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Kaufman v. Warner Bros. Entertainment Incorporated

United States District Court, D. Arizona

March 13, 2019

David Kaufman, Plaintiff,
v.
Warner Bros. Entertainment Incorporated, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          JAMES A. TEILRORG SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         At issue is Plaintiff David Kaufman's (“Plaintiff”) Motion for Reconsideration of Order Granting Motion for Summary Judgment (hereinafter, “Motion” or “Motion for Reconsideration”) (Doc. 88). Finding this matter appropriate for decision without oral argument, [1] the Court now rules on this Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In an Order dated September 12, 2018, the Court granted Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, and, Alternatively, Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Doc. 66). (Doc. 86). Accordingly, the Clerk of the Court entered judgment in favor of Defendants on all claims and dismissed the case with prejudice that same day. (Doc. 87).

         On September 26, 2018, fourteen days after the Court granted summary judgment to Defendants, Plaintiff filed the Motion for Reconsideration at issue. (Doc. 88). Should the Court forgo granting his Motion, Plaintiff alternatively requests that the Court “schedule an evidentiary hearing to explore evidence concerning Plaintiff's search so that he may produce evidence he was not allowed to provide in response to arguments advanced in a reply document.” (Doc. 88 at 7; see also Doc. 114 at 8).

         Notably, Plaintiff's Motion does not cite what Rule he moves under. (See Doc. 88). In an Order dated October 31, 2018, the Court noted its hesitation “to guess which Rule Plaintiff intended to move under because selecting which Rule has significant consequences regarding when an appeal is due[, ]”[2] and because “the various Rules have different response obligations and governing legal standards.”[3] (Doc. 110 at 1). Therefore, the Court did not speculate as to which Rule Plaintiff intended to move under and, instead, ordered Defendants to respond to Plaintiff's Motion by November 13, 2018. (Id. at 1-2). In compliance with the Court's October 31, 2018 Order, Defendants filed their Response to Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration of Order Granting Motion for Summary Judgment (hereinafter, “Response”) (Doc. 112) on November 13, 2018. On November 21, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Reply in support of his Motion. (Doc. 114).[4]

         II. ANALYSIS

         In response to the Court's observation that Plaintiff's Motion fails to cite what Rule he moves under, Defendants point out that District of Arizona Local Rule LRCiv 7.2(g) (“LRCiv 7.2(g)”) does not apply because judgment has been entered in this case in favor of Defendants on all claims. (Doc. 112 at 2). For this reason, Defendants state that Plaintiff's only recourse was to file a motion to alter or amend the judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e). (Id.). Even so, Plaintiff insists in his Reply that he intends his Motion as a motion for reconsideration under LRCiv 7.2(g) rather than Rule 59. (Doc. 114 at 1-2). However, LRCiv 7.2(g) governs motions for reconsideration of interlocutory orders. See Motorola, Inc. v. J.B. Rodgers Mech. Contractors, 215 F.R.D. 581, 582-83 (D. Ariz. 2003); see also Equal Employment Opportunity Comm'n v. Gala AZ Holdings, Inc., No. CV 11-00383-PHX-JAT, 2012 WL 3704697, at *1 n.1 (D. Ariz. Aug. 28, 2012) (noting that the Court applies the standard set forth in Motorola, Inc. v. J.B. Rodgers Mech. Contractors to non-appealable, interlocutory orders, but applies the standard set forth in Rule 59 to appealable orders). Here, Plaintiff seeks reconsideration of an order granting summary judgment to Defendants after the entry of final judgment in favor of Defendants on all claims. (See Docs. 86-87). As the Court's Order of September 12, 2018 “end[ed] the litigation on the merits and [left] nothing for the court to do but execute the judgment, ” it was a final judgment or appealable order-not an interlocutory order. In re Frontier Properties, Inc., 979 F.2d 1358, 1362 (9th Cir. 1992) (citing Catlin v. United States, 324 U.S. 229, 233 (1945)). Accordingly, LRCiv 7.2(g)-and its corresponding analysis under Motorola, Inc. v. J.B. Rodgers Mech. Contractors[5]-does not apply.

         Although Plaintiff never indicated which Federal Rule of Civil Procedure governed his motion, “a motion for reconsideration of summary judgment is appropriately brought under either Rule 59(e) or Rule 60(b).” Fuller v. M.G. Jewelry, 950 F.2d 1437, 1442 (9th Cir. 1991) (holding motion for reconsideration brought pursuant to local rules may be treated as one brought pursuant to Rule 59(e) or Rule 60(b)); see also Motorola, Inc., 215 F.R.D. at 582 n.1 (noting that Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e) and 60(b) apply to reconsideration of “final judgments and appealable interlocutory orders”) (quoting Balla v. Idaho State Bd. of Corrections, 869 F.2d 461, 466 (9th Cir. 1989)). Because Plaintiff seeks an order altering or amending the Judgment in this case and the Motion was filed within 28 days of the entry of Judgment, the Court will construe Plaintiff's Motion as having been brought pursuant to Rule 59(e). Shaka v. Ryan, No. CV 15-0050-PHX-SMM, 2015 WL 4162598, at *1 (D. Ariz. July 9, 2015); see also Shapiro ex rel. Shapiro v. Paradise Valley Unified Sch. Dist. No. 69, 374 F.3d 857, 863 (9th Cir. 2004) (“[A] timely filed motion for reconsideration under a local rule is construed as a motion to alter or amend a judgment under Rule 59(e).”) (citing Schroeder v. McDonald, 55 F.3d 454, 459 (9th Cir. 1995)).

         “Although Rule 59(e) permits a district court to reconsider and amend a previous order, the rule offers an ‘extraordinary remedy, to be used sparingly in the interests of finality and conservation of judicial resources.'” Kona Enterprises, Inc. v. Estate of Bishop, 229 F.3d 877, 890 (9th Cir. 2000) (quoting 12 James W. Moore et al., MOORE's FEDERAL PRACTICE, § 59.30[4]). A district court has considerable discretion to grant a Rule 59(e) motion to alter or amend judgment if: “1) the motion is necessary to correct manifest errors of law or fact upon which the judgment is based; 2) the moving party presents newly discovered or previously unavailable evidence; 3) the motion is necessary to prevent manifest injustice; or 4) there is an intervening change in controlling law.” Turner v. Burlington N. Santa Fe R. Co., 338 F.3d 1058, 1063 (9th Cir. 2003) (internal citations omitted) (citing McDowell v. Calderon, 197 F.3d 1253, 1255 n.1 (9th Cir. 1999) (en banc)). However, a motion for reconsideration should not “be used to ask the court to rethink what the court had already thought through-rightly or wrongly.” Smith v. Ryan, No. CV 12-318-PHX-PGR, 2014 WL 2452893, at *1 (D. Ariz. June 2, 2014) (citing United States v. Rezzonico, 32 F.Supp.2d 1112, 1116 (D. Ariz. 1998)). Further, a Rule 59(e) motion “may not be used to relitigate old matters, or to raise arguments or present evidence that could have been made prior to the entry of judgment.” Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker, 554 U.S. 471, 485 n.5 (2008).

         In his Motion for Reconsideration, Plaintiff does not come forward with any “newly discovered or previously unavailable evidence, ” contend that reconsideration of the Court's Order granting summary judgment is necessary to “prevent manifest injustice, ” or argue that there is an “intervening change in controlling law.” Turner, 338 F.3d at 1063. Rather, Plaintiff claims that the Court's Order (Doc. 86) was manifestly erroneous because “the Court disposed of the case based on a factual argument raised in a surreply to which Plaintiff had no opportunity to respond, ” and because “sufficient evidence of a diligent search exists throughout the record” such that Plaintiff should have been permitted to introduce secondary evidence of the contract under Fed.R.Evid. 1004. (Doc. 88 at 1, 4).[6]For the reasons that follow, however, the Court finds that Plaintiff is unable to demonstrate that reconsideration of the Court's Order granting summary judgment to Defendants is “necessary to correct manifest errors of law or fact upon which the judgment is based.” Turner, 338 F.3d at 1063. As Plaintiff is unable to meet the requisite standard to alter or amend the judgment under Rule 59(e), the Court will deny Plaintiff's Motion.[7]

         A. Whether the Court's Order was “Manifestly Erroneous” Because Plaintiff Had “No Opportunity to Respond”

         Plaintiff's first ground for seeking reconsideration-that “the Court disposed of the case based on a factual argument raised in a surreply to which Plaintiff had no opportunity to respond”-is untrue. (Doc. 88 at 1). Particularly, Plaintiff claims that Defendants “did not raise the factual issue of a diligent search until its sur-surreply filed after Plaintiff's surreply[, ]” so he “had no opportunity to present evidence to support the diligence of Plaintiff's search or testimony of a custodian of record relating to any search he performed.” (Id. at 3).[8] However, even if Defendants' Sur-Sureply was the first time Defendants explicitly argued that Plaintiff failed to demonstrate that he engaged in a diligent search for the original alleged Merchandising Contract, (Doc. 83 at 8-9), Plaintiff was on notice that he needed to make such a showing long before.

         In their Motion for Summary Judgment, Defendants repeatedly asserted that no admissible evidence of the alleged Merchandising Contract existed. (See, e.g., Doc. 66 at 2 (“Because there is no admissible evidence that the alleged Merchandising Contract exists, and even if it did exist Plaintiff's claims would necessarily be barred by laches, or by the statute of limitations, this case is ripe for summary judgment.”) (emphasis added) (footnote omitted); see also Id. at 9 (“[T]here is no evidence that the alleged Merchandising Contract exists.)). In fact, Defendants devoted approximately two pages of their Motion for Summary Judgment to the argument that Plaintiff could not establish the existence of the Merchandising Contract or its terms. (See Id. at 4-6). Defendants' motion clearly put Plaintiff on notice that he would need to prove the existence and content of the Merchandising Contract to survive summary judgment on his breach of contract and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing claims. (See id.). At this point, Plaintiff should have been aware that the best evidence rule was at play, as Plaintiff was on notice that he needed to prove the content of the Merchandising Contract to establish his claims. According to the best evidence rule, “[a]n original writing . . . is required in order to prove its content unless these rules or a federal statute provides otherwise.” Fed.R.Evid. 1002.

         In his Response to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, Plaintiff did not dispute that proving the existence and terms of the Merchandising Contract was a necessary element of his claims. (See Doc. 72). Rather than produce the original contract, Plaintiff argued in his Response that he “has documentary and testimonial evidence to demonstrate the merchandising contract's existence and terms[, ]” including “several contemporary documents refer[ing] to the existence of the contract, ” and testimony from Michael Gale Black (“Black”) and Richard Korkes. (Doc. 72 at 5-7). Plaintiff even admits in his Motion for Reconsideration that he “responded that secondary evidence concerning the contract was abundant in contemporaneously created documents and that a live witness had reviewed the contract and remembered the critical terms.” (Doc. 88 at 2; see Doc. 72 at 5- 7). ...


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