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Kocurek v. Frank's International, LLC

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

March 15, 2017

KATHY KOCUREK, ET AL.
v.
FRANK'S INTERNATIONAL, LLC, ET AL.

          HANNA, MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          MEMORANDUM ORDER

          ELIZABETH ERNY FOOTE, UNITED STATESTFTSTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Defendant Gary Luquette's motion for judgment on the pleadings. Record Document 12. For the reasons discussed below, the motion [Record Document 12] is DENIED and Plaintiffs are granted leave to amend the complaint as requested within 21 days.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Le Chat Interiors alleges that it entered into a contract for interior design services with Defendant Frank's International, LLC (“Frank's” -- formerly Frank's Casing Crew & Rental Tools, LLC). Record Document 9, p. 3. Plaintiff Kathy Kocurek signed the agreement as the President and CEO of Le Chat Interiors. Id., pp. 2-3. Plaintiffs allege that the contract was terminated by Luquette, “acting on behalf of and in his capacity as President and CEO of Frank's International, ” before the work had been completed and without cause. Id., p. 4. Plaintiffs state that at all relevant times “Luquette was in the course and scope of his employment with Frank's, and was within the authority granted to him by Frank's.” Id.

         Plaintiffs filed this suit alleging two causes of action: breach of contract against Frank's and tortious interference with a contractual relationship against Luquette.[1] Id., pp. 4-6. Luquette moved for judgment on the pleadings on the claim against him.

         II. Discussion

         A. Standard of Review

         Rule 12(c) permits a party to move for judgment on the pleadings. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). “A motion brought pursuant to [Rule 12(c)] is designed to dispose of cases where the material facts are not in dispute and a judgment on the merits can be rendered by looking to the substance of the pleadings.” Hebert Abstract Co. v. Touchstone Properties, Ltd., 914 F.2d 74, 76 (5th Cir. 1990). Further, a party may raise a defense of failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted in a 12(c) motion. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(2)(B).

         The standard of review for a motion under Rule 12(c) is the same as the standard of review for a motion under Rule 12(b)(6). In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litig., 495 F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir. 2007). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss or a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings a Plaintiff's complaint must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. at 678. In determining whether the Plaintiff has stated a plausible claim, the Court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff, see In re Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. LLC, 624 F.3d 201, 210 (5th Cir. 2010), and accept as true all of the well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint. See Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litig., 495 F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir. 2009). However, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Thus, the Court does not have to accept as true "conclusory allegations, unwarranted factual inferences, or legal conclusions." Plotkin v. IP Axess Inc., 407 F.3d 690, 696 (5th Cir. 2005).

         B. Tortious Interference With A Contractual Relationship

         Tortious interference with a contractual relationship is a recognized tort in Louisiana. 9 to 5 Fashions, Inc. v. Spurney, 538 So.2d 228, 229 (La. 1989). An officer of a corporation owes a duty to a third party not to interfere with a contractual relationship between the corporation and the third party, unless the officer has reasonable justification for his conduct. Id. at 231. To successfully plead a cause of action for tortious interference, Plaintiffs must allege facts showing: (1) the existence of a contract between Plaintiffs and the corporation, (2) that the corporate officer knew about the contract, (3) that the officer intentionally induced or caused the corporation to breach the contract, or intentionally rendered performance impossible or more burdensome, (4) the absence of justification for the officer's actions, and (5) causation of damages to Plaintiffs because of the breach. Id. at 234. With regard to the fourth element, “[t]he officer's action is justified...if he acted within the scope of his corporate authority and in the reasonable belief that his action was for the benefit of the corporation.” Id. at 231. Therefore, in order to state a claim for tortious interference against Luquette, Plaintiffs must plead facts establishing that Luquette's actions were not justified, either because Luquette was acting outside the scope of his authority or because he was not acting in the reasonable belief that his action was for the benefit of Frank's. Plaintiffs have not met this burden.

         Plaintiffs' first amended and restated complaint admits that Luquette acted “in the course and scope of his employment with Frank's” when he terminated the contract. Record Document 9, p. 4. The complaint makes no allegation at all that Luquette acted without a reasonable belief that his action was in Frank's interests. Nor does the complaint contain any factual allegations that would support such a conclusion. In fact, the complaint admits that Luquette acted “on behalf of and in his capacity as President and CEO of Frank's” when he terminated Plaintiffs. Id., p. 4. The complaint alleges no facts suggesting how Luquette acted on behalf of Frank's while simultaneously and intentionally acting against the company's interests. Moreover, Frank's admitted in its answer that Luquette acted in the company's interest. Record Document 11, p. 8 (“any actions taken by Mr. Luquette with respect to the ‘Letter of Engagement' were performed in the course and scope of Mr. Luquette's employment with Frank's and for the benefit of the company”).

         Nevertheless, Plaintiffs argue for the first time in opposition to Luquette's motion that Luquette was not acting to benefit Frank's because the termination of the contract delayed completion of the interior design work and made the work more expensive for Frank's. Record Document 18, p. 5. Plaintiffs are essentially attempting to read a new allegation into the complaint. The Court must accept as true ...


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