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Builders Insulation of Tennessee, LLC v. Southern Energy Solutions

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division

December 10, 2019

BUILDERS INSULATION OF TENNESSEE, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
SOUTHERN ENERGY SOLUTIONS, THOMAS WALKER DAVIS, and TERI LEIGH DAVIS, Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          THOMAS L. PARKER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Builders Insulation of Tennessee, LLC moves for Partial Summary Judgment as to its breach of contract claim. (ECF No. 162.) Defendants, Southern Energy Solutions, Thom Davis, and Teri Davis, [1] timely responded in opposition. (ECF No. 168.) For the reasons below, the Court DENIES the motion.

         BACKGROUND

         Unless otherwise stated, the Court considers these facts undisputed by the parties for this Motion. Thom acted as the manager of Plaintiff's Memphis branch from September 2015 through July 2017. (ECF Nos. 163 at PageID 2449; 77-1 at PageID 322.) Plaintiff hired Thom as an at-will employee. (ECF Nos. 163 at PageID 2449; 103 at PageID 1507; 168-2.)

         The Davises are the only two general partners of Southern Energy Solutions (“SES”), a Tennessee general partnership that provides energy efficiency consulting and certification services. (ECF Nos. 163 at PageID 2500; 112 at PageID 1600-01; 113 at PageID 1864 & 1871.) Through their business relationship, Plaintiff and SES contracted for Plaintiff to perform insulation work on jobs with SES. (ECF Nos. 163 at PageID 2500; 168-1 at PageID 2552; 113 at PageID 1982-84.)

         Plaintiff maintains business records such as proposals, projects, scheduling, and invoicing on a Microsoft Access database hosted on CITRIX. (ECF Nos. 163 at PageID 2500; 168-1 at PageID 2552; 77-1 at PageID 324; 79 at PageID 575.) Thom had non-exclusive access to CITRIX. (ECF Nos. 163 at PageID 2500; 168-1 at PageID 2552; 77-1 at PageID 324; 79 at PageID 571.)

         Plaintiff alleges that, as branch manager, Thom oversaw sales, scheduling, billing, and invoicing. (ECF Nos. 163 at PageID 2499; 80 at PageID 723; 79 at PageID 567.) Defendants dispute this, however, claiming that Thom was not involved in, or even notified about, billing and invoicing. (ECF Nos. 168-1 at PageID 2551; 79 at PageID 596 & 620.) Defendants also allege that another employee could override the system to issue invoices. (ECF Nos. 168-1 at PageID 2551; 79 at PageID 577-78, 602.)

         And Plaintiff contends that, for each project during his time as manager, Thom created a proposal to perform work, submitted it to the customer, and each proposal lists that it was “authorized by: Thom Davis.” (ECF Nos. 163 at PageID 2500-01; 113 at PageID 1855-57, 1962, 1980; 162-4.) Defendants contest this, claiming that he did not prepare the proposals at issue. (ECF Nos. 168-1 at PageID 2553; 113 at PageID 1960.) And while the proposals list that Thom authorized them, Defendants argue they were created around sixth months after his termination, meaning that Thom could not have created them. (ECF Nos. 168-1 at PageID 2553.) Plaintiff argues that Defendants are clouding the issue here by contesting the date. It points out that there is a simple explanation for the dates on the proposals-Plaintiff printed the documents in January 2018 to deliver to Defendants as part of discovery. (ECF No. 173, PageID 2569-2571.)

         After the customer accepted the job proposal, Thom converted them into work orders. (ECF Nos. 163 at PageID 2501; 79 at PageID 593.) And according to Plaintiff, after completion of the project, Thom would close the job in CITRIX and an invoice would automatically generate to the customer. (ECF Nos. 163 at PageID 2501; 79 at PageID 597-98, 600.) Defendants, on the other hand, claim that CITRIX automatically generated invoices to the customer without further action by the branch manager, unless someone manually forced an invoice. (ECF Nos. 168-1 at PageID 2553-54; 79 at PageID 602.)

         Plaintiff alleges that there were at least 105 jobs during Thom's tenure at Builders Insulation with Southern Energy Solutions listed as a customer, but 24 jobs remain outstanding. (ECF Nos. 163 at PageID 2501; 162-2.) According to Plaintiff, the unpaid jobs represent an outstanding balance of $90, 414.00. (ECF Nos. 163 at PageID 2501; 162-3.) But Defendants dispute this. They again contend Thom could not have accepted those work orders because the date for the jobs at issue was January 2018, six months after Thom's termination. (ECF Nos. 168-1 at PageID 2254; 168-2.) In its Reply, Plaintiff again says this contest is a diversion because it produced these documents in discovery in January 2018. (ECF No. 173, PageID 2569-2571.)

         Defendants also deny that SES accepted any or that Builders Insulation performed any work on these allegedly unpaid work orders. (ECF Nos. 168-1 at PageID 2254; 168-2.) And Defendants deny that CITRIX generated the 24 invoices in question as the result of Thom closing out a job. (ECF Nos. 168-1 at PageID 2554; 168-2.)

         According to Defendants, Plaintiff should have job completion reports signed by installers who completed work orders and payroll records showing payments made to installers from work done on particular jobs. (ECF No. 168-1 at PageID 2555; 80 at PageID 825, 840-43.) Defendant claims Plaintiff has produced no documents or evidence showing that the work was, in fact, completed by its employees. (ECF No. 168-1 at PageID 2555; 162-4.) But Plaintiff argues that it produced labor reports showing its installers completed the work. (ECF No. 174 at PageID 2584; 162-4.)

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The Court begins its analysis of this motion by consulting Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. “The court shall grant summary judgment if 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). “A fact is material for purposes of summary judgment if proof of that fact would establish or refute an essential element of the cause of action or defense.” Bruederle v. Louisville Metro Gov't, 687 F.3d 771, 776 (6th Cir. 2012) (internal quotation marks omitted). “The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of any genuine issue of material fact.” Mosholder v. Barnhardt, 679 F.3d 443, 448 (6th Cir. 2012) (citing Celotex Corp v. Catrett,477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). “Mere conclusory and unsupported allegations, rooted in speculation, do not meet [the] burden.” Bell v. Ohio State Univ., 351 F.3d 240, 253 (6th Cir. 2003). “Once the moving party ...


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