Struss et al v. Rural Community Insurance Services et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER denying 36 defendants Rural Community Insurance Company and Scott Laaveg's Motion to Reconsider. Signed by District Judge Daniel D. Crabtree on 10/11/2019. (mig)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF KANSAS
KEVIN STRUSS, et al.,
Case No. 18-2187-DDC-GEB
RURAL COMMUNITY INSURANCE
SERVICES, et al.,
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter comes before the court on defendants Rural Community Insurance Company
and Scott Laaveg’s Motion to Reconsider (Doc. 36). It asks the court to reconsider the court’s
February 28, 2019 Memorandum and Order. Doc. 34. That Order compelled arbitration
between the parties and determined the parties’ arbitration agreement required the arbitrator to
determine the scope of the arbitrable claims. The Order also stayed the claims asserted against
defendant Scott Laaveg until the other parties have completed their arbitration proceedings.
For the reasons explained below, the court finds defendants’ arguments do not merit a
different outcome. The court thus denies defendants’ motion.
Plaintiffs Kevin Struss, Struss Farms, L.L.C., and Struss & Cook Farms bring several tort
claims and a breach of contract claim against defendants Rural Community Insurance Company
(“RCIC”) and Scott Laaveg, RCIC’s Claim representative. These claims generally arise from a
contractual relationship between the parties. Namely, RCIC insured plaintiffs’ crops under
several insurance contracts issued under a federal crop insurance program. The Complaint
alleges that defendants breached the insurance contract, defamed plaintiffs, committed false light
invasion of privacy, acted negligently, and tortuously interfered with plaintiffs’ prospective
business advantage or relationship.
Earlier, defendants moved the court to dismiss the Complaint under Fed. R. Civ. P.
12(b)(3) and 12(b)(6), and, alternatively, to compel arbitration. Doc. 7. Plaintiffs responded that
they were willing to proceed to arbitration and made a “counter-motion” to compel arbitration.
See Docs. 16 and 18. The court ordered supplemental briefing on the issue of the arbitration
clause’s scope. Doc. 30. Thereafter, the court compelled arbitration of all plaintiffs’ claims
against RCIC and stayed the claims against Mr. Laaveg until the arbitration proceedings had
completed. Doc. 34. Defendants ask the court to reconsider its Order. Doc. 36.
D. Kan. Rule 7.3(b) requires a movant to base its motion for reconsideration on: “(1) an
intervening change in controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence; or (3) the need to
correct clear error or prevent manifest injustice.” A motion to reconsider “is not appropriate to
revisit issues already addressed or advance arguments that could have been raised in prior
briefing.” Ferluga v. Eickhoff, 236 F.R.D. 546, 549 (D. Kan. 2006) (citing Servants of Paraclete
v. Does, 204 F.3d 1005, 1012 (10th Cir. 2000)). So, “a motion for reconsideration is appropriate
[only] where the court has misapprehended the facts, a party’s position, or the controlling law.”
Id. (citing Servants of Paraclete, 204 F.3d at 1012). “The decision whether to grant a motion to
reconsider is committed to the district court’s discretion.” Coffeyville Res. Ref. & Mktg., LLC v.
Liberty Surplus Ins. Corp., 748 F. Supp. 2d 1261, 1264 (D. Kan. 2010) (citing In re Motor Fuel
Temperature Sales Practices Litig., 707 F. Supp. 2d 1145, 1166 (D. Kan. 2010)); see also
Brumark Corp. v. Samson Res. Corp., 57 F.3d 941, 944 (10th Cir. 1995) (noting “the decision to
grant reconsideration is committed to the sound discretion of the district court”).
Defendants’ motion contends that the court should reconsider its February 28, 2019
Order “because the arbitration of both the contract and tort claims in this case would unduly
result in clear error and manifest injustice . . . .” Doc. 37 at 2. They assert the court erred when
it referred both the contract and tort claims to arbitration and it should have dismissed plaintiffs’
claims for “extra-contractual damages.” Id. at 3, 5. The court addresses each of defendants’
A. Referring contract and tort claims to arbitration was not clear error.
Defendants assert the court erred by compelling “plaintiffs and RCIC to arbitrate all the
claims in the Complaint – not just the breach of contract claim.” Doc. 37 at 3. Specifically,
defendants contend the court failed to consider the effect of two subsections of the American
Arbitration Association rules cited by Rule 20(a)—subsections 20(c) and (f). According to
defendants, Rule 20(c) and (f), as incorporated into Rule 20(a), “expressly limit the
applicability of the AAA’s rules” and limit the arbitrator’s jurisdiction over tort and state law
claims. Id. at 3.
The problem with defendants’ argument is that they never made it in their original
Motion to Dismiss nor in any subsequent filing. Also, defendants had a bonus opportunity to
raise this argument when the court asked for supplemental briefing about the scope of the
arbitration clause. Doc. 30. But defendants didn’t raise the argument in that submission either.
A motion for reconsideration “is not [an] appropriate [device] to . . . advance arguments that
could have been raised in prior briefing.” Ferluga, 236 F.R.D. at 549. Relying on Belnap v.
IASIS Healthcare, 844 F.3d 1272, 1281 (10th Cir. 2017), the court concluded that the AAA’s
rules govern the parties’ arbitration agreement under their Common Crop Insurance Policies.
Doc. 34 at 6. And the court explained those rules provide the arbitrator with the authority to
decide the scope of the arbitrable issues between the parties. Id. The court declines to
reconsider its holding referring all claims in the Complaint against defendant RCIC to
B. The court continues the stay for plaintiffs’ non-contractual claims against
RCIC and Mr. Laaveg.
Next, defendants assert the court “mistakenly referred [p]laintiffs’ non-contractual claims
against RCIC to arbitration and declined to dismiss [p]laintiffs’ tort claims against defendant
Scott Laaveg.” Doc. 37 at 5. Defendants contend that section 20(i) of the Common Crop
Insurance Policy “expressly prohibits an arbitrator from awarding extra contractual
damages . . . .” Id. And, defendants contend, the policy grants jurisdiction to the court alone
over claims for extra-contractual damages. Thus, according to defendants, the court was
“obligated to address the merits of [d]efendants’ arguments concerning the applicability of 7
C.F.R. §§ 400.176(b) and 400.352(b) and the preemption of [p]laintiffs’ state law and tort
claims.” Id. at 6.
Defendants concede they previously raised this argument in their briefs. Id. And, the
court already has addressed this issue explicitly. A motion for reconsideration “is not [an]
appropriate [device] to revisit issues already addressed[.]” Ferluga, 236 F.R.D. at 549. The
court remains convinced that Belnap requires the court to refer all claims against RCIC to
arbitration for an initial determination of arbitrability and stay the case while that determination
is made. 844 F.3d at 1281 (concluding that when “there is clear and unmistakable evidence” that
the parties “agreed that an arbitrator should decide all questions of arbitrability . . . the district
court should have stayed the litigation and compelled all claims against [defendant] to arbitration
so that an arbitrator could decide their arbitrability in the first instance.”). Also, the court
exercised its discretion to stay proceedings against Mr. Laaveg “for the purpose of economy of
time and effort for itself, for counsel, and for litigants.” Doc. 34 at 8 (quoting Pet Milk Co. v.
Ritter, 323 F.2d 586, 588 (10th Cir. 1963) (citing Landis v. N. Am. Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254–55
(1936) (other citation and quotation marks omitted))); see also Moses H. Cone Mem’l Hosp. v.
Mercury Constr. Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 20 n.23 (1983) (“[I]t may be advisable to stay litigation
among non-arbitrating parties pending the outcome of the arbitration. That decision is one left to
the district court . . . as a matter of its discretion to control its docket.”). The court, thus, will not
readdress this renewed argument.
Defendants raise no new arguments and cite no new authority that persuades the court to
revisit its decision about the claims against Mr. Laaveg. The court thus declines to reconsider its
decision to stay proceedings against Mr. Laaveg until the arbitration concludes.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED BY THE COURT THAT defendants Rural
Community Insurance Company and Scott Laaveg’s Motion to Reconsider (Doc. 36) is denied.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated this 11th day of October, 2019, at Kansas City, Kansas.
s/ Daniel D. Crabtree
Daniel D. Crabtree
United States District Judge
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