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Badeaux v. BP Exploration & Production, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

November 30, 2018

BARRY J. BADEAUX
v.
BP EXPLORATION & PRODUCTION, INC., ET AL.

         SECTION “L” (5)

          ORDER & REASONS

          ELDON E. FALLON U.S. JUDGE

         Before the Court is a motion to dismiss filed by Defendants BP Exploration & Production, Inc.; BP America Production Company (collectively “BP”); and CB&I Group, Inc. (“CB&I”). R. Doc. 19. Plaintiff Barry J. Badeaux has filed an opposition, R. Doc. 20, and Defendants have filed a reply, R. Doc. 26. Having considered the pleadings, the parties' arguments, and the law, the Court rules as follows.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Barry J. Badeaux filed the instant petition in 24th Judicial District Court for the Parish of Jefferson, State of Louisiana on July 10, 2018, alleging Defendants were unjustly enriched when they used his idea for containing the flow of oil released in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in April 2010. R. Doc. 1-2 at ¶ 5. Defendants removed the petition to this Court on July 10, 2018. R. Doc. 1.

         Plaintiff alleges that, “in an effort to address the initial problem of how to stop the flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, the entities responsible for the catastrophic oil spill as well as local, state and federal officials sought ways to cap the well.” R. Doc. 1-2 at ¶ 6. According to Plaintiff, BP offered cash payments for “useful ideas.” Id. In response to that offer, Plaintiff purports to have “devised a plan to prevent the oil spilling from the uncapped well from entering surrounding marshes” by using a series of “barges and specialized oil skimmers that would effectively collect the oil before it could enter the marshes and reach the coastline.” Id. at ¶ 7. As a part of his design, Plaintiff alleges he drew plans for and built a prototype of a “PVC pipe in a ‘bar bell type' configuration” at his own expense. Id. at ¶ 7-8. Plaintiff contends he presented his drawn plans to Chris Roberts, a member of the Parish Council in Jefferson Parish Louisiana. Id. at ¶ 9. According to Plaintiff, Mr. Roberts represented he would submit Plaintiff's idea to the U.S. Coast Guard for approval on Plaintiff's behalf. Id. at ¶ 10.

         On June 18, 2010, Deano Bonano, director of emergency preparedness for Jefferson Parish, “discussed the plan to use 60 barges to make a 7, 000-foot barrier to block and channel the oil at the entrance to Barataria Bay.” Id. at ¶ 13. “A short time later, Kevin Davis, the then President of St. Tammany Parish, indicated that St. Tammany Parish would also implement the barge plan.” Id. at ¶ 12. The Coast Guard subsequently approved this plan, and barges were placed at the entrance to Barataria Bay and at the mouth of the Rigolets at Lake Borgne to prevent oil from entering the marshland. Id. at ¶ 12, 14. Plaintiff alleges it was his plan the Coast Guard approved. Id. at 13.

         Plaintiff contends that once he noticed the plan being implemented was actually his, he “made several telephone calls to various BP representatives informing them of the fact that the barge/oil skimmer plan was his and that it could not be used without his permission or compensation.” Id. at ¶ 15. He also alleges he sent correspondence to BP in which he “reserved all rights to his invention and made demand for payment of any use of his device.” Id. at ¶ 16. Plaintiff alleges BP did not respond. Id.

         Plaintiff asserts he did not give permission for use of his designs and was not compensated by Defendants for his time and efforts, including the construction of the prototype barge. Id. at ¶ 8, 14, 19. Specifically, Plaintiff claims that, although it was his design the Coast Guard ultimately approved, BP instead contracted with Defendant CB&I to implement Plaintiff's plan, through which CB&I received millions of dollars in payment. Id. at ¶ 20. Plaintiff further alleges BP benefitted from the use of his designs by reducing its exposure to increased damages from further harm to the Louisiana coastal wetlands for which it was responsible. Id. at ¶ 21-22. Based on this factual background, Plaintiff brings claims for unjust enrichment against BP and CB&I. Id. at ¶ 23.

         II. PRESENT MOTION

         Defendants jointly move to dismiss Plaintiff's petition for failure to state a claim. R. Doc. 19. They argue Plaintiff's claim should be dismissed because his petition contains only conclusory allegations and fails to plausibly allege several necessary elements of unjust enrichment R. Doc. 19-2 at 2, 9.

         First, Defendants assert Plaintiff's petition does not contain sufficient factual allegations to state a plausible claim that his idea was used by either St. Tammany or Jefferson Parish. Id. at 3. Second, Defendants argue that, even if Plaintiff's invention or design was used to clean up the oil spill, Plaintiff was neither impoverished nor were Defendants unjustly enriched by its use, as Plaintiff voluntarily gave his designs to Louisiana Parish officials at his own risk. Id. at 5. Third, Defendants argue that, because the contract between them constituted a valid juridical act, Plaintiff has not plausibly alleged that any purported enrichment or impoverishment was without “cause.” Id. at 5, 7. Finally, Defendants argue the availability of other remedies at law preclude Plaintiff's claim. Id. at 7-9.

         In opposition, Plaintiff argues his petition adequately alleges facts for each of the five elements of unjust enrichment under Louisiana law. R. Doc. 20 at 2. Plaintiff alleges CB&I was enriched by the multi-million-dollar contract it obtained using his invention and designs. Id. at 4. With respect to Defendant BP, Plaintiff alleges his invention prevented the “destruction of marshlands and coastline as well as marine life including shrimp, crabs and small fish, ” thereby enriching BP through savings in damages that were mitigated by use of his plan. Id. at 3. Plaintiff argues he has been impoverished because he has not received any compensation for the use of his work. Id. at 4. Plaintiff further argues that his allegation that he presented his design to government officials who in turn gained approval for its use by the Coast Guard establishes the connection between his impoverishment and Defendants' enrichment, id. at 3, and that the use of his design without permission and compensation satisfies the absence of justification or cause requirement, id. at 4-5. Finally, Plaintiff argues there are no other remedies at law available to him, as he does not hold a patent on his design and does not have a contractual relationship with either Defendant. Id. at 6-7. Accordingly, Plaintiff argues that his allegations, taken as true, satisfy the elements for an unjust enrichment claims. Id. at 7.

         In reply, Defendants maintain Plaintiff's petition lacks factual allegations from which the Court can infer his invention was used in the oil spill response efforts. R. Doc. 26 at 2. Defendants contend Plaintiff's allegations are legal conclusions with little to no factual support. Id. at 2-3. Thus, Defendants reiterate their assertion that ...


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