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Lawrence v. Rocktenn CP, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Monroe Division

July 25, 2017





         Before the Court is Plaintiff Joseph Lawrence's (“Lawrence”) “Motion For New Trial, or in the Alternative, for Reconsideration pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59 and 60” [Doc. No. 49] and Intervener Plaintiff QBE Insurance Co.'s (“QBE”) “Motion for Trial, or in the Alternative, for Reconsideration.” [Doc. No. 51]. Both parties request that the Court reconsider its May 22, 2017 Ruling and Judgment dismissing Lawrence's claims with prejudice. [Doc. Nos. 43 & 44]. For the following reasons, the motions for reconsideration are DENIED.


         Defendants WestRock CP, LLC and WestRock Services, Inc. (collectively “WestRock”) are the owners and operators of a paper mill in Hodge, Louisiana. [Doc. No. 34');">34, p. 5');">p. 5]. WestRock contracted with Plum Creek Timber for the purchase of timber products. Plum Creek, in turn, contracted with various trucking companies, such as Lawrence's employer, Triple T Logging, LLC, to transport the timber products from Plum Creek's land to the Hodge mill. Id; [Doc. Nos. 1-2; 1-3].

         On May 14, 2015, Lawrence was delivering a load of timber to WestRock's Hodge mill when his truck struck a pothole in the road, causing him to bounce up and hit his head on the ceiling of the cab. [Doc. No. 26-3, 10');">p. 10]. Lawrence had previously made deliveries to the WestRock mill and was on his second delivery of the day when he struck the pothole. [Doc. No. 30, p. 23]. WestRock nurse Shontae Mims responded to the scene with Emergency Medical Technician Shane Sullivan. [Doc. No. 26-9]. Emergency services were called and he was taken to the hospital. Id. At the time of the incident, Lawrence was wearing his hard hat, but not wearing his seat belt, and was in the process of putting his scale ticket in his visor. [Doc. No. 26-3, pp. 11; 20-21].

         Lawrence was injured on the wood yard road, which provides the only means for drivers to deliver timber to the mill. [Doc. No. 30, 8');">p. 8]. WestRock's records show that thirty-five other drivers delivered timber to the Hodge mill on May 14, 2015, traveling the same road as Lawrence, before the incident. Id.; [Doc. No. 26-8, p. 3].

         Lawrence filed this lawsuit against WestRock in Louisiana state court seeking damages. [Doc. No. 1]. Lawrence's employer's worker's compensation carrier, QBE, intervened asserting rights to recover the amount paid to Lawrence pursuant to the Louisiana Workers' Compensation Act. [Doc. No. 1-3]. WestRock then removed the matter to this Court. [Doc. No. 1].

         On April 7, 2017, WestRock filed a Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. No. 26], arguing that Lawrence is unable to prove that an unreasonably dangerous condition existed and that WestRock had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition under Louisiana premises liability law. On May 22, 2017, the Court issued a Ruling and Judgment granted the Motion for Summary Judgment and dismissed Lawrence's claims. [Doc. Nos. 43 & 44].

         On June 14, 2017, Lawrence filed the instant Motion for New Trial, or in the Alternative, for Reconsideration. [Doc. No. 49]. On June 15, 2017, QBE filed a Motion for New Trial, or in the Alternative, for Reconsideration incorporating by reference Lawrence's motion. [Doc. No. 51]. On July 5, 2017, WestRock filed an opposition [Doc. No. 53], and on July 18, 2017, Lawrence filed a reply. [Doc. No. 54].


         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not specifically provide for motions for reconsideration. Shepherd v. Int'l Paper Co., 372 F.3d 326');">372 F.3d 326, 328 n.1 (5th Cir. 2004). Depending on when it is filed, a motion seeking relief from a final judgment may be construed under either Rule 59(e) as a motion to alter or amend a judgment, or under Rule 60(b) as a motion for relief from a final judgment. Id.; Williams v. Thaler, 3d 291');">602 F.3d 291, 303 (5th Cir. 2010) (“When a litigant files a motion seeking a change in judgment, courts typically determine the appropriate motion based on whether the litigant filed the motion within Rule 59(e)'s time limit.”). If a motion for reconsideration is filed within 28 days of the judgment or order of which the party complains, it is considered a Rule 59(e) motion; otherwise, it is treated as a Rule 60(b) motion. See Hamilton Rothschilds v. Williams Rothschilds, 147 F.3d 367');">147 F.3d 367, 371 n. 19 (5th Cir. 1998). Because Lawrence's motion was filed within 28 days of the final judgment, the Court construes it as a motion to amend the judgment under Rule 59(e). See Demahy v. Schwarz Pharma, Inc., 3d 177');">702 F.3d 177 (5th Cir. 2012) (where the court considered plaintiff's Rule 60(b) motion as a motion to amend judgment under Rule 59(e) because it was filed within the applicable 28-day time frame).

         Altering or amending a judgment under Rule 59(e) is an “extraordinary remedy” used infrequently by the courts and only in specific circumstances. Templet v. Hydrochem, Inc., 367 F.3d 473');">367 F.3d 473, 479 (5th Cir. 2004). “A motion to alter or amend the judgment under Rule 59(e) ‘must clearly establish either a manifest error of law or fact or must present newly discovered evidence' and ‘cannot be used to raise arguments which could, and should, have been made before the judgment issued.'” Schiller v. Physicians Res. Grp. Inc., 34');">342 F.3d 563');">34');">342 F.3d 563, 567 (5th Cir. 2003) (quoting Rosenzweig v. Azurix Corp., 332 F.3d 854');">332 F.3d 854, 863-64 (5th Cir. 2003) (other citations and quotation marks omitted). “Relief under Rule 59(e) is also appropriate when there has been an intervening change in the controlling law.” Schiller, 34');">342 F.3d at 567-68 (citation omitted).

         A Rule 59(e) motion should not provide an opportunity for movants to rehash evidence, legal theories, or arguments that could have been raised before judgment. Templet, 367 F.3d at 478-79; see LeClerc v. Webb, 19 F.3d 405');">419 F.3d 405, 412 n. 13 (5th Cir. 2005). In determining whether to grant a Rule 59(e) request, the Fifth Circuit has indicated that district courts should balance the need for finality against the need to render ...

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