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Summy-Long v. Pennsylvania State University

November 2, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge Kane


Before the Court is Defendants' motion for reconsideration of the Court's order granting in part and denying in part Defendants' motion for summary judgment. (Doc. No. 94.) In its order, the Court held that Plaintiff was entitled to a three month period of equitable tolling on her claims based on evidence not in the record because the Court found that Defendants had not objected to Plaintiff's reliance on this evidence. (Doc. No. 92 at 18 n.3.) Defendants seek reconsideration of the Court's determination on the equitable tolling issue because Defendants did in fact object to Plaintiff's reliance on that evidence. (Doc. No. 73 at 11 n.1.) For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant Defendants' motion.


In its decision on Defendants' motion for summary judgment, the Court held that Plaintiff raised a question of fact regarding whether Defendants' representations as to the possibility of a longevity correction entitle her to equitable tolling. (Doc. No. 92 at 19.) In coming to that determination, the Court found that "[t]he only alleged actions on the part of the University that might prompt equitable tolling after the July 11, 2001 accrual date are the administrators' statements that a longevity correction would be made." (Id. at 18.) These statements were supported exclusively by depositions on the record in Schengrund v. Pa. State Univ., No. 4:07-CV-718, that had not been placed on the record in this action. (Id. at 18 n.3.) Although Plaintiff had made clear in her brief in opposition to Defendants' motion for summary judgment that she relied upon evidence on the record in Schengrund to support her claim for equitable tolling, (Doc. No. 58 at 9 n.1), the Court found no objection to the inclusion of this evidence in the record. As such, because the Schengrund case was brought by Plaintiff's co-workers and alleged the same claims, occurring over the same period, against the same Defendants, the Court believed the parties had reached an agreement to incorporate the documents into the record. (Id.) However, in considering the voluminous record at summary judgment, the Court overlooked a footnote in Defendants' reply brief in which Defendants did object to the inclusion of evidence not in the record. (Doc. No. 73 at 11 n.1.)


A motion for reconsideration is a device of limited utility. Its purpose 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). Accordingly, a party seeking reconsideration must demonstrate at least one of the following grounds prior to the court altering, or amending, a standing judgment: (1) an intervening change in the controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence that was not available when the court entered judgment; or (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or fact or to present manifest injustice. Max's Seafood Café v. Quinteros, 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir. 1999) (citing North River Ins. Co. v. CIGNA Reinsurance Co., 52 F.3d 1194, 1218 (3d Cir. 1995)). A motion for reconsideration is appropriate in instances where the court has "patently misunderstood a party, or has made a decision outside the adversarial issues presented to the Court by the parties, or has made an error not of reasoning but of apprehension." Rohrbach v. AT & T Nassau Metals Corp., 902 F. Supp. 523, 527 (M.D. Pa. 1995), vacated in part on other grounds on reconsideration, 915 F. Supp. 712 (M.D. Pa. 1996) (citation omitted).

It may not be used as a means to reargue unsuccessful theories, or argue new facts or issues that were not presented to the court in the context of the matter previously decided. Drysdale v. Woerth, 153 F. Supp. 2d 678, 682 (E.D. Pa. 2001). "Because federal courts have a strong interest in the finality of judgments, motions for reconsideration should be granted sparingly." Cont'l Cas. Co. v. Diversified Indus., Inc., 884 F. Supp. 937, 943 (E.D. Pa. 1995) (citation omitted).


In ruling on Defendants' motion for reconsideration, the Court will first address the merits of Defendants' motion and explain why the motion must be granted. Plaintiff raises a number of arguments in her brief in opposition as to why the Court should deny Defendants' motion. However, because the arguments are supported by little, if any, law, the Court will only briefly review them and explain why they are without merit at the conclusion of this memorandum.

A. Merits of Defendants' Motion

Initially, the Court notes that Defendants would be well served to raise critical arguments in the actual text of their briefs. Arguments relegated to footnotes may easily be overlooked or dismissed entirely by the Court. See, e.g., MacFarland v. U.S. Fidelity & Guar. Co., 818 F. Supp. 108, 111 n.1 (E.D. Pa. 1993) (declining to consider argument and exhibits raised only in a footnote). However, while Defendants' objection could have been raised more effectively, the fact remains, the objection was properly raised in a timely manner. Plaintiff argues that the Court's order "constitutes the functional overruling of [Defendants'] objections." (Doc. No. 97 at 6.) However, as is clear from the order, the Court did not overrule the objection, because the Court did not believe an objection had been made. (Doc. No. 92 at 18 n.3.)

The Court must grant Defendants' motion for reconsideration because the evidence the Court relied upon was not part of the record in this case. The Third Circuit has held that at summary judgment:

[T]he non-moving party must point to some evidence in the record that creates a genuine issue of material fact. In this respect, summary judgment is essentially "put up or shut up" time for the non-moving party: the non-moving party must rebut the motion with facts in the record and cannot rest solely on assertions made in the pleadings, legal memoranda, or oral argument.

Berckeley Inv. Group, Ltd. v. Colkitt, 455 F.3d 195, 201 (3d Cir. 2006) (emphasis added). There is no dispute that the statements relied upon by Plaintiff, and in turn by the Court, were not in the record. Therefore, the administrator's statements cannot be used to rebut Defendants' claim that there was no question of material fact on the issue of tolling. Id. Because those statements constituted the only evidence supporting ...

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