United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ORDER AND REASONS
ZAINEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
following motion is before the Court: Motion to
Reopen Case (Rec. Doc 56) pursuant to Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure (“FRCP”) 60(b)(3) and (6).
This motion was filed by the Plaintiff Republic Fire and
Casualty Insurance Company (“Republic”). The
Defendants, Mardechria Charles and Derrick McDonald, oppose
the motion. (Rec. Doc 58, Defendants' Opposition). The
motion, submitted for consideration on September 18, 2019, is
before the Court on the briefs without oral argument.
matter arises out of a house fire that occurred in Vacherie,
Louisiana at a home owned by Mardechria
Charles. (Rec. Doc 56-1, p. 2, Republic's
Memorandum in Support). The fire occurred on July 10, 2016,
and Charles soon thereafter made a claim for damages with
Republic. Id. at 3. Because of the fire's
suspicious nature, Republic hired a cause and origin expert
to investigate the property. Id. The expert's
findings concluded that: (1) the fire had two separate and
distinct areas of origin, (2) both of these areas of origin
were intentionally set, and (3) the fire was started by an
ignition of gasoline vapors. (Rec. Doc 1, p. 5, ¶ 26,
then provided this information to the Louisiana State Fire
Marshal who determined that McDonald likely intentionally set
the property on fire. (Rec. Doc 1, p. 5, ¶ 30,
Republic's Complaint). Subsequently, a warrant was issued
for his arrest under the charge of simple arson of an
inhabited dwelling. Id. However, these charges were
ultimately dropped by the St. John the Baptist Parish
District Attorney on September 14, 2017. (Rec. Doc. 28-2,
Defendants' Opposition to Republic's Motion to
series of events then led Republic to move for a summary
judgment declaring that no coverage existed under the policy
for this fire (under various coverages and exclusions). (Rec.
Doc 56-1, p. 4, Republic's Memorandum in Support). During
settlement negotiations, the Defendants' counsel informed
Republic that Charles and McDonald were planning on divorcing
and that Charles was preparing to file for bankruptcy.
Id. This caused Republic to agree to dismiss all of
its claims against the Defendants in exchange for a $2, 000
payment from Charles. Id. at 5. The parties then
informed the Court of their agreement and an Order of
Dismissal was entered on July 23, 2019. (Rec. Doc 54, Order
of Dismissal). However, the parties never signed a written
“receipt, release, indemnification agreement” nor
any other form of written agreement containing their
settlement's terms and conditions. (Rec. Doc. 58-1, p. 4,
this case was dismissed, Charles attempted to pay the $2, 000
settlement amount by using a credit card, but Republic
refused to accept this form of payment. (Rec. Doc 56-1, p. 5,
Republic's Memorandum in Support). When Charles never
tried to make another payment using an alternative payment
method, Republic decided to investigate Charles and
McDonald's financial situation. Id.
Republic's investigation uncovered that, collectively,
Charles and McDonald had obtained title of seven different
vehicles after the date of the case's dismissal.
Id. at 6. Further, Republic alleges that Charles and
McDonald never divorced nor did Charles ever file for
the Defendants in their Opposition dispute these contentions
by saying, “[w]hile Mr. McDonald did move out of their
home and the parties have been separated since that time, Ms.
Charles has not yet filed a Petition for Divorce with the
Court due to her limited financial means and her inability to
pay an attorney.” (Rec. Doc. 58-1, p. 4,
Defendants' Opposition). Further, “[o]n May 10,
2019, Ms. Charles filed a Petition for Bankruptcy in United
States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of
Michigan.” Id. Lastly, the Defendants also
assert that they no longer have possession of five of the
seven cars to which Republic claimed they had title.
Id. at 8-9.
believing that the Defendants had made false representations
to them to induce them into making a settlement, Republic
filed a motion to reopen this case and set aside the Order of
Dismissal. (Rec. Doc 56-1, p. 1, Republic's Memorandum in
Support). This motion was filed on July 23, 2019, exactly one
year from the original order of dismissal. Id.
60(b) governs relief from a final judgment when the relief
requested is not based upon a clerical mistake, oversight, or
omission of the court. Under Rule 60(b), a court may relieve
a party or its legal representative ...