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Apache Corporation v. Talen's Marine & Fuel, LLC

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

February 7, 2018

APACHE CORPORATION
v.
TALEN'S MARINE & FUEL, LLC, MARTIN ENERGY SERVICES LLC AND MARTIN MIDSTREAM PARTNERS L.P

         ON APPEAL FROM THE SEVENTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT NUMBER 129422, DIVISION E, PARISH OF LAFOURCHE STATE OF LOUISIANA HONORABLE F. HUGH LAROSE, JUDGE

          Peter B. Tompkins, Donald R. Wing New Orleans, Louisiana Counsel for Plaintiff-Appellee Apache Corporation

          Glenn Louis Langley, Julianna Petchak Parks, Parker W. Maxwell, Shreveport, Louisiana Counsel for Defendants-Appellants Talen's Marine & Fuel, LLC and Martin Energy Services, LLC

          BEFORE: WHIPPLE, C.J., McDONALD AND CHUTZ, JJ.

          CHUTZ, J.

         Defendants-appellants, Talen's Marine & Fuel, LLC (Talen) and Martin Energy Services, LLC (MES), appeal the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of plaintiff-appellee, Apache Corporation (Apache), awarding a sum of money for duplicate payments Apache paid to defendants in conjunction with a fuel services contract. We affirm.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On March 9, 2016, Apache filed a suit to recover duplicate payments it had tendered to Talen pursuant to a Master Service Contract by which Talen had provided fuel to Apache at Talen's dock in Port Fourchon, Louisiana, for vessels performing work on behalf of Apache.[1] According to the allegations of the petition, between January 22, 2010 and March 31, 2012, Talen invoiced Apache twice for amounts of fuel purchases. Each purchase, invoice number, and the dates of the invoice and Apache's tender of payment were set forth in the petition. Since the second invoice Talen sent for an individual purchase contained a letter after the original invoice number, Apache averred that its accounting software did not detect the duplication.

         When defendants did not file an answer to Apache's lawsuit, Apache sought and was granted a preliminary default on April 18, 2016. Thereafter, on April 29, 2016, defendants filed an answer, affirmative defenses, and exceptions.

         Apache filed a supplemental and amended petition on July 15, 2016, reiterating its claims insofar as defendants' liability for duplicate payments made to Talen and added additional claims against MES.[2] Apache averred that MES invoiced Apache twice for the same specified amounts of seven separate fuel purchases or services, again adding a letter after the numerical portion of the original invoice thereby avoiding detection as a duplicate by Apache's software. Apache also alleged that on ten occasions, due to an incorrect invoice number in its records, Apache mistakenly tendered a second payment to MES for fuel, bulk oil, and other services, which MES "quietly received" without bringing the duplicate payment to Apache's attention. All totaled, Apache alleged that defendants received $105, 229.24 in payments that Apache did not owe and for which defendants were bound to repay to Apache.

         On September 14, 2016, Apache propounded requests for admissions asking defendants to admit or deny their total indebtedness of $105, 229.24 as well as an invoice-by-invoice request of each sum that Apache alleged was due to it as a result of the duplicate payments. In total, 25 requests for admission were propounded. On October 17, 2016, Apache sent a letter to defendants, confirming a two-week extension of time that it had given to defendants to respond to the requests for admission. When the deadline passed, on November 3, 2016, Apache emailed defendants, noting that the October 28, 2016 deadline had passed and requesting that defendants "confirm the responses are on their way."

         Having received no reply to its November 3, 2016 email inquiry, Apache filed a motion for summary judgment on November 14, 2016, claiming entitlement to a judgment of $105, 229.24 as well as court costs and legal interest. The gist of Apache's rationale was that since defendants had failed to respond to its requests for admissions, the requests were statutorily deemed admitted. Given the admissions, Apache contended that it had established that defendants were liable to restore the overpayments to it.

         A hearing on Apache's motion for summary judgment was set for January 6, 2017, but on December 21, 2016, defendants filed an unopposed motion to continue the hearing that the trial court granted.

         On January 23, 2017, defendants filed an opposition to Apache's motion for summary judgment in which they maintained that the parties had been actively working to resolve the matter extrajudicially. Defendants also indicated that they had contemporaneously served responses to Apache's requests for ...


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