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Bp Environmental Services, Inc. v. Republic Services, Inc.

United States District Court, Third Circuit

May 21, 2013

BP ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES, INC., Plaintiff
v.
REPUBLIC SERVICES, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM

ANITA B. BRODY, District Judge.

Plaintiff BP Environmental Services, Inc ("BP") brought suit against Defendant Republic Services, Inc. ("Republic"), claiming tortious interference with its existing and prospective contracts as well as breach of contract. Republic moved for summary judgment on all counts. For the reasons explained below, I will grant Republic's motion.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND[1]

Plaintiff BP is a Pennsylvania corporation that brokers waste removal and recycling services. During the 2010-2011 period, it had active contracts with between 650 and 750 different customers around the country and earned roughly $16 to $20 million in business. Defendant Republic is a Delaware corporation. It is the ultimate parent company of several subsidiaries, including BFI Waste Systems of North America, LLC d/b/a/Republic Services National Accounts ("BFI North America"), and BFI Waste Services of Pennsylvania, LLC ("BFI PA"). In 2008, Republic acquired Allied Waste Industries, Inc. ("Allied Waste"), becoming the ultimate parent corporation of Allied Waste and its subsidiaries. Republic maintains that it does not operate as one merged company with, nor is it the successor-in-interest to, Allied Waste, BFI North America, or BFI PA.

Starting sometime in 2001, BP began performing work for Bridgeview, Inc. ("Steri-Bridgeview"), an affiliate of Stericycle, Inc. ("Stericycle"). On Jan. 1, 2005, BP entered into a written agreement with Steri-Bridgeview to provide solid waste removal services. That agreement was to extend for seven years, or until December 31, 2011. On May 1, 2008, BP entered into written agreement with Stericycle Baltimore ("Steri-Baltimore"), another Stericycle affiliate, again to provide waste removal services. That contract was to extend for three years, or until April 30, 2011. BP drafted both agreements. Neither contract contained an exclusivity clause, and neither contract set a specific or minimum haul volume.[2] In other words, the contracts on their face were silent as to how much waste BP would remove for Steri-Baltimore and Steri-Bridgeview.

Both agreements allowed BP to subcontract with third parties to perform the waste removal services. To that effect, in November 2004, BP and an entity affiliated with BFI/Allied Waste[3] executed a Service Agreement under which BFI/Allied Waste agreed to provide waste hauling services for BP's Steri-Bridgeview account. The agreement was to extend for seven years, or through December 31, 2011. Republic does not dispute that it was aware of BP's contracts with Stericycle. However, it is also undisputed that BP never shared with Republic the contents or specific terms of its Stericycle contracts.

This lawsuit centers around an agreement that occurred years later, in 2010, between Republic's subsidiary, BFI North America, and Stericycle. On July 14, 2010, BFI North America entered into a Special Waste Agreement with Stericycle ("BFI-Stericycle Agreement"). Under the terms of the BFI-Stericycle Agreement, BFI North America or an affiliated entity agreed to provide waste services for Stericycle locations throughout the country for a set fee. For certain Stericycle locations, BFI North America's service was to begin immediately. For others, including Steri-Baltimore and Steri-Bridgeview, Stericycle agreed to switch all services to BFI North America as soon as its agreements with its other providers would allow. Accordingly, the chart listing Stericycle's national facilities and that was attached to the agreement noted that BFI North America could begin work on the Baltimore account on May 1, 2011, and on the Bridgeview account on January 1, 2012. These dates correspond to the dates on which Stericycle's contracts with BP expired. Finally, in a single exception to BFI North America's exclusive rights, the BFI-Stericycle Agreement expressly permitted Stericycle to continue to use BP to perform broker services for both the Baltimore and Bridgeview accounts.

Following the execution of the agreement between BFI North America and Stericycle, Stericycle ceased BP's hauling services on the Bridgeview and Baltimore accounts, which BP says caused it to suffer a loss of $2.8 million in revenue. BP filed suit against Republic in 2012, bringing three claims: (i) tortious interference with its existing contracts with Stericycle; (ii) tortious interference with its prospective contracts with Stericycle; and (iii) breach of the contract between BP and BFI/Allied Waste. Following discovery, Republic filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that BP has failed to establish facts that could prove any of its three alleged claims.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment will be granted "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" if it "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law...." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A factual dispute is "genuine" if the evidence would permit a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id.

The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating that there is no genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The nonmoving party must then "make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of [every] element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Id. at 322. In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must draw all inferences from the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). However, the nonmoving party may not "rely merely upon bare assertions, conclusory allegations or suspicions" to support its claims. Fireman's Ins. Co. of Newark, N.J. v. DuFresne, 676 F.2d 965, 969 (3d Cir. 1982). In essence, the inquiry at summary judgment is "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52.

Finally, a federal court sitting in diversity is required to apply the substantive law of the state whose law governs the action. Erie R.R. Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78, 58 S.Ct. 817, 82 L.Ed. 1188 (1938). The parties agree that Pennsylvania law governs this dispute. "When ascertaining Pennsylvania law, the decisions of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court are the authoritative source." Spence v. ESAB Grp., Inc., 623 F.3d 212, 216 (3d Cir. 2010).

DISCUSSION

A. Tortious Interference With Contracts

In Count I of its Amended Complaint, BP alleges that Republic tortiously interfered with the BP/Stericycle contracts relating to both the Baltimore and Bridgeview accounts. In Count II, BP alleges that Republic tortiously interfered with its prospective contracts with Stericycle, which it anticipated executing after its Baltimore and Bridgeview contracts expired in 2011. To prove tortious interference with an existing or prospective contract under Pennsylvania law, BP must prove four elements: (1) the existence of a contractual relationship or prospective contractual relationship between the plaintiff and another party; (2) an intent on the part of the defendant to harm the plaintiff by interfering with that contractual relationship or preventing the relationship from occurring; (3) the absence of privilege or justification on the part of the ...


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