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Wolverine Industries, LLC v. Monforte Exploration, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

June 15, 2017

WOLVERINE INDUSTRIES, LLC
v.
MONFORTE EXPLORATION, LLC

         SECTION: “H” (1)

          ORDER AND REASONS

          JANE TRICHE MILAZZO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 11). For the following reasons, the Motion is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Wolverine Industries, LLC alleges that it furnished labor, services, equipment, and supplies for the drilling operation of two wells (Wells 1 and 2) located on the Outer Continental Shelf and owned by Defendant Monforte Exploration, LLC. Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant owes it $309, 792.74 for its services on Well 1 and $157, 975.58 for its services on Well 2. Plaintiff now moves for summary judgment on its suit on open account and recognition of its privilege on Well 1 and Well 2 pursuant to the Louisiana Oil Well Lien Act.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that 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.”[1] A genuine issue of fact exists only “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”[2]

         In determining whether the movant is entitled to summary judgment, the Court views facts in the light most favorable to the non-movant and draws all reasonable inferences in his favor.[3] “If the moving party meets the initial burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to produce evidence or designate specific facts showing the existence of a genuine issue for trial.”[4] Summary judgment is appropriate if the non-movant “fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case.”[5] “In response to a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the non-movant must identify specific evidence in the record and articulate the manner in which that evidence supports that party's claim, and such evidence must be sufficient to sustain a finding in favor of the non-movant on all issues as to which the non- movant would bear the burden of proof at trial.”[6] “We do not . . . in the absence of any proof, assume that the nonmoving party could or would prove the necessary facts.”[7] Additionally, “[t]he mere argued existence of a factual dispute will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion.”[8]

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         Plaintiff seeks a judgment declaring that Defendant is liable for the amounts of its invoices for materials and services and recognizing its privileges in Wells 1 and 2. This Court will address each claim in turn.

         I. Suit on Open Account

         First, Plaintiff seeks judgment on its suit on open account. An open account “includes any account for which a part or all of the balance is past due, whether or not the account reflects one or more transactions and whether or not at the time of contracting the parties expected future transactions.”[9] “In determining whether a contract falls under the open account statute, courts in Louisiana consider whether the “total cost or price [is] . . . left open or undetermined.”[10] Louisiana courts also analyze certain factors when determining whether a course of dealings constitutes an open account: “(1) whether there were other business transactions between the parties; (2) whether a line of credit was extended by one party to the other; (3) whether there are running or current dealings; and (4) whether there are expectations of other dealings.”[11] A hallmark of an open account is that “[t]he total cost, unlike a contract, is generally left open or undetermined, although the rate for specific services may be fixed, such as an hourly rate.”[12]

         Defendant argues that Plaintiff has not provided sufficient evidence to establish that an open account existed between the parties. This Court agrees. In support of its Motion for Summary Judgment on its suit for open account, Plaintiff attaches only invoices that it sent to Defendant seeking payment for the labor, services, equipment, and supplies that it furnished. “A creditor suing on open account must prove that the debtor contracted for the sales on open account.”[13] Plaintiff has not provided any evidence concerning the relationship between the two parties. With the evidence before it, this Court is unable to analyze the factors required to determine whether there is an open account. It is unclear what the agreement between the parties entailed, whether they had agreed to a fixed sum, whether they anticipated future dealings, or whether Plaintiff had extended a line of credit. The invoices provided by Plaintiff are insufficient to answer these factual questions, and Defendant disputes the existence of an open account. Accordingly, there is a material issue of fact regarding the relationship between Plaintiff and Defendant and whether Plaintiff can succeed on its claim for open account. For those reasons, Plaintiff's motion is denied.

         II. Privilege under ...


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