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Great American Insurance Co. v. Honeywell International Inc.

December 17, 2009

GREAT AMERICAN INSURANCE COMPANY, PLAINTIFF/COUNTERCLAIM DEFENDANT,
v.
HONEYWELL INTERNATIONAL INC., DEFENDANT/COUNTERCLAIMANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joy Flowers Conti United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM ORDER

Pending before the court is a motion to amend findings and judgment (Doc. No. 91) filed by Great American Insurance Company ("Great American" or "plaintiff"). This court held a bench trial on February 2, 3, 4, 5, and 10, 2009, after which the parties submitted proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law. On May 29, 2009, the court issued a memorandum opinion (Doc. No. 89) and entered judgment in favor of plaintiff and against Honeywell International, Inc. ("Honeywell" or "defendant") in the amount of $130,970.82 (Doc. No. 90).

On June 12, 2009, plaintiff filed the pending motion. Plaintiff requests that the court amend its findings set forth in the memorandum opinion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(b), and amend the resulting judgment pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 52(b) or 59(e).

Standard of Review

Rule 52b) provides that "[o]n a party's motion filed no later than 10 days after entry of judgment, the court may amend its findings-or make additional findings-and may amend the judgment accordingly." FED. R. CIV. P. 52(b). "The purpose of Rule 52(b) is to allow a court to correct manifest errors of law or fact, or in limited circumstances, to present newly discovered evidence, but not to 'relitigate old issues, to advance new theories, or to secure a rehearing on the merits.'" Gutierrez v. Ashcroft, 289 F. Supp.2d 555, 561 (D.N.J. 2003) (quoting Soberman v. Groff Studios Corp., No. 99CIV.1005(DLC), 2000 WL 1253211, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 5, 2000).

A motion for reconsideration pursuant to Rule 59(e) is similar; the rule provides that "[a]ny motion to alter or amend a judgment shall be filed no later than 10 days after entry of judgment." FED. R. CIV. P. 59(e). Relief is appropriate only if one of three situations is shown: "(1) the availability of new evidence not previously available, (2) an intervening change in controlling law, or (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or to prevent manifest injustice." Reich v. Compton, 834 F. Supp. 753, 755 (E.D. Pa. 1993) (citing Dodge v. Susquehanna Univ., 796 F. Supp. 829, 830 (M.D. Pa. 1992)).

Because of the interest in finality, at least at the district court level, motions for reconsideration should be granted sparingly; the parties are not free to relitigate issues the court has already decided.... Stated another way, a motion for reconsideration is not properly grounded in a request for a district court to rethink a decision it has already made, rightly or wrongly....

Williams v. City of Pittsburgh, 32 F. Supp. 2d 236, 238 (W.D. Pa. 1998) (internal citations omitted).

Discussion

This case arises out of the construction of the Clay Center, in Charlestown, West Virginia.*fn1 Dick Corporation ("Dick") was the project general contractor. Dick subcontracted various components of the construction of the Clay Center to other companies; Dick subcontracted mechanical work to Limbach Company ("Limbach"), and Limbach in turn subcontracted control system work to Comfort and Process Solutions ("CPS"). Prior to awarding the subcontract to CPS, however, Limbach wanted assurance from Honeywell that CPS was qualified to complete the control system work, since CPS would be installing Honeywell products. Honeywell represented that CPS was qualified, but Limbach demanded that Honeywell agree that it would complete control system work in the event that CPS failed to do so. To agree to such an obligation, Honeywell demanded that it be compensated for its costs in carrying out the subcontract.

Honeywell and Limbach entered into Letter Agreements*fn2 in which Honeywell agreed to assume the obligations of CPS in the event CPS defaulted on the subcontract. The Letter Agreements further stated that performance and payment bonds "will protect both [Limbach and Honeywell] in the event of default" and "[a]s an obligee under the bond, Honeywell can then pursue the bonding company for its costs beyond those costs covered by the remaining Subcontract balance between Comfort & Process Solutions and Limbach Company." (Doc. No. 89 at 7.) Limbach drafted the Letter Agreements and was aware that Honeywell sought compensation for its costs.

CPS eventually defaulted, and Honeywell completed the control system work. In doing so, however, Honeywell entered into a new contract with Dick under which Honeywell received $388,755.84 for the control system work. That amount was back-charged ultimately to Rost.

After settling with Limbach and Rost, Great American, the surety, was assigned any claims Limbach and Rost had against Honeywell. Of the amount received by Honeywell, $142,733 was profit. Great American withheld from Honeywell as a set-off $11,762.18 owed to Honeywell for an unrelated matter.

Great American sued Honeywell and requested that the court enter judgment in Great American's favor in the amount of $388,755.84, plus prejudgment interest. Great American raised several claims in the complaint, including a claim for breach of the Letter Agreements. Honeywell moved for summary judgment on this claim, arguing, inter alia, that the parties operated under a mutual mistake and the Letter Agreements should be voided. If the Letter Agreements were voidable by Honeywell, Honeywell would have not been obligated to assume the responsibilities of CPS and would have been free to enter a new contract with Dick. Thus, it would be entitled to retain the entire $388,755.84 amount it received under the Dick contract. The court denied the motion for summary judgment on the ground of mutual mistake, since a "party cannot avoid the legal consequences of his actions on the ground of mistake, even a mistake of fact, where such mistake is the result of ...


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