Manuel v. Turner Industries Group, LLC et al
RULING denying 106 Motion for New Trial/Reconsideration. Signed by Judge Shelly D. Dick on 9/19/2017. (LLH)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
MICHAEL N. MANUEL
TURNER INDUSTRIES GROUP LLC
AND THE PRUDENTIAL INSURANCE
COMPANY OF AMERICA
This matter is before the Court on the Motion for Reconsideration/New Trial1 filed
by Plaintiff, Michael N. Manuel (“Plaintiff”). The Defendants, Turner Industries Group LLC
(“Turner”) and the Prudential Insurance Company of America (“Prudential”) have each
filed Oppositions2 to this motion, to which the Plaintiff has filed a Reply.3 For the following
reasons, the Court finds that Plaintiff’s motion should be DENIED.
On September 23, 2016, the Court issued a Ruling dismissing with prejudice
Plaintiff’s claims under the Employee Retirement and Income Securities Act (“ERISA”)
Section 502(A)(3), Section 510, and Section 502(c), breach of fiduciary duty, retaliatory
action, and failure to produce plan documents respectively.4 On September 26, 2016,
the Court denied the Plaintiff’s Motion to Dismiss the Defendants’ counterclaim under
ERISA Section 502(a)(3) and Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment requesting
Rec. Doc. 106.
Rec. Docs. 116 and 123.
Rec. Doc. 130.
Rec. Doc. 102.
Page 1 of 9
dismissal of Prudential’s counterclaim for mistakenly paid benefits.5 In the September
26, 2016 Ruling, the Court also granted Prudential’s Motion for Summary Judgment as to
Plaintiff’s ERISA Section 502 (a)(1)(B) and Section 502 (a)(3) claims and awarded
Prudential $7,920.00 on its counterclaim along with reasonable costs and attorneys fees.6
On September 28, 2016, the Court granted Turner’s Motion for Summary Judgment,
dismissed Turner from the case and found that Turner was entitled to reasonable costs
and attorneys fees.7
On October 26, 2016, Plaintiff filed a motion for new
trial/reconsideration, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e), alleging the Court
committed “manifest errors of fact and law [which] result in manifest injustice in its
Rulings.”8 Prudential and Turner oppose the motion.
LAW AND ANALYSIS
A. Motion for New Trial and/or To Alter or Amend the Judgment
A Rule 59 motion to alter or amend serves “the narrow purpose of allowing a party
to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence and is
not the proper vehicle for rehashing evidence, legal theories, or arguments that could
have been offered or raised before the entry of the judgment.”9 A Rule 59(e) motion “calls
into question the correctness of a judgment.”10 It is an extraordinary remedy that should
be used sparingly.11
There are three grounds for altering or amending a judgment under Rule 59(e):
Rec. Doc. 103.
Rec. Doc. 104.
Rec. Doc. 45, p. 6.
Knight v. Kellogg Brown & Root Inc., 333 Fed. Appx. 1, 8 (5th Cir. 2009).
In re Transtexas Gas Corp., 303 F.3d 571, 581 (5th Cir.2002).
Templet v. HydroChem Inc., 367 F.3d 473, 478–79 (5th Cir. 2004); Clancy v. Employers Health Ins. Co.,
101 F.Supp.2d 463, 465 (E.D.La.2000) (citing 11 Charles A. Wright, Arthur R. Miller & Mary Kay Kane,
Federal Practice & Procedure § 2810.1, at 124 (2d ed.1995)).
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“(1) an intervening change in controlling law, (2) the availability of new evidence not
previously available, or (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or prevent manifest
injustice.”12 Rule 59 is not a vehicle to “re-litigate prior matters that ... simply have been
resolved to the movant's dissatisfaction.”13
The Court finds that Plaintiff has failed to satisfy the standards set forth above.
The Plaintiff asserts new legal theories and relies on non-binding and factually
distinguishable jurisprudence in support of his motion. Plaintiff’s remaining arguments do
not establish any clear errors of law or manifest injustice as a result of the Rulings.14
B. Plaintiff’s Section 502(a)(3) Claims
Plaintiff’s motion alleges that the Court misapplied the holding of Estate of Bratton
v. National Union Fire Insurance Co.15 It is Plaintiff’s contention that Bratton allows the
Plaintiff to plead both an ERISA Section 502(a)(1)(B) claim and a 502(a)(3) claim.16
Plaintiff’s interpretation of Bratton ignores the Fifth Circuit’s holding that:
[T]he plaintiff in this purported § 502(a)(3) action is seeking
only disability benefits allegedly due under the  policy for
which § 502(a)(1)(B) affords an adequate remedy.
Accordingly, the plaintiff cannot use a § 502(a)(3) Varity action
in this case to preserve the district court’s judgment it is favor.
The Court determined that Plaintiff’s relief was equitable in nature and that Section
502(a)(1)(B) affords an adequate remedy.17 The Court determined that, under Bratton,
the Plaintiff could not bring both Section 502(a)(3) and Section 502(a)(1)(B) claims
Williamson Pounders Architects, P.C., 681 F.Supp.2d 766, 767 (N.D.Miss. 2008).
Voisin v. Tetra Technologies, Inc., 2010 WL 3943522, at *2 (E.D. La. Oct. 6, 2010).
Rec. Docs. 101, 102, and 103.
141 F.3d 604 (5th Cir. 1998).
Rec. Doc. 106-1.
See Rec. Doc. 102, p. 5.
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against Prudential and dismissed all of Plaintiff’s Section 502(a)(3) claims against
Prudential, i.e. Paragraphs 16-26 of Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint.18
dissatisfaction with the Court’s interpretation of Bratton is not a clear error of law meriting
Plaintiff argues “because Prudential breached its fiduciary duty in paying [Plaintiff]
monies not due under the plan, Prudential should be estopped and/or enjoined from
recovering those monies from [Plaintiff].”19 Plaintiff relies on non-binding jurisprudence
for this position and offers no argument why the jurisprudence relied upon by the Court in
its Ruling20 was clearly erroneous. Lastly, Plaintiff reargues that the Summary Plan
Document (“SPD”) was deficient without identifying a clear error of law or fact regarding
the Court’s analysis of said document. Given Plaintiff’s failure to identify a change in
controlling law, or an error of fact or law that has resulted in manifest injustice, Plaintiff’s
Motion for Reconsideration of the Court’s ruling on his Section 502(a)(3) is DENIED.
C. Plaintiff’s Section 510 Claims
Plaintiff argues that the Court misapplied the Fifth Circuit’s holding in Bodine v.
Employers Casualty Company.21 In Bodine, the Fifth Circuit held: “[t]o sustain a valid §
510 claim, an employee must show a prohibited (adverse) employer action.”22 Thus, if
an employee is required to sustain a Section 510 claim, it must be brought against an
employer. Prudential was not the Plaintiff’s employer. Plaintiff’s disagreement with the
Court’s interpretation of Bodine is not grounds for reconsideration.
Id. p. 5.
Rec. Doc. 106-1, p. 7.
Rec. Doc. 103, pp. 5-6.
352 F.3d 245, 250 (5th Cir. 2003).
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D. Prudential’s Counterclaim for Overpayment of STD Benefits under
Plaintiff reurges his position that the United States Supreme Court’s decision in
Montanile v. Board of Trustees23 precludes Prudential from recovering overpaid
benefits.24 As the Court stated in its Ruling, the Plaintiff “rel[ies] on cases [including
Montanile] that are factually distinguishable from the present case…”25 The Court further
held that cases like Montanile “are factually distinguishable because they involve plaintiffs
receiving payments from third party sources. The present case involved no third party;
the only funds that Plaintiff has received in relation to these benefits have been paid by
Prudential.”26 Plaintiff does not dispute that the present case and Montanile are factually
distinguishable; instead, Plaintiff invites the Court to reconfigure the holding of Montanile
to the facts of the present case: “While Montanile addressed the situation where the
beneficiary recovered funds against a third party in settlement of a third party suit, the
principle that a fiduciary cannot recover against the general assets of a beneficiary, would
certainly apply here.”27
Once again, Plaintiff’s disagreement with the Court’s
interpretation of jurisprudence is not grounds for reconsideration.
The Court determined that the United States Supreme Court case Sereboff v. Mid
Atlantic Medical Services applied to the present case because Sereboff involved a
fiduciary who attempted to recover overpaid benefits from a participant.28 Plaintiff now
argues that Sereboff “can be distinguished because the plan language provided an
136 S.Ct. 651, 193 L.Ed.2d 556 (2016).
Rec. Doc. 106-1, pp. 10-11.
Rec. Doc. 103, p. 5.
Rec. Doc. 106-1, p. 11.
547 U.S. 356, 369 (2006).
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equitable lien by agreement when funds were received from third parties.”29 According
to the Plaintiff, “the STD plan provisions at issue do not have language creating an
equitable lien by agreement for funds received from a third party.”30 While it is true that
Plaintiff is not seeking the recovery of a benefit paid by a third party, because there is no
third party in the case, the language of the Short Term Disability (“STD”) plan, which
Plaintiff cites,31 creates an equitable lien by agreement similar to the agreement in
Plaintiff argues that the Court should reconsider awarding Prudential’s
Counterclaim because, “at the very least, Prudential must show that Mr. Manuel is still in
possession of those STD benefit funds paid to him several years ago.”33 Plaintiff offers
no jurisprudential support for this position. The Supreme Court in Sereboff rejected the
plaintiff’s argument that the fiduciary must be able to identify the assets which can be
used to satisfy the equitable lien by agreement.34 Plaintiff’s argument essentially asks
the Court to disregard the equitable lien by agreement created in the STD plan because
he no longer possesses the overpaid benefits; however, the jurisprudence relied upon by
the Court in its Ruling35 rejected such arguments. Accordingly, Plaintiff’s Motion for
Reconsideration regarding Prudential’s Counterclaim is DENIED.
Rec. Doc. 106-1, p. 11.
See Id. note 30.
547 U.S. at 364 (2006).
Rec. Doc. 106-1, p. 12.
547 U.S. at 365-66 (2006).
Rec. Doc. 103.
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E. Prudential’s Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiff’s Long Term
Disability Benefits under Section 502(a)(1)(B)
The Plaintiff argues that the Court erred in determining that the pre-existing
exclusion and reimbursement/overpayment provision applied because neither provision
was contained in the SPD.36 Plaintiff cites no intervening authority37 which would merit
reconsideration. Plaintiff further fails to identify an error of fact or law made by the Court
in its determination that the pre-existing condition applies to the present claims. Plaintiff’s
dissatisfaction with the Court’s determination regarding the pre-existing condition
provision of the plan is not a sufficient basis for granting a motion for reconsideration.
Accordingly, Plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration of the Court’s grant of Prudential’s
Motion for Summary Judgment as to Plaintiff’s Long Term Disability Claim under Section
502(a)(1)(B) is DENIED.
F. Turner’s Motion for Summary Judgment Dismissing Turner from the Suit
Plaintiff asks the Court to reconsider its ruling on Turner’s Motion for Summary
Judgment and dismissal of Turner from the suit.
Plaintiff also asks the Court to
“reconsider, and at least allow Plaintiff discovery into the facts surrounding the plan
documents to determine if Turner’s production was complete.”38 Plaintiff fails to identify
an error of fact or law regarding the Court’s determination on this matter. Accordingly,
the Plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration on Turner’s Motion for Summary Judgment
Dismissing Turner from the suit is DENIED.
Rec. Doc. 106-1, p. 13.
Plaintiff relies on Stiso v. International Steel Group, 604 Fed. Appx. 494, 499 (6th Cir. 2015). This case
from the Sixth Circuit is not binding on this Court and does not serve as intervening authority upon which
a motion for reconsideration may be granted.
Rec. Doc. 106-1, p. 16.
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G. Plaintiff’s Motion for Discovery
Plaintiff now argues that: “[w]hile [he] had assumed that the STD and LTD plans
at issue were ERISA plans, it appears that Turner did not contribute to funding either
benefit plan and the decision to participate may have been left up to its employees, to
participate entirely at their own cost.”39 Plaintiff’s new legal theory was not addressed in
any of his prior pleadings. As the Fifth Circuit held in Simon v. United States, “[m]otions
for reconsideration cannot be used to argue a cause under a new legal theory.”40 The
Plaintiff’s remaining theories for reconsideration rely on non-binding jurisprudence or
relate to claims that the Court has dismissed. Accordingly, the Plaintiff’s Motion for
Reconsideration on its motion for discovery is DENIED.
H. Abuse of Standard/Arbitrary and Capricious Standard of Review
Lastly, the Plaintiff argues that the Court “erred in applying the abuse of
discretion/arbitrary and capricious standard of review to the administrator’s decision.”41
Plaintiff bases this argument on an apparent discrepancy between the SPD and the Plan
Documents: “the [SPD] provides that Prudential, as the ‘Claims Administrator has the sole
discretion to interpret the terms of the Group Contract, to make factual findings, and to
determine eligibility of benefits.’”42 Plaintiff’s counsel however, “does not see a similar
provision in the Plan Documents  [t]hus [Plaintiff] submits that the abuse of
discretion/arbitrary and capricious standard should not apply in the present case.”43 The
Court determined, after reviewing the Plan Documents, that Prudential had discretion to
Id. p. 17.
891 F.2d 1154, 1159 (5th Cir. 1990).
Rec. Doc. 106-1, p. 19.
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determine Plaintiff’s STD benefits.44 Relying on the United States Supreme Court case
in Metropolitan Life Insurance Company v. Glenn,45 the Court stated: “if the language of
the plan does grant the plan administrator discretionary authority to construe the terms of
the plan or determine eligibility for benefits, a plan’s determination must be upheld by a
court unless it is found to be an abuse of discretion.”46 Plaintiff’s contention that the Plan
Documents must state that Prudential had “sole discretion” to determine eligibility in order
for the abuse of discretion standard to apply is contrary to United States Supreme Court
precedent. Accordingly, Plaintiff’s motion to reconsider the standard of review applied by
the Court in it its Rulings47 is DENIED.
For the above reasons, Plaintiffs’ Motion for New Trial/Reconsideration48 is
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Signed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on September 19, 2017.
JUDGE SHELLY D. DICK
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
See Rec. Doc. 103, p. 10.
554 U.S. 105, 111 (2008).
Rec. Doc. 103, p. 9.
Rec. Docs. 102, 103, and 104.
Rec. Doc. 106.
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