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Ball v. Westbank Fishing, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

May 29, 2018

VINCENT BALL
v.
WESTBANK FISHING, LLC

         SECTION: “A” (4)

          ORDER

          KAREN WELLS ROBY, CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the Court is the Defendant's Motion for Reconsideration of Magistrate Judge's Order (R. Doc. 29) granting the Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Discovery (R. Doc. 28) which ordered the Defendant to produce witness statements and documents regarding the payment of cure. The motion is opposed. R. Doc. 31. The motion was heard on the briefs.

         I. Background

         The instant action was filed by the Plaintiff, Vincent Ball, against Westbank Fishing, LLC pursuant to the Jones Act and the general maritime law. R. Doc. 1. Plaintiff contends that on July 12, 2016 he was a seaman in the employ of the Defendant aboard the F/V MARY VIRGINIA. R. Doc. 1, p. 2. Plaintiff alleges that he was thrown from the dock of the captain's purse boat as the result of the negligent acts of a crew member and which resulted in injuries. Id. According to the Plaintiff, his injuries occurred due to the unseaworthiness of the F/V MARY VIRGINIA, the negligence of the Defendant, and/or its employees or servants. Id. at p. 3. Plaintiff contends that he is entitled to punitive damages for the unseaworthy condition of the vessel. Id. at p. 4. Finally, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant has the duty to provide maintenance and cure. He contends that despite a reasonable demand and provision of proof of injury, the Defendant has arbitrarily, capriciously, and without reasonable basis in fact failed to pay maintenance and cure. Id. at p. 5.

         On March 19, 2018, this Court issued an order in response to a motion to compel filed by the Plaintiff which sought “any and all written or recorded statements taken by you or anyone on your behalf, which relate in any way to plaintiff's alleged injury/accident” and the production of “any and all documentation reflecting maintenance and cure paid by you to plaintiff since the time of his alleged injury/accident.” R. Doc. 28. The Court found that the Defendant had not satisfied the burden of showing that the motivating purpose of taking the audio recorded statements of Tyrone Sellers and Jerome Landry, crew members aboard the F/V MARY VIRGINIA, was in furtherance of a sufficiently identifiable resolve to litigate, rather than a more or less routine investigation of a possibly resolvable claim. Id. at p. 7. The Court noted that Defendant had not attached any exhibits to support their claim the statements fell within work product doctrine, the statements were not taken by defense counsel, no affidavit of the HR director who took the statements was attached, and information with respect to the HR director's job title led to its conclusion. The Court also ordered the Defendant to produce documents regarding the payment of cure because the defendant's objection was overruled. Id. at pp. 7-9.

         The instant motion was filed ten (10) days after the entry of the Court's order on the record. The Defendant seeks the reconsideration and denial of the Plaintiff's motion to compel. Defendant continues to argue there was not any non-litigation purpose for the taking of these statements and has included numerous documents which it argues support its position that the statements are protected by the work product doctrine. R. Doc. 29-9. Defendant also seeks an order denying the motion to compel as moot with respect to the production of the documents reflecting the payment of cure.

         The motion for reconsideration is opposed. R. Doc. 31. Plaintiff argues that the Defendant is just recycling argument with unsupported facts and the deposition of Jim Hill, the Westbank employee who took the disputed statements, indicates that the statements in issue were obtained routinely and in the normal course of business for all accidents that occur. Id.

         II. Standard of Review

         The Federal Rules do not recognize a motion for reconsideration, but the Fifth Circuit has consistently recognized that such a motion may challenge a judgment or order under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 54(b), 59(e), or 60(b). Lavespere v. Niagara Mach. & Tool Works, Inc., 910 F.2d 167, 173 (5th Cir. 1990). Rules 59 and 60, however, apply only to final judgments. When a party seeks to revise an order that adjudicates fewer than all the claims among all of the parties, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) controls. Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b). See also, Helena Labs. Corp. v. Alpha Scientific Corp., 483 F.Supp.2d 538 (motion for reconsideration under Rule 59(e) treated as under Rule 54(b) because reconsideration of partial summary judgment order was sought and no final judgment had yet been entered in the case). The Rule states:

[A]ny 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 parties and 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), the district court “possesses the inherent procedural power to reconsider, rescind, or modify an interlocutory order for cause seen by it to be sufficient.” However, this broad discretion must be exercised sparingly in order to forestall the perpetual reexamination of orders and the resulting burdens and delays.

         Further, the decision of the district court to grant or deny a motion for reconsideration will only be reviewed for an abuse of discretion. Martin v. H.M.B. Constr. Co., 279 F.2d 495, 496 (5th Cir. 1960) (citation omitted); See also Garcia v. Woman's Hosp. of Tex., 97 F.3d 810, 814 (5th Cir. 1996).

         The general practice of courts in this district has been to evaluate Rule 54(b) motions to reconsider under the same standards that govern Rule 59(e) motions to alter or amend a final judgment. See, e.g., Castrillo v. Am. Home Mortgage Servicing Co., 2010 WL 1424398, at *3 (E.D. La. Apr. 5, 2010); Rosemond v. AIG Ins., 2009 WL 1211020, at *2 (E.D. La. May 4, 2009). A Rule 59(e) motion “calls into question the correctness of a judgment, ” and courts have considerable discretion in deciding whether to grant such a motion. In re: Transtexas Gas Corp., 303 F.3d 571, 581 (5th Cir. 2002). In exercising this discretion, courts must carefully balance the interests of justice with the need for finality. Courts in the Eastern District of Louisiana have generally considered four factors in deciding a motion under the Rule 59(e) standard: (1) the motion is necessary to correct a manifest error of law or fact upon ...


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