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Tesler v. Miller/Howard Investments, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

March 1, 2019

ERIC S. TESLER, Plaintiff,
MILLER/HOWARD INVESTMENTS, INC., a Delaware Corporation, Defendant.



         This matter is before the Court on a Motion to Reconsider the Court's Entry on its Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant Miller/Howard Investments, Inc. (“Miller/Howard”) (Filing No. 118). The Court previously determined that factual disputes precluded summary judgment on Plaintiff Eric S. Tesler's (“Tesler”) breach of contract claim, and that claim should be permitted to go to trial (Filing No. 111). Miller/Howard asks the Court to reconsider its summary judgment entry. For the following reasons, the Court grants in part and denies in part Miller/Howard's Motion to Reconsider.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A detailed recitation of the facts of this case is provided in the Court's Entry on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Filing No. 111.) The Court provides a brief summary of the facts below.

         Tesler was formerly employed as a marketer of financial services for Miller/Howard-a financial management corporation that sells securities. Miller/Howard hired Tesler in October 2010 after recruiting him and negotiating the terms of his employment. Upon the initiation of his employment, Miller/Howard provided Tesler with a document called “Terms of employment and compensation”. (Filing No. 85-1 at 9.) Tesler alleges this document and other documents Miller/Howard provided to him when he was hired constitute a contract obligating Miller/Howard to pay him an “ongoing” 3% commission on accounts he generated while employed there. He asserts Miller/Howard continues to owe him this commission even after his employment ended[1]so long as the accounts he generated remain open. Miller/Howard disputes that it signed a contract with Tesler; it refuses to pay him the 3% commission beyond the termination of his employment.

         In March 2016, Tesler brought this action against Miller/Howard seeking to recover the unpaid commissions he alleges to have earned after his employment ended plus some additional money for commissions he contends were improperly calculated during his employment. Tesler's Second Amended Complaint asserts claims for violation of Indiana's Wage Payment Statute, unjust enrichment, conversion, negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, and breach of contract. (Filing No. 35.) The claims under the Wage Payment Statute and for conversion and fraud were abandoned or dismissed. Miller/Howard moved for summary judgment on all remaining claims. (Filing No. 84.) The Court granted summary judgment on Tesler's claims for unjust enrichment, negligence, and breach of fiduciary duty, but denied Miller/Howard's motion on Tesler's breach of contract claim, leaving that claim to be resolved at trial. (Filing No. 111.) Miller/Howard asks the Court to reconsider that order. (Filing No. 118.)


         This Motion is properly classified as a motion to reconsider under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) because no final judgment has been entered in this case. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b) (“any order or other decision, however designated, that adjudicates fewer than all the claims or the rights and liabilities of fewer than all the parties does not end the action as to any of the claims or parties and may be revised at any time before the entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims and all the parties' rights and liabilities”).

         The Court applies a similar standard as applied to a motion to alter or amend a judgment under Rule 59(e). Motions to reconsider filed pursuant to Rule 54(b) or Rule 59(e) are for the purpose of correcting manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence not available at the time of briefing. H.E. McGonigal, Inc. v. Harleysville Lakes States Ins. Co., 2017 WL 1382764 at *1 (S.D. Ind. April 18, 2017).

         Motions to reconsider “serve a limited function: to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence.” State Farm Fire & Cas. Co. v. Nokes, 263 F.R.D. 518, 526 (N.D. Ind. 2009). The motion is to be used “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.” Bank of Waunakee v. Rochester Cheese Sales, Inc., 906 F.2d 1185, 1191 (7th Cir. 1990) (citation omitted).

         The purpose of a motion for reconsideration is to ask the court to reconsider matters “properly encompassed in a decision on the merits.” Osterneck v. Ernst & Whinney, 489 U.S. 169, 174 (1989). The motion “will be successful only where the movant clearly establishes: (1) that the court committed a manifest error of law or fact, or (2) that newly discovered evidence precluded an entry of judgment.” Cincinnati Life Ins. Co. v. Beyrer, 722 F.3d 939, 954 (7th Cir. 2013) (citation and quotation marks omitted). A manifest error “is not demonstrated by the disappointment of the losing party. It is the wholesale disregard, misapplication, or failure to recognize controlling precedent.” Oto v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 244 F.3d 601, 606 (7th Cir. 2000) (citation and quotation marks omitted).

         “Reconsideration is not an appropriate forum for rehashing previously rejected arguments or arguing matters that could have been heard during the pendency of the previous motion.” Ahmed v. Ashcroft, 388 F.3d 247, 249 (7th Cir. 2004) (citation and quotation marks omitted). Relief pursuant to a motion to reconsider is an “extraordinary remed[y] reserved for the exceptional case.” Foster v. DeLuca, 545 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2008).


         Miller/Howard makes two arguments in support of its Motion to Reconsider. First, it argues that the Court was required to construe the alleged contract as a matter of law. And second, that ...

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