporting evidence set forth by the [movant] ... the fact is deemed admitted for purposes of LR 56.2.”[4] Not only does LLI fail to dispute the five statements of material facts presented by Sightlines, LLI offers no support for the facts it does contend are material to this motion. Accordingly, the Court finds LLI has failed to carry its burden of establishing a genuine issue of material fact by controverting Sightline’s facts and supporting evidence. Therefore, the facts in Sightline’s Statement of Uncontested Material Facts[5] are deemed admitted.

II. BRIEF OVERVEIW OF FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Sightlines, a Kentucky Corporation, entered into a construction contract with LLI, a Louisiana non-profit corporation, to construct, deliver, and install two Luxury Suites in the Doug Williams Stadium located on LLI’s campus in Baton Rouge for a total contract price of $265, 000.[6] Pursuant the plain language of the contract, LLI was to pay Sightlines in three increments as follows: “1/3 with order, 1/3 when all materials are at site, 1/3 net 10 days after completion.”[7] It is uncontested that LLI timely paid the first one-third payment, or $88, 333.33. According to Sightlines, however, it submitted a bill to LLI for the balance owed on the contract for the second and third payments in September of 2012. At that time, LLI asked Sightlines to address two remedial repairs, water leakage and egress, related to the suite areas for a retainage of $10, 000; this additional fee would not be due, however, until the additional issues were addressed to LLI’s satisfaction. In November of 2012, Sightlines informed LLI’s founder and representative, Cleo Fields, that the remedial repairs had been completed.[8] Sightlines contends that, since December 21, 2012, it has been attempting to collect payment of the balanced owed on the Parties’ contract to no avail. Therefore, after placing a lien on LLI’s property, Sightlines filed the instant lawsuit asserting a breach of contract claim against LLI seeking to recover the past due amount owed.[9] Specifically, LLI seeks to recover its second and third payments under the Parties’ contract.

LLI has answered Sightlines allegations, along with asserting its own counterclaim.[10] LLI contends that the luxury suites were improperly installed and seeks $265, 000 for their removal and replacement.[11]

Relying on Louisiana’s substantial completion doctrine, Sightlines claims that there is no genuine issue of material fact that Sightlines substantially completed its performance of the Parties’ contract and is entitled to payment of the contract price, minus any proven deductions. LLI argues that the second and third payments were contingent on the delivery of materials and completion of a project that was free from defects and properly installed. Hence, LLI contends that summary judgment is inappropriate because the evidence shows that the suites were not substantially completed or able to be used for their intended purposes.

III. LAW AND ANALYSIS

A. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”[12] “When assessing whether a dispute to any material fact exists, we consider all of the evidence in the record but refrain from making credibility determinations or weighing the evidence.”[13] When a party seeking summary judgment bears the burden of proof at trial, it must come forward with evidence which would entitle it to a directed verdict if such evidence were uncontroverted at trial.”[14]

Once the movant produces such evidence, then the burden shifts to the respondent who “must direct the attention of the court to evidence in the record and set forth specific facts sufficient to establish that there is a genuine issue of material fact requiring a trial.”[15] However, the respondent “may not rest on mere allegations made in the pleadings as a means of establishing a genuine issue worthy of trial. If no issue of fact is presented and the mover is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, the court is required to render the judgment prayed for.”[16] Furthermore, before the court can find that there are no genuine issues of material fact, it must be satisfied that no reasonable trier of fact could have found for the nonmoving party.[17]

B. Substantial Performance Doctrine

Louisiana’s substantial performance doctrine “holds that, notwithstanding defects, a contractor has the right to recover the balance due on his contract if he has substantially performed his obligations.”[18] While a contractor who has substantially performed a building contract is entitled to recover the contract price, “the owner is relegated to having the price reduced by the amount necessary to perfect or complete the work properly.”[19] Whether there has been substantial performance to permit recovery of the contract is a question of fact.[20] The Louisiana Supreme Court set forth the following factors to be considered in determining whether there has been substantial performance: “the extent of the defect or non-performance, the degree to which the purpose of the contract is defeated, the ease of correction, and the use or benefit to the defendant of the work performed.”[21] The Fifth Circuit recently explained that “[s]ubstantial performance occurs when a building or other construction may be used for the purpose intended despite defects or omissions in the construction.”[22] It is the contractor who ultimately bears the burden of proving substantial performance. Once substantial performance is established, “the burden of proof then shifts to ...


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