GUIDOTTI v. LEGAL HELPERS DEBT RESOLUTION, L.L.C. et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 1/9/2017. (TH, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
DAWN GUIDOTTI, on behalf of
herself and other class
members similarly situated,
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
No. 11-1219 (JBS/KMW)
LEGAL HELPERS DEBT RESOLUTION,
L.L.C., et al.,
SIMANDLE, Chief Judge:
Present before the Court is Plaintiff Dawn Guidotti’s
(hereinafter “Plaintiff” or Ms. Guidotti”) motion to certify
this Court’s August 4, 2016 Order for interlocutory appeal under
28 U.S.C. § 1292(b), as well as a motion for reconsideration of
this Court’s August 4, 2016 Opinion and Order requiring a jury
trial to determine whether an agreement to arbitrate under the
Section 4 of the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”), 9 U.S.C. § 4,
For the following reasons, the Court denies both
In a March 7, 2016 Order, upon mandate
from the Third Circuit, this Court ordered that the matter
proceed to a jury trial on the issue of whether the parties
entered an agreement to arbitrate. [Docket Item 184.]
28, 2016, Plaintiff moved to amend the Court’s Order because
Plaintiff “did not request a jury trial on this issue and the
defendants have no right under the FAA to a jury trial on this
issue.” [Docket Item 186.]
The Court denied Plaintiff’s motion
to amend in an August 4, 2016 Order. [Docket Item 216.]
The Court’s August 4, 2016 Opinion.
In an Opinion of
the same date, the Court reasoned that the Third Circuit has on
two separate occasions1 directed this Court to proceed to a jury
trial, so as a result, the Court could not conclude that Section
4 of the FAA “prescribes the exclusive means of providing a jury
trial in the context of summary arbitration proceedings.”
Guidotti v. Legal Helpers Debt Resolution, LLC, No. 11-1219,
2016 WL 4163547, at *3 (D.N.J. Aug. 4, 2016).
caselaw cited to by Plaintiff there “simply recognize[s] that
the FAA permits the party allegedly in default of a binding
arbitration clause to have the issue heard by a jury, and
make[s] no mention of the parties’ independent demand under Rule
38, Fed. R. Civ. P.” Id. at *2.
Plaintiff had argued that even
though it made a general jury demand in its Complaint under Rule
38, Fed. R. Civ. P., Section 4 of the FAA carves out a specific
procedure for making a jury demand in the context of an
See Guidotti v. Legal Helpers Debt Resolution, LLC, 639 F.
App’x 824, 827 (3d Cir. 2016); Guidotti v. Legal Helpers Debt
Resolution, LLC, 716 F.3d 764, 781 (3d Cir. 2013).
arbitration dispute, rendering inapplicable the demand under
Rule 38. Id. at *1.
On August 18, 2016, Ms. Guidotti filed a motion
seeking an interlocutory appeal of the Court’s August 4, 2016
Order as well as a motion for reconsideration of the Court’s
August 4, 2016 Opinion and Order. [Docket Item 221].
Plaintiff’s Seeking of Leave to File Interlocutory
Appeal. Plaintiff first seeks leave to file an interlocutory
appeal from this Court’s August 4, 2016 Order pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1292(b).
Standard of Review. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b),
interlocutory review is only appropriate if the appeal (1)
involves a “controlling question of law,” (2) there is a
“substantial ground for difference of opinion” about that
question of law; and (3) where immediate appeal may materially
advance the ultimate termination of the litigation. Simon v.
United States, 341 F.3d 193, 199 (3d Cir. 2003).
court should only certify issues for interlocutory appeal
“sparingly” and in “exceptional circumstances.” Cardona v.
General Motors Corp., 939 F. Supp. 352, 353 (D.N.J. 1996)
(citation omitted); Hulmes v. Honda Motor Co., 936 F. Supp. 195,
208 (D.N.J. 1995).
To succeed, the petitioner bears the burden
of demonstrating all three criteria. Levine v. United Healthcare
Corp., 285 F. Supp. 2d 552, 556 (D.N.J. 2003).
As such, even if
a moving party meets all three criteria under Section 1292(b),
the district court may still deny certification as the decision
is entirely within the district court’s discretion. Fiscus v.
Combus Finance AG, No. 03-1328, 2006 WL 2845736, at *1 (D.N.J.
Sept. 28, 2006)(citing Backowski v. Usery, 545 F.2d 363, 368 (3d
Controlling Question of Law.
First, a controlling
question of law must encompass “at the very least every order
which, if erroneous, would be reversible error on final appeal”
or something “serious to the conduct of the litigation either
practically or legally.” Katz v. Carte Blanche Corp., 496 F.2d
747, 754 (3d Cir. 1974).
Plaintiff argues that the Third
Circuit’s language that a party is entitled to a jury trial on
the issue of whether there was an agreement to arbitrate was
mere dictum. (Id. at 6.)
Defendant argues in response that the
Third Circuit has clearly spoken on this issue twice, so it
would certainly not conclude that this Court’s order complying
with the Third Circuit’s directives regarding a jury trial is
somehow “erroneous.” (Def. Br. at 9.)
The Court agrees with Plaintiff that the issue of
whether Defendants are entitled to a jury trial on the question
of whether the parties formed an agreement to arbitrate is a
controlling question of law.
The interpretation of a potential
conflict between the FAA and the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure qualifies as a controlling legal question because it
is practically important to the litigation (i.e., whether the
court holds a jury trial, a bench trial or an evidentiary
hearing to determine whether an agreement to arbitrate exists),
and thus would greatly impact the way in which a resolution of
whether an agreement to arbitrate existed eventually occurs.
Substantial Ground for Difference of Opinion. However,
with respect to the second factor in the Section 1292(b)
analysis, a difference of opinion “must arise out of genuine
doubt as to the correct legal standard.” P. Schoenfeld Asset
Mgmt. v. Cendant Corp., 161 F. Supp. 2d 355, 360 (D.N.J.
2001)(emphasis added); see also Steel Partners II, L.P. v.
Aronson, No. 05-1983, 2006 WL 3782656, at *4 (D.N.J. Dec. 22,
2006) (explaining that this factor is also met when there is
“conflicting precedent” as to the correct legal standard).
Simply disagreeing with the ruling does not satisfy this
standard. Kapossy v. McGraw-Hill, Inc., 942 F. Supp. 996, 1001
Plaintiff argues that this factor supports
interlocutory review because several other out-of-circuit
district courts have found that a general jury demand in a
complaint does not obviate the need to specifically request a
jury trial under Section 4 of the FAA. (Pl. Br. at 4.)2
Plaintiff cites to Dalon v. Ruleville Nursing, No. 15-86, 2016
WL 498432, at *2 n. 3 (N.D. Miss. Feb. 8, 2016); King v. Capital
Defendants argue that this factor does not support interlocutory
review because the Third Circuit has already contemplated this
issue twice, and both times, it directed this Court to proceed
to a jury trial. (Def. Br. at 6.)
Here, there is no genuine doubt as to the correct
legal standard in this case because the Third Circuit has
already opined twice on this very issue.
Defendants’ citing to
three non-binding district court cases does not create a
substantial ground for difference of opinion, especially when
the Third Circuit has been so clear on the matter.
district courts have found that a party need not make a special
jury demand under Section 4 despite any general jury demand in
the pleadings. See, e.g., Graham v. Trugreen Landcare of
Alabama, LLC, No. 11-2385, 2012 WL 2357677, at *4 n.7 (N.D. Ala.
June 19, 2012) (“Whether the court or jury determines the
arbitrability issue is up to the party objecting to the
arbitration agreement . . . and Plaintiff has requested a jury
trial in his Complaint.”).
Plaintiff’s argument effectively
asks the Court to deem the Third Circuit’s directives an error.
This Court declines to take such a position, as it is duty-bound
One Bank, No. 11-68, 2012 WL 4404862, at *1 (W.D. Va. Sept. 25,
2012), and Starr Elec. v. Basic Const., 586 F. Supp. 964, 967
(M.D.N.C. 1982) for the proposition that a party must make a
special jury demand under Section 4 despite any general jury
demand in the pleadings.
to apply the law as the Third Circuit has determined in this
Materially Advance the Ultimate Termination of the
An interlocutory appeal materially advances
litigation if it (1) eliminates the need for trial, (2)
eliminates complex issues so as to simplify the trial, or (3)
eliminates issues to make discovery easier and less costly.
F.T.C. v. Wyndham Worldwide Corp., 10 F. Supp. 3d 601, 635
(D.N.J. 2014)(citations omitted).
Plaintiff argues that this
factor supports interlocutory review because if the Court
certifies the question, “the likelihood of an appeal or
successful appeal by either side is greatly diminished and the
case will most likely settle,” so “[c]ertification will probably
avert an abortive trial” and “be less expensive.” (Pl. Br. at
Defendant argues in response that any interlocutory appeal
“will simply delay this proceeding” and “[r]egardless of how the
appeal would be decided, the parties will still be required to
try the issue.” (Def. Br. at 12.)
An interlocutory appeal would not materially advance
the instant litigation.
The Court is not persuaded by
Plaintiff’s speculation as to what might happen if review is
Interlocutory appeal is not a settlement-inducing
Whether the Third Circuit would decide that a jury
trial, a bench trial, or an evidentiary hearing would be
appropriate, the case would still need to be tried; thus, any
further delay is not appropriate.
Plaintiff provides no
indication that the current motion is anything more than an
attempt to delay the case and avoid the necessary trial. See
Averhart v. Communications Workers of America, No. 13-1093, 2016
WL 1162628, at *2 (D.N.J. Mar. 24, 2016)(“Allowing Plaintiff to
pursue an interlocutory appeal at this point would result in
unnecessary delays that would draw out an already lengthy
Plaintiff’s request to certify the
question for interlocutory review is therefore denied.
Plaintiff’s Motion for Reconsideration.
also requests that the Court reconsider its August 4, 2016
Opinion and Order because the FAA rule controls over the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure if the rules conflict, arguing that the
Court overlooked this point. (Pl. Br. at 9.)
that the Court’s Order allowing for a jury trial should remain
because it “follows with the remand directives of the Third
Circuit.” (Def. Br. at 7.)
Standard of Review.
Local Civil Rule 7.1(i) governs
the Court’s review of the moving parties’ motions for
In order to prevail on a motion for
reconsideration, the party seeking reconsideration must
demonstrate either (1) an intervening change in the controlling
law; (2) the availability of new evidence that was not available
when the court issued its order; or (3) the need to correct a
clear error of law or fact or to prevent manifest injustice.
Lazaridis v. Wehmer, 591 F.3d 666, 669 (3d Cir. 2010) (citations
omitted); Andreyko v. Sunrise Sr. Living, Inc., 993 F. Supp. 2d
475, 477-78 (D.N.J. 2014) (same).
More specifically, the moving
party must set forth the “‘dispositive factual matters or
controlling decisions of law’” it believes the Court overlooked
when rendering its initial decision.
Mitchell v. Twp. of
Willingboro Mun. Gov’t, 913 F. Supp. 2d 62, 78 (D.N.J. 2012)
In that way, a party seeking reconsideration must meet
a high burden.
See United States v. Jones, 158 F.R.D. 309, 314
(D.N.J. 1994); Maldonado v. Lucca, 636 F. Supp. 621, 629 (D.N.J.
Even more critically, though, reconsideration does not
provide “an opportunity for a second bite at the apple,” Tishcio
v. Bontex, Inc., 16 F. Supp. 2d 511, 532 (D.N.J. 1998), nor a
vehicle “to relitigate old matters.”
NL Indus., Inc. v.
Commercial Union Ins. Co., 935 F. Supp. 513, 516 (D.N.J. 1996).
Indeed, mere disagreement with the court’s decision –
particularly its reasoning and distillation of the applicable
law and facts – should be aired through the appellate process.
See Andreyko, 993 F. Supp. 2d at 478; see also Shevline v.
Phoenix Life Ins., No. 09-6323, 2015 WL 348552, at *1 (D.N.J.
Jan. 23, 2015) (same).
Plaintiff argues that the Court committed a clear
error of law in that it should have relied on Rule 81(a)(6)(B),
Fed. R. Civ. P. in order to fill any procedural gaps left open
by the FAA, and not on Rule 38, Fed. R. Civ. P.
(Id. at 8.)
relies on ISC Holding v. Nobel, 688 F.3d 98, 122 (2d Cir. 2012)
for the proposition that Section 4 of the FAA’s procedure for
requesting a jury trial should apply under Rule 81(a)(6)(B)’s
“other procedures” provision. (Id. at 9.)
fact that this opinion is out-of-circuit and that Plaintiff
quotes from the dissenting opinion, that case is inapposite
because it does not provide that the FAA must supersede the
In its August 4 Opinion, the Court agreed with
Defendants’ argument that “the demand provisions of Section 4
simply provide ‘[an]other procedure’ to demand a jury trial,
parallel to that provided by Rule 38.” Guidotti, 2016 WL
4163547, at *2.
Further, Section 4 of the FAA is clear that it
is triggered only “if no jury trial be demanded by the party
alleged to be default.” 9 U.S.C. § 4.
Thus, “Section 4 does not
apply here.” Guidotti, 2016 WL 4163547, at *2.
provides no further justification that this holding was a clear
error of law, and her mere disagreement with the Court’s
decision does not meet the standard for reconsideration.
the court denies Plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration of this
Court’s August 4, 2016 Opinion and Order.
An accompanying Order will be entered.
January 9, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Chief U.S. District Judge
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