United States District Court, Western District of Pennsylvania
U.S. ENERGY DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, Plaintiff,
L.E. MALLORY, et al, Defendants.
District Judge McVerry
MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
SUSAN PARADISE BAXTER United States Magistrate Judge
It is respectfully recommended that:
The motion for summary judgment filed by Defendants [ECF No. 37] be denied; and
The motion for partial summary judgment filed by Plaintiff [ECF No. 41] be granted.
A. Relevant Procedural History
The Amended Complaint contains a single claim for breach of contract based on an alleged denial of a Right of First Refusal on certain deep horizon oil and gas rights owned by Defendants. ECF No. 4. As relief, Plaintiff seeks fifteen million dollars in damages.
Fact discovery has concluded. The parties have cross-moved for summary judgment and expert discovery has been stayed until the resolution of the pending cross-motions for summary judgment.
B. Standard of Review
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment shall 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." Under Rule 56, the district court must enter summary judgment against a party "who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Summary judgment may be granted when no "reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). "[A] party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of 'the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, ' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323 quoting F.R.Civ.P. 56. However,
if there is a chance that a reasonable factfinder would not accept a moving party's necessary propositions of fact, pre-trial judgment cannot be granted. Specious objections will not, of course, defeat a motion for summary judgment but real questions about credibility, gaps in the evidence, and doubts as to the sufficiency of the movant's proof, will not.
El v. SEPa. Transp. Auth. ("SEPTA"), 479 F.3d 232, 238 (3d Cir. 2007).
The moving party has the initial burden of proving to the district court the absence of evidence supporting the non-moving party's claims. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 330. See also Andreoli v. Gates, 482 F.3d 641, 647 (3d Cir. 2007); UPMC Health System v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 391 F.3d 497, 502 (3d Cir. 2004). When a non-moving party would have the burden of proof at trial, the moving party has no burden to negate the opponent's claim. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The moving party need not produce any evidence showing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Id. at 325. "Instead, ... the burden on the moving party may be discharged by 'showing'-that is, pointing out to the district court—that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Id.
After the moving party has satisfied this low burden, the nonmoving party must provide facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial to avoid summary judgment. Id. at 324. "Rule 56(e) permits a proper summary judgment motion to be opposed by any of the kinds of evidentiary materials listed in Rule 56(c), except the mere pleadings themselves." Id. See also Saldana v. Kmart Corp.. 260 F.3d 228, 232 (3d Cir. 2001); Garcia v. Kimmell 2010 WL 2089639, at * 1 (3d Cir. 2010) quoting Podobnik v. U.S. Postal Serv., 409 F.3d 584, 594 (3d Cir. 2005) (the non-moving party "must present more than just bare assertions, conclusory allegations or suspicions to show the existence of a genuine issue."); Berckeley Inv. Group, Ltd. v. Colkitt 455 F.3d 195, 201 (3d Cir. 2006) ("In this respect, summary judgment is essentially 'put up or shut up' time for the non-moving party: the non-moving party must rebut the motion with facts in the record and cannot rest solely on assertions made in the pleadings, legal memoranda, or oral argument.").
In considering these evidentiary materials, "courts are required to view the facts and draw reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the party opposing the summary judgment motion." Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007) (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted). See also Doe v. Cnty. of Centre, Pa., 242 F.3d 437, 446 (3d Cir. 2001) (when applying this standard, the court must examine the factual record and make reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment).
When considering a motion for summary judgment, the court is not permitted to weigh the evidence or to make credibility determinations, but is limited to deciding whether there are any disputed issues and, if there are, whether they are both genuine and material. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 255 ("only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted."). In determining whether the dispute is genuine, the court's function is not to weigh the evidence or to determine the truth of ...