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Robinson v. Mantle Oil & Gas, LLC

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

March 29, 2018

KIMBERLY L. ROBINSON, SECRETARY OF DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE, STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
MANTLE OIL & GAS, LLC

          On Appeal from the Nineteenth Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of East Baton Rouge State of Louisiana Docket No. 646-215 Honorable William Morvant, Judge Presiding

          Eulis Simien, Jr. Jimmy Simien Ashley E. Philen Baton Rouge, Louisiana Counsel for Plaintiff/Appellant Kimberly L. Robinson, Secretary of Revenue, State of Louisiana

          M. Taylor Darden Seth E. Bagwell New Orleans, Louisiana Counsel for Defendant/Appellee Mantle Oil & Gas, LLC

          BEFORE: McCLENDON, WELCH, AND THE RIOT, JJ.

          McCLENDON, J.

         In this appeal, the defendant challenges the trial court's judgment that granted summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff, ordered a refund of oil severance taxes paid under protest, and dismissed the matter with prejudice. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Mantle Oil & Gas, LLC (Mantle), an oil and gas limited liability company domiciled in Texas, is the owner and operator of the Dugas & LeBlanc Well located on the Dugas & LeBlanc Co., Ltd. lease (the Dugas & LeBlanc Lease) in the Napoleonville Field in Assumption Parish. Until April 2015, Mantle also owned and operated the Roberts Well on the Adele Roberts lease (the Roberts Lease) in the LeBlanc Field in Allen Parish.

         As to the Dugas & LeBlanc Well, Mantle sells the oil produced from that well to Central Crude, Inc. (Central) pursuant to a written oil purchase contract. Central's trucks pick up the oil stored in Mantle's tanks on the Dugas & LeBlanc Lease and transport the oil off the property. Pursuant to the purchase contract, Central deducts $1.80 per barrel from the price paid for Mantle's oil. Mantle then pays the Louisiana Department of Revenue (Department) 12.5% of the price it receives from Central for the sale of the oil as severance taxes.[1]

         Regarding the Roberts Well, Mantle sold the oil produced from that well to Plains Marketing, LP (Plains) pursuant to a verbal agreement based on "Plains South Louisiana Swett Posted Price, " plus a $.96 premium beginning January 1, 2009. On April 1, 2013, Plains increased the premium to $15.50. In April of 2015, Mantle sold its interest in the Roberts Well on the Roberts lease and terminated its purchase agreement with Plains.

         In May of 2015, the Department began an audit review of Mantle's severance tax payments from January 1, 2012, through December 31, 2014, on oil produced from the Dugas & LeBlanc Well and the Roberts Well. The Department's preliminary findings were questioned by Mantle, and Mantle responded with information and documentation maintaining that it had properly paid all severance taxes due for the audit period. The Department revised its findings, but determined that Mantle still owed taxes, and sent a Notice of Assessment to Mantle in the amount of $73, 461.31 for unpaid oil severance taxes, interest, and penalties. The additional taxes that were alleged to be owed were based on the Department's inclusion of the $1.80 per barrel amount in gross receipts for the Dugas & LeBlanc Well and on the Department's "posted field price" for the Roberts Well. On February 5, 2016, in accordance with statutory requirements, Mantle sent a letter to the Department, enclosing its check in the amount of $73, 461.31 as payment under protest and providing notice of its intent to file suit because it did not agree that any taxes, interest, or penalties were owed.

         On February 29, 2016, Mantle filed its petition against the Department to recover the protested tax payment. Thereafter, the Department filed its answer, and on December 2, 2016, Mantle filed a motion for summary judgment. Following a hearing, the trial court granted the motion for summary judgment, finding that Mantle had properly paid all severance taxes that were due and rejected the Department's assessment of additional taxes, interest, and penalties. The trial court signed a judgment on April 28, 2017, ordering the refund of Mantle's payment under protest and dismissing the matter with prejudice. The Department suspensively appealed.

         DISCUSSION

         After an opportunity for adequate discovery, a motion for summary judgment shall be granted if the motion, memorandum, and supporting documents show that there is no genuine issue as to material fact and that the mover is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. LSA-C.C.P. art. 966A(3). The summary judgment procedure is favored and shall be construed to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action. LSA-C.C.P. art. 966A(2).

         When the issue before the court on the motion for summary judgment is one on which the party bringing the motion will bear the burden of proof at trial, the burden of showing there is no genuine issue of material fact remains with the party bringing the motion. See LSA-C.C.P. art. 966D; Fouquet v. Daiquiris & Creams of Mandeville, LLC, 10-0233 (La.App. 1 Cir. 9/13/10), 49 So.3d 44, 46. When a motion for summary judgment is made and supported, an adverse party may not rest on the mere allegations or denials of his pleading, but his response, by affidavits or as otherwise provided, must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. If he does not so respond, summary judgment, if appropriate, shall be rendered against him. LSA-C.C.P. art. 967B. Further, summary judgment is subject to de novo review on appeal, using the same standards applicable to the trial court's determination of the issues. Mabile's Trucking, Inc. v. Stallion Oilfield Services, Ltd., 15-0740 (La.App. 1 Cir. 1/8/16), 185 So.3d 98, 101, writ denied, 16-0251 (La. 4/4/16), 190 So.3d 1207.

         Moreover, in a motion for summary judgment, the "only documents that may be filed in support of or in opposition to the motion are pleadings, memoranda, affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories, certified medical records, written stipulations, and admissions." LSA-C.C.P. art. 966A(4).[2] Additionally, "[supporting and opposing affidavits shall be made on personal knowledge, shall set forth such facts as would be admissible in evidence, and shall show ...


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