Thomason v. Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America Inc et al
ORDER denying 104 Motion for Reconsideration re 99 Order on Motion to Amend/Correct. Signed by Honorable J Michelle Childs on 1/25/17.(alew, ) Modified on 1/26/2017 to correct filing date (alew, ).
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA
William Thomason, Jr. as Executor and
Surviving Closest Relative of William
Poole Thomason and Eugenia McCuen
Toyota Motor Engineering and
Manufacturing North America, Inc.; Toyota )
Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc.;
Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.; Toyota )
Civil Action No. 6:14-cv-04895-JMC
ORDER AND OPINION
Plaintiff William Thomason Jr. (“Plaintiff’), the executor of the estates, and surviving
closest relative, of William Poole Thomason and Eugenia McCuen Thomason (together, “the
Thomasons”), has filed, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e), a motion to alter or amend the court’s
previous order denying his motion to amend his amended complaint. (ECF No. 104.) The court
concludes that further briefing is unneeded and, for the reasons that follow, DENIES the motion.
I. RELEVANT FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
On September 27, 2016, Plaintiff filed his motion to amend his amended complaint. (ECF
No. 94). Because the motion had been filed following service of a responsive pleading and after
the November 1, 2015 deadline for moving to amend the complaint, Plaintiff was required,
pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 16(b), to show good cause to excuse his tardiness, such as by showing
that he could not have discovered the evidence underlying his proposed amendments even with
the exercise of reasonable diligence. (See ECF No. 99 at 3, 7-8.) Plaintiff asserted that his tardiness
should be excused because the evidence underlying his proposed amendments could not have been
obtained until after the deadline for filing a motion to amend set by the scheduling order had
expired and until shortly before he filed his motion to amend. (See ECF No. 94.) The evidence at
issue, Plaintiff explained, was information gleaned from recent deposition testimony by Defendant
Toyota Motor Corporation’s (“TMC”) Fed. R. Civ. P. 30(b)(6) designee, which was elicited based
on Plaintiff’s expert’s recent inspection of the Thomason’s vehicle. (Id. at 5.) Although a
comparison of the amended complaint and the proposed complaint revealed the evidence also
might have involved testimony regarding the vehicle’s owner’s manual, the court ultimately could
not identify the evidence on which Plaintiff relied from a comparison of the complaints, and the
court noted that the owner’s manual appeared to have been available to Plaintiff prior to the
expiration of the scheduling order’s deadline. (See ECF No. 99 at 11). The court found that
Plaintiff’s imprecise description of the evidence left the court unable to determine whether the
evidence could have been discovered with the exercise of reasonable diligence prior to the
scheduling order’s deadline (see id at 9-12) or whether the proposed amendments, in fact, were
based on such evidence (see id. at 12-14). Thus, the court concluded that Plaintiff failed to show
good cause, as required by Rule 16(b), and entered a December 21, 2016 order denying without
prejudice Plaintiff’s motion to amend. 1 (Id. at 14-15.)
Plaintiff timely filed the instant Rule 59(e) motion for reconsideration on January 12, 2017.
(ECF No. 104.) In the motion, Plaintiff explains that his proposed amendments were based on his
expert’s November 17, 2016 report on the inspection of the Thomason’s vehicle, which states that
the vehicle did not operate according to the owner’s manual’s provision that the driver will receive
If Plaintiff had refiled or renewed his motion to amend, a different analysis than the one that
follows might obtain. However, the court can only consider the Rule 59(e) motion presented to it.
an audible warning when the engine remains running while the vehicle is in park and the driver’s
side door is open. (See id. at 2.) Plaintiff attaches to his motion excerpts of the owner’s manual
and the expert’s report, which states the inspection occurred on August 15, 2016. (See ECF Nos.
104-1, 104-2.) Plaintiff further explains that his expert’s findings led him to question TMC’s
designee regarding the audible warning and that the designee testified that the vehicle does not
give an audible warning. (See ECF No. 104 at 3.) Plaintiff attaches to his motion a transcript of
relevant portions of the designee’s deposition testimony. (See ECF No. 104-3.) Plaintiff argues
that he could not have discovered this evidence with reasonable diligence prior to the expiration
of the scheduling order’s deadline and that he has thus satisfied Rule 16(b) by showing good cause
for his tardy motion to amend. He argues that this warrants, pursuant to Rule 59(e), alteration or
amendment of the court’s prior order denying his motion to amend. (See ECF No. 104 at 3.)
II. LEGAL STANDARD
Rule 59 allows a party to seek an alteration or amendment of a previous order of the court.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 59. A motion pursuant to Rule 59(e) may only be granted in three situations: “(1)
to accommodate an intervening change in controlling law; (2) to account for new evidence not
available at trial; or (3) to correct a clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice.” Mayfield v.
Nat’l Ass’n for Stock Car Auto Racing, Inc., 674 F.3d 369, 378 (4th Cir. 2012) (quoting Zinkand
v. Brown, 478 F.3d 634, 637 (4th Cir. 2007)). It is the moving party’s burden to establish one of
these three grounds in order to obtain relief under Rule 59(e). Loren Data Corp. v. GXS, Inc., 501
F. App’x 275, 285 (4th Cir. 2012).
The remedy afforded by Rule 59(e) “is an extraordinary remedy that should be applied
sparingly.” Mayfield, 674 F.3d at 378. Thus, Rule 59(e) motions “may not be used to relitigate old
matters, or to raise arguments or present evidence that could have been raised prior to the entry of
judgment.” Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker, 554 U.S. 471, 486 n.5 (2008) (internal quotation marks
omitted). Moreover, a party’s “[m]ere disagreement with the court’s interpretation of the law is
not an appropriate ground for a Rule 59(e) motion.” PCS Nitrogen, Inc. v. Ross Dev. Corp., 126
F. Supp. 3d 611, 639 (D.S.C. 2015) (internal quotation marks omitted) (citing, inter alia,
Hutchinson v. Staton, 994 F.2d 1076, 1082 (4th Cir. 1993)).
Plaintiff makes no effort to explain under which, if any, of the three reasons for granting a
Rule 59(e) motion he proceeds. It does not appear that Plaintiff argues for relief pursuant to the
first or third reasons for Rule 59(e) relief. Plaintiff does not assert or suggest that there has been
an intervening change in controlling law. He does not assert that the legal analysis employed in
the court’s previous order is clearly erroneous; rather, he appears to accept the court’s legal
framework and to argue for its application to his circumstances. 2 At best, Plaintiff’s motion might
be understood to proceed under the second reason for Rule 59(e) relief—to account for new
evidence that was not previously available.
The court concludes that Plaintiff has not met his burden to establish a right to Rule 59(e)
relief. Plaintiff has failed to show that the evidence he presents—information from the expert’s
inspection, the owner’s manual, and the designee’s deposition—and the arguments he raises—
identifying the evidence on which he relied in moving to amend the complaint—were not available
to him at the time he filed his motion to amend. Not only has Plaintiff failed to assert that the
evidence and arguments were unavailable to him before he filed his motion to amend, but the
motion and its exhibits also clearly demonstrate that the evidence and arguments were available to
The court notes that Plaintiff cites no legal authority in his motion, which, one would think, would
be rudimentary in a Rule 59(e) motion based on an assertion of clear legal error.
Plaintiff at that time. 3 Because the evidence and arguments on which Plaintiff relies in the instant
motion were available to him at the time he filed the motion to amend, the court cannot grant him
Rule 59(e) relief. See Baker, 554 U.S. at 486 n.5; Mayfield, 674 F.3d at 378.
For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff’s Rule 59(e) motion to alter or amend the court’s
previous order denying his motion to amend the amended complaint (ECF No. 104) is hereby
IT IS SO ORDERED.
United States District Court Judge
January 25, 2017
Columbia, South Carolina
As the court’s previous order noted, Plaintiff received the owner’s manual long before he filed
his motion to amend. (See ECF No. 99 at 6, 11.) The designee’s testimony, even if not reduced to
a transcript, was available to Plaintiff by September 16, 2016 (see ECF No. 104 at 3; ECF No.
104-3), some 11 days before he filed his motion to amend (see ECF No. 94). Although the expert’s
findings were not produced in a report until after Plaintiff filed his motion to amend (see ECF No.
104 at 2; ECF No. 104-1 at 1), Plaintiff’s assertions that the findings precipitated his inquiry into
the audible warning at the designee’s deposition (see ECF No. 94 at 5; ECF No. 104 at 2-3)
demonstrate that the findings were available to him before he filed his motion to amend. Thus, all
the evidence Plaintiff needed to make the arguments contained in the instant motion were available
to him at the time he filed his motion to amend.
The court notes that the fourth claim added to Plaintiff’s proposed complaint alleges that
Defendants failed to provide the Thomasons post-sale warnings regarding the vehicle’s alleged
deficiencies. Thus, the fourth claim does not appear to be based on the evidence regarding the
audible warning that underlies the instant motion. Notably, Defendants have conceded that the
allegations in the proposed complaint are already sufficiently alleged in the amended complaint.
(See ECF No. 95 at 4.) Thus, it does not appear that Plaintiff would be barred from pursuing the
three claims asserted in the current amended complaint under the theory that the vehicle’s audible
warning did not operate in accordance with the owner’s manual.
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