Forest Oil Corp v. Union Oil Corportion of California
Order on Motion for Summary Judgment
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF ALASKA
FOREST OIL CORPORATION,
Case No. 3:05-cv-0078-RRB
UNION OIL COMPANY OF AMERICA,
d/b/a UNOCAL ALASKA,
ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT’S
MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Defendant Union Oil Company of California (“Unocal”)
Corporation’s (“Forest”) claim for equitable relief in the form of
a declaration that Unocal acted imprudently and an injunction to
remove Unocal as the operator of the Trading Bay Unit and Trading
ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOCKET 19) - 1
Bay Field (“Trading Bay Properties”).1 Forest disagrees and argues
that Unocal’s motion is without merit.2
Because the Court concludes that Unocal is not entitled
to judgment as a matter of law, Unocal’s Motion for summary
judgment is DENIED.
offshore oil and gas leases located in Alaska’s Cook Inlet.3
are four agreements that govern the relationship between Forest and
Unocal regarding the development and operation of the Trading Bay
These agreements are:
The Trading Bay Unit Operating Agreement (“TBUOA”).4
The Unit Agreement for the Development and
Operation of the Trading Bay Unit, State of Alaska
(“TB Unit Agreement”).6
Clerk’s Docket No. 19.
Clerk’s Docket No. 31.
Clerk’s Docket No. 18 at 3.
Clerk’s Docket No. 23 at Ex. A.
Id. at Ex. B.
Id. at Ex. C.
ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOCKET 19) - 2
The Alignment Agreement Trading Bay Field/Trading
Unocal is the Operator for the Trading Bay Properties.8
agreements govern removal of the Operator.9
Forest brought suit against Unocal alleging, inter alia,
that it is entitled to equitable relief due to Unocal’s imprudent
conduct in operating the Trading Bay Properties.10
III. STANDARD OF REVIEW
Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides
that summary judgment should be granted if there is no genuine
dispute as to material facts and if the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.
The moving party has the burden of
showing that there is no genuine dispute as to material fact.11 The
moving party need not present evidence; it needs only point out the
lack of any genuine dispute as to material fact.12
Once the moving
party has met this burden, the nonmoving party must set forth
evidence of specific facts showing the existence of a genuine issue
Id. at Ex. A. for Tabler Declaration.
Id. at Ex. A at 17 and Ex. B at 11.
See Id. at Ex. A at 17, Ex. B at 11, and Ex. C at 8.
Complaint at ¶ 27.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).
Id. at 323-25.
ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOCKET 19) - 3
All evidence presented by the non-movant must be
believed for purposes of summary judgment, and all justifiable
inferences must be drawn in favor of the non-movant.14 However, the
nonmoving party may not rest upon mere allegations or denials, but
must show that there is sufficient evidence supporting the claimed
factual dispute to require a fact-finder to resolve the parties’
differing versions of the truth at trial.15
The Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201(a), provides:
In a case of actual controversy within its
jurisdiction . . . any court of the United
States, upon the filing of an appropriate
pleading, may declare the rights and other
legal relations of any interested party
seeking such declaration, whether or not
further relief is or could be sought.16
First, the district court must determine whether there is an actual
case or controversy within the jurisdiction.17
If there is, “the
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-49
Id. at 255.
Id. at 248-49.
Alaska’s Declaratory Judgment Act also provides that relief
is available “whether or not further relief is or could be sought.”
Laverty v. Alaska Railroad Corp., 13 P.3d 725, 729 (Alaska 2000).
Principal Life Ins. Co. v. Robinson, 394 F.3d 665, 669 (9th
Cir. 2005). Unocal argues that the Court should only consider the
standard for obtaining injunctive relief.
However, given that
Forest has not even obtained the declaration it seeks, the Court
ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOCKET 19) - 4
court must decide whether to exercise its jurisdiction by analyzing
the factors set out in Brillhart v. Excess Ins. Co., 316 U.S. 491
For there to be a case or controversy, there must be “a
substantial controversy, between parties having adverse legal
interests, of sufficient immediacy and reality to warrant the
issuance of a declaratory judgment.”19
case or controversy.
Here, there is clearly a
The parties disagree about the quality of
Unocal’s operations of the Trading Bay Properties.
interests are clearly adverse, and a decision will affect future
operations of the Trading Bay Properties.
The controversy is of
sufficient immediacy given the ongoing nature of operating the
Trading Bay Properties.
Because there is a case or controversy, the Court now
The factors to be considered are non-exclusive and
litigants from filing declaratory actions as a means of forum
only considers whether
Id. at 671 (quotation marks omitted).
ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOCKET 19) - 5
shopping; and (3) it should avoid duplicative litigation.”20
considerations this Court may consider include:
[W]hether the declaratory action will settle
all aspects of the controversy; whether the
declaratory action will serve a useful purpose
in clarifying the legal relations at issue;
whether the declaratory action is being sought
merely for the purposes of procedural fencing
or to obtain a ‘res judicata’ advantage; or
whether the use of a declaratory action will
result in entanglement between the federal and
state court systems.
In addition, the
district court might also consider the
availability and relative convenience of other
Here, the factors weigh in favor of the Court retaining
jurisdiction over the declaratory action claim without deciding the
merits of the claim at this point.
First, the equitable relief
sought does not involve any determination of state law issues.
Third, this Court already has jurisdiction over the
breach of contract claim and the claim for equitable relief relates
to the breach of contract claim.
Thus, judicial administration
concerns favor retaining jurisdiction. Finally, declaratory relief
will clarify the legal relations between the parties.
does not appear to be any persuasive reason to preclude the Court
from addressing the claim for equitable relief.
Id. at 672 (quotation marks and citation omitted).
Id. (citation omitted).
ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOCKET 19) - 6
For the foregoing reasons, Defendant’s Motion for Summary
Judgment is DENIED.
ENTERED this 24th day of April, 2006.
/s/ RALPH R. BEISTLINE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOCKET 19) - 7
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