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Tripp v. Pickens

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

April 18, 2018

LEO TRIPP, ET AL.
v.
RICHARD PICKENS, ET AL.

          ROBERT G. JAMES JUDGE, MARK L. HORNSBY MAG. JUDGE

          RULING

          TERRY A. DOUGHTY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This is a contract dispute between the parties. Plaintiffs Leo Tripp, his father, Jimmy Tripp, and their business associate, Steve Stone, brought this action against Defendants Richard Pickens (“Pickens”) and Richart Distributors d/b/a Flomore Products (“Flomore”), alleging that they failed to honor a contract to split the profits on a solar-powered oil field pump. Plaintiffs assert claims of breach of contract, detrimental reliance, and unjust enrichment and seek damages, including punitive damages. Pending before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. No. 29] filed by Defendants.

         For the following reasons, the Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED.

         I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         While not conceding the truth of the facts asserted, for purposes of this motion, Defendants refer the Court to the facts set forth in paragraphs three through fifteen of the Petition:

3. On information and belief, PICKENS is the Chief Executive Officer, President, and primary shareholder of defendant FLOMORE.
4. In or about October 2013, the Petitioners met representatives of the Defendants at a trade show for oil field supply products. Ultimately, the relationship between Petitioners and Defendants developed to the point that Petitioners introduced PICKENS to the idea of launching a new product, specifically a solar-powered chemical injection pump to be used in oil-and-gas-production. The Petitioners had been working on a design for a new and improved solar powered pump, the S2000, which was conceived of and designed by Petitioners and had numerous advantages over the pump that PICKENS and FLOMORE were marketing at the time.
5. In April 2014, PICKENS and one other member of the FLOMORE leadership team, Manager of Operations Mitch Carey, flew from Oklahoma to Louisiana in order to observe the Petitioners' prototype of the S2000 in operation. The Petitioners demonstrated the pump to the FLOMORE representatives in Arcadia, Louisiana. PICKENS and Carey were so impressed with the pump that PICKENS immediately agreed that he wanted to go into business with Petitioners to produce and market the pump.
6. During the meeting in Arcadia, Louisiana, PICKENS agreed with Petitioners that if they would develop the S2000 pump into a commercially marketable product, then they would all go into business together selling the pump and split the profits from the venture, with Petitioners receiving 50% and PICKENS/FLOMORE receiving 50% of the net profits from each sale of an S2000 pump. This proposal was attractive to Petitioners because it offered them a chance to market the pump to FLOMORE's broad customer base. PICKENS and FLOMORE would receive the benefit of the Petitioners' new and improved pump design and their efforts to bring it to market. Petitioners and PICKENS affirmatively agreed and shook hands on the deal, thereby forming a valid and enforceable contract.
7. Thereafter, and at the urging of PICKENS and FLOMORE, the Petitioners embarked on an intensive effort to get the S2000 pump ready for sale. Petitioners traveled from Louisiana to Oklahoma numerous times to work on the S2000's design and production. They met and worked with a number of employees of FLOMORE and also with some of FLOMORE's suppliers. Ultimately, because of their extraordinary efforts and immense devotion of time to the project, Petitioners completed development of the S2000 within six months. A project of this scope usually requires two to three years to complete, but Petitioners were able to complete the development within six months because they significantly reduced the amount of time devoted to their other business, causing a substantial reduction in sales, while they developed the S2000 for market.
8. During this development period, Petitioners had another meeting with PICKENS in which they again discussed their agreement to develop and market the pump in exchange for 50% of the net profits from the venture. At this meeting, PICKENS proposed and Petitioners agreed that they would form a new division of FLOMORE in order to market the pump. Petitioners would be 50% owners of this new division and would receive 50% of the net profits from each sale of a pump.
9. Also during this period, petitioner LEO TRIPP met with PICKENS numerous times to discuss the S2000. Petitioner LEO TRIPP requested on a number of occasions that PICKENS have his lawyers reduce their agreement to writing. Although PICKENS told LEO TRIPP that he would do so, he never followed through on his assurances. These promises were part of PICKENS's scheme to induce Petitioners into continuing to develop the S2000 pump for market.
10. As the S2000 approached completion, Petitioners used their own customer base to conduct trials of the pump in action. The pump exceeded expectations during these trials.
11. Additionally, petitioner LEO TRIPP was tasked by PICKENS with developing training seminars, sales brochures, and engineering data to be used in the marketing of the pump. He also coordinated with various manufacturers/suppliers to secure the various components for the pump and otherwise ensure a successful product launch.
12. As a result of Petitioners' monumental efforts, the pump was ready for a product launch in August 2014. Still operating in good faith and expecting Defendants PICKENS and FLOMORE to live up to their agreement, petitioner LEO TRIPP conducted a product launch training seminar for potential customers at Cardon Sales, one of FLOMORE's top distributors, located in Broussard, Louisiana on ...

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