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Huntsman, LLC v. Blessey Marine Services, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

July 1, 2015

HUNTSMAN, LLC, ET AL.,
v.
BLESSEY MARINE SERVICES, INC., ET AL., SECTION: J (5)

ORDER AND REASONS

CARL J. BARBIER, District Judge.

Before the Court is a 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss (Rec. Doc. 44) filed by Defendant, K-Solv Marine Services ("K-Solv") and an Opposition thereto (Rec. Doc. 45) by Plaintiff, Huntsman, LLC ("Huntsman"). Having considered the motion, the parties' submissions, the record, and the applicable law, the Court finds, for the reasons expressed below, that the motion should be GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.

PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

This matter arises out of a contractual dispute between Huntsman and Blessey Marine Services, Inc. ("Blessey"). In June 2013 Huntsman contracted with Blessey pursuant to a Term Time Charter Master Service Agreement ("the Charter Agreement") to charter tank barge WEB 190H ("the barge") to carry a shipment of 503.105 metric tons of Alkylate A225 PG cargo ("the cargo") from Chocolate Bayou, Texas to the Port of Houston, where it would be lightered to an ocean going vessel. As part of the Charter Agreement, Blessey agreed that it would have the barge professionally cleaned prior to delivery of the barge to Huntsman, and Blessey subsequently contracted with K-Solv to perform the cleaning services. Huntsman alleges that K-Solv was aware that the barge was to be cleaned for Huntsman's charter, because the purchase order and invoice issued from Blessey to Huntsman disclosed that the work was to be performed for Huntsman and provided the specific trip number. (Rec. Doc. 45, p. 2). K-Solv performed the cleaning services and returned the vessel to Blessey.

On June 10, 2013, Blessey delivered the barge to Huntsman at Chocolate Bayou, at which point the cargo was loaded onto the vessel. Blessey then towed the barge to the Port of Houston, where the cargo was to be lightered to the M/T MIDSTREAM MIA. Prior to unloading the cargo, the cargo was examined and believed to be contaminated. One of the parties took samples of the cargo, which were then analyzed by a lab. This analysis revealed that the cargo was contaminated with "white flakes, water, rust, and other contaminants." (Rec. Doc. 45, p. 3). Huntsman alleges that this contamination required immediate filtering, cleaning, and reconditioning of the cargo using a second barge, which ultimately resulted in a loss of approximately 18.221 metric tons of cargo.

Huntsman filed the present lawsuit against Blessey in this Court on June 13, 2014, alleging that Blessey breached the Charter Agreement and acted negligently and without due care. (Rec. Doc. 1, p. 3). Huntsman subsequently filed an amended complaint on February 6, 2015, adding K-Solv, amongst other parties, as a defendant in the matter. (Rec. Doc. 26). In its amended complaint, Huntsman asserts claims against K-Solv for:

(1) breach of contract and/or charter party, (2) unseaworthiness, (3) want of workmanlike performance, (4) negligence, and/or (5) want of due care. (Rec. Doc. 26, p. 4).

K-Solv has filed the instant motion seeking dismissal of all Huntsman's claims against it pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), on the basis that Huntsman's amended complaint fails to state a valid claim.

LEGAL STANDARD

Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The complaint must "give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Dura Pharm., Inc. v. Broudo, 544 U.S. 336, 346 (2005). The allegations "must be simple, concise, and direct." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(d)(1).

"Under Rule 12(b)(6), a claim may be dismissed when a plaintiff fails to allege any set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Taylor v. Books A Million, Inc., 296 F.3d 376, 378 (5th Cir. 2002) (citing McConathy v. Dr. Pepper/Seven Up Corp., 131 F.3d 558, 561 (5th Cir. 1998)). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must plead enough facts to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 547 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible when the plaintiff pleads facts that allow the court to "draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. A court must accept all well-pleaded facts as true and must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Lormand v. U.S. Unwired, Inc., 565 F.3d 228, 232-33 (5th Cir. 2009); Baker v. Putnal, 75 F.3d 190, 196 (5th Cir. 1996). The court is not, however, bound to accept as true legal conclusions couched as factual allegations. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

DISCUSSION

As an initial matter, it is necessary to determine the scope of evidence which the Court may consider in resolving this motion. In support of its motion, K-Solv has attached the Charter Agreement as an exhibit. Huntsman contests the use of the Charter Agreement as an exhibit, arguing that it is "inappropriate and objectionable as it is contrary to the four corners rule which provides that the Court need not look beyond the four corners of the Complaint to determine whether a cause of action has been properly asserted." (Rec. Doc. 45, p. 2). Despite Huntsman's contentions, "out of an abundance of caution, " Huntsman attaches several pieces of evidence as exhibits to its Opposition, including invoices, the purchase order delivered to K-Solv, and emails between the parties.

Huntsman is correct in its assertion that courts generally are confined to considering material within the "four corners" of a plaintiff's complaint when determining 12(b)(6) motions. In fact, "generally, in deciding a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, if matters outside the pleading are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion shall be treated as one for summary judgment." In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litig., 495 F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir. 2007) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b) (internal quotations omitted)). However, the Fifth Circuit has clearly recognized that "documents that a defendant attaches to a motion to dismiss are considered part of the pleadings if they are referred to in the plaintiff's complaint and ...


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