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Vinet v. BP Exploration & Production, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

August 6, 2019

TODD ANTHONY VINET
v.
BP EXPLORATION & PRODUCTION INC. ET AL.

         SECTION “R” (2)

          ORDER AND REASONS ON MOTION

          JOSEPH C. WILKINSON, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Ordinarily, the court might consider the issue raised in the BP defendants' (collectively “BP”) motion for reconsideration, Record Doc. No. 22, so trivial as to merit a single word order: “Denied.” In this instance, I cannot do so.[1] For the following reasons, the motion of defendants for reconsideration of this court's ruling on BP's motion to compel discovery responses, Record Doc. No. 22, is DENIED.

         This is a garden variety single plaintiff personal injury case. BP's written discovery includes 25 complexly worded interrogatories, which probably deserve scrutiny as to whether their sub-parts are sufficiently “discrete” to survive the numerical limit imposed by Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(a)(1); and 39 broad-ranging requests for production. Record Doc. No. 19-2. In addition, BP has obtained 55 items (not including sub-parts) of disclosure information and materials received from plaintiff, Record Doc. No. 22-5, all as specifically agreed upon by the parties and authorized by the court. Record Doc. No. 3 at pp. 4-5. BP's current motion is narrow, focusing exclusively on my refusal on its previous motion to compel to order plaintiff to respond more fully to its Interrogatory No. 16, which states:

Please identify any claims or lawsuits filed by you or on your behalf, any personal injury or illness claims asserted by you or on your behalf (including, but not limited to, any insurance or worker's compensation policy or for Social Security or SSI benefits), any bankruptcy claims or filings, any bankruptcy trust claims or submissions (e.g. asbestos or silica), personal injury trust claims or submissions, and/or any settlement of any claims (whether at issue in this lawsuit or otherwise) asserted by you or on your behalf including describing the nature and outcome of the claims or lawsuits; the parties involved; the date asserted; the title, court, and cause number (if any); the sums received to date as a result of any such lawsuits or claims; and the attorney(s) who represented you in connection with same.

Record Doc. No. 19-2 at p. 10 (emphasis added).

         Even cursory examination of the face of this interrogatory, without the emphasis I have added, reveals its vast breadth and overreaching scope, extending to plaintiff's entire litigation history as a claimant, without limitation. More depressing, however, is close examination of BP's arguments, the outdated discovery scope standards principally relied upon and its mis-statement of the only ruling BP cites in its papers that was correctly decided by one of my local colleagues, who applied the proper current legal standard and permitted the defendant in her case to obtain much less than BP seeks here.

         I. Legal Standards

         (A) Reconsideration

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not provide specifically for motions for reconsideration. Cressionnie v. Hample, 184 Fed. App'x 366, 369 (5th Cir. 2006); Shepherd v. Int'l Paper Co., 372 F.3d 326, 328 (5th Cir. 2004). The standard of review is not so clear in the Fifth Circuit for deciding whether to grant reconsideration of a discovery order. District courts in the Fifth Circuit have typically applied Rule 59(e) standards when reviewing motions to reconsider interlocutory orders, especially as to orders that ruled on dispositive motions, in cases in which a final judgment has not yet been entered. However, some courts in the Fifth Circuit have analyzed motions to reconsider interlocutory orders under Rule 54(b), which provides that “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 . . . may be revised 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). These courts have held that

[m]otions to reconsider that challenge a prior judgment on the merits are treated as arising under either Rule 59(e) or Rule 60(b), depending on the timing. A motion to reconsider an interlocutory order is considered under Rule 54(b), which provides courts “the inherent procedural power to reconsider, rescind, or modify an interlocutory order for cause seen by it to be sufficient.”

Martikean v. United States, No. 3:11-CV-1774-M-BH, 2014 WL 4631620, at *2 (N.D. Tex. Sept. 16, 2014) (quoting Iturralde v. Shaw Group, Inc., 512 Fed.Appx. 430, 432 (5th Cir. 2013)) (citing Cressionnie v. Hample, 184 Fed.Appx. 366, 369 (5th Cir. 2006); Swope v. Columbian Chems. Co., 281 F.3d 185, 193 (5th Cir. 2002); Melancon v. Texaco, Inc., 659 F.2d 551, 553 (5th Cir. Unit A 1981)); accord Lexington Ins. Co. v. ACE Am. Ins. Co., No. 4:12-CV-531, 2016 WL 3251748, at *1 (S.D. Tex. June 14, 2016); Fairley v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., No. 15-0462, 2016 WL 2992534, at *1-2 (E.D. La. May 24, 2016) (citing Lavespere v. Niagara Mach. & Tool Works, Inc., 910 F.2d 167, 173 (5th Cir. 1990)); Scogin v. Tex. Eagle Ford Shale Magazine, No. 2:14-CV-478, 2016 WL 632031, at *1 (S.D. Tex. Feb. 16, 2016) (citing Stoffels ex rel. SBC Tel. Concession Plan v. SBC Commc'ns, Inc., 677 F.3d 720, 727-28 (5th Cir. 2012)).

         Under Rule 54(b),

“[d]istrict courts have considerable discretion in deciding whether to grant a motion to reconsider an interlocutory order. The exact standard applicable to the granting of a motion under Rule 54(b) is not clear, though it is typically held to be less exacting than would be a motion under Rule 59(e), which is in turn less exacting than the standards enunciated in Rule 60(b).” Livingston Downs Racing Ass'n, Inc. v. Jefferson Downs Corp., 259 F.Supp.2d 471');">259 F.Supp.2d 471, 475 (M.D. La. 2002). Under this standard, “the trial court is free to 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.” Estate of Henson v. Wichita Cty., 988 F.Supp.2d 726, 730 (N.D. Tex. 2013) (quoting Lavespere v. Niagara Mach. & Tool Works, Inc., 910 F.2d 167, 185 (5th Cir. 1990)). Rule 54(b), however, “does not mean that the Court has carte blanche to reconsider newly presented theories of liability or the lack thereof.” Livingston, [259] F.Supp.2d at 480; see also id. at 481 (“Any position is supportable by boundless arguments, and lawyers are trained and paid to find those arguments. Judicial economy counsels against reconsidering an issue each time someone presents a new argument.”).

Scogin, 2016 WL 632031, at *1; accord Martikean, 2014 WL 4631620, at *2 (citing Baisden v. I'm Ready Prods., Inc., 693 F.3d 491, 506 (5th Cir. 2012); Zarnow v. City ofWichita Falls, ...


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