Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals affirms trial court's awarding of $262,600 to JBEM

By Angela Underwood | Jan 7, 2018

NEW ORLEANS — The Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals recently affirmed a trial court's monetary award of $262,600 for the half-completed construction of an oil and gas vehicle in John Begnaud Electric Motors Inc. (JBEM) vs. Alternative Well Intervention, LLC (AWI).

The complaint stems from an original contract between JBEM and AWI to construct four rigs in the amount of $86,757.25. When the oil and gas market suffered a downturn, AWI instructed JBEM to halt construction on the fourth rig and submit an invoice for any work completed. JBEM submitted an Invoice Acknowledgement Agreement (IAA) for $262,500 that former company President John Stansbury signed, but the bill was never paid.

After JBEM filed a petition to seek the amount owed, AWI countered with an Exceptions of No Right of Action and No Cause of Action based on JBEM no longer possessing rights regarding the invoice. The trial court then granted the Exception of No Right of Action and the Exception of No Cause, and JBEM filed an amended petition regarding the reassignment of the invoice and was awarded $262,500 in a bench trial. However, AWI called the award a “windfall,” specifically upholding it was not responsible for the $174,500 Bayou Buff transformer JBEM did not accept delivery on. 

Beginning the Standard of Review, authoring Judge Terri Love cited Snider v. Louisiana Med. Mut. Ins. Co. 2015, noting “the issue before the court of appeal is not whether the trier of fact was right or wrong, but whether the factfinder’s conclusion was a reasonable one,” according to the appeal.  

Then considering the completed work value, Love cited Doucette v. Guient 2016, noting, “although a plaintiff can establish damages through evidence consisting only of his or her testimony, such testimony is subject to the trier of fact’s evaluation of credibility” according to the appeal, adding “Mr. Begnaud testified that when Mr. Stansbury was presented with the invoice, he did not express concerns regarding the amount.”

The approved contract mandated 25 percent of the total contract price due up front, 50 percent due at the second draw when the rig was half completed, and the final 25 percent owed when the rig was finished.

“We do not find that the trial court committed manifest error by finding for JBEM or for ordering payment for $262,500.00, which exceeded the $193,514.50 second draw amount,” Love wrote in the ruling, adding AWI’s argument that they should not owe money for the transformer was denied.  

“We find that the record documented that JBEM ordered the transformer from Bayou Buff and continues to be obligated to pay for same,” Love wrote.

Judge Sandra Cabrina Jenkins joined Love in affirming the verdict while Judge Joy Cossich Lobrano dissented. 

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