United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana
REBECCA F. DOHERTY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before this Court are the following motions: (1) Cross
Motions for Summary Judgment on Plaintiff s Detrimental
Reliance Claim, filed by plaintiff Manuel Ramos and defendant
Swiftships Shipbuilders, LLC, respectively [Docs. 71 &
73]; and Motion for Award of Damages [Doc. 72] filed by the
plaintiff. The plaintiff has also filed two Motions for Leave
to File Reply Briefs [Docs. 77 & 80], both of which are
herein GRANTED, For the following reasons, the plaintiffs
Motion for Summary Judgment on the Detrimental Reliance Claim
[Doc. 71] is GRANTED; Swiftships' Motion Summary Judgment
on the Detrimental Reliance Claim [Doc. 73] is DENIED; and
the plaintiffs Motion for Award of Damages [Doc. 72] is
GRANTED, all as more particularly discussed hereinbelow.
Factual and Procedural History
facts of this case have been exhaustively set forth in
previous rulings by the Court. The following facts are
undisputed as best this Court can determine from the filings
of the parties:
Swiftships Shipbuilders, LLC is the shipbuilding arm and
subsidiary of Swift Group, LLC, a Louisiana-based company
with annual revenue of approximately $50, 000, 000.00.
Calvin Leleux is Swiftships' chairman. Beginning in the
late 1970s, Swiftships began to do substantial business in
Venezuela and was represented there by members of the von
Fedak family. In 2000, Swiftships' representative and
senior member of the von Fedak family died. Thereafter, that
representative's son, Jorge von Fedak, began to represent
Swiftships in Latin America.
2004, Mr, von Fedak, pursuant to a power of attorney from
Swiftships, retained plaintiff Manuel Ramos, a Venezuelan
attorney, to represent Swiftships in a lawsuit Swiftships
filed against a company named DIANCA.
Pursuant to Venezuelan law, Mr. Ramos's legal fees were
to be fixed by statute. According to the parties, in
contractual disputes such as the lawsuit Swiftships filed
against DIANCA, attorneys' fees are set based on the size
of the claim. Consequently, the attorney for a party in a
contractual dispute need not negotiate the fee with the
client, because the fee is determined by statute.
Ramos represented Swiftships in the DIANCA matter for more
than five years, making at least 16 court appearances; filing
20 to 30 voluminous pleadings, in three different tribunals;
negotiating with a wide variety of individuals; and
vigorously representing his client. Several months after
concluding his representation of Swiftships, and after
repeated requests for payment, Mr. Ramos filed a claim
against Swiftships in Venezuela for his attorney's fees.
After negotiations, a settlement agreement was signed by Mr,
Leleux on January 9, 2013 and by Mr. Ramos on January 11,
August 21, 2015, after briefing by the parties, this Court
ruled that Ramos proved the essential elements of a breach of
contract claim and was entitled to summary judgment on this
claim. However, because of peculiarities in the original
briefing on plaintiffs motion for summary judgment, this
Court did not award damages at that time, The plaintiff now
also seeks judgment as a matter of law in his favor on the
detrimental reliance claim, and defendant has filed a cross
motion for summary judgment on the same claim. Considering
the foregoing, the Court now considers the detrimental
reliance claim and the claim for an award of damages.
Law and Analysis
Summary Judgment Standard "
against whom a claim, counterclaim, or cross-claim is
asserted or declaratory judgment is sought may, at any time,
move with or without supporting affidavits for summary
judgment in the parties favor as to all or any part
thereof." Fed, R. Civ. Pro. 56(b). Summary judgement is
appropriate if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, show there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a
judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 56(c).
When a motion for summary judgment is made and supported as
provided in this rule, an adverse party may not rest upon the
mere allegations or denials of the adverse party's
pleading, but the adverse party's response by affidavits
or is otherwise provided in this rule, must set forth
specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for
trial. If the adverse party does not so respond, summary
judgment, if appropriate, shall be entered against the
Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 56(e)
summarized by the Fifth Circuit inLindsey v. Sears
Roebuck and Co., 16 F.3d 616, 618 (5th Cir.
seeking summary judgment, the movant bears the initial
responsibility of demonstrating the absence of an issue of
material fact with respect to those issues on which the
movant bears the burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp,
v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986), However, where the
non-movant bears the burden of proof at trial, the movant may
merely point to an absence of evidence, thus shifting to the
non-movant the burden of demonstrating by competent summary
judgment proof that there is an issue of material fact
warranting trial. Id. at 322; see also, Moody v.
Jefferson Parish School Board, 2 F.3d 604, 606 (5th Cir,
1993); Duplantis v. Shell Offshore, Inc., 948 F, 2d
187, 190 (5th Cir, 1991), Only when "there is sufficient
evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a
verdict for that party" is a full trial on the merits
warranted. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 249 (1986).
Supreme Court has instructed:
The plain language of Rule 56(c) mandates the entry
of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and
upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing
sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential
to that party's case, and on which that party will bear
the burden of proof at trial. Where no such showing is made,
"[t]he moving party is 'entitled to a judgment as a
matter of law' because the nonmoving party has failed to
make a sufficient showing on an essential element of her case
with respect to which she has the burden of proof"
... In ruling upon a Rule 56 motion, "a District Court
must resolve any factual issues of controversy in favor of
the non-moving party" only in the sense that, where the
facts specifically averred by that party contradict facts
specifically averred by the movant, the motion must be
denied. That is a world apart from "assuming" that
general averments embrace the "specific facts"
needed to sustain the complaint. As set forth above, Rule
56(e) provides that judgment "shall be entered"
against the nonmoving party unless affidavits or other
evidence "set forth specific facts showing that there is
a genuine issue for trial." The object of this provision
is not to replace conclusory allegations of the complaint or
answer with conclusory allegations of an affidavit.
Rather, the purpose of Rule 56 is to enable a party who
believes (here is no genuine dispute as to a specific fact
essential to the other side's case to demand at least one
sworn averment of that fact before the lengthy process of
Lujan v. National Wildlife Federation, 497 U.S. 871,
884, 888-89 (1990)(quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986)(emphasis added)).
Fifth Circuit has further elaborated:
[The parties'] burden is not satisfied with 'some
metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, ' by
'conclusory allegations, ' by 'unsubstantiated
assertions, ' or by only a 'scintilla' of
evidence. We resolve factual controversies in favor of the
nonmoving party, but only when there is an actual
controversy, that is, when both parties have submitted
evidence of contradictory facts. We do not, however, in the
absence of any proof, assume that the nonmoving party could
or would prove the necessary facts. ...[S]ummary judgment is
appropriate in any case where critical evidence is
so weak or tenuous on an essential fact that it could not
support a judgment in favor of the nonmovant.
Little v. Liquid Air Corp.,
37 F.3d 1069, 1075
(5, h Cir. 1994) (en
6a/7C')(citations and internal ...