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Feld v. Fireman's Fund Insurance Co.

United States District Court, District of Columbia

June 26, 2017

KENNETH FELD, Plaintiff,
v.
FIREMAN'S FUND INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          JOHN D. BATES United States District Judge.

         Although the circus-the Feld's family business-has closed its doors, the show goes on in the courts. In September 2016, this Court granted partial summary judgment to Fireman's Fund Insurance Company in a long-running dispute over the insurer's obligation to pay Kenneth Feld's $4.5 million legal fees and costs resulting from a separate lawsuit. The Court determined that the insurer was only obligated to pay approximately $2 million. Now, Feld asks for reconsideration of that decision. The Court will deny Feld's motion.

         BACKGROUND

         The facts of this case are summarized at length in two of this Court's prior opinions, and are therefore only briefly reiterated here. See Feld v. Fireman's Fund Ins. Co., 206 F.Supp.3d 378, 380-81 (D.D.C. 2016); Feld v. Fireman's Fund Ins. Co., 292 F.R.D. 129, 132-34 (D.D.C. 2013). Kenneth Feld was sued by his sister, Karen Feld (who is not a party to this action), for personal injury claims, which resulted in a protracted, high-profile, legal battle between the two siblings. See Feld v. Feld, 688 F.3d 779 (D.C. Cir. 2012). During that suit, Kenneth had a personal liability insurance policy under Prestige Home Premier (the “Policy”), issued by Fireman's Fund Insurance Company (“FFIC”). The Policy required FFIC to defend Feld against covered claims. See Feld, 292 F.R.D. at 132.

         Toward the beginning of the litigation between Feld and his sister (“the underlying action”), Feld notified FFIC of the suit. Id. FFIC agreed to defend him, subject to a reservation of rights: some of the claims in the underlying action alleged intentional conduct, which was not covered by the policy, but Feld denied those allegations and said he acted in self-defense. Id. at 132-33. The coverage letter from FFIC to Feld states:

Subject to [FFIC's] reservation of rights, you may elect to choose your own counsel to defend you in this matter; otherwise, we can appoint counsel for you. FFIC agrees to pay, at an agreed hourly rate, the reasonable and necessary legal fees and Court costs incurred by counsel[.]

         Coverage Letter, Ex. 4 to Kirtland Decl. [ECF No. 72-4] at 11. Feld hired Fulbright & Jaworski L.L.P. to represent him in the underlying action. That extended and bitter litigation left Feld with a legal bill of $4.5 million. FFIC reimbursed him for just over $2 million. Feld, 292 F.R.D. at 133-34. Feld then filed this suit to recover the remainder of the legal fees and costs, claiming that FFIC breached the Policy by refusing to pay the full amount. See generally Compl. [ECF No. 1].

         After nearly three years of discovery and legal fighting in this action, both Feld and FFIC filed motions for summary judgment. See Def's Mot. for Summ. J. [ECF No. 68]; Pl.'s Mot. for Summ. J. [ECF No. 69]. The core of their dispute is whether Feld (through his attorneys at Fulbright) agreed to an hourly rate with FFIC. In its summary judgment motion, FFIC claimed that they reached an agreement to pay a certain rate and the $2 million that it paid satisfies all that it owes pursuant to that agreement. Feld, on the other hand, asserted that there was no rate agreement and therefore FFIC owed the full legal bill. In a September 12, 2016 Memorandum Opinion, this Court concluded that Fulbright reached an agreement with FFIC regarding their hourly rates, and therefore FFIC was only obligated to pay approximately $2 million. See Feld, 206 F.Supp.3d at 384-90. The Court therefore granted summary judgment to FFIC on this claim. Id. at 393. The Court also granted summary judgment to FFIC on Feld's claim for a breach of the implied duty of good faith and fair dealing. Id. at 392-93. The Court denied summary judgment as to both parties on a claim regarding approximately $200, 000 in other legal costs. Id. at 390-92.

         Now, Feld has filed a motion for reconsideration of the Court's September 2016 ruling under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b). See Pl.'s Mot. for Recons. [ECF No. 93]. Specifically, he challenges the Court's determination that Fulbright and FFIC agreed to hourly rates for attorney's fees. He does not contest the Court's prior decision on his other claims. He argues that the Court improperly resolved disputed factual issues on summary judgment, rather than allowing them to proceed to a jury. He also asserts that the Court misunderstood or failed to consider relevant evidence that showed that the facts regarding whether a contract was formed are contested. He maintains that he cannot be bound by any agreement his attorneys made with FFIC. Finally, he argues that even if there was an agreement between Fulbright and FFIC, it was not enforceable due to a lack of consideration. All of his arguments, however, rest on a misunderstanding of both the law and what the Court actually decided, and he fails to present new facts or law that would merit reconsideration. The Court will therefore deny Feld's motion for reconsideration.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         A court may revise its own interlocutory orders “at any time before the entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims and all the parties' rights and liabilities.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b); Cobell v. Jewell, 802 F.3d 12, 19 (D.C. Cir. 2015) (Rule 54(b) is the proper vehicle for reconsideration of an order “while a case is still ongoing in district court”). Under Rule 54(b), a court may grant relief “as justice requires.” Capitol Sprinkler Inspection, Inc. v. Guest Servs., Inc., 630 F.3d 217, 227 (D.C. Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks omitted). Such instances include where a court has “patently misunderstood a party, . . . 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.” Cobell v. Norton, 224 F.R.D. 266, 272 (D.D.C. 2004) (alteration in original) (internal quotation marks omitted). Whether to reconsider an order is at a court's discretion, and a court need not consider arguments that it has already rejected on the merits. See Capitol Sprinkler Inspection, 630 F.3d at 225, 227. The party seeking reconsideration has the burden of demonstrating that injustice “would flow from a denial of reconsideration.” Hamilton v. Geithner, 616 F.Supp.2d 49, 54 (D.D.C. 2009) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         ANALYSIS

         Feld presents three reasons why, in his view, the Court's prior opinion requires reconsideration: (1) the Court misapplied the summary judgment standard by resolving disputed factual issues and drawing inferences in favor of the moving party; (2) the Court incorrectly determined that he was bound by an agreement between Fulbright and FFIC; and (3) the Court misapplied the law regarding whether FFIC was required to allow Feld to select his own counsel in the underlying action. The Court takes each of these in turn.

         I. Whether A ...


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