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Zamanian v. Jefferson Parish Hospital Service District No. 2

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

December 11, 2017

BAHRAM ZAMANIAN
v.
JEFFERSON PARISH HOSPITAL SERVICE DISTRICT NO. 2, et al.

         SECTION: A (4)

          ORDER

          JAY C. ZAINEY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is a Motion for Partial Certification Pursuant to FRCP 54(b) (Rec. Doc. 29) filed by Plaintiff Dr. Bahram Zamanian. Defendant Jefferson Parish Hospital Service District No. 2 (hereinafter referred to as “East Jefferson General Hospital” or “EJGH”) opposes this motion. (Rec. Doc. 30). The motion, set for submission on November 15, 2017, is before the Court on the briefs without oral argument. This matter is set as a jury trial beginning on May 14, 2018 at 8:30 a.m. Having considered the motion and memoranda of counsel, the record, and the applicable law, the Court finds that the Plaintiff's motion should be DENIED for the reasons set forth below.

         I. Background

         On August 14, 2017, this Court issued an Order (Rec. Doc. 24) dismissing Plaintiff's deprivation of due process claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Louisiana Constitution.[1] The instant motion asks this Court to enter final judgment of the dismissed claims pursuant to Rule 54(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Dr. Zamanian seeks to have this Court enter partial final judgment so that he may take an immediate appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. (Rec. Doc. 29-1). In support of his motion, Dr. Zamanian advances one argument in favor of his assertion that the Court's August 14, 2017 Order should be entered as a final judgment under Rule 54(b). Dr. Zamanian argues that granting the opportunity to take an immediate appeal of his dismissed claims would result in sound judicial economy. (Rec. Doc. 29-1, pp. 3-4). Notably, this argument stems on the speculation that if this matter would proceed to trial, it would proceed as a bench trial rather than a jury trial. Id. Dr. Zamanian argues that counsel for EJGH suggested the remaining claims will be precluded from being tried by a jury pursuant to La. R.S. 13:5105.[2]

         However, Dr. Zamanian uses an attenuated line of reasoning to argue that certifying his dismissed claims as a final judgment would be in the best interest of judicial economy. First, Dr. Zamanian states that if the Court denies the instant motion, it is likely the remaining claims would proceed to a bench trial. After the resolution of the bench trial and regardless of the Court's decision in that trial, Dr. Zamanian would take an appeal to review the Court's prior dismissal of his due process claims. Dr. Zamanian further speculates that if the Fifth Circuit were to find in his favor, his due process claims would be sent back to this Court to proceed before a jury. Additionally, if Dr. Zamanian is dissatisfied with the ruling from the prior bench trial, he would also seek a new trial of his remaining claims before the same jury. (Rec. Doc. 29-1, p. 4). Therefore, by certifying the dismissed claims as final judgment under Rule 54(b), the Court could avoid unnecessary multiple trials. (Rec. Doc. 29-1, p. 3). The argument further reasons that if this Court were to grant the instant motion to certify, the viability and availability of a jury trial could be resolved before any part of this matter proceeds to trial. Id. at p. 4.

         EJGH opposes this motion. The crux of EJGH's argument is that Dr. Zamanian's argument is speculative. EJGH advances a second argument contending that Dr. Zamanian's instant motion is untimely under Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Rule 4(a)(1)(A) of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure. (Rec. Doc. 30, pp. 3-4).

         Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that “[a] motion to alter or amend a judgment must be filed no later than 28 days after the entry of the judgment.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e). This Court's previous Order dismissing Dr. Zamanian's due process claims was entered on August 14, 2017 and the instant motion to amend that Order was filed 68 days later on October 24, 2017. Moreover, Rule 4(a)(1)(A) requires that the notice of appeal be filed with the district clerk within 30 days after entry of the judgment or the order appealed from. Fed. R. App. P. 4(a)(1)(A). EJGH argues that even if the Court's ruling had been certified as a partial final judgment, any appeal would be untimely under Rule 4(a)(1)(A).

         II. Legal Standard

         In an action involving more than one claim for relief, or when multiple parties are involved, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) permits a district court to “direct entry of a final judgment as to one or more, but fewer than all, claims or parties only if the court expressly determines that there is no just reason for delay.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b). Accordingly, the judgment must concern a separate and distinct claim (or claims), and it must in fact be a final determination of that claim (or claims). See N.W. Enter. Inc. v. City of Houston, 352 F.3d 162, 179 (5th Cir. 2003). The decision whether or not to make a Rule 54(b) determination is “left to the sound judicial discretion of the trial court.” Brown v. Mississippi Valley State University, 311 F.3d 328, 332 (5th Cir. 2002), citing Curtiss-Wright Corp. v. General Elec. Co., 446 U.S. 1, 8 (1980).

         III. Law and Analysis

         Defendants' argument that Plaintiff's motion should be denied as being untimely fails as a matter of law. Defendants argue that Plaintiff's motion should be considered a motion to alter or amend a judgment under Rule 59(e), rather than a motion for certification as a final judgment under Rule 54(b). (Rec. Doc. 30, p. 3). Rule 59(e) allows a party to move to alter or amend a judgment within 28 days of its entry. Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e). A motion to reconsider a judgment is treated as a Rule 59(e) motion to alter or amend that judgment, but when the motion concerns only an interlocutory ruling, as it does here, the appropriate vehicle for making the motion is a Rule 54(b) motion. Livingston Downs Racing Ass'n Inc. v. Jefferson Downs Corp., 256 F.Supp.2d 471 (M.D. La. 2002) (citing Edward H. Bohlin Co. v. Banning Co., 6 F.3d 350 (5th Cir. 1993)).

         Contrary to Defendants' argument, Rule 54(b) does not contain any kind of time limit. Id. at 475. Rather, the only time limit on a Rule 54(b) motion to certify is that if the court issues an order that expressly states that there is no just reason for delay, the order becomes a judgment that is final and appealable. Id. Rule 54(b) provides:

When an action presents more than one claim for relief-whether as a claim, counterclaim, crossclaim, or third-party claim-or when multiple parties are involved, the court may direct entry of a final judgment as to one or more, but fewer than all, claims or parties only if the court expressly determines that there is no just reason for delay. Otherwise, any order or other decision, however designated, that adjudicates fewer than all the claims or the rights and liabilities of fewer than all the parties does not end the action as to any of the claims or ...

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