Samedan Oil Corporation v. Ultra Fabricators, Inc.

Decision Date03 March 1999
Docket NumberNo. 98-1516.,98-1516.
Citation737 So.2d 846
PartiesSAMEDAN OIL CORPORATION, Plantiff-Appellee, v. ULTRA FABRICATORS, INC., et al., Defendants-Appellants.
CourtCourt of Appeal of Louisiana — District of US

Robert Thomas Jorden, Jr. and John William Kolwe, Lafayette, for Plaintiff/Appellee Samedan Oil Corp.

Jay Hirsch Kern, New Orleans, Guyton H. Watkins, New Iberia, and Joseph Thomas Hamrick, Jr., New Orleans, for Essex Crane Rental Corp.



This is an appeal that arises out of a concursus proceeding. Samedan Oil Corporation (Samedan) filed a concursus proceeding and deposited $488,974.04 into the registry of the trial court. Samedan took this action as one of its contractors, Ultra Fabricators, Inc. (Ultra Fab), refused to pay some of its contractors for work performed on Samedan's construction projects. One day before Samedan filed the concursus proceeding, Essex Crane Rental Corporation (Essex), one of Ultra Fab's contractors which provided six large cranes for the Samedan work, filed a lien and privilege in the mortgage records of Iberia Parish, Louisiana, contending that it had a claim against a portion of the funds deposited in the registry of court in the concursus proceeding. Subsequently, Samedan named Essex as an additional defendant in the concursus proceeding. Samedan then settled all claims except for those of Ultra Fab and Essex. The trial court required it to file a bond with the court in the amount of $200,000.00 to cover the value of the Essex claims. Both parties filed motions for summary judgment. The trial court held that the Essex lien was invalid and rejected Essex's unjust enrichment argument against Samedan. It granted Samedan's motion for summary judgment and denied Essex's motion for summary judgment that it was entitled to $199,290.00. Essex devolutively appeals. We affirm.


On November 29, 1995, Essex filed a lien against Ultra Fab, Samedan, Hall Houston Oil Company (Hall Houston), and Vaster Resources, Inc. (Vaster). Pursuant to written lease agreements, Essex leased six large cranes to Ultra Fab. Ultra Fab used the cranes to construct steel platforms and structures for Samedan, Hall Houston, and Vaster. Essex claimed that it is owed $199,290.00 from Ultra Fab for rentals for the period running from September through December of 1995. Likewise, Essex filed a lessor's lien and privilege against Union Oil Company of California and Smit International (Americas), Inc., claiming the same rentals.

On November 30, 1995, Samedan filed a concursus proceeding, including Ultra Fab. It deposited 5488,974.04 into the registry of the trial court. Ultra Fab had not paid eight of the nine suppliers and subcontractors for the Samedan jobs. On December 7, 1995, Samedan filed an amended petition of concursus, adding Essex and others as additional defendants. The tenth defendant, M.C. Bank, was an Ultra Fab lender that claimed balances due to Ultra Fab because of a security interest. Part of the relief which Samedan sought was the release of the Samedan jobs. The trial court issued a temporary restraining order and injunction, ordering the defendants to allow Samedan to take possession of its equipment.

On January 11, 1996, Essex filed a separate action against Ultra Fab and Samedan, seeking judicial recognition of its lien and payment of $199,290.00. On February 16, 1996, Essex filed its answer and a reconventional demand against Samedan in this proceeding, seeking the same relief. Essex's reconventional demand and lien, as well as a separate action against Samedan, all allege that, pursuant to an agreement of July 1, 1995 between Hall Houston and its successor in interest, Samedan, Ultra Fab used the leased Essex's cranes and equipment in construction and fabrication of:

A. Job 01-366, wet/dry tank skid package for High Island Block A-547;

B. Job 03-334, tripod jacket, piles, conductor, riser, boat landing (2), deck with ICP and heliport for Eugene Island Block 286 IC; and

C. Job 03-357, tripod jacket, piles, deck and heliport for High Island Block A-325.

Essex claims that Ultra Fab completed these jobs for the account of Hall Houston and Samedan, at Ultra Fab's job site, at the Port of Iberia, Iberia Parish, Louisiana. It should be noted that Hall Houston conveyed all of its interest in the above jobs to Samedan, effective September 1, 1995, and that it was bound by the July 1, 1995 agreement between itself and Ultra Fab. Essex contends that Ultra Fab failed to pay the invoices for the rental of the cranes and other equipment, which resulted in Essex filing the lien. The lien attempts to secure the rentals due Essex for Ultra Fab's use of the cranes and equipment in completing the above jobs for Hall Houston and Samedan. Essex prayed for a judgment in its reconventional demand against Ultra Fab and Samedan, recognizing and maintaining its "Lessor's Lien and Privilege ... on the wet/dry oil tank skid package, tripod jackets, piles, conductor, riser, boat landings, decks, heliports, and component parts thereof," constructed on the premises of Ultra Fab and asked for unpaid rentals. It amended its reconventional demand against Samedan to make an unjust enrichment claim.

Samedan answered Essex's the reconventional demand and amended reconventional demand, denying the allegations. It also asserted a peremptory exception of no cause of action and several affirmative defenses; specifically, that Essex had failed to comply with all the requirements of the applicable lien statutes and that it had not been unjustly enriched at Essex's expense. it asked for judgment in its favor.

On June 10, 1996, Essex filed a motion for summary judgment, claiming that there was "no material issue of fact with regard to the existence of certain leases of six cranes by Essex as lessor to [Ultra Fab] as lessee, [and] that Ultra Fab owes Essex $199,290.00." Essex alleged that its cranes were used "almost exclusively" on the Samedan jobs, thus entitling Essex to collect all of its rentals from Samedan for the period of September through December of 1995. Samedan opposed the motion for summary judgment with evidence establishing that the Samedan jobs were not the only ones Ultra Fab performed during the relevant time period. The trial court, finding a dispute of material fact, denied the motion for summary judgment.

Thereafter, most of the parties reached a settlement of the concursus proceeding except for Essex's claims against Samedan and Ultra Fab. The trial court approved the settlement on August 7, 1997 and signed an order authorizing the disbursement of the funds in the registry of the court to the settling subcontractors and suppliers. The order reserved all claims and defenses concerning Ultra Fab, Samedan, and Essex. Samedan was ordered to file a bond of $200,000.00 into the registry of the court, pending resolution of the Essex claims.

On August 11, 1997, Samedan filed a motion for summary judgment against Essex, arguing that the lien was ineffective under the Louisiana Private Works Act and the Oil Well Lien Act. Essex opposed Samedan's motion, now, claiming that it was entitled to recover its unpaid rentals from Samedan under the doctrine of unjust enrichment. It renewed its original summary judgment motion, claiming it could establish its entitlement to the funds in the registry of the court over the rights of Ultra Fab and Samedan.

On December 12, 1997, the trial court held a hearing on the cross-motions for summary judgment. Following the hearing the court issued its reasons for judgment on February 2, 1998. It found that the Essex lien was invalid regarding Jobs 03-334 and 03-357. It granted Samedan's motion and completely denied Essex's. It found disputed issues of fact concerning Essex's claim on Job 01-366 and reserved those issues for trial, and signed the judgment on April 20, 1998. The parties settled the remaining issue involving Job 01-366 and moved for a final judgment. That motion was granted, and the judgment was signed on June 15, 1998. Essex then filed a petition for devolutive appeal on June 25, 1998.


Essex alleges that the trial court erred in:

1. Denying the first Essex motion, which was uncontested as to liability, with a simple, non-specific finding of disputed facts and inferences from these facts.

2. Granting, in part, Samedan's motion for summary judgment and denying the second Essex motion, in the following particulars:

A. In improperly finding the Essex Lien to be invalid with respect to Job 03-334 and Job 03-357;

B. In failing to recognize the lack of competing claims in the concursus; and

C. In rejecting Essex's alternative claim for unjust enrichment.

Samedan presents the following issues for review:

1. Given the strict construction of liens under Louisiana law, is the Lien valid and enforceable against Samedan where the evidence shows Essex failed to comply with the express requirements of both the Louisiana Private Works Act and the Louisiana Oil Well Lien Act?

2. Is Samedan, as the party instituting this concursus action, precluded from claiming funds out of the registry of the Court where the evidence shows Samedan denied liability to Essex and specifically prayed in its Answer to the Reconventional Demand by Essex for judgment in its favor denying the claims of Essex?

3. Has Samedan been unjustly enriched to the extent of the Essex rentals where the evidence shows Samedan paid in excess of the contract price of the jobs at issue, and that Essex has other remedies at law for the recovery of those rentals?

4. Is the trial court's denial of the first motion for summary judgment by Essex subject to review on appeal of the trial court's final judgment in this matter?


Appellate courts are required to review summary judgments de novo under the same criteria that governed the trial court's consideration of whether or...

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