Pure Air Daigle L L C et al v. Stagg, II et al
MEMORANDUM RULING re 61 MOTION for Judgment on the Pleadings filed by Brad Guidry, Charles Stagg, II, Capitol Welders Supply Co Inc, Phillip Courville, Jr, St Landry Gas & Supply L L C, Michael Scott Lanclos. Considering the evidence, the law, and the arguments of the parties, and for the reasons fully explained below, the motion is granted in part and denied in part. Signed by Magistrate Judge Patrick J Hanna on 9/6/2017. (crt,Alexander, E)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
PURE AIR DAIGLE, LLC, ET AL.
CIVIL ACTION NO. 6:16-cv-01322
MAGISTRATE JUDGE HANNA
CHARLES STAGG, II, ET AL.
BY CONSENT OF THE PARTIES
Currently pending is the motion for judgment on the pleadings (Rec. Doc. 61)
under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c), which was filed by all of the defendants, namely Charles
Stagg, II, Michael Scott Lanclos, Phillip Courville, Jr., Brad Guidry, Capitol Welders
Supply Co., Inc., and St. Landry Gas & Supply, L.L.C. with regard to Counts IV and
V of the plaintiffs’ complaint. In Count IV, the plaintiffs contended that the
defendants tortiously interfered with the plaintiffs’ contractual relationships with their
customers. In Count V, the plaintiffs contended that the defendants tortiously
interfered with their business relationships. The motion is opposed. Considering the
evidence, the law, and the arguments of the parties, and for the reasons fully
explained below, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.
Defendants Stagg, Lanclos, Courville, and Guidry (“the Employee
Defendants”) were all formerly employed by Daigle Welding Supply. The plaintiffs,
Pure Air Daigle, L.L.C., and Pure Air [US], LLC, are the successors of that company.
Defendant Capitol Welders Supply Co. Inc. was a long-time supplier of the plaintiffs.
In 2016, Capitol Welders formed defendant St. Landry Gas & Supply, L.L.C., which
is a competitor of the plaintiffs. The Employee Defendants left their employment
with the plaintiffs and all of them went to work for St. Landry Gas.
In their complaint, the plaintiffs asserted claims against the defendants for
breach of contract, violation of the Louisiana Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer
Protection Law, breach of fiduciary duties, conversion, conspiracy, tortious
interference with contractual relationships, and tortious interference with business
The instant motion relates solely to the plaintiffs’ tortious interference claims.
The plaintiffs asserted a claim for tortious interference with contractual relationships,
contending that they had contracts with each of their customers, and that the
defendants made false statements to the customers in an effort to induce them not to
do business with the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs also asserted a claim for tortious
interference with business relationships, contending that the defendants made false
and deceptive statements with actual malice in an effort to stop the plaintiffs’
customers from doing business with them.
LAW AND ANALYSIS
THE APPLICABLE STANDARD
Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c) states that, after the pleadings are closed but early enough
not to delay trial, a party may move for judgment on the pleadings. A Rule 12(c)
motion is resolved under the same standard as a Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) motion to
dismiss.1 A motion brought pursuant to Rule 12(c) “is designed to dispose of cases
where the material facts are not in dispute and a judgment on the merits can be
rendered by looking to the substance of the pleadings and any judicially noticed
A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, under Rule 12(b)(6) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, is appropriate when a defendant attacks the
complaint because it fails to state a legally cognizable claim.3 When considering a
motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6), a district court must
limit itself to the contents of the pleadings, including any attachments thereto.4 The
court must accept all well-pleaded facts as true, and it must view them in the light
Gentilello v. Rege, 627 F.3d 540, 544 (5th Cir. 2010); Doe v. MySpace, Inc., 528 F.3d
413, 418 (5th Cir. 2008).
Hebert Abstract Co. v. Touchstone Props., Ltd., 914 F.2d 74, 76 (5th Cir. 1990).
Ramming v. United States, 281 F.3d 158, 161 (5th Cir. 2001).
Collins v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, 224 F.3d 496, 498 (5th Cir. 2000).
most favorable to the plaintiff.5 However, conclusory allegations and unwarranted
deductions of fact are not accepted as true,6 and courts “are not bound to accept as
true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.”7
To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the plaintiff must plead “enough facts to
state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”8 The allegations must be sufficient
“to raise a right to relief above the speculative level,”9 and “the pleading must contain
something more . . . than . . . a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion [of]
a legally cognizable right of action.”10 “While a complaint . . . does not need detailed
factual allegations, a plaintiff’s obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement
to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the
In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litigation, 495 F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir. 2007) (internal
quotations omitted) (quoting Martin K. Eby Constr. Co. v. Dallas Area Rapid Transit, 369 F.3d 464,
467 (5th Cir. 2004)); Baker v. Putnal, 75 F.3d 190, 196 (5th Cir. 1996).
Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Sales v. Avondale Shipyards, 677 F.2d 1045, 1050 (5th
Cir. 1982) (citing Associated Builders, Inc. v. Alabama Power Company, 505 F.2d 97, 100 (5th Cir.
1974)); Collins v. Morgan Stanley, 224 F.3d at 498.
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Papasan v. Allain,
478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)).
Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.
Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (quoting 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal
Practice and Procedure § 1216, pp. 235-36 (3d ed. 2004)).
elements of a cause of action will not do.”11 If the plaintiff fails to allege facts
sufficient to “nudge[ ][his] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, [his]
complaint must be dismissed.”12
A claim meets the test for facial plausibility “when the plaintiff pleads the
factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”13
“[D]etermining whether a
complaint states a plausible claim for relief . . . [is] a context-specific task that
requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.”14
Therefore, “[t]he complaint (1) on its face (2) must contain enough factual matter
(taken as true) (3) to raise a reasonable hope or expectation (4) that discovery will
reveal relevant evidence of each element of a claim.”15
Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citations, quotation marks, and brackets
omitted; emphasis added). See also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).
Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at679.
Lormand v. US Unwired, Inc., 565 F.3d 228, 257 (5th Cir. 2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). See also In Re Southern Scrap, 541 F.3d 584, 587 (5th Cir. 2008).
THE APPLICABLE LAW
A federal court sitting in diversity must apply state substantive law and federal
procedural law.16 Because this is a diversity case, Louisiana’s substantive law must
be applied.17 To determine Louisiana law, federal courts look to the final decisions
of the Louisiana Supreme Court.18 When the state's highest court has not decided an
issue, the court must make an “Erie guess” as to how the state supreme court would
decide the issue.19 In making such a guess, the federal court may rely upon state
appellate court decisions, unless persuasive data convinces the court that the state
supreme court would decide the issue differently.20 When making an Erie guess
concerning Louisiana law, the Fifth Circuit relies upon “(1) decisions of the
[Louisiana] Supreme Court in analogous cases, (2) the rationales and analyses
underlying [Louisiana] Supreme Court decisions on related issues, (3) dicta by the
[Louisiana] Supreme Court, (4) lower state court decisions, (5) the general rule on the
Erie R. R. Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78 (1938); Gasperini v. Ctr. for Humanities,
Inc., 518 U.S. 415, 427 (1996); Coury v. Moss, 529 F.3d 579, 584 (5th Cir. 2008).
See, e.g., Moore v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 556 F.3d 264, 269 (5th Cir. 2009).
Moore v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co., 556 F.3d at 269.
Temple v. McCall, 720 F.3d 301, 307 (5th Cir. 2013); Moore v. State Farm Fire &
Casualty Co., 556 F.3d at 269.
Guilbeau v. Hess Corporation, 854 F.3d 310, 311-12 (5th Cir. 2017); Temple v.
McCall, 720 F.3d at 307; Mem'l Hermann Healthcare Sys., Inc. v. Eurocopter Deutschland, GMBH,
524 F.3d 676, 678 (5th Cir. 2008).
question, (6) the rulings of courts of other states to which [Louisiana] courts look
when formulating substantive law and (7) other available sources, such as treatises
and legal commentaries.”21
TORTIOUS INTERFERENCE WITH CONTRACTUAL RELATIONS
Louisiana law recognizes the tort of intentional interference with contractual
relations as arising out of Louisiana Civil Code article 2315 and existing when a
corporate officer intentionally and unjustifiably interferes with a contractual
relationship between his employer and the plaintiff.22 To bring a successful claim, the
plaintiff must provide evidence of: (1) the existence of a contract or a legally
protected interest between the plaintiff and the corporation; (2) the corporate officer's
knowledge of the contract; (3) the officer's intentional inducement or causation of the
corporation to breach the contract or his intentional rendition of its performance
impossible or more burdensome; (4) the absence of justification on the part of the
officer; (5) the causation of damages to the plaintiff by the breach of contract or
difficulty of its performance brought about by the officer.23
Gulf and Mississippi River Transp. Co., Ltd. v. BP Oil Pipeline Co., 730 F.3d 484,
488–89 (5th Cir. 2013) (quoting Am. Int'l Specialty Lines Ins. Co. v. Rentech Steel, L.L.C., 620 F.3d
558, 564 (5th Cir. 2010) (quoting Hodges v. Mack Trucks, Inc., 474 F.3d 188, 199 (5th Cir. 2006))).
9 to 5 Fashions, Inc. v. Spurney, 538 So. 2d 228, 234 (La. 1989).
9 to 5 Fashions, Inc. v. Spurney, 538 So. 2d at 234.
When the Louisiana Supreme Court recognized this tort, in 9 to 5 Fashions,
Inc. v. Spurney, it also recognized that its scope is limited, and the Supreme Court
has not subsequently revisited the scope of the cause of action.24 Consequently, the
Fifth Circuit has been cautious about expanding the tort beyond the limits described
by the Louisiana Supreme Court.25 Indeed, “courts – especially federal courts –
generally limit 9 to 5 to its facts.”26
THE PLAINTIFFS FAILED TO STATE A CLAIM FOR TORTIOUS
INTERFERENCE WITH CONTRACTUAL RELATIONS AGAINST THE
While Louisiana appellate courts are split on whether a cause of action can be
brought against a corporate entity,27 federal courts applying Louisiana law have made
an Erie-guess and have determined that a plaintiff cannot bring an intentional
Ashford v. Aeroframe Services LLC, No. 2:14-cv-00992, 2017 WL 2293109, at *9
(W.D. La. May 24, 2017) (citing Petrohawk Props., L.P. v. Chesapeake La., L.P., 689 F.3d 380, 395
(5th Cir. 2012)). See, also, Total Safety v. Rowland, No. 13-6109, 2014 WL 6485641, at *3 (E.D.
La. Nov. 18, 2014) (“The Louisiana Supreme Court has not directly addressed the scope of this cause
of action since the decision in 9 to 5 Fashions.”)
See Petrohawk Props., L.P. v. Chesapeake La., L.P., 689 F.3d at 395.
M & D Mineral Consultants, LLC v. Wenting Li, No. 12-2082, 2013 WL 883689, at
*3 (W.D. La. Mar. 7, 2013) (citing Am. Favorite Chicken Co. v. Cajun Enterprises, Inc., 130 F.3d
180, 184 (5th Cir .1997)).
Tech. Control Sys, Inc. v. Green, 2001-0955 (La. App. 3 Cir. 2/27/02), 809 So. 2d
1204, 1207, writ denied, 2002-0962 (La. 5/31/02), 817 So. 2d 100 (declining to extend the tort to
allow a cause of action against a corporate entity); Neel v. Citrus Lands of La, Inc., 629 So. 2d 1299,
1301 (La. App. 4 Cir. 1993) (allowing a cause of action against a corporate entity if the entity owed
a duty to the plaintiff).
interference with contractual relations claim against a corporate entity.28 “Federal
courts have come to this conclusion by conservatively interpreting 9 to 5 to prevent
federal expansion of Louisiana tort law.”29 Additionally, at least one federal court has
reasoned that “a corporate entity [cannot be held] liable through respondeat superior
for [intentional interference with contractual relations] claims asserted against a
corporate officer because, by definition, [this] claim involves conduct beyond the
scope of the officer's corporate authority.”30 This court agrees with the Erie-guess
made by other Louisiana federal courts and finds that Louisiana does not recognize
an intentional interference with contractual relations claim against a corporation
individually or under a theory of respondeat superior. Therefore, the plaintiffs have
not stated a valid claim for intentional interference with contractual relations against
the Corporate Defendants.
Total Safety v. Rowland, 2014 WL 6485641, at *4 (declining to extend the cause of
action beyond corporate officers); Boudreaux v. OS Restaurant Services, LLC, 58 F.Supp.3d 634,
638 (E.D. La. 2014); Mountain States Pipe & Supply Co. v. City of New Roads, La, No. 12-2146,
2013 WL 3199724, at *5 (E.D. La. June 21, 2013); M & D Mineral Consultants LLC v. Wenting Li,
2013 WL 883689, at *4.
Ashford v. Aeroframe Services LLC, 2017 WL 2293109, at *9.
Bollinger v. Tanner Companies, LP, No. 02-3248, 2003 WL 1824836, at *2 (E.D. La.
Apr. 7, 2003). The same conclusion was reached in Ashford v. Aeroframe Services LLC, 2017 WL
2293109, at *9.
THE PLAINTIFFS FAILED TO STATE A CLAIM FOR TORTIOUS
INTERFERENCE WITH CONTRACTUAL RELATIONS AGAINST THE
The Louisiana Supreme Court imposed a second limitation on the scope of this
tort. In 9 to 5, the Louisiana Supreme Court recognized a cause of action for
intentional interference with contractual relations only “against a corporate officer.”31
In other words, a claim for tortious interference with contractual relations “must be
directed at an individual corporate officer.”32 But the plaintiffs’ complaint does not
allege that any of the Employee Defendants were corporate officers. In accordance
with Erie, this federal court sitting in diversity must apply state substantive law as
stated in the final decisions of the state's highest court, and the Fifth Circuit has found
the Louisiana Supreme Court’s decision in 9 to 5 Fashions, Inc. v. Spurney to be “a
controlling opinion on the scope of the action for tortious interference with a
contract.”33 This Court therefore concludes that the Louisiana Supreme Court would
not recognize the plaintiffs’ claims against the Employee Defendants because the
claims are not asserted against corporate officers. Consequently, this Court finds that
9 to 5 Fashions, Inc. v. Spurney, 538 So.2d at 234.
Magnolia Financial Group v. Antos, No. 15-7144, 2016 WL 7407174, at *3 (E.D.
La. Dec. 22, 2016) (citing Boudreaux v. OS Restaurant Services, L.L.C., 58 F. Supp. 3d at 638.
Petrohawk Properties, L.P. v. Chesapeake Louisiana, L.P., 689 F.3d at 396.
the plaintiffs have not stated a plausible claim for tortious interference with
contractual relations against the Employee Defendants.
TORTIOUS INTERFERENCE WITH BUSINESS RELATIONS
The Louisiana Supreme Court recognizes a cause of action for tortious
interference with business arising under Louisiana Civil Code Article 2315.34
However, Louisiana courts view tortious interference with business relations claims
with disfavor.35 This tort “is based on the principle that the right to influence others
not to deal is not absolute.”36 “Louisiana law protects the businessman from
malicious and wanton interference, permitting only interferences designed to protect
a legitimate interest of the actor.”37 To prevail on such a claim, a plaintiff cannot
merely show that a defendant's actions affected his business interests; instead, the
plaintiff must establish that the defendant actually prevented the plaintiff from
Dussouy v. Gulf Coast Inv. Corp., 660 F.2d 594, 601 (5th Cir. 1981) (citing Graham
v. St. Charles St. Railroad, 18 So. 707 (La. 1895)); Iberiabank v. Broussard, No. 6:14-CV-2448,
2016 WL 4571207, at *2 (W.D. La. Aug. 30, 2016).
Iberiabank v. Broussard, 2016 WL 4571207, at *3 (citing Henderson v. Bailey Bark
Materials, 47,946-CA (La. App. 2 Cir. 04/10/13), 116 So.3d 30, 37; JCD Mktg. Co. v. Bass Hotels
and Resorts, Inc., 2001-CA-1096 (La. App. 4 Cir. 2002), 812 So.2d 834, 841).
Junior Money Bags, Ltd. v. Segal, 970 F.2d 1, 10 (5th Cir. 1992).
Junior Money Bags, Ltd. v. Segal, 970 F.2d at 10 (quoting Dussouy v. Gulf Coast Inv.
Corp., 660 F.2d at 601 (internal quotations marks omitted)).
dealing with a third party.38 A plaintiff must also show that the defendant acted with
malice.39 “Although its meaning is not perfectly clear, the malice element seems to
require a showing of spite or ill will, which is difficult (if not impossible) to prove in
most commercial cases in which conduct is driven by the profit motive, not by bad
feelings.”40 A court in this district recently noted that there appear to be no reported
cases in which anyone actually has been held liable for this tort.41
In resolving this motion, the court must consider only the allegations of the
plaintiffs’ complaint and cannot take into account the evidence presented at the
hearing on the plaintiffs’ motion for injunctive relief. In the complaint, the plaintiffs
alleged that the Employee Defendants made false statements, with malice, to the
plaintiffs’ customers, Prairie Contractors, Inc. and Mike’s Repair Service, which
caused those customers to stop doing business with the plaintiffs. For the purpose of
Ashford v. Aeroframe Services LLC, 2017 WL 2293109, at *16; Bogues v. Louisiana
Energy Consultants, Inc., 46,434 (La. App. 2 Cir. 8/10/11), 71 So.3d 1128, 1135; Ustica Enterprises,
Inc. v. Costello, 434 So.2d 137, 140 (La. App. 5 Cir. 1983).
Iberiabank v. Broussard, 2016 WL 4571207, at *3 (citing JCD Mktg. Co. v. Bass
Hotels and Resorts, Inc., 812 So.2d at 841; Dussouy v. Gulf Coast Inv. Corp., 660 F.2d at 602)).
Ashford v. Aeroframe Services LLC, 2017 WL 2293109, at *16 (quoting Bogues v.
Louisiana Energy Consultants, Inc., 71 So. 3d at 1135 (in turn quoting JCD Mktg. Co. v. Bass Hotels
and Resorts, Inc., 812 So. 2d at 841)).
Iberiabank v. Broussard, 2016 WL 4571207, at *3 (quoting JCD Marketing Co. v.
Bass Hotels and Resorts, Inc., 812 So.2d at 841 (quoting George Denegre, Jr., et al., Tortious
Interference and Unfair Trade Claims: Louisiana's Elusive Remedies for Business Interference, 45
Loy. L. Rev. 395, 401 (1999))).
resolving the instant motion, those allegations must be taken as true. When that is
done, the allegations are sufficient to state a plausible cause of action for tortious
interference with business relations.
For the reasons set forth above, this Court finds that the plaintiffs have stated
a plausible claim for tortious interference with business relations but have not stated
a plausible claim for tortious interference with contractual relations. Accordingly,
IT IS ORDERED that the defendants’ motion for judgment on the pleadings
(Rec. Doc. 61) is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. More particularly,
the motion is granted with regard to the plaintiffs’ claim for tortious interference with
contractual relations in Count IVand that claim is dismissed with prejudice; however,
with regard to the plaintiffs’ claim for tortious interference with business relations in
Count V, the motion is denied.
Signed at Lafayette, Louisiana on this 6th day of September 2017.
PATRICK J. HANNA
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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