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Hall v. Babcock & Wilcox

June 14, 2007

DONALD F. HALL, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
BABCOCK & WILCOX, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ambrose, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION and ORDER

On March 2, 2007, I entered a pre-trial Order for the case. (Docket No. 568). At least as early as March 9, 2007, I discussed with counsel a way to more efficiently try the cases, such as common issues. (Docket No. 570). Thereafter, counsel filed proposals for how trial should proceed. (Docket Nos. 598-600, 602). On May 9, 2007, I held oral argument regarding the same. On May 14, 2004, I issued a case management order vacating the March 2, 2007, Order and ordering a trial on general causation. (Docket No. 609). On May 24, Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Reconsideration.

(Docket No. 611). Defendants' filed a Brief in Opposition. (Docket No. 612).

To grant a motion for reconsideration, the moving party must demonstrate one of the following: (1) an intervening change in the controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence which was not available when the court issued its order; or (3) the need to correct a manifest injustice stemming from a clear error of law or fact. Max's Seafood Café by Lou-Ann, Inc. v. Quinteros, 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir.1999); North River Ins. Co. v. Cigna Reinsurance Co., 52 F.3d 1194, 1218 (3d Cir.1995).

Where the moving party argues that the court overlooked certain evidence or controlling decisions of law which were previously presented, a court should grant a motion for reconsideration only if the matters overlooked might reasonably have resulted in a different conclusion. Cataldo v. Moses, 361 F.Supp.2d 420, 433 (D. N.J. 2004). A mere disagreement with the decision does not suffice to show that the court overlooked relevant facts or controlling law. United States v. Compaction Sys. Corp., 88 F.Supp.2d 339, 345 (D. N.J. 1999). Nor may a motion for reconsideration be used to present new legal theories or arguments which could have been made in support of the first motion. Federico v. Charterers Mut. Assur. Ass'n, 158 F.Supp.2d 565, 578 (E.D. Pa. 2001).

Where the basis of the motion for reconsideration is to correct a manifest injustice, the party must persuade the court that not only was the prior decision wrong, "but that it was clearly wrong and that adherence to the decision would create a manifest injustice." In re City of Philadelphia Litig., 158 F.3d 711, 718 (3d Cir.1998); McCloud v. City of Sunbury, CA No. 04-2332, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16560, *4 (M.D. Pa. Apr. 3, 2006). "Motions for reconsideration should be granted sparingly because of the interests in finality and conservation of scarce judicial resources." In re Loewen Group, CA No. 98-6740, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 200, *4-*5 (E.D.Pa. Jan. 5, 2006), quoting Pennsylvania Ins. Guar. Ass'n v. Trabosh, 812 F.Supp. 522, 524 (E.D.Pa.1992). "A district court has considerable discretion in deciding whether to grant or deny a motion to alter a judgment." Hale v. Townley, 45 F.3d 914, 921 (5th Cir.1995). In exercising this discretion, a district court must "strike the proper balance between the need for finality and the need to render just decisions on the basis of all the facts." Id.

Payne v. DeLuca , No. 2:02-CV-1927, 2006 WL 3590014, *1 -2 (W.D. Pa. Dec. 11, 2006).

Plaintiffs do not set forth this legal standard or address it in any manner, but merely reiterate the arguments raised in their prior brief in opposition to a trial on general causation. (Docket No. 602). Nevertheless, I will consider their argument as one of "manifest injustice."

After a review of the arguments from the parties, I am not persuaded that a manifest injustice will occur by holding a trial on general causation. Consequently, Plaintiffs' Motion for Reconsideration (Docket No. 611) is denied.

After reviewing the submissions of the parties, however, I am concerned that the parties are not on the same page as to the definition of general causation and, hence, what issue will be tried. Thus, to be fair, I will set forth the definition of general causation and how it can be established. Based on the definition of "general causation" set forth in the Federal Judicial Center's Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence, second edition, general causation is defined as follows:

General causation is concerned with whether an agent increases the incidence of disease in a group and not whether the agent caused any given individual's disease. Because of individual variation, a toxic agent generally will not cause disease in every exposed individual.

Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence, 2000 (2d ed), p. 392. The Third Circuit sets forth how this can be established in In re TMI Litigation, 193 F.3d 613, 643 (3d Cir. 1999).

[T]he primary basis to link specific cancers with specific radiation exposures is data that has been collected regarding the increased malignancies following exposure to ionizing radiation. In other words, causation can only be established (if at all) from ...


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