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La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 38:2211(A)(1) gives the definition of a "public entity" as used in public bid legislation: "Public entity" means and includes the State of Louisiana, or any agency, board, commission, department or public corporation of the state, created by the constitution or statute or pursuant thereto, or any political subdivision of the state, including but not limited to, any political subdivision as defined in La. Const. art. VI § 44, or any public officer whether or not an officer of a public corporation or political subdivision.
Plaintiff, North Central Utilities, filed an original petition stating that Walker Community Water System, Inc., alleged to be a "public entity," advertised for bids for the construction of a water distribution system. Plaintiff alleged that it met all the requirements set forth in the advertisement and specifications for the job and was in fact low bidder on the project. Plaintiff further contended that as a result of its compliance with all the regulations and specifications set forth by the defendant, it should have been awarded the project as low bidder and should therefore be entitled to an award for loss of profits and expenses incurred as a result of defendant's failure to award the contract to the plaintiff. In response to these allegations, the defendant filed a peremptory exception of no cause of action. The exception was sustained by the trial court, but reversed by this court. Upon remand, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, which was sustained based on the trial court's determination that defendant, Walker Community System, Inc., is not a public entity. Plaintiff has now appealed from this ruling.
Was the Walker Community Water System, Inc. a public entity?
The court held that the Walker Community Water System, Inc. was not an entity established by the state constitution, legislative acts, or acts or ordinances of some political subdivision, and was not a "public entity" as defined by La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 38:2211(A)(1). That it might provide service to the public did not mandate a finding that it was a public body. The court agreed with the trial court that it did not fit within the definition of a public entity and, therefore, was not subject to the public bid laws. The court held that the water system's advertisement for bids was merely an invitation for the utility and others to make an offer, and the utility could not maintain an action that contended it was damaged by relying on the water system's "invitation." Thus, the utility's contentions with respect to detrimental reliance (or equitable estoppel), even if proven, would not entitle the utility to relief thereon. The water system was entitled to summary judgment.