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Silver Ships, Inc. v. Codega

United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division

September 11, 2018

SILVER SHIPS, INC., Plaintiff,
LOUIS T. CODEGA, P.E., an individual, Defendant.



         This matter is before the Court on Defendant, Louis Codega's (“Codega”) Motion for Partial Summary Judgment and brief in support thereof (Docs. 38 and 39), Plaintiff's opposition thereto (Doc. 41), and Defendant's reply (Doc. 44). For the reasons explained below, the Court finds that Defendant's motion for summary judgment should be DENIED.


         Plaintiff, Silver Ships, Inc. (“Silver Ships”) filed its Complaint on August 9, 2017, in the Circuit Court of Mobile, Alabama alleging three causes of action against Defendant: Architectural Malpractice, Breach of Contract, and Breach of Warranty for a particular purpose. (Doc. 1-2). Defendant removed this action on August 8, 2017 (Doc. 1) and thereafter, filed a Motion to Dismiss Counts I and II of the Complaint (Doc. 2). The Magistrate Judge assigned to this action recommended that Defendant's motion be granted, and the undersigned adopted the Report and Recommendation (Doc. 18) on November 17, 2017. (Doc. 27). Subsequently, on December 15, 2017, Plaintiff filed a motion for leave to amend its complaint (Doc. 32) which was denied on August 10, 2018 (Doc. 43). As a result, the only claim remaining in this action is Count II for breach of contract which is the subject of Defendant's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment and brief in support thereof. (Docs. 38 and 39).

         The undisputed facts giving rise to this action are as follows:

In 2015, Codega and Silver Ships entered into an oral contract whereby Codega would design two vessels for Plaintiff. The first vessel, F47200 (the “Southampton”), was for the South Hampton New York Fire and Rescue Squad and was to be used by South Hampton's harbor police for recovery efforts. (Doc. 1-2 at 6). The second vessel, N47700 was to be designed by Codega and built by Plaintiff for USACE, Philadelphia (“Corps vessel”). (Id.) For each vessel design, the parties had a series of discussions regarding the customers' specifications and usage requirements. (Id.) Codega provided Plaintiff with the design for each vessel and Silver Ships built the vessels for each of its customers.

         In January 2016, the Southampton was sea trialed twice. (Doc. 39 at 3). The first sea trial revealed a list to the port (left) side while the boat was underway. (Doc. 39 at 3). Silver Ships corrected the problem by widening the chines to increase dynamic stability. (Id.) The Southampton was then sea trialed a second time before being shipped to Southampton, New York. (Id.) Upon delivery of the Southampton, the customer, with Plaintiff present, tested the vessel and determined that the vessel did not operate properly for its intended use due to static instability. (Doc. 1-2 at 6). Plaintiff notified Codega of the stability problem and Codega offered suggestions for a solution, but according to Silver Ships, after further testing it was determined that the problem could not be fixed.[1] (Id. at 7). As a result, Silver ships built a second vessel, at its own expense, that met the usage requirements. (Id.) The second vessel was accepted by the customer. (Id.)

         In September 2016, the Corps vessel was sea trialed and exhibited problems with maneuvering instability and non-compliance with Coast Guard contract requirements for flotation instability which resulted in Silver ships, at its own expense, re-designing and rebuilding a second vessel for the Corps.[2]

         Defendant's motion seeks summary judgment on the breach of contract claim only as to the Southampton vessel. Defendant additionally seeks summary judgment as to its counterclaim whereby Codega claims that Silver Ships owes him $47, 085.50, subject to any equitable set-off to which Silver Ships may be entitled, for design work Codega performed on other vessels which are not the subject of any dispute. (Doc. 39 at 11-13). Plaintiff filed its Response (Doc. 41) on August 3, 2018, and Defendant replied on August 18, 2018. (Doc. 44). This matter is now fully briefed and ripe for review.


         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment shall be granted: “if 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.” The trial court's function is not “to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). “The mere existence of some evidence to support the non-moving party is not sufficient for denial of summary judgment; there must be ‘sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party.' ” Bailey v. Allgas, Inc., 284 F.3d 1237, 1243 (11th Cir. 2002) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249). "If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Anderson, at 249-250. (internal citations omitted).

         The basic issue before the court on a motion for summary judgment is “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-252. The moving party bears the burden of proving that no genuine issue of material fact exists. O'Ferrell v. United States, 253 F.3d 1257, 1265 (11th Cir. 2001). In evaluating the argument of the moving party, the court must view all evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and resolve all reasonable doubts about the facts in its favor. Burton v. City of Belle Glade, 178 F.3d 1175, 1187 (11th Cir. 1999). “If reasonable minds could differ on the inferences arising from undisputed facts, then a court should deny summary judgment.” Miranda v. B&B Cash Grocery Store, Inc., 975 F.2d 1518, 1534 (11th Cir. 1992) (citing Mercantile Bank & Trust v. Fidelity & Deposit Co., 750 F.2d 838, 841 (11th Cir. 1985)).

         Once the movant satisfies his initial burden under Rule 56(c), the non-moving party "must make a sufficient showing to establish the existence of each essential element to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Howard v. BP Oil Company, 32 F.3d 520, 524 (11th Cir. 1994) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986)). Otherwise stated, the non-movant must “demonstrate that there is indeed a material issue of fact that precludes summary judgment.” See Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991). The non-moving party “may not rely merely on allegations or denials in its own pleading; rather, its response .... must be by affidavits or as otherwise provided in this rule be set out specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial.” Vega v. Invsco Group, Ltd., 2011 WL 2533755, *2 (11th Cir. 2011). “A mere ‘scintilla' of evidence supporting the [non-moving] party's position will not suffice; there must be enough of a showing that the jury could reasonably find for that party.” Walker v. Darby, 911 F.2d 1573, 1577 (11th Cir. 1990) (citation omitted). “[T]he nonmoving party may avail itself of all facts and justifiable inferences in the record taken as a whole.” Tipton v. Bergrohr ...

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