United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
AFC, INC. ET AL.
MATHES BRIERRE ARCHITECTS
ORDER AND REASONS
M. AFRICK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Mathes Brierre was the architect for the Boomtown Casino in
Harvey; plaintiff AFC was a subcontractor. (Plaintiffs Ernest
and Vonnie Ladner are the principals of AFC.) Alleged
construction defects resulted in an arbitration proceeding
between the contractor of the Boomtown project and the
plaintiffs here. The arbitration ended after the plaintiffs
paid the Boomtown contractor to settle the arbitration.
alleging that the construction defects were solely due to the
fault of Mathes Brierre, then filed the present lawsuit
seeking indemnity from Mathes Brierre. Mathes Brierre now
moves for summary judgment as to plaintiffs'
various damages theories, arguing that they seek damages that
are not recoverable under Louisiana law. For the following
reasons, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.
judgment is proper when, after reviewing the pleadings, the
discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any
affidavits, the court determines that there is no genuine
dispute of material fact. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56.
“[A] party seeking summary judgment always bears the
initial responsibility of informing the district court of the
basis for its motion and identifying those portions of [the
record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The party seeking
summary judgment need not produce evidence negating the
existence of material fact, but need only point out the
absence of evidence supporting the other party's case.
Id.; Fontenot v. Upjohn Co., 780 F.2d 1190,
1195 (5th Cir. 1986).
the party seeking summary judgment carries its burden
pursuant to Rule 56, the nonmoving party must come forward
with specific facts showing that there is a genuine dispute
of material fact for trial. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co.
v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). The
showing of a genuine issue is not satisfied by creating
“‘some metaphysical doubt as to the material
facts, ' by ‘conclusory allegations, ' by
‘unsubstantiated assertions, ' or by only a
‘scintilla' of evidence.” Little v.
Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994)
(citations omitted). Instead, a genuine issue of material
fact exists when the “evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The party responding to the motion for
summary judgment may not rest upon the pleadings, but must
identify specific facts that establish a genuine issue.
Id. The nonmoving party's evidence, however,
“is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are
to be drawn in [the nonmoving party's] favor.”
Id. at 255; see also Hunt v. Cromartie, 526
U.S. 541, 552 (1999).
in Louisiana is an action “founded upon the general
obligation to repair the damage caused by one's
fault” and “the moral maxim that no one ought to
enrich himself at the expense of another.” Nassif
v. Sunrise Homes, Inc., 739 So.2d 183, 186 (La. 1999).
Thus, for example, where a party is “exposed to
liability and compelled to pay damages and statutory attorney
fees on account of the negligent act of [another], an implied
contract of indemnity [arises] . . . to prevent an unjust
enrichment.” Id. at 187. That implied contract
of indemnity “shifts the entire loss to the party who
is actually at fault.” Id.
Court previously determined that there was a genuine dispute
of material fact as to whether defendant Mathes Brierre was
entirely at fault for the construction defects. See
R. Doc. No. 30. The parties now dispute the extent to which
plaintiffs may recover certain damages from Mathes Brierre
provided that plaintiffs can establish that Mathes Brierre
was entirely at fault for the loss.
settlement agreement with the contractor included a provision
that plaintiffs would forfeit their final payment from the
contractor. The parties dispute whether plaintiffs may
recover for the final payment that plaintiffs never actually
received due to the settlement. Plaintiffs suggest they can
because the forfeited payment constitutes a de facto loss;
defendants suggest that plaintiffs' entire loss cannot
encompass what plaintiffs never actually had (i.e.,
since plaintiffs never physically received the final payment,
plaintiffs cannot lose that amount).
side points to case law directly controlling this issue. In
the absence of controlling case law, however, this Court
rejects Mathes Brierre's approach, which improperly
exalts formalism over functionalism. Legal indemnity is
ultimately an equitable doctrine that entitles plaintiffs to
compensation for an entire damages award occasioned by
another party's fault. See Nassif, 739 So.2d at
186-87. Given those equitable roots, the Court sees little
reason to adopt a rule that required the plaintiffs to go
through the silly process of receiving the last payment from
the contractor only to then immediately return it to the
contractor as part of a settlement. ...