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Deeters v. Phelan Hallinan & Schmieg, LLP

United States District Court, Third Circuit

December 12, 2013

ALAN DEETERS and MARY DEETERS, Plaintiffs,
v.
PHELAN HALLINAN & SCHMIEG, LLP and DOES 1-10, inclusive, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER OF COURT

KIM R. GIBSON, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Presently before the Court is a motion for reconsideration or, alternatively, for partial judgment on the pleadings (ECF No. 50), filed by Defendants Phelan Hallinan & Schmieg, LLP and unidentified employees of the firm. The instant motion concerns whether Plaintiffs Alan and Mary Deeters can support a request for emotional distress damages under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq. For the reasons stated below, the Court will deny Defendants' motion.

II. BACKGROUND

On September 27, 2012, the Court issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order (ECF No. 48) denying both Defendants' motion to dismiss the amended complaint (ECF No. 16) and Plaintiffs' cross-motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 19). The amended complaint (ECF No. 15) sets forth alleged violations of the FDCPA, the Pennsylvania Fair Credit Extension Uniformity Act, 72 P.S. § 2270 et seq., and the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law, 73 P.S. § 201-1 et seq. Plaintiffs seek, among other forms of relief,

actual damages from the Defendants for all damages including emotional distress suffered as a result of the intentional, reckless, and/or negligent FDCPA violations and intentional, reckless, and/or negligent invasions of privacy in an amount to be determined at trial for the Plaintiff[.]

(ECF No. 15, Am. Campl. at 9 ¶ 8). In their motion to dismiss (ECF No. 17), Defendants did not raise any issue regarding the requested relief for emotional distress damages. Defendants now argue, however, that the "instant partial dismissal issue... [was] subsumed within [Defendants'] Motion to Dismiss the entire Complaint." (ECF No. 51 at 2). Defendants ask the Court to dismiss with prejudice the requested relief for emotional distress damages or, alternatively, to enter partial judgment on the pleadings. (ECF No. 50). The motion is fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.

III. LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Reconsideration of an Interlocutory Order

An order denying a motion to dismiss is viewed as an interlocutory order because the decision does not end the litigation. See Lauro Lines s.r.l. v. Chasser, 490 U.S. 495, 498 (1989) (interpreting whether an order denying a motion to dismiss falls under the purview of 28 U.S.C. § 1291 as a "final judgment"). Although the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not specifically recognize a motion for reconsideration, "as long as the district court has jurisdiction over the case, it possesses inherent power over interlocutory orders, and can reconsider them when it is consonant with justice to do so." United States v. Jerry, 487 F.2d 600, 605 (3d Cir. 1973) (citations omitted). Furthermore, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b), an interlocutory order is "subject to revision at any time before the entry of judgment adjudicating all the claims and the rights and liabilities of the parties." Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 54(b); see In re Eagle Enters., Inc., 259 B.R. 73, 77 (E.D. Pa. 2001) (noting availability of a Rule 54(b) motion to reconsider an interlocutory order).

Although district courts have the inherent power to reconsider an interlocutory decision, "[c]ourts tend to grant motions for reconsideration sparingly and only upon the grounds traditionally available under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e)." A&H Sportswear Co., Inc. v. Victoria's Secret Stores, Inc., CIV. A. 94-7408, 2001 WL 881718, at *1 (E.D. Pa. May 1, 2001). To be entitled to relief under Rule 59(e), the standard is familiar: the party seeking reconsideration must establish "(I) an intervening change in controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence not previously available; [or] (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice." Id. ; accord Max's Seafood Cafe ex ref. Lou-Ann, Inc. v. Quinteros, 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir. 1999).

Because courts have a strong interest in the finality of their judgments, a motion for reconsideration is inappropriate to express mere dissatisfaction with a court's previous ruling. D'Angio v. Borough of Nescopeck, 56 F.Supp.2d 502, 504 (M.D. Pa. 1999). Additionally, "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). Finally, such a motion cannot be used "to raise new arguments or [to] 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).

B. Judgment on the Pleadings

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) provides that "after the pleadings are closed-but early enough not to delay trial-a party may move for judgment on the pleadings." Judgment on the pleadings is appropriate only when the movant "clearly establishes that no material issue of fact remains to be resolved" and that she is "entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Rosenau v. Unifund Corp., 539 F.3d 218, 221 (3d Cir. 2008) (internal quotation omitted). The standard of review under Rule 12(c) is essentially identical to that for a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), with one exception: when reviewing a motion on the pleadings, a court may consider the answer and ...


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