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Helena Chemical Co. v. Williamson

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Monroe Division

March 23, 2015



ROBERT G. JAMES, District Judge.

This action was brought by Plaintiff Helena Chemical Co. ("Helena") against Defendant Lavelle Williamson ("Williamson") to recover amounts due for goods and services provided to Williamson under a Credit Sales and Services Agreement. Williamson filed a counterclaim asserting that Helena was negligent for selling him wet corn seed, which resulted in his decreased production, loss of higher contract price, and increased farming expenses.

Pending before the Court is Helena's Motion for Summary Judgment on Consequential Damages [Doc. No. 10]. Williamson filed a memorandum in opposition to the motion [Doc. No. 15]. Helena filed a reply memorandum [Doc. No. 20]. Finally, Williamson filed a sur-reply memorandum in opposition to the motion [Doc. No. 26].

For the following reasons, Helena's motion is DENIED.


Williamson began farming in 2010. Prior to that time, he had worked in the oilfield industry, marked timber, and as a painter. He has a tenth grade education.

Until 2010, Williamson had never purchased seeds or chemicals for farming purposes. During his first year of farming, he sought to purchase goods and services from Helena on credit. Helena presented him with a Credit Sales and Services Agreement ("the Agreement"), which he signed. [Doc. No. 1-2, Exh. A]. The terms were not discussed or explained to him.

Between 2010 and 2013, Williamson purchased seed, fertilizer, and chemicals from Helena under the Agreement. The Agreement was not superseded or cancelled at any time.

For the 2013 crop year, Helena provided certain goods and services to Williamson, including corn seed and soybeans and related products, for a total price of $79, 188.50. After Helena's delivery, Williamson had difficulty getting the corn seed out of Helena's tender. He contacted Helena's sales representative, Paul McKinley, to complain about this issue, but proceeded with planting the corn seed.

Williamson's corn seed failed to germinate, and a sufficient stand of corn was not realized for the 2013 crop year. He avers that "it was determined" that Helena's corn seed was wet when it was delivered in Helena's tender.[1] [Doc. No. 16, Williamson Aff., ¶ 4]. According to Williamson, the wet corn seed absorbed more chemicals than it would normally, resulting in a loss of "at least eighty (80) bushels of corn per acre." [Doc. No. 16, Williamson Aff., ¶ 3]. Helena contends, however, that Williamson's corn crop failure was a result of his own improper application of fertilizer.[2]

Williamson made one payment to Helena, but has not made any further payments on his account, arguing that Helena is liable to him in neglience. Helena has filed the instant motion seeking a ruling by the Court that Williamson cannot recover consequential damages based on the exclusion/limitations of remedies provision of the Agreement. Williamson opposes the motion.

The Court is now prepared to rule.


A. Standard of Review

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, summary judgment "should be rendered if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c)(2). The moving party bears the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for its motion by identifying portions of the record which highlight the absence of genuine issues of material fact. Topalian v. Ehrmann, 954 F.2d 1125, 1132 (5th Cir. 1992). A fact is "material" if proof of its existence or nonexistence would affect the outcome of the lawsuit under applicable law in the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute about a material fact is "genuine" if the evidence is such that a reasonable fact finder could render a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id.

If the moving party can meet the initial burden, the burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to establish the existence of a genuine issue of material fact for trial. Norman v. Apache Corp., 19 F.3d 1017, 1023 (5th Cir. 1994). In evaluating the evidence tendered by the parties, the Court must accept the evidence of the nonmovant as credible and draw all justifiable inferences in its favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. However, "a party cannot defeat summary judgment with conclusory allegations, unsubstantiated assertions, or only a scintilla of evidence. Thus, Summary Judgment is appropriate if a reasonable jury could not return a verdict ...

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