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Barnhill v. Pregent

March 1, 2010

JEFFERY A. BARNHILL, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THOMAS F. PREGENT, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion for Reconsideration of this Court's January 8, 2010 Memorandum Order. Because dismissing the state law claims rather than remanding to state court would result in a manifest injustice, this Court will grant Plaintiffs' motion.

BACKGROUND

This Court authored an in-depth factual background section in its Order of September 16, 2009. Because the instant motion is focused on the procedural issues in this case, the Court will not belabor the factual circumstances that gave rise to the instant suit and will focus on the procedural history.

This action was initiated on April 18, 2005 in the Court of Common Pleas of Bradford County, Pennsylvania. The Plaintiffs in the original action were Jeffrey A. Barnhill, and H.C.M.B.C., Inc.. The Defendants in the original action were (1) Thomas F. Pregent, (2) The Kepler Home, Inc., (3) Anthony Misitano, (4) Pinehurst Medical Corporation, L.L.C. ("Pinehurst"), (5) David Arnold, and (6) Brian Davidson. In January 2009, Misitano and Pinehurst filed an "Answer and New Matter With Counterclaim and Cross Claim" (Doc. 6).

In addition to ten (10) affirmative defenses, Misitano and Pinehurst also asserted twelve (12) counterclaims and three (3) cross claims. The asserted counterclaims include claims for (I) Intentional Interference with a Prospective Contract, (II) Intentional Interference with Prospective Economic Advantage, (III) Malicious Abuse of Process, (IV, V, & VI) Breach of Contract, (VII) Breach of Fiduciary Duty, (VIII) Unjust Enrichment, (IX) Fraud, (X) Trade Libel, (XI) Civil Conspiracy, and (XII) Declaratory Judgment. (Doc. 6 ¶¶ 240-367.) The asserted counterclaims include (I) Breach of Contract, (II) Intentional Interference with Prospective Contract, and (III) Intentional Interference with Prospective Economic Advantage. (Id. ¶¶ 368-414.) Notably, in "Counterclaim Count XII," Misitano and Pinehurst joined several new parties as Counterclaim Defendants, including the Office of the Inspector General of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (the "OIG"), United States Attorney Jeffrey A. Taylor, and United States Attorney Martin C. Carlson. (Id. ¶¶ 344-345.)

On February 10, 2009, the Federal Counterclaim Defendants removed this action to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1442 and 1446. (Doc. 1.) On February 17, 2009, Defendants Misitano and Pinehurst voluntarily dismissed United States Attorneys Taylor and Carlson, without prejudice, pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 41(c) and 41(a)(1)(A). (Doc. 2.) On February 26, 2009 the OIG filed a Motion to Dismiss, arguing that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over this action and that Misitano and Pinehurst have failed to state a claim against OIG. (Docs. 11 & 12.) This Court granted OIG's Motion to Dismiss on September 16, 2009. Also, because all federal claims had been dismissed, this Court declined to exercise its discretion to hear the pendent state law claims. It its Order, this Court simply dismissed the case and ordered the Clerk of Court to mark the case as closed.

On December 21, 2009, Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Correct Clerical Errors in the September 16, 2009 Order, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(a). Plaintiffs sought to have the remaining state law claims remanded to state court. On January 8, 2010, this Court issued a Memorandum Order that amended the previous Order to read that the case was "dismissed without prejudice." The Court believed that such a change would correct the clerical omission previously made and reflect the original intention of the Court when it issued is September 16, 2009 Order.

On January 13, 2010, Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Reconsideration, arguing that the Court would cause manifest injustice by dismissing the pendent state law claims rather than remanding them to state court. The instant motion has been fully briefed and is now ripe for consideration.

LEGAL STANDARD

A motion for reconsideration is governed by Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which allows a party to move to alter or amend a judgment within ten days of entry. FED. R. CIV. P. 59(e). The purpose of a motion for reconsideration is to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence. Harsco Corp. v. Zlotnicki, 779 F.2d 906, 909 (3d Cir.1985). A judgment may be altered or amended if the party seeking reconsideration establishes at least one of the following grounds: "(1) an intervening change in controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence that was not available when the court granted the motion... or (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or fact or to prevent manifest injustice." Max's Seafood Café, by Lou-Ann, Inc., v. Quinteros, 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir.1999). "A motion for reconsideration is not to be used as a means to reargue matters already argued and disposed of or as an attempt to relitigate a point of disagreement between the Court and the litigant." Ogden v. Keystone Residence, 226 F. Supp.2d 588, 606 (M.D. Pa. 2002). "[R]econsideration motions may not be used to raise new arguments or present evidence that could have been raised prior to the entry of judgment." Hill v. Tammac Corp., Civ. A. No. 05-1148, 2006 WL 529044, at *2 (M.D. Pa. Mar. 3, 2006). Lastly, the reconsideration of a judgment is an extraordinary remedy, and such motions should be granted sparingly. D'Angio v. Borough of Nescopeck, 56 F. Supp.2d 502, 504 (M.D. Pa. 1999).

DISCUSSION

In Carnegie-Mellon University v. Cohill, 484 U.S. 343 (1988), the Supreme Court discussed whether district courts can relinquish jurisdiction over a case only by dismissing it without prejudice or also relinquish jurisdiction over cases by remanding them to state court. Carnegie-Mellon, 484 U.S. at 351. The Supreme Court held that district courts have "discretion to remand to state court a removed case involving pendent claims upon a proper determination that retaining jurisdiction over the case would be inappropriate." Id. at 357. Such discretion would enable district courts to serve the underpinnings of the pendent jurisdiction doctrine, including judicial economy, convenience, fairness, and comity. Id.

The Supreme Court reasoned that "a remand generally will be preferable to a dismissal when the statute of limitations on the plaintiff's state-law claims has expired before the federal court has determined that it should relinquish jurisdiction over the case." Id. at 351-52. The Court noted that the reasons for remand may be diminished in states that have "saving clauses that alleviate the statute-of-limitations problems," but that savings clauses alone do ...


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