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Micjan v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

March 6, 2017

TRAVIS MICJAN and STEPHANIE MICJAN, Co-administrators of the Estate of DYLAN MICJAN, a deceased minor and in their own right, Plaintiffs,
v.
WAL-MART STORES, INC., GARAN, INC., and GARAN SERVICES CORP., Defendants,
v.
TRIBORO QUILT MANUFACTURING CORP., Third-Party Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ROBERT C. MITCHELL United States Magistrate Judge.

         Presently before the Court is a motion for reconsideration (ECF No. 147) of this Court's Memorandum Opinion and Order (ECF No. 146) which granted in part and denied in part the motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 (ECF No. 123), filed by Defendant Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (Wal-Mart) and later joined in by Defendants Garan, Inc., and its subsidiary, Garan Services Corp. (together, Garan) (ECF No. 128) and joined in by Third-Party Defendant Triboro Quilt Manufacturing Corp. (Triboro) (ECF No. 127). The motion was filed by Wal-Mart and then joined in by Triboro (ECF No. 148) and Garan (ECF No. 149). It has been fully briefed and oral argument has been held on it. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be denied.

         Plaintiffs, Travis Micjan and Stefanie Micjan, [1] co-administrators of the estate of Dylan Micjan, a deceased minor and in their own right, bring this action alleging various Virginia state common law and statutory tort claims against Wal-Mart and Garan, arising out of the tragic death of their 3-month old son, Dylan Micjan, on March 25, 2012. Dylan died of probable asphyxia, which Plaintiffs contend occurred when his face became wedged in a defective and dangerous crib bumper pad that was manufactured by Triboro, licensed by Garan and sold by Wal-Mart. Defendants impleaded Triboro as a Third-Party Defendant to this action, although Wal-Mart subsequently dismissed its Third-Party Complaint.

         In the motion for summary judgment, Wal-Mart contended that: Plaintiffs could not maintain their remaining survival actions (for negligence, breach of express warranties, breach of implied warranties, fraud by concealment, negligent misrepresentation, and violations of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act) because Virginia law permits them to pursue only wrongful death claims; that they could not recover on the wrongful death claim because of their own contributory negligence; that they could not maintain any claims alleging fraud because Wal-Mart made no representations and they did not rely on any; that Wal-Mart made no express warranties; that Plaintiffs did not rely on any implied warranties; that the estimates of Dylan's earning potential were based on pure speculation; and that Plaintiffs pointed to no evidence to support a request for punitive damages. Plaintiffs responded that they had presented sufficient evidence to recover on their claims, that the estimates of Dylan's earning potential were calculated with reasonable certainty and that Wal-Mart's actions were sufficient to support a request for punitive damages.

         In a Memorandum Opinion and Order entered on December 13, 2016, the Court granted Wal-Mart's motion in part and denied it in part. Specifically, the motion was granted with respect to Counts V (breach of express warranties), VII (fraud by concealment), VIII (negligent misrepresentation) and XIX (Virginia Consumer Protection Act), granted in part and denied in part with respect to Count VI (breach of implied warranty of fitness for a particular use dismissed, breach of implied warranty of merchantability retained) and denied with respect to Counts IV (negligence), XX (wrongful death), Plaintiffs' request for damages based on their deceased child's earning potential and Plaintiffs' request for punitive damages. As applied to Garan, the motion for summary judgment was granted with respect to Count XVII (negligent misrepresentation), granted in part and denied in part with respect to Count XV (breach of implied warranty of fitness for a particular use dismissed, breach of implied warranty of merchantability retained) and denied with respect to Counts XIII (negligence), XXI (wrongful death), Plaintiffs' request for damages based on their deceased child's earning potential and Plaintiffs' request for punitive damages. Triboro's motion was denied, because it could only be dismissed if all claims against Garan were dismissed and that was not the situation.

         As a result, the remaining claims are: Count IV (negligence by Wal-Mart), Count VI (breach of the implied warranty of merchantability by Wal-Mart), Count XIII (negligence by Garan), Count XV (breach of the implied warranty of merchantability by Garan), Count XX (wrongful death claim against Wal-Mart) and Count XXI (wrongful death claim against Garan).

         On December 22, 2016, Wal-Mart filed the instant motion for reconsideration (ECF No. 147) and both Garan (ECF No. 149) and Triboro (ECF No. 148) have joined in it. On January 17, 2017, Plaintiffs filed a brief in opposition (ECF No. 153). On January 31, 2017, Wal-Mart filed a reply brief (ECF No. 158), which was joined in by Garan (ECF No. 156) and Triboro (ECF No. 157). On March 2, 2017, oral argument was held on the motion.

         Standard of Review

         The Court of Appeals has stated that:

“The purpose of a motion for reconsideration, ” we have held, “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 judgment may be altered or amended if the party seeking reconsideration shows at least one of the following grounds: (1) an intervening change in the controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence that was not available when the court granted the motion for summary judgment; or (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or fact or to prevent manifest injustice. See North River Ins. Co. v. CIGNA Reinsurance Co., 52 F.3d 1194, 1218 (3d Cir. 1995).

Max's Seafood Café ex rel. Lou-Ann, Inc. v. Quinteros, 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir. 1999). “It is improper on a motion for reconsideration to ask the Court to rethink what [it] had already thought through rightly or wrongly.” Glendon Energy Co. v. Borough of Glendon, 836 F.Supp. 1109, 1122 (E.D. Pa. 1993) (internal citation and quotes omitted). In this case, Wal-Mart cites no intervening change in the law or availability of new evidence, so its motion raises only a claim that the Court committed a “clear error of law or fact.”

         Wal-Mart cites Qazizadeh v. Pinnacle Health Systems, for the standard that a court may permit reconsideration of orders granting partial summary judgment whenever “consonant with justice to do so.” 2016 WL 5787352, at *2 (M.D. Pa. Oct. 4, 2016). However, in that case, the court observed that there was a split of opinion among district courts within the Third Circuit as to the appropriate standard of review, and the court sided with those courts that had accepted the broader “consonant with justice” standard. In this Court, most cases have cited the three factors from Max's Seafood Café and held that “a motion for reconsideration that “essentially restates, with added vigor, the arguments made previously” does not satisfy this “substantial standard.” Peerless Ins. Co. v. Pennsylvania Cyber Charter Sch., 19 F.Supp.3d 635, 651 (W.D. Pa. 2014) (Hornak, J.) (citation omitted).

         However, other cases have indicated that, when the order at issue is interlocutory (such as an order granting in part and denying in part a motion for summary judgment), the greater discretion of the applying “consonant with justice” standard applies. See Sampath v. Concurrent Tech. Corp., 2006 WL 2642417, at *2 (W.D. Pa. Sept. 13, 2006) (Gibson, J.); Square D Co. v. Scott Elec. Co., 2008 WL 4877990, at *1 (W.D. Pa. Nov. 12, 2008) (Fischer, J.) (same).

         Nevertheless, even those courts that have applied the more lenient standard have held that “[w]hile a district court has the inherent power to reconsider an interlocutory order, ‘[c]ourts tend to grant motions for reconsideration sparingly and only upon the grounds traditionally available under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e).'” Morgan v. Hawthorne Homes, Inc., 2010 WL 1286949, at *2 (W.D. Pa. Mar. 31, 2010) (Cohill, J.) (quoting A & H Sportswear Co. v. Victoria's Secret Stores, Inc., 2001 WL 881718, at *1 (E.D. Pa. May 1, 2001)). See also Sampath, 2006 WL 2642417, at *2 (rejecting motion that merely restated some argument that had previously been rejected). ...


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