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Alfred Conhagen, Inc. of Louisiana v. Ruhrpumpen, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

December 19, 2018

ALFRED CONHAGEN, INC. OF LOUISIANA
v.
RUHRPUMPEN, INC. AND WALDEMAR S. NELSON AND COMPANY, INC. ALFRED CONHAGEN, INC. OF LOUISIANA
v.
RUHRPUMPEN, INC. AND WALDEMAR S. NELSON AND COMPANY, INC.

          APPEAL FROM CIVIL DISTRICT COURT, ORLEANS PARISH NO. 2015-07056, DIVISION "I-14" Honorable Piper D. Griffin, Judge.

          Gerald A. Melchiode, Renee S. Melchiode, James J. Reeves, II MELCHIODE MARKS KING LLC COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, ALFRED CONHAGEN, INC. OF LOUISIANA

          Larry G. Canada, Richard G. Duplantier, Jr. John F. McCormick, Jennifer R. Buckingham GALLOWAY JOHNSON TOMPKINS BURR & SMITH APLC COUNSEL FOR WALDEMAR S. NELSON AND COMPANY, INC.

          Roy C. Cheatwood, Leopoldo J. Yanez, BAKER DONELSON BEARMAN CALDWELL & BERKOWITZ, PC COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT, RUHRPUMPEN, INC.

          Court composed of Judge Terri F. Love, Judge Joy Cossich Lobrano, Judge Dale N. Atkins

          Terri F. Love, Judge.

         This appeal arises from a design build contract for the construction of a high pressure industrial pump for NASA. The mechanical subcontractor utilized an initial budget quote from the builder to assemble a bid for the NASA project. The final quote was over one million dollars above the initial quote. As a result, the mechanical subcontractor was required to expend extra monies to complete the project. The mechanical subcontractor then filed suit against the engineering company and the builder based on detrimental reliance and negligence. The trial court granted a motion for summary judgment prior to the trial on the merits that dismissed all negligence claims against the engineering company. The trial court proceeded to conduct a three-day bench trial on the merits. Both the builder and mechanical subcontractor appealed. Finding that the trial court erroneously partially granted the engineering company's summary judgment, we reverse the trial court's judgment, and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Healtheon, Inc. ("Healtheon"), a general contractor, assembled a design-build team to create a bid on a NASA Stennis Space Center pump installation project. Healtheon contacted Alfred Conhagen, Inc. of Louisiana ("Conhagen") to provide the high pressure water pump system as the mechanical subcontractor. Conhagen then suggested that Waldemar S. Nelson and Company, Inc. ("Nelson") for design engineering services. Ruhrpumpen, Inc. ("Ruhrpumpen") provided Nelson with a quote on a pump package for the project. Conhagen relied upon Ruhrpumpen's quote of $734, 480.00 to construct a proposed bid. However, Ruhrpumpen's final quote was $1, 793, 360.00.

         As a result of the increase of over a million dollars, Conhagen contends that it had to seek other materials at the last minute, which cost a substantial amount of money. Thus, Conhagen filed a Petition for Damages against Ruhrpumpen and Nelson contending that they were negligent and caused Conhagen to rely to its detriment on the initial quote. Nelson filed a Motion for Summary Judgment asserting that no genuine issues of material fact existed because it was not negligent and did not cause Conhagen to detrimentally rely upon the initial quote. Ruhrpumpen also filed a similar Motion for Summary Judgment. The trial court denied all of the Motions for Summary Judgment except for Nelson's Motion for Summary Judgment regarding negligence. The trial court granted Nelson's Motion for Summary Judgment in part and dismissed all of Conhagen's negligence claims against Nelson with prejudice.[1]

         The matter proceeded to trial. Following a three-day bench trial, the trial court issued a judgment finding Ruhrpumpen one hundred percent liable to Conhagen based on negligence and detrimental reliance. The trial court found that Nelson was not liable for damages resulting from alleged detrimental reliance. The trial court awarded Conhagen $927, 560.30, plus interest and court costs from Ruhrpumpen.

         Ruhrpumpen filed a suspensive appeal contending that the trial court: 1) committed manifest error by denying its motion for involuntary dismissal and holding it liable for negligence and detrimental reliance; 2) erred by not assigning fault to Conhagen and Nelson for their negligence; 3) erroneously denied the previous Motion for Summary Judgment; 4) erroneously granted Nelson's Motion for Summary Judgment in part; and 5) abused its discretion by admitting evidence of actions after Conhagen utilized Ruhrpumpen's initial quote in its quote to Healtheon. Conhagen also filed a devolutive appeal. Conhagen sought to protect its right to receive funds from Nelson should this Court find Nelson at fault.

         SUMMARY JUDGMENT

         Ruhrpumpen contends that the trial court erroneously granted part of Nelson's Motion for Summary Judgment by finding that Nelson was not negligent ...


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