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Butterball, LLC v. Atkinson

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Harrison Division

March 28, 2017

BUTTERBALL, LLC PLAINTIFF
v.
JOHN R. ATKINSON; KATHERINE GRAHAM ATKINSON; BOBBY HALL; CRITERION ENERGY, LLC; JOURDON ANDERSON; and HEATHER ANDERSON DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          TIMOTHY L. BROOKS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Currently before the Court are:

• Defendants John R. Atkinson's and Katherine Graham Atkinson's (collectively, "Atkinson Defendants") Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 50), Statement of Supporting Factual Positions (Doc. 51), and Brief in Support (Doc. 55); Plaintiff Butterball LLC's ("Butterball") Response in Opposition (Doc. 64) and Response to the Atkinson Defendants' Statement of Undisputed Facts (Doc. 65); and the Atkinson Defendants' Reply (Doc. 73) and Brief in Support (Doc. 74);
• Defendant Bobby Hall's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 47), Amended Statement of Undisputed Material Facts in Support (Doc. 52), and Amended Brief in Support (Doc. 53); Butterball's Response in Opposition (Doc. 58) and Response to Mr. Hall's Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (Doc. 59); and Mr. Hall's Reply (Doc. 69); and
• Defendants Criterion Energy, LLC's ("Criterion"), Jourdan Anderson's, and Heather Anderson's (collectively, "Criterion Defendants") Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 44), Brief in Support (Doc. 46), Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (Doc. 45), and Supplemental Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (Doc. 54); Butterball's Response in Opposition (Doc. 62) and Response to the Criterion Defendants' Statement of Undisputed Facts (Doc. 63); the Criterion Defendants' Reply (Doc. 70), Brief in Support (Doc. 71), and Reply to Butterball's Response to Their Statement of Undisputed Facts (Doc. 72); and the Criterion Defendants' First Amended and Restated Reply (Doc. 79) and Brief in Support (Doc. 80);
• Butterball's Motion to Strike (Doc. 75) and Brief in Support (Doc. 76); and the Criterion Defendants' Response in Opposition (Doc. 78);
• The Criterion Defendants' Motion to Extend Page Limit (Doc. 77); and
• Butterball's Second Motion to Strike (Doc. 82) and Brief in Support (Doc. 83); and the Criterion Defendants' Response in Opposition (Doc. 87).

         For the reasons given below, both of Butterball's Motions to Strike are GRANTED; the Criterion Defendants' Motion to Extend Page Limit is DENIED; and all three Motions for Summary Judgment are DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Butterball is a turkey-producing business that is organized as a limited liability company under the laws of North Carolina, where it is also headquartered. Butterball also has facilities in at least four other states, one of which is a feed mill facility in Green Forest, Arkansas. That facility, referred to throughout this Opinion and Order as "the GF Facility, " forms the setting for the events that gave rise to this lawsuit.

         Mr. Atkinson was employed by Butterball as the Feed Mill Manager at the GF Facility from May 2012 through September 2014, during which time he was responsible for the GF Facility's entire operation. Butterball alleges that while he was employed as the GF Facility's Feed Mill Manager, Mr. Atkinson defrauded Butterball by causing it to pay invoices to the other Defendants for electrical services at the GF Facility that he knew had not actually been performed. Butterball contracted with a couple of companies called "Currently Electric, Inc." ("Currently") and "Powerhouse Electric, Inc." ("Powerhouse") for electrical services to be performed at the GF Facility. These two entities subcontracted these services out to another entity called "Haybird Specialties" ("Haybird"), [1] which Butterball alleges is a sham entity. Haybird then submitted the allegedly fraudulent invoices to Currently and Powerhouse, who innocently passed the bills along to Butterball, who unwittingly paid them. Butterball also contracted with Criterion for electrical services, which utilized Haybird in the same manner as Currently and Powerhouse-except that unlike those latter two entities, Butterball contends that Criterion was aware of the scam and deliberately participated in it.

         Butterball alleges that Mr. Hall, the Andersons, and Ms. Atkinson all conspired with Mr. Atkinson to carry out this scheme. Mr. Hall worked in sales at Currently, and then at Powerhouse, while the scam allegedly transpired. Mr. Anderson also worked at Currently for a while during these events before founding Criterion, which was (and still is) owned and operated by him and his wife. Butterball's Second Amended Complaint (Doc. 26) asserts four counts: fraud, conversion, and civil conspiracy against all Defendants, and breach of fiduciary duties against Mr. Atkinson alone.

         All Defendants have moved for summary judgment on all counts against them. In total, three such motions have been filed: one by the Atkinsons, one by Mr. Hall, and one by the Criterion Defendants. Additional motion practice has ensued over the contents and length of the Criterion Defendants' reply in support of summary judgment. Specifically, Butterball has twice moved to strike replies that were filed by the Criterion Defendants, and the Criterion Defendants have moved to extend the page limit for such replies. All six motions ...


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