Townson v. Koch Farms, LLC et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING 21 MOTION for Relief from Order; TERMED AS MOOT 21 MOTION to Set Briefing Schedule on Plaintiff's Motion for Relief from Order as set out herein. Signed by Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins on 8/19/2014. (JLC)
2014 Aug-19 PM 03:00
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
KOCH FARMS, LLC, et al.,
) Case No.: 4:13-CV-1703-VEH
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Phil Townson (“Mr. Townson”) initiated this lawsuit against
Defendants Koch Farms, LLC and Koch Farms of Chattanooga (collectively “Koch”),
in the Circuit Court of DeKalb County, Alabama, on August 5, 2013. (Doc. 1-1 at 5).1
Koch removed the lawsuit to federal court on September 12, 2013, on the basis of
diversity jurisdiction. (Doc. 1 at 1; id. 2 ¶ 2).
On April 22, 2014, the court granted, in part, Koch’s Motion for Partial
Judgment on the Pleadings Or, in the Alternative, Partial Summary Judgment (Doc.
11) (the “Partial Motion”) filed on January 8, 2014. Applying a judgment on the
All page references to Doc. 1-1 correspond with the court’s CM/ECF numbering system.
pleadings standard, the court dismissed Counts Two, Three, Four, and Six from Mr.
Townson’s lawsuit. The remainder of the Partial Motion was otherwise denied.
Now pending before the court are Mr. Townson’s Motion for Relief from Order
(Doc. 21) (the “Relief Motion”) filed on August 14, 2014, and Koch’s Motion To Set
Briefing Schedule on Plaintiff’s Motion for Relief from Order (Doc. 22) (the
“Briefing Motion”). As discussed more fully below the Relief Motion is DENIED,
and the Briefing Motion is TERMED as MOOT.
A district court has plenary power over an interlocutory order, including the
authority “to reconsider, revise, alter or amend [it] . . . .” Toole v. Baxter Healthcare
Corp., 235 F.3d 1307, 1315 (11th Cir. 2000) (internal quotation marks omitted)
(quoting Gallimore v. Missouri Pacific R. Co., 635 F.2d 1165 (5th Cir. 1981));2 see
also Toole, 235 F.3d at 1315 (concluding that because “the court’s order for a new
trial was an interlocutory order . . . the trial court had the power to revoke it and
reinstate the judgment”).
At the same time, “in the interests of finality and conservation of scarce judicial
resources, reconsideration of a previous order is an extraordinary remedy to be
In Bonner v. City of Prichard, 661 F.2d 1206, 1209 (11th Cir. 1981) (en banc), the
Eleventh Circuit adopted as binding precedent all decisions of the former Fifth Circuit handed down
prior to October 1, 1981.
employed sparingly.” See United States v. Bailey, 288 F. Supp. 2d 1261, 1267 (M.D.
Fla. 2003) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Lamar Adver. of Mobile, Inc.
v. City of Lakeland, 189 F.R.D. 480, 489 (M.D. Fla. 1999)); Spellman v. Haley, No.
97–T–640–N, 2004 WL 866837, *2 (M.D. Ala. Feb. 22, 2002) (“[L]itigants should
not use motions to reconsider as a knee-jerk reaction to an adverse ruling”). Indeed,
as a general rule, “courts have recognized three grounds justifying reconsideration:
1) an intervening change in controlling law; 2) the availability of new evidence; and
3) the need to correct clear error or manifest injustice.” Summit Medical Center of
Alabama, Inc. v. Riley, 284 F. Supp. 2d 1350, 1353 (M.D. Ala. 2003) (citing Groover
v. Michelin N. Am., Inc., 90 F. Supp. 2d 1236, 1256 (M.D. Ala. 2000)).
Finally, the Eleventh Circuit “review[s] denials of motion for reconsideration
for abuse of discretion.” Makro Capital of America, Inc. v. UBS AG, 543 F.3d 1254,
1261 (11th Cir. 2008) (citing Corwin v. Walt Disney Co., 475 F.3d 1239, 1254 (11th
Mr. Townson’s Relief Motion
Procedural Problems with Mr. Townson’s Relief Motion
Mr. Townson’s Relief Motion is procedurally flawed for several reasons. First,
it is untimely. More specifically, under this court’s uniform initial order (Doc. 5) filed
on September 13, 2013, “[m]otions for reconsideration must be filed within ten days
of the date of the court’s ruling which the movant seeks to have reconsidered or the
court may, in its discretion, deny the motion as untimely.” (Doc. 5 at 26). Here, Mr.
Townson’s filed his Relief Motion 114 days (or over 3 months and 3 weeks) after the
ruling he is now contesting. Moreover, Mr. Townson did not accompany his Relief
Motion with a request that the court consider it despite its untimeliness.
Consequently, the court, in its discretion, denies the Relief Motion consistent with the
terms of its uniform initial order.
Another problem with the Relief Motion is that Mr. Townson, pursuant to Rule
60(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, purports to seek relief from this
court’s “final order for newly discovered evidence . . . .” (Doc. 21 at 2 (emphasis
added)). However, because the court’s order entered on April 22, 2014, does not
dispose of all claims and was not certified by the court as a partial final judgment,
the order is actually a non-final one. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b) (“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.”) (emphasis added);
id. (“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 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.”) (emphasis added).
Additionally, Rule 60(b)(2) expressly provides:
Grounds for Relief from a Final Judgment, Order, or Proceeding.
On motion and just terms, the court may relieve a party or its legal
representative from a final judgment, order, or proceeding for the
following reasons: . . . (2) newly discovered evidence that, with
reasonable diligence, could not have been discovered in time to move
for a new trial under Rule 59(b); . . . .
Fed. R. Civ. 60(b)(2) (emphasis by underlining added); cf. St. Fleur v. City of Fort
Lauderdale, 149 F. App’x 849, 851-52 (11th Cir. 2005) (“The scope of an appeal of
a ruling on a Rule 60(b) motion is ‘narrow’: the appeal addresses ‘only the propriety
of the denial or grant of [Rule 60(b)] relief’ and ‘does not raise issues in the
underlying judgment for review.’” (quoting Am. Bankers Ins. Co. of Fla. v.
Northwestern Nat’l Ins. Co., 198 F.3d 1332, 1338 (11th Cir. 1999))).
This case is in the preliminary stages of litigation. No trial has taken place and
no final judgment on any aspect of the lawsuit has been entered. Under such
circumstances, Mr. Townson has not adequately explained how challenging this
court’s non-final judgment on the pleadings ruling is even appropriate under Rule
Substantive Problems with Mr. Townson’s Relief Motion
Substantively, the Relief Motion is also misguided. In particular, Mr. Townson
contends that the deposition testimony attached to the Relief Motion demonstrates
that “Koch’s motion was premature when filed, and resolution of same, without
discovery, certainly did not promote a just and proper resolution of Plaintiff’s
claims.” (Doc. 21 at 3).
Mr. Townson, however, either fails to acknowledge or overlooks the fact that,
consistent with the judgment on the pleadings standard, the court’s Partial Motion
decision did not turn upon any evidentiary contention. Instead, the court made it
abundantly clear that Mr. Townson’s fraud claims, as presently pled, are deficient
under Alabama law because they do not reflect “sufficient independen[ce] from his
breach of contract count.” (Doc. 16 at 4).
Specifically, Mr. Townson’s complaint asserts fraud claims that are premised
upon and interrelated with the same allegations that support his breach of contract
claim and, regardless of the supporting evidence that he has since discovered,
Alabama fraud law simply does not permit this type of legal bootstrapping.
Importantly, no portion of the Relief Motion brings into question the substantive
soundness of the court’s pleadings-based dismissal of Mr. Townson’s fraud claims.
Accordingly, for all these reasons, the Relief Motion is DENIED.
Koch’s Briefing Motion
Because the court has denied Mr. Townson’s Relief Motion, Koch’s Briefing
Motion is, accordingly, TERMED as MOOT.
For the reasons stated herein the Relief Motion is DENIED, and the Briefing
Motion is TERMED as MOOT.
DONE and ORDERED this 19th day of August, 2014.
VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS
United States District Judge
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