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Panhandle Eastern Pipe Line, Company, L.P. v. Plummer

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

October 22, 2018




         This matter, concerning Plaintiff Panhandle Eastern Pipe Line Company, L.P.'s (“Panhandle”) rights of way on Defendants Joseph and Deborah Plummer's land, is before the Court for the third-and final-time to address the scope and contents of the permanent injunction to which Panhandle is entitled. [Filing No. 124.] For the reasons detailed herein, Panhandle's uncontroverted evidence demonstrates that it is entitled to a permanent injunction in accordance with the terms it has proffered. [Filing No. 132-1.] The Court OVERRULES any and all objections raised by the Plummers, and will enter judgment in accordance with this Order and the Court's Order, entered contemporaneously, on Panhandle's fee petition.


         Procedural Background

         The facts underpinning this dispute have been discussed at length in the Court's Order on the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment, wherein the Court denied summary judgment to the Plummers and granted partial summary judgment to Panhandle. [Filing No. 100.] In brief, Panhandle brought suit alleging that the Plummers violated two agreements concerning Panhandle's rights of way for two pipelines which traverse the Plummers' property. On summary judgment, the Court held that the undisputed evidence demonstrated that the Plummers had in fact breached the agreements by refusing to move vehicles and other obstructions from the 100 Line right of way, among other things. [Filing No. 100 at 19.] While several other alleged breaches could not be resolved on summary judgment, the Court observed that “Panhandle has set forth uncontroverted evidence showing that it has suffered $6, 000 in damages.” [Filing No. 100 at 20.] This ruling completely resolved Panhandle's claim for damages, as the damages reflected the costs Panhandle would incur to complete clearing work on the Plummers' property, regardless of the number of ways in which the Plummers breached the contracts. [Filing No. 100 at 20.]

         The Court also concluded that Panhandle was entitled to a permanent injunction and directed Panhandle to file a proposed injunction in compliance with Rule 65(d)(1). [Filing No. 100 at 22-24.] On April 20, 2018, Panhandle filed its Proposed Permanent Injunction. [Filing No. 108.] Panhandle's filing, however, failed to comply with Rule 65(d)(1) because it was “difficult if not impossible for Panhandle to specifically describe what needs to be done or restrained in the abstract, without physically observing the current condition of the rights-of-way.” [Filing No. 117 at 3.] The Court therefore ordered the parties to conduct an inspection, attempt to agree on as many terms of the permanent injunction as possible, and “submit any appropriate evidence . . . to support their positions on any remaining areas of disagreement.” [Filing No. 117 at 3.]

         Aside from Panhandle's request for attorney's fees and costs, which is addressed by separate order, all that remains for the Court's consideration is the appropriate scope of the permanent injunction. The parties completed the inspection as ordered and, on August 20, 2018, Panhandle filed its Amended Proposed Permanent Injunction. [Filing No. 121.] The Plummers have filed their objections, and Panhandle replied. The matter is therefore fully briefed and ripe for decision.



         Panhandle's submitted injunction is accompanied by an outline of the terms to which the parties have agreed, numerous photographs depicting parts of the rights of way, and argument as to why the Court should include its proposed terms where issues may be contested. [Filing No. 124.]

         In response, the Plummers contend that the “court's injunction should be confined to being a remedy for the breach of contract that the Court found in its summary judgment ruling . . . .” [Filing No. 128 at 1.] The Plummers also direct arguments to specific proposed terms, which the Court will address as appropriate below. [Filing No. 128 at 2-8.]

         In reply, Panhandle proposes several changes to accommodate two of the Plummers' objections. [Filing No. 132 at 2; Filing No. 132 at 6.] Panhandle also asserts that the Plummers' remaining arguments lack evidentiary support or misinterpret the relevant contractual language. [Filing No. 132 at 3-5.]

         A. Scope of Review

         The Plummers' argument that the permanent injunction should be limited to the breaches of contract established by the undisputed evidence proffered on summary judgment ignores the different role that the Court plays in determining appropriate equitable relief. Where, as here, the plaintiff seeks both equitable and legal remedies, the Court must sequence the proceedings, insofar as possible, to protect the parties' jury trial rights. Lacy v. Cook Cnty., 897 F.3d 847, 858 (7th Cir. 2018). This usually means that the Court must “submit the legal claims to a jury before the court decides the equitable claims.” Id. Here, Panhandle's legal claim to damages was finally resolved on summary judgment, based upon the undisputed evidence. Now that only Panhandle's equitable claims to injunctive relief remain, the Court itself may act as trier of fact without regard to the restrictions of summary judgment procedure or its earlier summary judgment order. As the Seventh Circuit has ...

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