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Adams v. United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry of United States

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

October 3, 2019

CHARLES ADAMS, ET AL.
v.
UNITED ASSOCIATION OF JOURNEYMEN AND APPRENTICES OF THE PLUMBING AND PIPEFITTING INDUSTRY OF THE UNITED STATES AND CANADA, AFL-CIO, LOCAL 198, ET AL. CIVIL ACTION

          RULING

          JOHN W. deGRAVELLES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on a Motion to Amend Ruling by Defendant, United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry of the United States and Canada, AFL-CIO, Local 198, (“Local 198” or “Defendant”), (Doc. 702), which Local 198 subsequently moved to strike, in part, (Doc. 720). Plaintiffs opposed Local 198's motion. (Doc. 714). Also, before the Court is Plaintiffs' Omnibus Motion for Reconsideration. (Doc. 717). Local 198 opposed Plaintiffs' motion. (Doc. 724). Plaintiffs filed a reply. (Doc. 725). Oral argument is not necessary. The Court has carefully considered the law, the facts in the record, and the arguments and the submissions of the parties and is prepared to rule. For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion to Amend Ruling is granted in part and denied in part; Defendant's Motion to Strike Motion to Amend Ruling is granted; and Plaintiffs' Omnibus Motion for Reconsideration is denied.

         I. Procedural Background

         The Court ruled on Local 198's motion for summary judgment based on the timeliness of some of the Plaintiffs' claims, (Doc. 639), on July 18, 2019. (Doc. 700). In response to this ruling, Local 198 filed a motion to amend the ruling. (Doc. 702). Plaintiffs also filed a series of motions for reconsideration, (Docs. 705, 707, 708, 709, 711 and 712), which were dismissed without prejudice, and Plaintiffs were ordered to file one omnibus motion for reconsideration. (Doc. 715). Plaintiffs complied with the order and filed an omnibus motion for reconsideration on August 10, 2019. (Doc. 717). Also relevant to the motions presently before the Court is Local 198's motion to strike a portion of its motion to amend the ruling on its motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 720).

         II. Relevant Standard - Motion to Amend/Motion for Reconsideration

         While the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not formally recognize the existence of motions for reconsideration (e.g., Van Skiver v. United States, 952 F.2d 1241, 1243 (10th Cir. 1991)), courts customarily consider such motions under Rule 60(b) or Rule 59(e). Fuller v. M.G. Jewelry, 950 F.2d 1437, 1442 (9th Cir. 1991). Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows a party to move to alter or amend a judgment within twenty-eight (28) days of its entry. Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 59(e).

         District courts have considerable discretion in deciding whether to grant a Rule 59(e) motion. Edward H. Bohlin Co., Inc. v. Banning Co., Inc., 6 F.3d 350, 355 (5th Cir. 1993). The factors to be considered in a Rule 59(e) analysis are: (1) the judgment is based upon a manifest error of fact or law; (2) newly discovered or previously unavailable evidence exists; (3) the initial decision was manifestly unjust; (4) counsel engaged in serious misconduct; and (5) an intervening change in law alters the appropriate outcome. Livingston Downs Racing Ass'n, Inc. v. Jefferson Downs Corp., 259 F.Supp.2d 471, 475-76 (M.D. La. 2002) (citing Metairie Bank & Trust Co. v. Payne, 2000 WL 979980 (E.D. La. July 17, 2000); Campbell v. St. Tammany Parish School Bd., 1999 WL 777720 (E.D. La. Sept. 29, 1999)). However, a motion for reconsideration is an extraordinary remedy and should be used sparingly in the interest of finality and conservation of judicial resources. Carroll v. Nakatani, 342 F.3d 943, 945 (9th Cir. 2003). The court should deny a motion for reconsideration when the movant rehashes legal theories and arguments that were raised or could have been raised before the entry of the judgment. See Templet v. HydroChem Inc., 367 F.3d 473, 478-79 (5th Cir. 2004). A motion for reconsideration does not support old arguments that are reconfigured. Resolution Trust Corp. v. Holmes, 846 F.Supp. 1310, 1316, n.18 (S.D. Tex. 1994). Mere disagreement with a prior ruling does not support a Rule 59(e) motion. See e.g., Hutchinson v. Staton, 994 F.2d 1076, 1082 (4th Cir. 1993).

         Courts in the Fifth Circuit are directed to take motions under Rule 59(e) seriously. Two cases note that Rule 59(e) does not place any particular limitations upon the possible grounds for relief. Ford v. Elsbury, 32 F.3d 931, 937 (5th Cir. 1994); Lavespere v. Niagara Mach. & Tool Works, Inc., 910 F.2d 167, 174 (5th Cir. 1990), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 859, 114 S.Ct. 171, 126 L.Ed.2d 131 (1993), abrogated on other grounds by Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069 (5th Cir. 1994)(en banc). The Court notes the Fifth Circuit's general principle that “the district court must strike a proper balance between two competing interests: ‘the need to bring litigation to an end and the need to render just decisions.'” Ford v. Elsbury, 32 F.3d at 937 (quoting Lavespere, supra).

         III. Local 198's Motion to Amend Ruling (Doc. 702)[1]

         Local 198's motion asks the Court to reconsider that part of this Court's prior ruling, (Doc. 700), where the Court allowed certain Plaintiffs to piggyback their Title VII claims upon those by Plaintiff Lee Fox and/or Plaintiff Earnest Ford. (Doc. 702). Specifically, this Court previously found that Fox's Title VII claims were untimely. (Doc. 700, pp. 49-50). Local 198 argues that those Plaintiffs who attempted to piggyback upon Fox's Title VII claims should also have their Title VII claims dismissed as untimely. (Doc. 702).

         Plaintiffs oppose Local 198's motion.[2] (Doc. 714). Plaintiffs incorporate by reference the arguments they made in two of their original motions for reconsideration. (Docs. 705 and 707). Specifically, Plaintiffs argue that Fox's Title VII claims were, in fact, timely; therefore, Plaintiffs should be allowed to piggyback upon Fox's Title VII claims to render their own claims timely. (Doc. 707). Even if Fox's Title VII claims are untimely, Plaintiffs argue that there are Plaintiffs other than Fox upon whose claims Plaintiffs may piggyback in order to render their claims timely. (Doc. 705).

         For the reasons more fully set forth below in the section addressing Plaintiffs' Omnibus Motion for Reconsideration, the Court rejects Plaintiffs' arguments, primarily because Plaintiffs did not raise them in opposition to the underlying motion for summary judgment and could have done so. (Docs. 646, 648, 687, 688, 692). Local 198, in its motion to strike motion to amend ruling, also noted that Plaintiffs “raised an issue that they never raised in their opposition”. (Doc. 720-1, p. 1 (citing Rec. Doc. 645)). Plaintiffs are making these arguments for the first time after the entry of judgment. The law does not support consideration of arguments that could have been raised before the entry of judgment on reconsideration. See Templet, 367 F.3d at 478-79.

         The Court now turns to address the Title VII claims of which Local 198 seeks reconsideration.

         A. Frank Cage; Yvonne Catherine (heir to Joseph Catherine); Umeca O'Conner (heir to Joseph Catherine); Corey Catherine (heir to Joseph Catherine); Leo Davis; Kevin Gauthier; Larry Gilmore; and Michael Jackson

         Local 198 first argues that because Plaintiff Fox's Title VII claims were not timely, then certain Plaintiffs should not be allowed to piggyback upon Fox's untimely claims, thus rendering those Plaintiffs' Title VII claims also untimely. (Doc. 702-1, p. 1).

         In its ruling on Local 198's motion for summary judgment regarding the timeliness of certain Plaintiffs' claims, the Court considered the timeliness of Plaintiff Lee Fox's Title VII claims and found that these claims were untimely because Fox filed his EEOC charge almost three years after filing suit and, therefore, did not exhaust his administrative remedies before filing suit. (Doc. 700, p. 50). Fox's claims under Title VII were dismissed with prejudice. (Id.).

         In the same ruling, the Court considered the timeliness of various other Plaintiffs' Title VII claims. The timeliness of these certain Plaintiffs' Title VII claims was dependent upon piggybacking upon Plaintiff Fox's Title VII claims. The Court ruled that the following Plaintiffs' Title VII claims were timely based on piggybacking on Fox's Title VII claims: Frank Cage, (Doc. 700, pp. 31-35); Yvonne Catherine (heir to Joseph Catherine), (Doc. 700, pp. 35-38); Umeca O'Conner (heir to Joseph Catherine), (Doc. 700, p. 38); Corey Catherine (heir to Joseph Catherine), (Doc. 700, p. 38); Leo Davis, (Doc. 700, pp. 41-44); Kevin Gauthier, (Doc. 700, pp. 58-60); Larry Gilmore, (Doc. 700, pp. 60-63); and Michael Jackson, (Doc. 700, pp. 65-67). This ruling was in error. Because Fox's Title VII claims were found to be untimely, these certain Plaintiffs' Title VII claims are also untimely. Plaintiffs may only piggyback upon a timely filed Title VII claim. Price v. Choctaw Glove, 459 F.3d 595, 598 (5th Cir. 2006); Frank v. Xerox Corp., 347 F.3d 130, 136 (5th Cir. 2003).

         Also, Plaintiffs Cage, the Catherine heirs, Davis, Gauthier, Gilmore, and Jackson, were all named as Plaintiffs in the original Complaint filed on May 1, 1998. Therefore, it would be futile for the Court to consider whether they may piggyback their Title VII claims upon Plaintiff Ford's Title VII claims, as Ford was not named until the First Amended Complaint, filed on July 27, 2001. In other words, Ford's suit did not exist on May 1, 1998, for those Plaintiffs to piggyback upon it.

         Under Rule 59(e), the Court finds that its prior ruling on Local 198's motion for summary judgment was manifestly erroneous in part. See, e.g., Eckhardt v. Qualitest Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 889 F.Supp.2d 901 (S.D. Tex. Aug. 9, 2012)(“'Manifest error' is one that ‘is plain and indisputable…'”.). The Court erroneously allowed Plaintiffs Cage, the Catherine heirs, Davis, Gauthier, Gilmore, and Jackson, to piggyback upon the untimely Title VII claims of Plaintiff Fox. Also, reconsideration of this Court's prior ruling would not be futile, as the Court is able to correct its error. See Ferraro v. Liberty Mut. Fir Ins. Co., 796 F.3d 529, 534 (5th Cir. 2015)(A motion to reconsider under Rule 59(e) should be granted only if the facts discovered are of such a nature that they would probably change the outcome.). Therefore, the Court grants Local 198's motion to amend its ruling, and having reconsidered its ruling in this regard, the Court amends its ruling to find that the Title VII claims of the following Plaintiffs are untimely and, therefore, dismissed with prejudice: Frank Cage; Yvonne Catherine (heir to Joseph Catherine); Umeca O'Conner (heir to Joseph Catherine); Corey Catherine (heir to Joseph Catherine); Leo Davis; Kevin Gauthier; Larry Gilmore; and Michael Jackson.

         B. John Green

         Local 198 also seeks to amend the Court's prior ruling to dismiss the Title VII claims of Plaintiff John Green for the same reasons as stated immediately above. However, Local 198's motion for summary judgment was denied as to Green's Title VII claims because the Court found a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Green had filed an EEOC charge of his own. (See Doc. 700, pp. 64-65). Green's Title VII claims were not found to be timely based on the application of the piggyback rule and/or Fox's Title VII claims. Therefore, the Court maintains its prior ruling regarding Green's Title VII claims. Green's claims under Title VII remain pending.

         C. Joseph Collins, Earnest Johnson, Carl Judson, and Ivan Morgan

         Local 198 also moves the Court to amend its ruling regarding the Title VII claims of Plaintiffs Joseph Collins, Earnest Johnson, Carl Judson, and Ivan Morgan. (Doc. 702-1, p. 3). Local 198 argues that these four Plaintiffs filed suit on July 27, 2001, in the First Amended Complaint and should not be allowed to piggyback upon Fox's untimely Title VII claims. Local 198 is correct that these four Plaintiffs cannot have timely Title VII claims that are dependent upon piggybacking on Fox's untimely Title VII claims. For that reason, as is explained more fully above, it was erroneous for the Court to find that these four Plaintiffs' Title VII claims were timely. However, because these Plaintiffs filed suit at the same time as Plaintiff Ford, whose Title VII claims were found to be timely, these Plaintiffs may be allowed to piggyback upon Ford's claims. The Court did not analyze whether these four Plaintiffs' Title VII claims could piggyback upon Ford's claims in its prior ruling, and the Court endeavors to do so now in the interest of correcting its prior ruling and a just result.

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