United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
WILLIAM H. STEELE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on plaintiff's Motion for
Summary Judgment (doc. 61) and defendant's Motion to
Strike Portions of Exhibit C (doc. 63). Although the parties
did not fully avail themselves of briefing opportunities,
both Motions are now ripe.
action concerns an alleged breach of a charter agreement
entered into between plaintiff, Ivy Marine Consulting, LLC,
and defendant, Monarch Energy Partners, Inc. The barebones,
single-count First Amended Complaint (doc. 16) alleges that
Ivy Marine leased a certain barge vessel to Monarch Energy,
but that Monarch Energy defaulted under the charter agreement
by (i) failing to pay the $850 daily hire rate for 59 days,
totaling $50, 150; and (ii)
to return the vessel in a “gas free condition suitable
to load #2 diesel, ” which will cost Monarch Energy the
sum of $57, 775 to restore the vessel to that condition.
(Doc. 16, ¶¶ 7-8.) On that basis, Ivy Marine
demands judgment against Monarch Energy in the total amount
of $110, 150, plus interest and court costs. Federal
jurisdiction is predicated on the diversity provisions of 28
U.S.C. § 1332.
parties entered into a Standard Time Charter (the
“Agreement”), pursuant to which Ivy Marine agreed
to let, and Monarch Energy agreed to hire, a barge vessel
known as the MB6 (the “Barge”) at the rate of
$850 per day, with an “on hire” date of July 6,
2017. (Doc. 61, Exh. A, at 1.) Monarch Energy agreed to pay
that charter hire 30 days in advance and no later than 5 days
after receiving an invoice, with late fees to be assessed at
12% per annum for payments not received by the applicable due
date. (Id. at § 2.E.) The parties further
agreed that the lease was for a period of five months and 29
days. (Id. at Amendment A.) An Amendment to the
Agreement specified as follows: “If the barge is not
returned to a fresh water port within the five months,
twenty-nine days, there will be a penalty of $25, 000, and
the charter agreement will continue until the MB 6 is
returned to Ivy in a ‘cleaned' state.”
express terms of the Agreement, “Redelivery shall be
made after the barge has been cleaned to the satisfaction of
Ivy Marine, LLC and the owner of the barge, MB Barge.”
(Id. at § 2.A.) The Agreement was devoid of any
other description of the degree or specific nature of this
“cleaning” requirement. It did not purport to
delineate terms, degrees or standards for cleaning such as
“gas-free” or “clean to diesel fuel.”
Nor were such terms discussed at any time during the
negotiation or execution of the Agreement. (Shrader Aff.
(doc. 65, Exh. 1), ¶ 8.)
Marine maintains that Monarch Energy breached the Agreement
in two respects that form the basis of this litigation.
First, plaintiff's evidence is that Monarch Energy failed
to pay the agreed daily charter rate of $850/day for a 59-day
period of the agreed term, running from November 2, 2017
through December 31, 2017. (Boles Aff. (doc. 61, Exh. C),
¶ 4.) For this alleged breach, Ivy Marine seeks to
recover unpaid charter amounts of $50, 150, plus interest.
Defendant's evidence shows that at some unspecified time
during the charter term, “a tug picked the barge up
from Ivy and departed with it for Lake Charles. It was gone
about 20 days. [Monarch Energy] did not arrange or pay for
the tug nor send the barge to Lake Charles.” (Shrader
Aff., ¶ 19.) Monarch Energy's position is that it
is not responsible for the daily charter rate during that
period. Defendant's evidence also reflects that Ivy
Marine rented the Barge to a company called Rio Petroleum for
at least some portion of the time period spanning December
19, 2017 through January 2, 2018. (Id., ¶ 21.)
Monarch Energy objects that Ivy Marine has not given it
credit for the Rio Petroleum rental period. (Id.)
Ivy Marine contends that Monarch Energy breached the
Agreement by failing to comply with the requirement that the
Barge be returned in a condition that was “cleaned to
the satisfaction of Ivy Marine.” Monarch Energy
conceded in a deposition that it did not clean the Barge upon
redelivering it to Ivy Marine. (Shrader Dep., at
112.) However, defendant's evidence is that
Monarch Energy returned the Barge to Ivy Marine “in the
same condition it was received, ” and that Ivy Marine
neither cleaned nor caused the Barge to be cleaned at any
time since 2010. (Shrader Aff., ¶ 10; Wilson Dep. (doc.
65, Exh. 5), at 40-41, 51.) In fact, defendant shows that Ivy
Marine returned the Barge to “the same service carrying
the same material following the expiration of Monarch's
agreement with them.” (Shrader Aff., ¶ 10.) Thus,
defendant's failure to clean the Barge did not compromise
plaintiff's ability to lease it.
Summary Judgment Standard.
judgment should be granted only “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.”
Rule 56(a), Fed.R.Civ.P. The party seeking summary judgment
bears “the initial burden to show the district court,
by reference to materials on file, that there are no genuine
issues of material fact that should be decided at
trial.” Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929
F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991). Once the moving
party has satisfied its responsibility, the burden shifts to
the non-movant to show the existence of a genuine issue of
material fact. Id. “If the nonmoving party
fails to make 'a sufficient showing on an essential
element of her case with respect to which she has the burden
of proof,' the moving party is entitled to summary
judgment.” Id. (quoting Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986)) (footnote omitted).
“In reviewing whether the nonmoving party has met its
burden, the court must stop short of weighing the evidence
and making credibility determinations of the truth of the
matter. Instead, the evidence of the non-movant is to be
believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in
his favor.” Tipton v. Bergrohr GMBH-
Siegen, 965 F.2d 994, 999 (11th Cir.
1992) (internal citations and quotations omitted).
“Summary judgment is justified only for those cases
devoid of any need for factual determinations.”
Offshore Aviation v. Transcon Lines, Inc., 831 F.2d
1013, 1016 (11th Cir. 1987) (citation omitted).
minimalist Motion for Summary Judgment, supported by a brief
spanning barely two pages in length and with no reply, Ivy
Marine moves for judgment as a matter of law in its favor on
the claim for breach of the charter agreement.
Plaintiff's contention is that it is entitled to summary
judgment as to both components of the claim, namely Monarch
Energy's alleged (i) failure to pay the charter rate for
59 days of the agreed term; and (ii) failure to satisfy the
contractual requirement that the Barge be returned to Ivy
Marine in a “cleaned” state.
order to establish a breach-of-contract claim, a plaintiff
must show (1) the existence of a valid contract binding the
parties in the action, (2) his own performance under the
contract, (3) the defendant's nonperformance, and (4)
damages.” City of Gadsden v. Harbin, 148 So.3d
690, 696 (Ala. 2013) (citations and internal quotation marks
omitted). Ivy Marine's position, stated simply, is that
the record unambiguously reflects that it has satisfied all
of these elements with ...