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Matheson Tri-Gas Inc v. Williamson General Contractors Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lake Charles Division

July 30, 2019





         Before the court are a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [doc. 105] and a Motion for Summary Judgment [doc. 110] filed by Matheson Tri-Gas, Inc. ("Matheson"). Defendant and counter-plaintiff Williamson General Contractors, Inc. ("Williamson") opposes the Motion for Partial Summary Judgment but not the Motion for Summary Judgment. See doc. 108.



         This action began with a contract between Matheson and Williamson for work on Matheson's Phase I construction of a new gas plant ("Pelican project") in Westlake, Louisiana. The court summarized the background as follows in ruling on the previous motion for summary judgment:

On May 27, 2015, Williamson project manager Joey Quick submitted a bid to provide construction services on the mechanical installation at the plant, for the lump sum price of $ 15.8 million. Matheson accepted Williamson's bid by purchase order issued on May 29, 2015. Construction commenced but was complicated by several design drawing revisions from Matheson. Williamson responded with requests for change orders, which Matheson disputed. The parties entered into a "Change Order Agreement" effective February 2, 2016, under which Matheson agreed to pay Williamson an additional $ 3.4 million for costs incurred by certain revisions up to that date. The agreement specifically excluded certain costs anticipated to be incurred after its effective date, and further provided that "[a]ny modifications made or issued after Feb. 2, 2016 will be charged at the cost plus rates."
On April 21, 2016, Matheson issued a letter of intent to award the mechanical portion of the Pelican Phase II project to Williamson. On June 30, 2016, Williamson demanded an additional sum of approximately $ 6.5 million to continue work on the Phase I project. By email dated July 4, 2016, Matheson stated that it would need a few days to evaluate the information presented and directed Williamson not to return to the project until advised to do so by Matheson. The following day, Matheson advised Williamson that it was terminating the parties' business relationship effective immediately and rescinding the letter of intent relating to Phase II.
Matheson then filed suit in this court, asserting federal diversity jurisdiction. In the complaint Matheson maintains that it paid Williamson all sums due and owing under their agreements but that Williamson continued to demand "additional unreasonable sums" to complete the facility and then breached the agreements by abandoning the project on or about June 30, 2016. As a result, Matheson asserts, several of Williamson's subcontractors have filed or threatened to file liens against the facility to recover sums that they allege are owed by Williamson. Accordingly, Matheson seeks damages incurred from Williamson's alleged breaches and subrogation to the rights of any subcontractors it must satisfy based on the above liens. It has also amended its complaint to add claims of indemnity and bad faith breach of contract.

Matheson Tri-Gas, Inc. v. Williamson Gen. Contractors, Inc., 2019 WL 1562247, at *1 (W.D. La. Feb. 28, 2019), report and recommendation adopted, 2019 WL 1561369 (W.D. La. Apr. 10, 2019) (citations omitted). Williamson also asserted numerous counterclaims against Matheson. Docs. 6, 24. Matheson moved for summary judgment on all counterclaims and the court granted the motion, except as to the claims for (1) bad faith breach of contract based on failure to pay amounts owed under the agreements and (2) detrimental reliance based on representations about the completion of the design drawings. Matheson, 2019 WL 1562247, at *7.

         Matheson now moves for partial summary judgment on its claims against Williamson, asserting that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on its claim for indemnity under the Louisiana Private Works Act ("LPWA"), La. Rev. Stat. § 9:4801 et seq. Doc. 105. Williamson opposes the motion. Doc. 108. Matheson also moves for summary judgment on Williamson's two remaining counterclaims. Doc. 110. Williams has not filed any opposition to this motion and its time for doing so has passed. Accordingly, the motion is regarded as unopposed.


         Summary Judgment Standards

         A court should grant a motion for summary judgment when the movant shows "that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56. The party moving for summary judgment is initially responsible for identifying portions of pleadings and discovery that show the lack of a genuine issue of material fact. Tubacex, Inc. v. M/V Risan, 45 F.3d 951, 954 (5th Cir. 1995). The court must deny the motion for summary judgment if the movant fails to meet this burden. Id.

         If the movant makes this showing, however, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party to "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986) (quotations omitted). This requires more than mere allegations or denials of the adverse party's pleadings. Instead, the nonmovant must submit "significant probative evidence" in support of his claim. State Farm Life Ins. Co. v. Gutterman, 896 F.2d 116, 118 (5th Cir. 1990). "If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249 (citations omitted).

         A court may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence in ruling on a motion for summary judgment. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc.,530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000). The court is also required to view all evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Clift v. Gift,210 F.3d 268, 270 (5th Cir. 2000). Under this standard, a genuine issue of material fact exists if a reasonable trier of fact could render a verdict for the nonmoving party, Brumfteld v. Hollins,551 F.3d 322, 326 (5th Cir. 2008). When the motion is unopposed, the moving party retains its burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact. Hetzel v. Bethlehem Steel Corp.,50 F.3d 360, 362 (5th ...

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