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Janvrin v. Continental Resources, Inc.

United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Southern Division

June 27, 2016

JERRY JANVRIN, d/b/a J&J TRUCKING, Plaintiff,
v.
CONTINENTAL RESOURCES, INC., an Oklahoma corporation, Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          KAREN E. SCHREIER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Defendant, Continental Resources, Inc., moves for summary judgment. Plaintiff, Jerry Janvrin, d/b/a J&J Trucking, resists the motion. For the following reasons, the court denies the motion.

         BACKGROUND

         The facts, viewed in the light most favorable to Janvrin, the non-moving party, are as follows:

Janvrin is a resident of Harding County, South Dakota. He owns J&J Trucking, a business that provides hauling services in South Dakota, North Dakota, and Montana. Continental is an Oklahoma corporation with its principal place of business in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. It is an oil and gas exploration company that, among other locations, is registered to do business in South Dakota. Continental has oil wells located near Buffalo, South Dakota, which is located in Harding County.

         Non-party CTAP, Inc., is a supplier of pipeline, casings, tubing, and other goods used by oil and gas companies. It is based in Lafayette, Colorado, and maintains supply yards in Utah, Colorado, Montana, Ohio, and North Dakota. Continental is a major customer of CTAP. CTAP employs its own haulers to deliver oilfield material to its customers’ oil well locations. CTAP also hires independent contractors to haul oilfield materials when CTAP does not have enough of its own employees to make the deliveries.

         CTAP maintains a list of the independent contractors who are qualified by CTAP to deliver loads to its customers. Janvrin began hauling oilfield materials as an independent contractor with CTAP in 2010, and he obtained approval to haul oilfield materials from any of CTAP’s supply yards. Janvrin primarily hauled pipeline from CTAP’s supply yards in Bowman, North Dakota, and Glendive, Montana. Some of the shipments hauled by Janvrin were destined for delivery to Continental.

         Janvrin did not initially have a written agreement with CTAP for the provision of his services. At some point, however, Janvrin and CTAP began executing contracts on a yearly basis. CTAP and Janvrin executed their most recent contract on December 21, 2012.

         On February 20, 2014, an article appeared in a Harding County newspaper. See Docket 16-7.[1] The article was titled, “Pickup and Cows Collide with Dire Results.” The pickup was owned by Continental and driven by a Continental employee named Jess Wammen. The pickup collided with two cows on a county road north of Buffalo. The cows belonged to David Niemi. Janvrin’s sister, Roxie, is married to Niemi. Janvrin operates J&J Trucking out of his home, which is located on the Clarkson Ranch. The Clarkson Ranch is situated along the same county road as the Niemi property. A comment attributed to Janvrin appeared in the newspaper article. Janvrin expressed his belief that many drivers on the county road drive too fast for the road’s conditions. Janvrin did not, however, refer specifically to Continental.

         Gordon Carlson is an area supervisor for Continental. His office is located in Harding County. He read the newspaper article and discussed it with Peter MacIntyre. MacIntyre is an engineer with Continental for its Buffalo district. Carlson felt that Janvrin’s comments were inappropriate. He equated Janvrin’s actions to “biting the hand the feeds you.” Docket 16-2 at 5. Carlson informed MacIntyre that he did not want Janvrin’s trucking company doing business in the Buffalo district.

         MacIntyre eventually spoke with Ollis Anderson. Anderson is the director of Continental’s supply chain management. His duties include obtaining supplies and materials necessary for some of Continental’s oil and gas operations. The newspaper article was brought to his attention by MacIntyre. MacIntyre and Anderson discussed how Continental was having problems with the Niemis, the Clarksons, and the Janvrins. MacIntyre informed Anderson that he would prefer if Janvrin did not make deliveries to Continental’s well locations in South Dakota.

         Anderson called Michael “Stoney” McCarrell about a week later to facilitate MacIntyre’s request. McCarrell is a senior vice president of CTAP’s operations, quality control, and technical sales. He oversees aspects of CTAP’s business at CTAP’s supply yards. Although McCarrell did not decide which independent contractors would be added to CTAP’s approved list, he testified that he had the authority to order the removal of an independent contractor from the list.

         Anderson asked McCarrell to no longer allow Janvrin to deliver to Continental. McCarrell responded affirmatively. McCarrell then called Ron Spidahl, the CTAP yard manager in Bowman, North Dakota. McCarrell told Spidahl to remove Janvrin from CTAP’s list of approved independent contractors for CTAP’s Bowman yard. Spidahl recalled that “Continental is the number one customer [for CTAP]” with “the biggest account” in the Bakken Formation and that CTAP “did everything for Continental.” Docket 16-6 at 4. Spidahl complied with McCarrell’s request, and informed Janvrin that he could no longer haul materials for CTAP.

         Janvrin testified that he had received periodic business from CTAP prior to being notified that he would no longer be hauling materials for the company. He explained that the frequency of CTAP’s requests depended on a number of factors: the amount of drilling activity at the time, the availability of CTAP drivers, and competition from other independent contractors. Janvrin testified that, nonetheless, CTAP brought in a fairly consistent level of business over the last few years.

         Janvrin filed suit in state court alleging one claim for tortious interference with a business relationship. See Docket 1-3 (complaint). Continental removed the action to this court on August 11, 2014. Docket 1. Jurisdiction is premised on diversity of citizenship.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment on all or part of a claim is appropriate when the movant “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); see also In re Craig, 144 F.3d 593, 595 (8th Cir. 1998). The moving party can meet its burden by presenting evidence that there is no dispute of material fact or that the nonmoving party has not presented evidence to support an element of its case on which it bears the ultimate burden of proof. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). Once the moving party has met this burden, “[t]he nonmoving party may not ‘rest on mere allegations or denials, but must demonstrate on the record the existence of specific facts which create a genuine issue for trial.’ ” Mosley v. City of Northwoods, Mo., 415 F.3d 908, 910 (8th Cir. 2005) (quoting Krenik v. Cty. of Le Sueur, 47 F.3d 953, 957 (8th Cir. 1995)). “Further, ‘the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties is not sufficient by itself to deny summary judgment. . . . Instead, the dispute must be outcome determinative under prevailing law.’ ” Id. (quoting Get Away Club, Inc. v. Coleman, 969 F.2d 664, 666 (8th Cir. 1992)). The facts, and inferences drawn from those facts, are “viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion” for summary judgment. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (quoting United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962)).

         In addition to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, this court has adopted local rules in civil cases that are binding on the parties. Braxton v. Bi-State Dev. Agency, 728 F.2d 1105, 1107 (8th Cir. 1984) (“Rules of practice adopted by United States District Courts have the force and effect of law.”). Local Rule 56.1 is the local rule governing motions for summary judgment. See D.S.D. Civ. LR 56.1. The purpose of local rules like Local Rule 56.1 “is to distill to a manageable volume the matters that must be reviewed by a court undertaking to decide whether a genuine issue of fact exists for trial. [They are] designed ‘to prevent a district court from engaging in the proverbial search for a needle in the haystack.’ ” Jones v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 461 F.3d 982, 990 (8th Cir. 2006) (discussing W.D. Mo. LR 56.1(a)) (quoting Nw. Bank & Trust Co. v. First Ill. Nat'l Bank, 354 F.3d 721, 725 (8th Cir. 2003)). And “the application of local rules is a matter peculiarly within the district court's province.” Yannacopoulos v. Gen. Dynamics Corp., 75 F.3d 1298, 1305 (8th Cir.1996) (internal quotations and citation omitted). Thus, the court is vested with a large measure of discretion in applying its local rules. Silberstein v. IRS, 16 F.3d 858, 860 (8th Cir. 1994).

         DISCUSSION

         I. Compliance ...


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