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International Air Medical Services Inc. v. Triple-S Salud Inc.

United States District Court, D. Arizona

December 14, 2015

International Air Medical Services Incorporated, et al., Plaintiffs,
Triple-S Salud Incorporated, Defendant.


David G. Campbell United States District Judge

Plaintiffs are Francisco Ortiz-Maldonado, now deceased, and International Air Medical Services, Inc. (“IAMS”), a provider of air-ambulance services. On March 20, 2013, IAMS transported Maldonado from a hospital in Florida to a hospital in Puerto Rico. Prior to his death, Maldonado assigned to IAMS his rights under his contract with Defendant Triple-S Salud, his health insurance provider, as payment for the transport. IAMS sought reimbursement from Triple-S, but Triple-S repeatedly denied the claim. On January 28, 2015, Plaintiffs brought suit under ERISA for a recovery of plan benefits. On September 3, 2015, this Court dismissed Plaintiffs’ complaint because Plaintiffs lack standing to bring this suit and because the District of Arizona is an improper venue. The Court entered judgment in favor of Triple-S on September 23, 2015.

Plaintiffs have filed a motion for reconsideration under Rules 59(e) and 60(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure asking this Court to reconsider its September 23, 2015 judgment. Doc. 29. The issues are fully briefed. Docs. 34, 36. For the reasons that follow, the Court will deny Plaintiffs’ motion.

I. Legal Standard.

Motions for reconsideration are disfavored and should be granted only in rare circumstances. Collins v. D.R. Horton, Inc., 252 F.Supp.2d 936, 938 (D. Ariz. 2003). A motion for reconsideration will be denied “absent a showing of manifest error or a showing of new facts or legal authority that could not have been brought to [the Court’s] attention earlier with reasonable diligence.” LRCiv 7.2(g)(1); see Carroll v. Nakatani, 342 F.3d 934, 945 (9th Cir. 2003). Mere disagreement with an order is an insufficient basis for reconsideration. See Ross v. Arpaio, No. CV-05-04177-PHX-MHM, 2008 WL 1776502, at *2 (D. Ariz. Apr. 15, 2008). Nor should reconsideration be used to ask the Court to rethink its analysis. United States v. Rezzonico, 32 F.Supp.2d 1112, 1116 (D. Ariz. 1998); see N.W. Acceptance Corp. v. Lynnwood Equip., Inc., 841 F.2d 918, 925-26 (9th Cir. 1988). A motion for reconsideration “may not be used to raise arguments or present evidence for the first time when they could reasonably have been raised earlier in the litigation.” Kona Enters., Inc. v. Estate of Bishop, 229 F.3d 877, 890 (9th Cir. 2000).

II. Analysis.

Plaintiffs argue that the Court should grant their motion under Rule 60(b) for two reasons: (1) the Court mistakenly concluded that paragraph 15 of the Policy prohibits a beneficiary from assigning its cause of action to a service provider; and (2) newly discovered evidence shows that the Triple-S misrepresented that claim denials occurred in Arizona. Plaintiffs contend that the Court should grant their motion under Rule 59(e) because the Court committed manifest error in concluding that venue is not proper in the District of Arizona.

A. Anti-Assignment Provision.

Plaintiffs argue that they are entitled to Rule 60(b)(1) relief because “the Court mistakenly construed anti-assignment language concerning rights and benefits to include causes of action assigned to service providers.” Doc. 29 at 4. Rule 60(b)(1) permits district courts to grant relief from “an apparent error of law.” Rezzonico, 32 F.Supp.2d at 1116 (citing Liberty Mut. Ins. Co. v. EEOC, 691 F.2d 438, 440 (9th Cir. 1982) (additional citation omitted)). Rule 60(b)(1) does not permit parties to “merely present arguments previously raised, or which could have been raised in the original briefs.” DIRECTV Inc. v. Eagle W. Commc’ns Inc., CV-09-00379-PHX-JAT, 2015 WL 274059, at *3 (D. Ariz. Jan. 22, 2015).

In the briefing on Triple-S’s motion to dismiss, the parties extensively briefed the issue of whether paragraph 15 of the Policy is an anti-assignment clause that prohibits the assignment of a beneficiary’s cause of action to a third party. See Docs. 18 at 4-6; 20 at 2-4, 6-9; 21 at 3-6. The Court’s September 3, 2015 order spent three pages addressing this issue (see Doc. 25 at 2-4), concluding that IAMS lacked standing to pursue its claim against Triple-S because “Maldonado’s contract with Triple-S . . . bars the attempted assignment of rights to IAMS.” Id. at 4. Plaintiffs stridently disagree with this ruling. Plaintiffs attempt to argue, once again, that paragraph 15 does not prohibit a beneficiary from assigning its cause of action to a third party. As this argument was already raised and rejected by the Court, Plaintiffs’ Rule 60(b)(1) motion on this basis is improper. DIRECTV, 2015 WL 274059, at *3. Plaintiffs’ disagreement with the Court’s September 3, 2015 order is an insufficient basis for reconsideration. See Ross, 2008 WL 1776502, at *2.

Plaintiffs contend that the Court committed a mistake “by applying Puerto Ric[an] law to this assignment.” Doc. 29 at 7. Plaintiffs correctly note that, in reaching its conclusion on the anti-assignment provision, the Court cited a case from the District of Puerto Rico, City of Hope National Medical Center v. Seguros de Servicios de Salud de Puerto Rico, Inc., 983 F.Supp. 68 (D.P.R. 1997), aff’d 156 F.3d 223 (1st Cir. 1998). See Doc. 29 at 5-7. But Plaintiffs’ contention that the Court applied Puerto Rican law is mistaken. The Court cited City of Hope as an example of a district court “finding that similar language from a Triple-S contract constituted an anti-assignment clause.” Doc. 25 at 3-4. As the quoted language makes clear, the Court merely cited City of Hope as persuasive authority for the proposition that another district court had interpreted similar contractual language to reach the same conclusion.

Plaintiffs suggest that the Court unfairly construed the anti-assignment clause by ruling without oral argument and denying them an opportunity to respond to Triple-S’s anti-assignment arguments. See Doc. 29 at 4-5, 7. This contention is without merit. First, neither party requested oral argument on the motion to dismiss. See LRCiv 7.1(f); Docs. 18, 20, 21, 25 at 1. Second, Triple-S initially raised its anti-assignment arguments in its motion to dismiss. See Doc. 18 at 4-6. Plaintiffs dedicated several pages of their response to these arguments. See Doc. 20 at 2-4, 6-9. It is true, as Plaintiffs allege, that Triple-S first cited to City of Hope in its reply, but that does not mean Plaintiffs were denied a meaningful opportunity to address the anti-assignment arguments. Moreover, if Plaintiffs had felt it necessary to address City of Hope, they could have sought leave from the Court to file a surreply or could have requested oral argument. Plaintiffs made no such requests. Plaintiffs cannot use their motion for reconsideration to ask this Court to rethink its interpretation of the anti-assignment provision. Rezzonico, 32 F.Supp.2d at 1116; see N.W. Acceptance Corp., 841 F.2d at 925-26.

The Court also notes that Plaintiffs’ response to the motion to dismiss failed to cite the primary cases relied upon in their motion for reconsideration: Lutheran Medical Center v. Contractors, Laborers, Teamsters & Engineers Health & Welfare Plan, 25 F.3d 616 (8th Cir. 1994); Hermann Hospital v. MEBA Medical & Benefits Plan, 959 F.2d 569 (5th Cir. 1992); United Food & Commercial Workers Local 1776 v. Teikoku Pharma USA, Inc., No. 14-md-02521-WHO, 2015 WL 4397396 (N.D. Cal. July 17, 2015); In re TFT-LCD Antitrust Litigation, 2011 WL 4345316 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 15, 2011). All of these cases were available when Plaintiffs filed their response. As already noted, a motion for reconsideration may not be used to make arguments that could reasonably have been made earlier in the litigation. Kona Enters., Inc., 229 F.3d at 890.

Plaintiffs were provided a full and fair opportunity to argue their anti-assignment position in response to Triple-S’s motion to dismiss. The Court therefore denies ...

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