Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

In re Louisiana Crawfish Producers

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

March 28, 2017

In Re: LOUISIANA CRAWFISH PRODUCERS

         Appeals from the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana

          Before REAVLEY, ELROD, and GRAVES, Circuit Judges.

          JENNIFER WALKER ELROD, Circuit Judge

         The Louisiana Crawfish Producers Association-West and some of its commercial crawfishermen members sued a number of oil and gas companies and their insurers, claiming the companies' dredging activities caused damage to the fisheries the fishermen used. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of two of the companies, Florida Gas Transmission Co. and Southern Natural Gas Co., finding that Plaintiffs did not create a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the two companies' activities constituted "dredging" so as to support maritime tort claims. Plaintiffs moved the district court to reconsider its grant of summary judgment and submitted new evidence for its review. The district court denied Plaintiffs' motion for reconsideration as to both companies. Plaintiffs appeal both the district court's order granting summary judgment as well as the denial of their motion for reconsideration. We AFFIRM the district court's grant of summary judgment and denial of the motion for reconsideration with respect to Florida Gas Transmission Co. With respect to Southern Natural Gas Co., we REVERSE the district court's denial of Plaintiffs' Rule 59(e) motion and VACATE its grant of summary judgment.

         I.

         Plaintiffs-Appellants are the Louisiana Crawfish Producers Association-West and over eighty individual crawfishermen who operate in the Atchafalaya Basin in Louisiana (collectively, Plaintiffs).[1] They sued several companies, two of which are relevant to this appeal-Florida Gas Transmission Co. (Florida Gas) and Southern Natural Gas Co. (Southern Natural). Plaintiffs alleged that the companies' past canal dredging activities created spoil banks that damaged the Atchafalaya Basin fisheries Plaintiffs utilized.

         After this case was removed from state court to the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, various defendant companies filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that Plaintiffs failed to state a cause of action for maritime tort. The district court held that Plaintiffs had stated a maritime tort claim against Florida Gas, Southern Natural, and Dow Chemical Co. (Dow)[2] by alleging that these defendants engaged in dredging activities.[3] The district court dismissed Plaintiffs' claims against all other defendant companies because Plaintiffs failed to allege these companies had engaged in dredging activities. Plaintiffs appealed the dismissal of these defendants, but we affirmed. In re Louisiana Crawfish Producers, 772 F.3d 1026 (5th Cir. 2014). Our decision left Florida Gas, Southern Natural, and Dow, along with their insurers, as the remaining defendants.

         Following our decision in Louisiana Crawfish, the remaining defendants and Plaintiffs conferred and prepared a case management order to establish litigation deadlines. At the time the parties created the case management order, Southern Natural's Rule 30(b)(6) deposition had not yet occurred. The parties agreed upon a proposed case management order, which stated, in pertinent part:

3. Dispositive Motions:
a. Any party having dispositive motion(s) concerning legal issues and not requiring additional fact discovery shall file their motion(s) by July 31, 2015.
b. Oppositions to dispositive motions filed on or before July 31, 2015 shall be filed by August 31, 2015.
c. Any reply briefs shall be filed by September 15, 2015.
d. Within thirty (30) days from receipt of the transcript of the Southern Natural Gas Company deposition in this matter, Plaintiffs shall file any dipositive motions or supplemental oppositions necessitated by factual information learned during the deposition.

         Southern Natural advised Plaintiffs that its earliest available deposition date was September 22, 2015. This date fell after the case management order's August 31 deadline for Plaintiffs to oppose dispositive motions. Plaintiffs nevertheless agreed to hold Southern Natural's deposition on September 22, 2015, anticipating they would be allowed to supplement their opposition to any dispositive motions with information learned at the deposition.

         On July 31, 2015, in accordance with the case management order, Florida Gas, Southern Natural, and Dow filed a joint motion seeking reconsideration of the district court's earlier denial of their motion to dismiss or, alternatively, seeking summary judgment and dismissal of Plaintiffs' claims. Plaintiffs timely submitted their opposition to the motion in accordance with the deadlines set forth in the case management order. Plaintiffs attached to their opposition evidence pertaining to Florida Gas and Dow, but they did not attach any evidence pertaining to Southern Natural.[4]

         While the motion was pending before the district court, Southern Natural's corporate representative was deposed on September 22, 2015. During the deposition, Southern Natural's corporate representative testified that Southern Natural engaged in dredging in connection with the subject spoil banks.[5] At the end of the deposition, Southern Natural's corporate representative reserved his right to read and sign the deposition transcript. At Plaintiffs' request, the court reporter provided an uncertified copy of the transcript to Plaintiffs on October 26, 2016. However, because Southern Natural's corporate representative had not yet signed the transcript, an official transcript was not yet available. After the deposition took place, Plaintiffs also forwarded requests for admissions to all defendants, ahead of the agreed-upon discovery cutoff date. In its response, Southern Natural admitted to using dredge vessels in the construction of the canal at issue.[6]

         On November 12, 2015, while Plaintiffs were still awaiting the official deposition transcript, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of Florida Gas and Southern Natural, [7] finding that Plaintiffs did not provide evidence that created a genuine issue of material fact as to whether either of these defendants had engaged in dredging activities. The certified transcript of the Southern Natural deposition was finally provided to Plaintiffs on November 17, 2015-five days after the district court's ruling.

         Plaintiffs moved the district court to reconsider its grant of summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e). In their brief in support of this motion, Plaintiffs argued that the district court's ruling as it pertained to Southern Natural was procedurally erroneous because Plaintiffs did not have an opportunity to supplement their opposition to the defendants' motion under the terms of the case management order. Plaintiffs also attached additional evidence to their brief which they argued supported their claims against both Florida Gas and Southern Natural. This new evidence included Southern Natural's deposition testimony, exhibits offered at Southern Natural's deposition, and Southern Natural's responses to requests for admissions.

         The district court denied Plaintiffs' motion for reconsideration as to both Florida Gas and Southern Natural. Plaintiffs now appeal the district court's original order granting summary judgment as ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.