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Casanova v. Marathon Corp.

December 10, 2007

NUNO CASANOVA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MARATHON CORPORATION ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John M. Facciola United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This case was referred for all purposes including trial. Currently pending and ready for resolution is the Motion of Chesapeake Electrical Systems, Inc. for Reconsideration of Its Motion for Leave to File Answers to the Cross-Claims of Marathon Corporation and L&S Construction ("Mot. for Recon."). For the reasons stated below, the motion will be denied.

BACKGROUND*fn1

On March 10, 2005, plaintiff, Nuno Casanova ("Casanova") filed a complaint against, inter alia, Marathon Corporation ("Marathon") and Chesapeake Electrical Systems, Inc. ("Chesapeake"). Docket Entry [# 1]. On April 12, 2005, Chesapeake filed its answer to the complaint. Docket Entry [# 8]. On April 29, 2005, Marathon filed its answer to the complaint and cross-claim against Chesapeake. Docket Entry [# 10].

On May 9, 2005, Marathon sued FMC Civil Construction, LLC ("FMC"). Docket Entry [# 12]. FMC, in turn, sued L&S Construction ("L&S") on June 8, 2005. Docket Entry [# 23]. L&S then filed a cross-claim against Marathon and Chesapeake on September 8, 2005. Docket Entry [# 36]. On May 29, 2007, over two years after Marathon filed its April 29, 2005, cross-claim against Chesapeake and just under one year and nine months after L&S filed its September 8, 2005, cross-claim against Chesapeake, Chesapeake filed its answers to both cross-claims. Docket Entries [## 120, 121]. On June 7, 2007, Marathon moved to strike those answers. Docket Entry [# 122]. On July 6, 2007, L&S followed suit and also moved to strike Chesapeake's answers. Docket Entry [# 125]. Only then, on June 15, 2007, did Chesapeake move for leave to file the Answers it had already filed. Docket Entry [# 123].

On August 15, 2007, the Court issued a Memorandum Opinion ("8/15/07 Mem. Op.") and Order denying Chesapeake's motion for leave to file. Docket Entries [## 127, 128]. On August 17, 2007, Chesapeake filed its motion for reconsideration, the motion currently at issue. Docket Entry [# 129].

DISCUSSION

I. The Appropriate Standard

In its motion for reconsideration, Chesapeake argues that the reason it failed to file timely answers to Marathon's and L&S's cross-claims qualifies as "excusable neglect." Mot. for Recon. at 1. Chesapeake fails, however, to identify any rule in support of its motion. The reference to "excusable neglect" in the text of its motion coupled with the reference to Rule 6(b) in its list of "Grounds and Authorities" suggests that Chesapeake seeks de novo review, under Rule 6(b), of its proffered explanation. The appropriate standard of review, however, is not that of Rule 6(b). Chesapeake's motion is one for reconsideration and as such must be made under either Rule 54 or 60. But, there is no Rule 60 motion before the court. Rule 60 motions seek reconsideration of final judgments or orders, not interlocutory ones such as the one at issue in this case. Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 60(b) ("On motion and upon such terms as are just, the court may relieve a party or a party's legal representative from a final judgment, order, or proceeding for the following reasons: mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect"). See Lemmons v. Georgetown Univ. Hosp., 241 F.R.D. 15, 21-24 (D.D.C. 2007) (comparing standards of review under Rules 54 or 60).

Thus, Chesapeake's arguments-that nobody was aware the answers hadn't been filed; that no objection to the answers was anticipated; that there were significant amounts of paperwork in the case; that neither cross-claimant notified Chesapeake of its failure to file answers-are, to the extent that they are offered in support of a 60(b) motion, irrelevant. The only possible context within which these arguments are relevant is that of the Court's general authority to exercise its discretion in determining whether to grant a Rule 54 motion for reconsideration.

II. Standard of Review for a Rule 54 Motion

The Court's August 15, 2007, Order "adjudicate[d] fewer than all the claims or the rights and responsibilities of fewer than all the parties," was interlocutory in nature and was therefore subject to reconsideration under Rule 54(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.*fn2 Under Rule 54(b), a district court may revise its own interlocutory decisions "at any time before the entry of judgment adjudicating all the claims and the rights and liabilities of all the parties." Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b).

When presented with a motion for reconsideration, the court must consider the entire record before it at that time, not only the record as it existed at the time of the initial ruling. United Mine Workers v. Pittson Co., 793 F.Supp. 339, 345 (D.D.C. 1992). Furthermore, such "[r]econsiderations . . . are within the discretion of the trial court and are therefore subject to the complete power of the court rendering them to afford such relief from them as justice requires." Keystone Tobacco Co., Inc. v. U.S. Tobacco Co., 217 F.R.D. 235, 237 (D.D.C. 2003) (internal citations omitted and emphasis added).

In this Circuit, "'[a]s justice requires' indicates concrete considerations of whether the court 'has patently misunderstood a party, has made a decision outside the adversarial issues presented to the [c]court by the parties, has made an error not of reasoning, but of apprehension, or where a controlling or significant change in the law or facts [has occurred] since the submission of the issue to the court.'" Judicial Watch v. Dep't of the Army, 466 F. Supp. 2d 112, 123 (D.D.C. 2006) (citing Cobell v. Norton, 224 F.R.D. 266, 272 (D.D.C. 2004) (internal citations omitted)). Although "[t]hese considerations leave a great deal of room for the court's discretion and, accordingly, the 'as justice requires' standard amounts to determining 'whether reconsideration is necessary under the relevant circumstances,'" Judicial Watch, 466 F. Supp. 2d at 123, this discretion is not without limits. "[T]he court's discretion under 54(b) is limited by the law of the case doctrine and 'subject to the caveat that, where litigants have once battled for the court's decision, they should neither be required, nor without good reason permitted, to battle for it again.'" Id. (citing Singh v. George Washington Univ., 383 F. Supp. 2d 99, 101 (D.D.C. 2005)). Stated differently, this Circuit has indicated that motions for reconsideration are not to be dealt with in a cursory manner: "Due to considerations of finality, predictability and not wasting judicial resources, 'as a ...


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