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Central Valley Concrete, Inc. v. Road & Highway Builders, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 26, 2017

CENTRAL VALLEY CONCRETE, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
ROAD AND HIGHWAY BUILDERS, LLC, Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOC. NO. 15)

         This matter came before the court on June 6, 2017, for hearing on the defendant's motion for partial summary judgment. (Doc. No. 15.) Attorney Cory Chartrand appeared on behalf of plaintiff and counter-defendant Central Valley Concrete, Inc., and attorney J. Petrie appeared on behalf of defendant Road and Highway Builders, LLC. The court has considered the briefing submitted by the parties as well as their oral arguments. For the reasons explained below, defendant's motion for partial summary judgment will be denied.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The following facts are undisputed on summary judgment. Defendant Road and Highway Builders, LLC (“RHB”) is a heavy engineering contractor based in Nevada that specializes in highway design, construction, and maintenance. (Doc. No. 15-1 at 2.) Plaintiff Central Valley Concrete, Inc. (“CV”) is a trucking contractor based in California. (Doc. Nos. 15-1 at 2; 16 at 1.)

         In 2014, defendant RHB was the successful bidder on a Federal Highway Administration (“FHA”) project to rehabilitate a portion of U.S. Highway 120 in Yosemite National Park, located in Mariposa and Tuolumne Counties of California. (Doc. Nos. 15-1 at 2; 16-3 at 2, ¶ 1.) The FHA name for the project was “Tioga Pass Road.” (Id.)

         As part of the construction, defendant required aggregate and paving materials to be moved to a job site on Highway 120. (Doc. Nos. 15-1 at 2; 16 at 3-4.) Defendant solicited bids from trucking contractors for this portion of the project. (Id.) In response, plaintiff submitted a quotation to defendant, which was accepted and signed by both parties. (Id.) Defendant subsequently issued a purchase order in March 2015 that included the quantities of aggregate and paving materials for the project and the terms and conditions by which the parties would be bound. (Doc. Nos. 15-1 at 2; 16-3 at 4, ¶ 2.) The purchase order was signed by representatives from both plaintiff and defendant's companies. (Id.)

         The Tioga Pass Road project ultimately required 43, 072.01 tons of material to be transported to the job site. (Doc. No. 16-3 at 3, ¶ 5.) However, between March 12, 2015, and August 12, 2015, plaintiff hauled only 35, 342.5 tons of material to the site. (Id. at 3, ¶ 6.)

         In mid-2015, defendant began contracting with other hauling companies to move material that plaintiff had not yet transported.[1] (Doc. Nos. 15-1 at 3; 16 at 5.)

         On August 16, 2016, plaintiff CV initiated this action in Merced County Superior Court against defendant RHB and Does 1-10, alleging that defendant failed to pay it an outstanding balance of $130, 687.19 which was due and owing. (Doc. No. 1 at 5, ¶¶ 1-2.) In that action, plaintiff asserted five causes of action under California state law: (i) breach of written contract; (ii) breach of oral contract; (iii) account stated; (iv) common counts-work, labor, services; and (v) quantum meruit. (Id. at 6-8.) On September 15, 2016, defendant removed the entire action from state court to this federal court on grounds of diversity jurisdiction. (Id. at 2.) On the following day, defendant filed an answer and counterclaim against plaintiff, alleging a single claim for breach of contract. (Doc. Nos. 3-4.)

         On April 25, 2017, defendant filed the instant motion for partial summary judgment as to the breach of contract claim asserted in its counterclaim. (Doc. No. 15.) Plaintiff filed its opposition to that motion on May 23, 2017. (Doc. No. 16.) Defendant filed its reply on May 30, 2017. (Doc. No. 17.)

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate when the moving party “shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In a motion for summary judgment, the moving party “initially bears the burden of proving the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” In re Oracle Corp. Securities Litigation, 627 F.3d 376, 387 (9th Cir. 2010) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). The moving party may meet its burden by “citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials” or by showing that such materials “do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A), (B).

         If the moving party would bear the burden of proof on an issue at trial, that party must “affirmatively demonstrate that no reasonable trier of fact could find other than for the moving party.” Soremekun v. Thrifty Payless, Inc., 509 F.3d 978, 984 (9th Cir. 2007). In such a circumstance, summary judgment should be granted, “so long as whatever is before the district court demonstrates that the standard for entry of summary judgment . . . is satisfied.” Id. at 323. When the non-moving party bears the burden of proof at trial, however, “the moving party need only prove that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.” Oracle Corp., 627 F.3d at 387 (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(B). Indeed, summary judgment should be entered, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. “[A] complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” Id. In such a circumstance, summary judgment should be granted, “so long as whatever is before the district court demonstrates that the standard for entry of summary judgment . . . is satisfied.” Id. at 323.

         If the moving party meets its burden, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to demonstrate the existence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). In attempting to establish the existence of this factual dispute, the opposing party may not rely upon the allegations or denials of its pleadings but is required to tender evidence of specific facts in the form of affidavits, and/or admissible discovery material, in support of its contention that the dispute exists. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1); Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586 n.11. The opposing party must demonstrate that the fact in contention is material, i.e., a fact that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pacific Elec. Contractors Ass 'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987), and that the dispute is genuine, i.e., the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party, see Wool v. Tandem Computs., Inc., 818 F.2d 1433, 1436 (9th Cir. 1987).

         In the endeavor to establish the existence of a factual dispute, the opposing party need not establish a material issue of fact conclusively in its favor. It is sufficient that “the claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial.” T. W. Elec. Serv., 809 F.2d at 631. Thus, the “purpose of summary judgment is to ‘pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof ...


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