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Le v. Lease Finance Group, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

July 7, 2017

HA THI LE
v.
LEASE FINANCE GROUP, LLC

         SECTION I

          ORDER AND REASONS

          LANCE M. AFRICK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is a motion[1] filed by defendants First Data Global Leasing, First Data Merchant Services LLC, and First Data Corporation (collectively, the “First Data defendants”), asking the Court to reconsider its previous Order and Reasons[2] denying the First Data defendants' request to transfer this action to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York pursuant to a forum selection clause. Plaintiffs oppose[3] the motion.

         For the following reasons, the Court DENIES the First Data defendants' motion for reconsideration.

         I.

         The Court assumes familiarity with the factual allegations in the amended complaint.[4]

         Each individual plaintiff entered into a contractual relationship with the First Data defendants through a Merchant Processing Application and Agreement (“MPAA”).[5] Plaintiffs and the First Data defendants used the MPAAs to contract for debit and credit card transaction processing services, which the First Data defendants provided to plaintiffs' businesses. The MPAA incorporates a forum selection clause by reference to a separate Program Guide.[6] This forum selection clause provides that “[t]he exclusive venue for any actions or claims arising under or related to [the MPAA] shall be in the appropriate state or federal court located in Suffolk County, New York.”[7]

         On May 9, 2017, the Court denied[8] the First Data defendants' request to enforce this forum selection clause. The Court explained that “even if [the MPAA forum selection clause] is valid, the Court may nevertheless decline to transfer under [28 U.S.C. § 1404(a)] in certain circumstances.”[9] Assuming arguendo that the clause was valid and enforceable-and therefore that the private interests of the parties “weigh[ed] in favor of severance and transfer” as a matter of law[10]-the Court nevertheless declined to transfer the action to the Eastern District of New York based on public interest considerations, including avoiding “duplicitous litigation and a waste of judicial resources.”[11]

         The First Data defendants now ask[12] the Court to reconsider its denial of their request to transfer. Plaintiffs object.[13]

         II.

         Rule 54(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that “any order or other decision . . . may be revised at any time before the entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims and all the parties' rights and liabilities.” Under Rule 54(b), a district court may “reconsider and reverse its decision for any reason it deems sufficient, even in the absence of new evidence or an intervening change in or clarification of the substantive law.” Austin v. Kroger Texas, L.P., No. 16-10502, 2017 WL 2413815, at *9 (5th Cir. 2017) (per curiam).

         Compared with Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure-which governs motions to alter or amend final judgments-Rule 54(b) has been described by the Fifth Circuit as permitting a “more flexible” inquiry. Austin, 2017 WL 2413815, at *9. That inquiry includes consideration of “the interests of justice.” Id. at *10. However, district courts exercise their power under Rule 54(b) “sparingly in order to forestall the perpetual reexamination of orders and the resulting burdens and delays”-consequences that disserve the interests of justice. Castrillo v. Am. Home Mortg. Servicing Inc., No. 09-4369, 2010 WL 1424398, at *3 (E.D. La. Apr. 5, 2010) (Vance, J.).

         District courts have generally considered a number of factors when engaging in a Rule 54(b) analysis, including whether the party moving the district court to reconsider an interlocutory order “demonstrates the motion is necessary to correct manifest errors of law or fact upon which the judgment is based, ” whether an “intervening change in the controlling law” has occurred, whether the moving party presents the district court with new evidence that had been previously unavailable to the party, and “whether the motion is necessary in order to prevent manifest injustice.” Id. at *4 (considering Rule 59(e) factors while performing the Rule 54(b) inquiry).

         III.

         The First Data defendants argue[14] that “previously unavailable” evidence demonstrates that the Court's Order and Reasons was based on factual errors. The First Data defendants also argue[15] that the Order and Reasons results in a “manifest injustice”-namely, the First Data defendants' inability to litigate this action in the forum designated by the forum selection clause.

         A.

         The First Data defendants offer two “new” pieces of evidence in support of their motion for consideration: a copy of the Preferred Card Processing Agreement (“Processing Agreement”), [16] and a copy of the Merchant Services and Equipment Purchase Order (“Equipment Order”).[17] According to the First Data defendants, these agreements “directly contradict” the allegations in the complaint regarding the First Data defendants' involvement in any conspiratorial or concerted misconduct[18]- allegations that the Court considered in its public interest analysis in its Order and Reasons.[19]

         Yet these supposed smoking guns against plaintiffs' allegations of conspiracy are nothing new: both were previously available to the First Data defendants. Plaintiffs submitted the Equipment Order to the Court along with their memorandum in opposition to the First Data defendants' motion to change venue.[20]If the Equipment Order was available to the Court at the time, then it was also available to the First Data defendants-and if it was available to the First Data defendants, then the First Data defendants could have incorporated it into their arguments in support of their motion to change venue. Yet despite filing a reply[21] to plaintiffs' memorandum in opposition to the motion, the First Data defendants did not do so.

         With regards to the Processing Agreement, the First Data defendants refer to and quote from the Processing Agreement at length in their answer.[22] As such, the Processing Agreement was certainly available to the First Data defendants at the time the Court considered their motion to change venue. However, as with the Equipment Order, the First Data defendants offered no arguments based on the Processing Agreement at the time that the Court considered their motion to change venue. The First Data defendants did not even ...


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