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Spisak v. Apache Corporation

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

December 12, 2017

TIMOTHY B. SPISAK
v.
APACHE CORPORATION, ET AL.

          MEMORANDUM RULING

          PATRICK J. HANNA, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Currently pending is the plaintiff's Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss defendant Stella Maris, LLC's claim for attorneys' fees and costs. (Rec. Doc. 149. The motion is opposed. (Rec. Doc. 154). Considering the evidence, the law, and the arguments of the parties, and for the reasons fully explained below, the motion is denied.

         Background

         This case arises out of an incident that allegedly occurred in May 2015 aboard a fixed platform known as Devil's Tower, which is located on the outer continental shelf off the coast of Louisiana. Williams Field Services, LLC was the owner of the platform, and Eni U.S. Operating Co. Inc. was the operator of the platform at all relevant times. Apache Corporation was the owner of the Bass Light well that was tied into Devil's Tower by pipeline. Apache hired Greene's to flush out the pipeline in preparation for its well to be plugged and abandoned. Greene's sent a crew of men, including the plaintiff, to Devil's Tower to perform the flushing operation. Under its contract with Apache, Stella Maris assigned Brian Ray to work as Apache's “company man” on that job. The plaintiff claims that he was injured during the rigging down operation when he and another member of the Greene's crew were carrying a ten-foot-long section of chicksan pipe.

         The Contentions of the Parties

         The plaintiff sued Stella Maris and others, seeking to recover for his alleged injuries. In its first amended answer to the plaintiff's complaints (Rec. Doc. 148), Stella Maris asserted its Eighteenth Defense, alleging that surveillance video evidence shows the plaintiff's claim to be fraudulent. In articulating that defense, Stella Maris alleged that the plaintiff made false representations or omissions of material fact that were relied upon by doctors and parties to the litigation, resulting in Stella Maris incurring attorneys' fees and expenses to defend against the plaintiff's claims.

         The plaintiff interpreted Stella Maris's fraud defense as a claim for attorneys' fees and costs, and in the pending motion, seeks to have that claim dismissed.

         Stella Maris opposed the motion, arguing that a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss is the incorrect procedural device for striking an affirmative defense, that the plaintiff set forth no factual or legal basis for striking the affirmative defense, and that Stella Maris did not assert a claim against the plaintiff for attorneys' fees and costs.

         Analysis

         I. The Standard for Analyzing a Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss

         A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) is appropriate when a defendant (or a defendant-in-counter-claim) attacks a pleading because it fails to state a legally cognizable claim.[1] When considering such a motion, a district court must limit itself to the contents of the pleadings, including any attachments thereto.[2] The court must accept all well-pleaded facts as true, and it must view them in the light most favorable to the claimant.[3] However, conclusory allegations and unwarranted deductions of fact are not accepted as true, [4] and courts “are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.”[5]To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the claimant must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”[6] Therefore, a claim must contain enough factual detail to raise a reasonable hope or expectation that discovery will reveal relevant evidence of each element of the claim.[7]

         II. Stella Maris did not Assert a Claim Against the Plaintiff

         A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss is the appropriate vehicle for seeking to have a claim dismissed when the court cannot grant the requested relief, but a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is not the proper vehicle for seeking to strike an affirmative defense. A Rule 12(b)(6) motion requires, as a threshold matter, that the non-moving party asserted a claim against the moving party. That, however, is not the case here. In its Eighteenth Defense, Stella Maris asserted an affirmative fraud defense but did not assert a claim against the plaintiff. Although Stella Maris mentioned that it had incurred attorneys' fees and expenses in defending against the claim asserted by the plaintiff against it, Stella Maris did not articulate a counter-claim against the plaintiff. Accordingly, the plaintiff's Rule 12(b)(6) motion lacks merit and must be denied.

         III. The Standard for Analyzing a Rule 12(f) ...


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