Boh Bros. Construction Co., L.L.C. v. California First National Bank
ORDER AND REASONS granting in part and denying in part 21 Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim. Signed by Judge Carl Barbier on 1/8/2018. (cg)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
CALIFORNIA FIRST NATIONAL
BOH BROS. CONSTRUCTION CO.,
ORDER AND REASONS
NATURE OF MOTION AND RELIEF REQUESTED
Before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss Counterclaim (Rec.
Doc. 21) filed by California First National Bank (“CalFirst”). Boh
Bros. Construction Company (“Boh Bros.”) opposes the motion. (Rec.
Doc. 24) CalFirst submitted a reply in response to the opposition.
(Rec. Doc. 27.) Having considered the motion and legal memoranda,
the record, and the applicable law, the Court finds that the motion
should be GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
invoices for work performed for Noranda Alumina, LLC (“Noranda”).
According to Boh Bros., on September 17, 2015, Boh Bros. and
Noranda entered into an agreement whereby Boh Bros. would provide
fabricate, and install two breasting dolphin pile and fender
(“Noranda facility”). (Rec. Doc. 20 at 9.) Boh Bros. alleges that
shortly after commencing work at the Noranda facility it was
advised by Noranda that CalFirst was obligated to pay for Boh
Bros.’ invoices on the Noranda Project 1 and specifically instructed
Boh Bros. to send its invoices to CalFirst. Boh Bros. allegedly
requested written confirmation of this arrangement and received an
email from CalFirst confirming that CalFirst would pay Boh Bros.’
invoices for the Noranda Project. Boh Bros. submitted its first
two invoices to CalFirst, and CalFirst paid them. Boh Bros. alleges
that it mobilized its labor force to Noranda’s facility to complete
the Noranda Project after receipt of the payment. Thereafter, Boh
Bros. submitted additional invoices to CalFirst, but CalFirst did
not pay them. Noranda has since filed for bankruptcy, and a number
of its vendors with contracts to work on Noranda’s facility went
unpaid, including Boh Bros.
On May 15, 2017, CalFirst filed the present motion to dismiss
Boh Bros.’ counterclaim. The counterclaim asserts three causes of
misrepresentation, and detrimental reliance. In total, Boh Bros.
seeks $778,636.14 for work it performed. CalFirst argues that it
is not contractually obligated to pay Boh Bros.’ unpaid invoices,
1 It appears that CalFirst at least agreed to finance some of the work for the
Noranda Project or else it would not have paid the first two invoices submitted
by Boh Bros.
that it did not owe a duty to Boh Bros. to disclose Noranda’s
financial situation, and that Boh Bros. did not detrimentally rely
on CalFirst’s alleged representations and actions. (Rec. Doc. 211.) In response, Boh Bros. argues that it has adequately alleged
all three of its claims, and CalFirst’s motion to dismiss should
be denied. CalFirst’s motion is now before the Court on the briefs
and without oral argument. 2
Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint must
contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the
pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). The
complaint must “give the defendant fair notice of what the claim
is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Dura Pharm., Inc. v.
Broudo, 544 U.S. 336, 346 (2005) (internal citations omitted). The
allegations “must be simple, concise, and direct.” Fed. R. Civ. P.
plaintiff fails to allege any set of facts in support of his claim
which would entitle him to relief.” Taylor v. Books A Million,
Inc., 296 F.3d 376, 378 (5th Cir. 2002) (citing McConathy v. Dr.
Pepper/Seven Up Corp., 131 F.3d 558, 561 (5th Cir. 1998)). To
CalFirst requested oral argument on the instant motion. (Rec. Doc. 22.)
However, the Court cancelled oral argument and notified the parties that it
would be rescheduled if the Court deemed it necessary. See Rec. Doc. 23. Finding
oral argument unnecessary, the Court considers the motion on the briefs.
survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must plead
enough facts to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell
Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is
facially plausible when the plaintiff pleads facts that allow the
court to “draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is
liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. A court must accept all
well-pleaded facts as true and must draw all reasonable inferences
in favor of the plaintiff. Lormand v. U.S. Unwired, Inc., 565 F.3d
228, 232 (5th Cir. 2009); Baker v. Putnal, 75 F.3d 190, 196 (5th
Cir. 1996). The court is not, however, bound to accept as true
legal conclusions couched as factual allegations. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
masquerading as factual conclusions will not suffice to prevent a
motion to dismiss.” Taylor, 296 F.3d at 378.
1. Breach of Contract
Under Louisiana law the formation of a contract requires
capacity, consent, a certain object, and a lawful cause. 3 La Bo J.
P’ship v. La. Lottery Corp., 2008-1279 (La. App. 1 Cir. 1/30/09),
6 So. 3d 191, 194. Consent requires a meeting of the minds between
the parties through offer and acceptance. Id. Unless the law
The parties do not dispute that Louisiana law applies.
prescribes a certain formality as to form, a contract through offer
and acceptance may be perfected orally, in writing, or by action
or inaction that under the circumstances is clearly indicative of
consent. Jarreau v. Quackenbush, 687 F. Supp. 2d 606, 611 (M.D.
La. Feb. 2, 2010) (citations omitted); Wilson v. Two SD, LLC, 20150959 (La. App. 1 Cir. 12/23/15), 186 So. 3d 103, 109. Further,
presumption of consent, the trial judge is to ascertain, from the
facts and circumstances, whether the parties’ consent is to be
implied from them.” Knect v. Bd. of Trs. for State Colls. & Univs.
& N.W. State Univ., 591 So. 2d 690, 694 (La. 1991).
Boh Bros.’ counterclaim alleges that Noranda advised Boh
Bros. that CalFirst would be contractually obligated to pay Boh
Bros.’ invoices for the Noranda Project. Boh Bros.’ further alleges
that it was instructed to send all of its invoices directly to
CalFirst. (Rec. Doc. 20 at 10.) Boh Bros. alleges that it sought
CalFirst. Id. at 10-11. Boh Bros. further alleges that CalFirst
invoices Boh Bros. submitted. Id. Thus, Boh Bros. has alleged that
invoices, CalFirst told Boh Bros. to send its invoices to CalFirst,
allegations in Boh Bros.’ counterclaim as true, it is at least
plausible that CalFirst confirmed, in writing and by payment of
Boh Bros.’ first two invoices, that it was contractually obligated
to pay Boh Bros.’ invoices. CalFirst argues that the email exchange
containing this alleged agreement demonstrates that it was only
apparently attached to the email, and that it in fact paid these
invoices. While this may ultimately be true, the Court finds that
as alleged and accepted as true, Boh Bros.’ counterclaim contains
a plausible claim for breach of contract.
2. Negligent Misrepresentation
To allege a negligent misrepresentation claim under Louisiana
law the plaintiff must allege that “the defendant owed a [legal]
duty of care to the plaintiff, the requisite duty was breached by
the defendant, and the risk of harm was within the scope of
protection afforded by the duty breached.” Granger v. Christus
Health Cent. La., 2012-1892 (La. 6/28/13), 144 So. 3d 736, 766-67
(citing Barrie v. V.P. Exterminators, Inc., 625 So. 2d 1007, 1015
(La. 1993)). Boh Bros. alleges that CalFirst created a legal duty
to supply Boh Bros. with correct information “by obligating itself”
to pay for Boh Bros.’ invoices for work on the Noranda Project.
(Rec. Doc. 20 at 14-15). Boh Bros. alleges that CalFirst breached
its duty by failing to inform Boh Bros. that Noranda was in default
on its payments to CalFirst. 4 Boh Bros. alleges that had CalFirst
informed Boh Bros. of Noranda’s default, Boh Bros. would not have
mobilized its labor forces to Noranda’s facility to perform work
on the Noranda Project. Id. CalFirst argues that it owed no
fiduciary or legal duty to Boh Bros., and thus Boh Bros. does not
have a claim for negligent misrepresentation as a matter of law.
“Under Louisiana law, banks ordinarily owe no duty, fiduciary
or otherwise, to third persons.” Eubanks v. Fed. Deposit Ins.
Corp., 977 F.2d 166, 170 n.3 (5th Cir. 1992). However, Boh Bros.
alleges that it is not a third party, but rather there was an
agreement between Boh Bros. and CalFirst for payment of Boh Bros.’
invoices for the Noranda Project. Nevertheless, the mere existence
of a contract does not automatically give rise to a legal duty.
Specifically, Louisiana Revised Statute § 6:1124 forecloses “the
Grp., Inc., 2009-342 (La. App. 3 Cir. 10/7/09), 21 So. 3d 456,
461-62 writ denied 2009-2403 (La. 1/22/10), 25 So. 3d 142. The
precise language of § 6:1124 provides that there must be “a written
At this stage of the proceedings, the Court is unclear as to what the
relationship between CalFirst and Noranda entailed. Nevertheless, at this stage
of the proceedings it is enough to accept Boh Bros. plausible arguments as true.
agency or trust agreement under which the financial institution
specifically agrees to act and perform in the capacity of a
fiduciary.” La. Rev. Stat. § 6:1124 (emphasis added); see also
Mose v. Keybank Nat. Ass’n, 464 F. App’x 260, 263 (5th Cir. 2012)
(citing Priola, 21 So. 3d at 462) (holding that defendant bank had
no duty to disclose information to plaintiffs about the bank’s
borrower’s substandard financial status); Blanchard v. Lee, No.
13-220, 2013 WL 4049003, at *5 (E.D. La. Aug. 9, 2013) (citing
misrepresentation claim because plaintiffs failed to allege a
facially plausible contract whereby the defendant-banks agreed to
perform in the capacity of a fiduciary); Oliver v. Cent. Bank, 26932 (La. App. 2d Cir. 1995), 658 So. 2d 1316, 1324-25 (holding
that the defendant-bank had owed no duty to the plaintiff, despite
an agreement between the bank and the plaintiff, because there was
CalFirst owed Boh Bros. a fiduciary duty or that the agreement
created a fiduciary relationship. Further, from the facts alleged
in Boh Bros.’ counterclaim, it is implausible that if an agreement
between CalFirst and Boh Bros. exists that such agreement provides
that CalFirst “specifically agrees to act and perform in the
capacity of a fiduciary.” La. Rev. Stat. § 6:1124. While it is
plausible that a contract between CalFirst and Boh Bros. may exist,
the Court concludes that CalFirst did not have a duty to disclose
Noranda’s financial status to Boh Bros. Therefore, Boh Bros.’
negligent misrepresentation claim is dismissed. 5
3. Detrimental Reliance
Detrimental reliance is codified at Louisiana Civil Code
A party may be obligated by a promise when he knew or
should have known that the promise would induce the other
party to rely on it to his detriment and the other party
was reasonable in so relying. Recovery may be limited to
the expenses incurred or the damages suffered as a result
of the promisee's reliance on the promise. Reliance on
a gratuitous promise made without required formalities
is not reasonable.
La. Civ. Code art. 1967. Detrimental reliance bars a party “from
representations, or silence.” Suire v. Lafayette City-Par. Consol.
Gov., 2004-1459 (La. 4/12/05), 907 So. 2d 37, 31. “To establish
detrimental reliance, a party must prove three elements by a
preponderance of the evidence: (1) a representation by conduct or
Boh Bros. cites to Cypress Oilfield Contractors, Inc. v. McGoldrick Oil Co.,
Inc., 525 So. 2d 1157 (La. App. 3d 1988) in support of its argument that CalFirst
owed Boh Bros. a duty. (R. Doc. 24 at 11.) Notably, Louisiana Revised Statute
§ 6:1124 was enacted in 1991 and Cypress was decided in 1988. Thus, pre-1991 a
bank may have owed a duty to persons with whom it did not have a contract.
However, by enacting La. Rev. Stat. § 6:1124 in 1991 the Louisiana legislature
made clear that a bank is only a fiduciary if it expressly agrees by written
agreement to act as a fiduciary.
word; (2) justifiable reliance; and (3) a change in position to
one’s detriment because of the reliance.” Id. Proof of a formal,
valid, and enforceable contract is not necessary. Id.
Boh Bros. contends that it adequately alleged a claim for
detrimental reliance when it stated that CalFirst represented that
it would pay Boh Bros.’ invoices for the Noranda project, Boh Bros.
agreement to pay for Boh Bros.’ invoices, Boh Bros. would not have
continued work on the Noranda Project. (Rec. Doc. 24 at 18.) In
response, CalFirst argues that because Boh Bros. was contractually
obligated to Noranda to perform work on the Noranda project, Boh
Bros.’ continuing performance of such work does not demonstrate
that Boh Bros. changed its position to its detriment. (Rec. Doc.
21-1 at 15.) CalFirst further argues that Boh Bros. has not alleged
that it had a right to cease work under its agreement with Noranda.
The Court finds that Boh Bros. has adequately pled a cause of
action for detrimental reliance.
Boh Bros. specifically alleges
that it relied on CalFirst’s representation that CalFirst was
responsible for paying for Boh Bros.’ invoices. Boh Bros. further
alleges that it relied on CalFirst’s act of payment of the first
two invoices. Boh Bros. alleges that in reliance on these words
and acts it mobilized its labor force and performed additional
work on the Noranda Project. Boh Bros. alleges that it relied to
its detriment because it performed additional work on the Noranda
project in light of CalFirst’s payment of Boh Bros.’ first two
additional work without CalFirst confirming its obligation to pay
through its acts and words. While CalFirst argues that Boh Bros.’
contract with Noranda obligated Boh Bros. to perform regardless of
whether CalFirst paid, the agreement between Boh Bros. and Noranda
was not presented to the Court, and Boh Bros.’ counterclaim as
alleged and accepted as true adequately pleads a detrimental
Additionally, the Court notes that at this stage of the
proceedings, its ruling on Boh Bros.’ claims is based solely on
the pleadings and the plausible allegations contained therein.
The result may very well be different at a later stage once the
parties have had time to engage in discovery.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that CalFirst’s Motion to Dismiss (Rec.
Doc. 21) is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. Specifically, Boh
Bros. claim for negligent misrepresentation is DISMISSED WITH
New Orleans, Louisiana this 8th day of January, 2018.
CARL J. BARBIER
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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