Elec. Contractors, Inc. v. Westwater Farms, LLC, No. 20141166–CA.

CourtCourt of Appeals of Utah
Writing for the CourtBENCH, Senior Judge
Citation370 P.3d 949
Decision Date31 March 2016
Docket NumberNo. 20141166–CA.
Parties ELECTRICAL CONTRACTORS, INC., Appellee, v. WESTWATER FARMS, LLC, Appellant.

370 P.3d 949

ELECTRICAL CONTRACTORS, INC., Appellee,
v.
WESTWATER FARMS, LLC, Appellant.

No. 20141166–CA.

Court of Appeals of Utah.

March 31, 2016.


370 P.3d 950

Craig C. Halls, Monticello, for Appellant.

Douglas E. Griffith and Adam L. Grundvig, Salt Lake City, for Appellee.

Senior Judge RUSSELL W. BENCH authored this Opinion, in which Judges J. FREDERIC VOROS JR. and MICHELE M. CHRISTIANSEN concurred.1

Opinion

BENCH, Senior Judge:

¶ 1 Westwater Farms, LLC (Westwater) appeals the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Electrical Contractors, Inc. (ECI) and its denial of Westwater's motion to submit supplemental affidavits and documents in opposition to summary judgment. We affirm.

370 P.3d 951

BACKGROUND

¶ 2 In September 2010, Westwater, through its managing members, Thomas Warnes and Carl Borgstrom, allegedly entered into an oral contract with ECI pursuant to which ECI would provide general and electrical contracting services on a cost-plus2 basis in connection with a water disposal system to be constructed on Westwater's property in Grand County, Utah (the Project). Stewart Environmental Services, Inc. (Stewart Environmental) joined the Project as Westwater's engineering representative in late 2010 or early 2011. Between late 2010 and July 2011, ECI provided approximately $1,028,849 in construction services on the Project and sent invoices to Westwater for this work. Stewart Environmental made payments to ECI in May and July 2011 totaling $152,061.24. On August 8, 2011, ER & PWD Joint Venture—an LLC created by Warnes and Dave Stewart, a principal of Stewart Environmental—entered into a written agreement with ECI regarding documentation of charges and a schedule for paying ECI. However, other than the aforementioned payments made by Stewart Environmental, no additional payments were made to ECI by any party.

¶ 3 On January 19, 2012, ECI filed a complaint alleging various causes of action against Westwater, Stewart Environmental, ER & PWD Joint Venture, and several other parties. On May 28, 2014, ECI moved for summary judgment on its breach of contract claim against Westwater. In support of its motion, ECI submitted an affidavit from Doyle Jensen, job supervisor for ECI, describing the oral contract he entered into with Borgstrom and Warnes. Westwater filed a response in opposition to the motion for summary judgment on June 23, 2014 (the Opposition Memo). The Opposition Memo was supported by an affidavit from Warnes, but rather than denying the allegations in Jensen's affidavit, Warnes merely averred, "Neither I nor any other person on behalf of Westwater ... authorized Mr. Stewart or any entity under his control, to engage Electrical Contractors, Inc. as the general contractor...."

¶ 4 Subsequently, on August 1, 2014, Westwater moved the court, pursuant to rule 15(d) of the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure, "to allow amendment and supplementation of [additional] documents and affidavits to be considered by the Court before consideration of summary ... judgment." Westwater claimed that it was unable to provide the documents earlier because they were in the possession of Warnes, who had been hospitalized on June 27, 2014. The district court denied Westwater's motion to supplement, concluding that Westwater had "provided no persuasive explanation for failing to include the documents or arguments in its original response."

¶ 5 The district court held a hearing on ECI's motion for summary judgment on September 23, 2014. Following the hearing, the district court determined that Westwater's Opposition Memo did not "contain a verbatim restatement of each of [ECI's] facts that is controverted" or "provide an explanation of the grounds for any dispute," as required by rule 7 of the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure. See Utah R. Civ. P. 7(c)(3)(B) (2014).3 In light of these shortcomings, the district court deemed ECI's statement of material facts admitted for purposes of the summary judgment motion.4 The district court further determined, based on the undisputed facts, that ECI had established its breach of contract claim as a matter of law, and the court

370 P.3d 952

therefore awarded damages in the amount of $876,788.10, plus interest, for a total award of $1,165,084.09. The district court certified the judgment as final under rule 54(b) of the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure, and Westwater now appeals.

ISSUES AND STANDARDS OF REVIEW

¶ 6 Westwater first argues that the district court erred in granting ECI's motion for summary judgment. "Because a district court's ruling on summary judgment is a question of law, we review it for correctness." Rupp v. Moffo, 2015 UT 71, ¶ 5, 358 P.3d 1060.

¶ 7 Westwater further asserts that the district court erred by declining to accept Westwater's proffered supplemental affidavits and documents. We review the district court's ruling for an abuse of discretion. See United Park City Mines Co. v. Greater Park City Co., 870 P.2d 880, 893 (Utah 1993).

ANALYSIS

I. Summary Judgment

¶ 8 Westwater raises several arguments in support of its assertion that the district court erred in granting ECI's summary judgment motion. First, Westwater argues that the allegations in ECI's complaint failed to establish the elements of its breach of contract claim as a matter of law. Second, Westwater asserts that documents attached to ECI's amended complaint established a genuine issue of material fact. Third, Westwater argues that the district court should not have considered evidence relating to the oral contract because such evidence violated the parol evidence rule. Summary judgment is appropriate when "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and ... the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Utah R. Civ. P. 56(c) (2014).

A. Breach of Contract Claim

¶ 9 Westwater first argues that ECI did not adequately allege a breach of contract claim, because it did not establish the existence of an enforceable contract. See Orvis v. Johnson, 2008 UT 2, ¶ 19, 177 P.3d 600 ("If the moving party would bear the burden of proof on the relevant issue, ... then the movant has an affirmative duty to provide the court with facts that demonstrate both that the party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law and that there are no material issues of fact that would require resolution at trial."); Bair v. Axiom Design, LLC, 2001 UT 20, ¶ 14, 20 P.3d 388 (indicating that the first element of a breach of contract claim is the existence of a contract). Westwater asserts that the terms of the alleged oral contract were too indefinite to be enforced, see Nielsen v. Gold's Gym, 2003 UT 37, ¶ 11, 78 P.3d 600, because they did not include "the price to be paid and work to be done."

¶ 10 First, Westwater does not appear to have preserved this argument. In its Opposition Memo, Westwater alleged only that there were genuine issues of fact precluding summary judgment, not that there was no contract as a matter of law. See generally Brookside Mobile Home Park, Ltd. v. Peebles, 2002 UT 48, ¶ 14, 48 P.3d 968 ("[I]n order to preserve...

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2 practice notes
  • I-D Elec. Inc. v. Gillman, No. 20150682-CA.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Utah
    • August 10, 2017
    ...actually existed, there can be no contract to enforce." Id.¶ 26 In Electrical Contractors, Inc. v. Westwater Farms, LLC , 2016 UT App 60, 370 P.3d 949, the "fact that the parties did not know what the ultimate cost would be d[id] not demonstrate ... that there was no meeting of the minds." ......
  • Berry & Berry, Inc. v. Madera Hotel LLC, F075645
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • May 7, 2019
    ...was not so indefinite or uncertain as to be unenforceable. (See Electrical Contractors, Inc. v. Westwater Farms, LLC (Utah App. 2016) 370 P.3d 949, 953 [cost-plus terms in oral contract did not establish precise price to be paid, but provided a clear method for calculating the price once th......
2 cases
  • I-D Elec. Inc. v. Gillman, No. 20150682-CA.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Utah
    • August 10, 2017
    ...actually existed, there can be no contract to enforce." Id.¶ 26 In Electrical Contractors, Inc. v. Westwater Farms, LLC , 2016 UT App 60, 370 P.3d 949, the "fact that the parties did not know what the ultimate cost would be d[id] not demonstrate ... that there was no meeting of the minds." ......
  • Berry & Berry, Inc. v. Madera Hotel LLC, F075645
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • May 7, 2019
    ...was not so indefinite or uncertain as to be unenforceable. (See Electrical Contractors, Inc. v. Westwater Farms, LLC (Utah App. 2016) 370 P.3d 949, 953 [cost-plus terms in oral contract did not establish precise price to be paid, but provided a clear method for calculating the price once th......

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