United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
For Karl Markowicz, Plaintiff: Thomas Waffenschmidt, Rieders Travis Humphrey Harris Waters & Waffenschmidt, Williamsport, PA.
For SWEPI, LP, as successor-in-interest to East Resources, Inc., Ultra Resources, Inc., Defendants: J. David Smith, McCormick Law Firm, Williamsport, PA.
Matthew W. Brann, United States District Judge.
For the following reasons, defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted; plaintiff's motion for summary judgment is denied.
I. The Complaint
Plaintiff-lessor Karl Markowicz (" Karl" or, where unambiguous, " Markowicz" ) asks this Court to void a lease under which defendants-lessees, SWEPI LP (" SWEPI" ) and Ultra Resources, Inc. (" Ultra" ), are permitted to explore and exploit Markowicz's land for oil and gas. Markowicz claims he is entitled to relief because (1) he never signed the lease (Rec. Doc. No. 6 ¶ 18 ); (2) his mother, Beverly Markowicz (" Beverly" ), who signed for him, was without " right or authority" to do so (Id. at ¶ ¶ 19-20); and (3) Beverly's own signature was fraudulently induced by a representative of defendants (Id. at ¶ ¶ 22-25).
II. Summary Judgment Standard
The parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment. Summary judgment is appropriate where " 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" where it " might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law."
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). A dispute is " genuine" where " the evidence is such that a reasonable jury," giving credence to the evidence favoring the nonmovant and resolving all inferences in the nonmovant's favor, " could return a verdict for the nonmoving party."
Where the moving party's motion is properly supported, the nonmoving party, to avoid summary judgment in his opponent's favor, must answer by setting forth " genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party." Id. at 250.
For movants and nonmovants alike, the assertion " that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must" be supported by " materials in the record" that go beyond mere allegations, or by " showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an
adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). See also Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-50. " If a party fails to properly support an assertion of fact or fails to properly address another party's assertion of fact as required by Rule 56(c), the court may . . . consider the fact undisputed for purposes of the motion." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2). The Court may even give credence to " evidence supporting the moving party that is uncontradicted and unimpeached, at least to the extent that that evidence comes from disinterested witnesses." Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., 530 U.S. 133, 151, 120 S.Ct. 2097, 147 L.Ed.2d 105 (2000) (quoting 9A C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure § 299 (2d ed. 1995).
When considering cross-motions for summary judgment, the Court considers each motion separately, applying the standard set forth above.
See Transportes Ferreos de Venezuela II CA v. NKK Corp., 239 F.3d 555, 560 (3d Cir. 2001) (quoting Rains v. Cascade Indus., Inc., 402 F.2d 241, 245 (3d Cir. 1968) (cross-motions for summary judgment " are no more than a claim by each side that it alone is entitled to summary judgment" );
Benckini v. Hawk, 654 F.Supp.2d 310, 315 (E.D. Pa. 2009). The Court cannot view " facts" in the light most favorable to two nonmoving parties simultaneously, and in some cases the best course may be to recite two statements of " facts" for the same case or even to write entirely separate opinions disposing of the respective motions.
See Interbusiness Bank, N.A. v. First Nat'l Bank of Mifflintown, 318 F.Supp.2d 230, 236 (M.D. Pa. 2004). The Court in this case has written a single opinion with a single recitation of the facts because the factual disputes between the parties are few.
III. Factual Background
The following recitation of facts is derived primarily from the parties's statements of material facts and admitted portions of the amended complaint. (Rec. Doc. Nos. 6, 30, 33, 37 & 39). The facts are undisputed unless noted.
Plaintiff Karl Markowicz has been a college professor in Williamsport, Pennsylvania for 27 years. (Rec. Doc. No. 33 ¶ 1). He is the son of ...