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C-Port/Stone, L.L.C. v. Gulf Logistics, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

September 28, 2018

C-PORT/STONE, LLC.
v.
GULF LOGISTICS, LLC in personam, M/V GREY CUP in rem

         SECTION: "A" (5)

          ORDER AND REASONS

          JAY C. ZAINEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         The following motions are before the Court: Motion for Summary Judgment (Rec. Doc. 56) filed by Plaintiff, C-Port/Stone, LLC; Motion for Summary Judgment (Rec. Doc. 55) filed by Defendants, Gulf Logistics, LLC and M/V GREY CUP. Both motions are opposed. The motions, noticed for submission on September 19, 2018, are before the Court on the briefs without oral argument.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff C-Port/Stone, LLC filed this action against Gulf Logistics, LLC in personam and the M/V GREY CUP in rem to recover payments for fuel, lube oil and water that were provided to the M/V GREY CUP as vessel necessaries.[1] C-Port/Stone sells diesel fuel, bunker fuel, lubricants and other supplies. Gulf Logistics owns the GREY CUP. At the time of the fuel, lube oil and water purchases at issue-January 10, 2016 through May 3, 2016-the GREY CUP was under a time charter to Whistler Energy II, LLC, who was using the vessel in support of its offshore oil and gas activities. The purchases from C-Port/Stone were made by Whistler Energy, not by Gulf Logistics.[2]Whistler was placed into involuntary bankruptcy on March 24, 2016, leaving several of C-Port/Stone's invoices unpaid. C-Port/Stone's contention is that it obtained a maritime lien on the GREY CUP by operation of law each time it provided necessaries to the GREY CUP on credit, and to the extent that specific invoices remain unpaid, those liens remain extant and enforceable.

         Via its motion for summary judgment, C-Port/Stone moves to enforce its liens against the GREY CUP, the end result of which would be that Gulf Logistics would have to pay for Whistler's unsatisfied debts in order to avoid having the GREY CUP arrested and sold.

         Via its motion for summary judgment, Gulf Logistics moves to dismiss the complaint arguing that any liens against its vessel, if they actually attached, have been extinguished.

         A bench trial is scheduled to commence on November 28, 2018.

         II. DISCUSSION

         Summary judgment is appropriate only if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any," when viewed in the light most favorable to the non-movant, "show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact." TIG Ins. Co. v. Sedgwick James, 276 F.3d 754, 759 (5th Cir. 2002) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50 (1986)). A dispute about a material fact is "genuine" if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Id. (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). The court must draw all justifiable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Id. (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255). Once the moving party has initially shown "that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's cause," Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986), the non-movant must come forward with "specific facts" showing a genuine factual issue for trial. Id. (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). Conclusional allegations and denials, speculation, improbable inferences, unsubstantiated assertions, and legalistic argumentation do not adequately substitute for specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial. Id. (citing SEC v. Recile, 10 F.3d 1093, 1097 (5th Cir. 1993)).

         When faced with a well-supported motion for summary judgment, Rule 56 places the burden on the non-movant to designate the specific facts in the record that create genuine issues precluding summary judgment. Jones .v Sheehan, Young, & Culp, P.C., 82 F.3d 1334, 1338 (5th Cir. 1996). The district court has no duty to survey the entire record in search of evidence to support a non-movant's position. Id. (citing Forsyth v. Barr, 19 F.3d 1527, 1537 (5th Cir. 1992); Nissho-Iwai Am. Corp. v. Kline, 845 F.2d 1300, 1307 (5th Cir. 1988)).

         The Court begins from the premise that invoices totaling $125, 952.59 represent necessaries that C-Port/Stone provided to the GREY CUP on credit.[3]

         Pursuant to the Commercial Instruments and Maritime Lien Act, a person who provides necessaries to a vessel on the order of the owner or a person authorized by the owner has a maritime lien on the vessel, and may bring a civil action in rem to enforce the lien. 46 U.S.C. § 31342(a), (b). The provider of the necessaries is not required to allege or prove in the action that credit was given to the vessel. Id. § 31342(a)(3).

         A presumption arises that one providing supplies to a vessel acquires a maritime lien, and the party attacking this presumption has the burden of establishing that the personal credit of the owner or charterer was solely relied upon. Equilease Corp. v. M/V Sampson, 793 F.2d 598, 605 (5th Cir. 1986) (citing TTT Stevedores v. M/V Jagat Vijeta, 696 F.2d 1135, 1139 (5th Cir. 1983); Gen. Elec. Credit & Leasing Corp. v. Drill Ship Mission Explor., 668 F.2d 811, 814 (5th Cir. 1982)). In order to overcome the presumption, evidence must be produced that the supplier purposefully intended to forego the lien. Maritrend, Inc. v. Serac & Co., 348 F.3d 469, 471 (5th Cir. 2003) (citing Equilease, 793 F.2d at 606). Because the statutory presumption in ...


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