Bell v. Allstate Life Ins, et al
ORDER denying 53 53 Motion to Vacate 26 Order on Motion for Judgment. Signed by Judge Brian S. Miller on 4/25/11. (kpr)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
PINE BLUFF DIVISION
CASE NO. 5:97cv00125 BSM
ALLSTATE LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY
and SEARS ROEBUCK & COMPANY
Plaintiff Lachonne Bell (“Bell”) moves to vacate judgment. [Doc. No. 53]. Defendants
Allstate Life Insurance Company (“Allstate”) and Sears Roebuck & Company (“Sears”)
oppose. The motion is denied.
Bell filed her original complaint seeking insurance benefits on March 20, 1997.
Allstate and Sears filed a motion for summary judgment and Bell filed a motion to amend.
The motion for summary judgment was granted and the motion to amend was denied. Bell
appealed and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed both the order granting summary
judgment and the order denying the motion to amend. Bell subsequently filed a motion for
reconsideration on September 11, 2007, claiming that she received incompetent
representation from Richard Quiggle (“Quiggle”), an attorney who is now deceased. The
motion was denied and Bell appealed. The Eighth Circuit summarily affirmed the district
court’s denial. Bell now moves to vacate judgment.
In her motion Bell maintains that judgment should be vacated under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 60(b)(6) due to the negligence of Quiggle. Bell specifically refers to
Quiggle’s failure to timely file the motion to amend. She also states that Quiggle never
informed her of Allstate and Sears’s motion for summary judgment, the failed attempt to
amend the complaint or the dismissal of her action. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)
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:
(1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect;
(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);
(3) fraud (whether previously called intrinsic or extrinsic), misrepresentation,
or misconduct by an opposing party;
(4) the judgment is void;
(5) the judgment has been satisfied, released or discharged; it is based on an
earlier judgment that has been reversed or vacated; or applying it prospectively
is no longer equitable; or
(6) any other reason that justifies relief.
Bell seems to concede that allegations of mere neglect on the part of counsel usually come
under subsection (1). Motions brought under subsection (1), however, must be made within
a year of the judgment. Bell’s motion was filed over thirteen years after judgment was
entered. She therefore relies on the catch-all provision of subsection (6).
Relief under subsection (6) is available only in extraordinary circumstances. Gonzalez
v. Crosby, 545 U.S. 524, 535 (2005). To support her allegation that Quiggle’s neglect rises
to the level of extraordinary circumstances, Bell cites to Community Dental Servs. v. Tani,
282 F.3d 1170 (9th Cir. 2002). In Tani, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, held that gross
negligence on the part of counsel constituted extraordinary circumstances. Such
extraordinary circumstances warranted the setting aside of a default judgment under Fed. R.
Civ. P. 60(b)(6). Bell’s reliance on Tani is misplaced. First, the situation in Tani involved a
default judgment, not a summary judgment. Bell argues that her summary judgment was akin
to a default judgment because she was denied her day in court. That argument, however, fails
because she responded to the motion for summary judgment and provided briefs to the Eighth
Circuit on appeal.
Second, the actions taken by counsel in Tani were far more egregious than those taken
by Quiggle. Counsel in Tani failed to ever provide opposing counsel with an answer to the
complaint, ignored court orders to contact opposing counsel for settlement purposes, failed
to respond to motions and did not attend hearings. Quiggle’s actions do not rise to the level
of gross negligence. Furthermore, the issue of Quiggle’s negligence was addressed in Bell’s
motion for reconsideration. As stated above, that motion was denied and the Eighth Circuit
summarily affirmed. Relief under Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(6) is not available to Bell.
Accordingly, Bell’s motion to vacate [Doc. No. 53] is denied.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 25th day of April, 2011.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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