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Petrojebla, SA de C.V. v. Betron Enterprises, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Northern Division

December 3, 2019

PETROJEBLA, SA de C.V., Plaintiff,
v.
BETRON ENTERPRISES, INC., BETRON LP GAS, INC., RICHARD E. BETRON, JR., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS, GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO AMEND THEIR ANSWER, AND DIRECTING ITS FILING

          Thomas L. Ludington United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff PetroJebla, SA de C.V. (“PetroJebla”) is a Mexican corporation with its principal place of business in Mexico City, Mexico.[1] ECF No. 1. at PageID.2. On May 16, 2019, PetroJebla filed a complaint against three defendants: Betron Enterprises, Inc. (“BEI”), Betron LP Gas, Inc. (“BLPG”), and Richard E. Betron (“Mr. Betron”).

         According to PetroJebla's complaint, BEI and BLPG are Michigan corporations with their principal places of business in Twining, Michigan. Id. at PageID.3. PetroJebla's complaint does not furnish any other information regarding the corporations besides the fact that PetroJebla entered into a contract with BEI in which BEI agreed to sell PetroJebla specific quantities of liquid propane gas. The Complaint also alleges that Defendant Richard E. Betron is the “sole principal” of BEI and BLPG and that he resides in Twining, Michigan. Id.

         Summons were issued for BEI, BLPG, and Mr. Betron. ECF Nos. 2, 3, 4. A week later, three separate certificates of service were returned executed respectively for BEI, BLPG, and Mr. Betron. ECF Nos. 7, 8, 9.

         I.

         A.

         PetroJebla alleges that it “entered into a contract for the purchase of liquid propane gas, purportedly from ‘BETRON ENTERPRISE.'” ECF No. 1 at PageID.3. The contract provides in its entirety:

TO: GRUPO JEBLA, SA de CV. Eduardo Cardenas June 28, 2017
FROM: BETRON ENTERPRISE Richard E. Betron President 3303 West River Road Sanford Michigan 48657 USA
Full corporate offer to sell/purchase HD propane distillate for 9 months, July 2017 through April 2018 with rolls and extensions
Origin: Houston, 50 rail car loads 30, 500 gallons each

         Our refinery is offering the following:

• Product: HD-5 Propane
• Quantity: 50 tank cars per month
• Volume: 1, 525, 000 gallons per month total
• Delivery period: Monthly quantity basis, weekly delivery
• Price: Mont Belvieu non tet $.09 cents. This Price includes the railroad Freight price up to Estation Ramirez, Matamoros, Mexico
• Pricing period: July 2017 through 2018
• Vessel acceptance: Vessel to be first class bulk rail cars
A. Rail cars delivery to Matamoros, Mexico
B. Rail cars proceed-customs & delivery to certified terminal (storage) facility in Matamoros, Mexico
C. PetroJebla will only pay for the fee for the Texas forwarding agency, the Mexican Customs broker and all corresponding Mexican customs duties.
D. PETROJEBLA SA DE CV has 7 days to unload each railcar once places it at the Matamoros facilities. After that, the demurrage charge per day is $75 dlls
• Unloading rate: Based on 15 rail cars per week
• Quality: According to the attached specifications
• Law: American Law
• Settlement: American Courts
• Payment terms: Wire transfer amount weekly in advance
• Delivery Dated: Pending schedule from Betron
• Bank wiring instructions:
Betron LP Gas Chemical Bank Midlan [sic], Ml 48640 ABA: 0724100143 Account Number: 1208206376
Seller: Richard E. Betron Jr. 3303 West Rd. Sanford, MI 48657

ECF No. 1-2 at PageID.16-17. The contract is signed by “Richard Betron, President, BETRON ENTERPRISE” and “Eduardo Cardenas, GRUPO JEBLA.”

         In July 2017, PetroJebla made a payment to the “Betron LP Gas Chemical Bank” account identified in the contract.[2] Id. According to the complaint, “Defendants shipped propane gas to PetroJebla beginning on or about July 17, 2017.” Id. On October 17 and 18 of 2017, PetroJebla wired $624, 000.00 to the bank account identified in the contract. ECF Nos. 1-3, 1-4. The complaint provides that “Defendants continued shipping propane gas to PetroJebla until early November 2017, at which point all shipments ceased. At that time, Defendants held $209, 460 in prepayments for propane gas that had not been shipped.”[3] Id.

         B.

         A year later, on November 8, 2018, PetroJebla's counsel sent Defendants a letter providing that “[y]ou are currently wrongfully holding Grupo Jebla funds in the amount of $209, 000, which places you in clear breach of the contract.” ECF No. 1-6. PetroJebla demanded that Defendant “immediately reimburse the full sum of $209, 000” or risk the initiation of legal action. Mr. Betron told PetroJebla that he was willing to deliver the propane gas that PetroJebla had paid for. ECF No. 1 at PageID.5. However, according to PetroJebla, it never received the propane gas or the funds. On May 16, 2019, it filed its complaint against Defendants alleging breach of contract.

         On June 5, 2019, Mr. Betron filed an answer to the complaint pro se. ECF No. 11. The next week, the Court issued an order directing BEI and BLPG to obtain counsel. ECF No. 12. The Court explained that Mr. Betron could not represent BEI and BLPG because incorporated entities may not proceed without legal counsel. Id. On June 28, 2019, David L. Powers filed an appearance on behalf of Mr. Betron, BEI, and BLPG. ECF No. 13.

         On July 3, 2019, PetroJebla filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, contending that the corporate veils of BEI and BLPG should be pierced to find Mr. Betron personally liable for the alleged breach of contract. ECF No. 14. On July 19, 2019, Defendants filed a motion to amend their answer, contending that

Richard Betron is not an attorney and is not informed regarding the rules of practice of this Court. As a result, the answer is incomplete, and failed to respond to the allegations of paragraphs 24-56 of Plaintiff's complaint, including Plaintiff's conclusory allegations aimed at piercing the corporate veil of the Defendant corporations.

ECF No. 17 at PageID.100-101.[4] Defendants' motion to amend their answer will be granted and PetroJebla's motion for a judgment on the pleadings will be granted in part. ...


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