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David Strumsky v. Washington Post Company

February 13, 2013

DAVID STRUMSKY
PLAINTIFF,
v.
WASHINGTON POST COMPANY DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Royce C. Lamberth, Chief Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff David Strumsky moves for reconsideration of the Court's February 2012 Order [10] granting defendant Washington Post Company's ("the Post's") motion to dismiss and dismissing the case with prejudice. Pl.'s Mot. Recons. and Mot. Leave to Amend Compl., ECF No. 12 [hereinafter Pl.'s Mot. Recons.]. Strumsky also seeks leave to amend his Complaint to correct the deficiencies identified by the dismissal Order and Memorandum Opinion. Id.

Upon consideration of Strumsky's Motion, the Post's Opposition [13], Strumsky's Reply [14], the entire record in this case, and the applicable law, the Court will DENY Strumsky's motion for reconsideration and thus also DENY his motion for leave to amend the Complaint.

I.BACKGROUND

The facts of this case are described in the Court's 2012 Memorandum Opinion and not repeated in detail here. See Strumsky v. Wash. Post Co., 842 F. Supp. 2d 215 (D.D.C. 2012). In a nutshell, Strumsky missed the deadline for submitting enrollment materials for a special early retirement program, the Voluntary Retirement Incentive Program for Washington Post Machinists ("VRIP"), offered by the Post. Strumsky argues, however, that he orally accepted the Post's offer to participate before the June 30, 2009 deadline and that he relied on the assurance of a human resources employee that he could submit the required paperwork after the deadline.

Strumsky sued the Post in D.C. Superior Court asserting one claim under the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq., and three common law claims for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and promissory estoppel. The Post removed to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1441, and then moved to dismiss the case under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim.

In its motion to dismiss, the Post argued that Strumsky's ERISA claim failed because the statutory provision upon which he relied did not apply and that his remaining common law claims were preempted by ERISA. Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss 4. Strumsky conceded that the ERISA provision he had cited did not apply and voluntarily dismissed the ERISA claim. Pl.'s Opp'n 2 n.1. However, he argued that the common law claims were not preempted because, contrary to his earlier assertions, the VRIP was "not an employee benefits 'plan' subject to ERISA regulation."*fn1 Even if the plan were an ERISA plan, he argued that ERISA did not preempt his common law claims. In the alternative to these arguments, he argued that, should the Court find that ERISA preempted his common law claims, those claims "should be converted to ERISA based claims" or that he "should be granted leave to amend." Pl.'s Opp'n 12, 20. He did not move for leave to amend.

The Court determined that the VRIP was an ERISA plan and held that Strumsky's common law claims were preempted by ERISA's expansive statutory civil enforcement scheme. The Court then dismissed the case with prejudice without discussing his alternative argument that the common law claims "should be converted" to ERISA claims or that he should be granted leave to amend.

Strumsky now asks the Court to reconsider. He does not contest the Court's preemption decision and the Court does not revisit that issue. Instead, he argues only that the Court failed to address his alternative argument that his common law claims should be recast under ERISA and that the Court erroneously dismissed with prejudice. Pl.'s Mot. Recons. 3, 5. As discussed in more detail below, these arguments must fail.

II.DISCUSSION

A.Legal Standard for Reconsideration

Final judgments may be reviewed pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 59(e) and 60(b). See Williams v. Savage, 569 F. Supp. 2d 99, 108 (D.D.C. 2008). Courts typically treat motions for reconsideration as originating under Rule 59(e) if filed within 28 days of judgment, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e), and under Rule 60(b) if filed thereafter, Owen-Williams v. BB & T Inv. Services, Inc., 797 F. Supp. 2d 118, 121--22 (D.D.C. 2011). Because Strumsky's motion was filed within 28 days of judgment, the Court will treat it as arising under Rule 59(e).*fn2

Judgments may be reconsidered under Rule 59(e) based on "an intervening change of controlling law, the availability of new evidence, or the need to correct a clear error or prevent manifest injustice." Firestone v. Firestone, 76 F.3d 1205, 1208 (D.C. Cir. 1996) (per curiam) (internal quotation marks omitted). Strumsky appears to argue for reconsideration on the basis of the "clear error" or "manifest injustice" rationales, though he does not explicitly say so.

District courts have "substantial discretion in ruling on motions for reconsideration," Black v. Tomlinson, 235 F.R.D. 532, 533 (D.D.C. 2006) (emphasis added), and granting such a motion is "unusual," Firestone, 76 F.3d at 1208. District court denials of Rule 59(e) motions are reviewed only for abuse of discretion, though underlying legal questions may be considered de novo. Anyanwutaku v. Moore, 151 F.3d 1053, 1057-58 (D.C. Cir. 1998).

B.Reconsideration Is Not Appropriate

Strumsky provides two arguments for reconsideration. First, he states that the Court, in dismissing his common law claims, did not address his argument that these could be recast under ERISA. Second, he contends that the Court erred ...


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