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Eib v. Marion General Hospital Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

August 12, 2019

ROGER L. EIB, Plaintiff,
v.
MARION GENERAL HOSPITAL, INC., Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          William C. Lee, Judge

         This matter is before the Court on a motion for reconsideration filed by Defendant Marion General Hospital, Inc., on April 16, 2019 (ECF 40). Plaintiff Roger Eib filed a response in opposition to the motion on May 6, 2019 (ECF 43). Marion General chose not to file a reply brief and so the motion is ripe for resolution. For the reasons discussed below, the motion is GRANTED. The Clerk of the Court is instructed to enter judgment in favor of Defendant and against Plaintiff.

         PROCEDURAL POSTURE AND STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Although there is no Federal Rule of Civil Procedure that expressly authorizes the filing of a motion to reconsider an interlocutory order, Rule 54(b), under which Marion General brings its motion, provides a mechanism for a district court to reconsider its own interlocutory orders at “at any time before the entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims and all the parties' rights and liabilities.” Rule 54(b). This Court has explained the Rule's provisions as follows:

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) provides that a court may alter or amend an interlocutory order any time before entry of final judgment. See Moses H. Cone Mem. Hosp. v. Mercury Constr. Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 12, 103 S.Ct. 927, 74 L.Ed.2d 765 (1983) (“[E]very order short of a final decree is subject to reopening at the discretion of the district judge.”). Unlike a motion to reconsider a final judgment, which must meet the requirements of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 59 or 60, “a motion to reconsider an interlocutory order may be entertained and granted as justice requires.” Akzo Coatings, Inc. v. Aigner Corp., 909 F.Supp. 1154, 1160 (N.D.Ind. 1995).
Reconsideration of an interlocutory order may be appropriate when the facts or law on which the decision was based change significantly after issuance of the order, or when the court has misunderstood a party, made a decision outside the adversarial issues presented by the parties, or 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). “These grounds represent extraordinary circumstances, and . . . a motion to reconsider is to be granted only in such extraordinary circumstances . . . Indeed, the court's orders are not mere first drafts, subject to revision and reconsideration at a litigant's pleasure.” United States Securities and Exch. Comm'n v. National Presto Indus., Inc., 2004 WL 1093390, at *2 (N.D.Ill. Apr. 28, 2004). Motions to reconsider serve a limited function: “to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence.” Caisse Nationale de Credit Agricole v. CBI Indus., Inc., 90 F.3d 1264, 1269 (7th Cir. 1996).

Sandifer v. U.S. Steel Corp., 2010 WL 61971, * 1 (N.D.Ind. Jan. 5, 2015). As this Court has also noted, “[m]otions for reconsideration are ‘not an appropriate forum for rehashing previously rejected arguments or arguing matters that could have been heard during the pendency of the previous motion.'” First Specialty Ins. Corp. v. Supreme Corp., 2018 WL 4680015, at *2 (N.D. Ind. Sept. 28, 2018) (citing Caisse Nationale, 90 F.3d at 1269); In re Oil Spill by “Amoco Cadiz” Off Coast of France on March 16, 1978, 794 F.Supp. 261, 267 (N.D. Ill. 1992), aff'd, 4 F.3d 997 (7th Cir. 1993) (“[M]otions to reconsider are not at the disposal of parties who want to ‘rehash' old arguments.”)).

         It is well-established, then, that district courts should entertain motions to reconsider only in very limited circumstances and for very limited reasons. But on occasion-and this is one of them-motions for reconsideration help sharpen the focus on factual or legal issues or both. Marion General's brief in support of its motion does just that. In such circumstances, “[d]istrict courts possess the inherent authority to modify interlocutory orders.” U.S. S.E.C. v. Nat'l Presto Indus., Inc., 2004 WL 1093390, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 28, 2004) (citing Cameo Convalescent Ctr., Inc. v. Percy, 800 F.2d 108, 110 (7th Cir. 1986); Kapco Mfg. Co. v. C & O Enterprises, Inc., 773 F.2d 151, 154 (7th Cir. 1985)). Having concluded that Marion General's motion to reconsider raises valid arguments, the Court will consider those arguments and re-examine the evidence under the standard of review for Rule 56 motions for summary judgment (as set forth in the Court's previous Opinion and Order at pages three through five).

         Marion General's motion asks the Court to reconsider its previous Opinion and Order entered on April 8, 2019, in which the Court granted in part and denied in part Marion General's motion for summary judgment that the Hospital had filed on November 8, 2018. The Court ruled in that order that Marion General was entitled to summary judgment on all of Eib's age discrimination claims but that his retaliation claim survived. Marion General “moves the Court to reconsider its denial of summary judgment with respect to Eib's retaliation claim in light of what it believes to be manifest errors of fact and law. MGH contends that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law regarding Eib's retaliatory discharge claim and that Eib's Amended Complaint should be dismissed in its entirety.” Defendant's Brief in Support of Motion to Reconsider (ECF 41), p. 1.[1]

         Marion General also argues that Eib fails to present any evidence to refute the Hospital's proffered nondiscriminatory reasons for terminating him. In its previous order the Court did not engage in a McDonnell-Douglas analysis of Eib's retaliation claim, having concluded-wrongly, as it turns out-that Eib had raised a credibility issue as to that claim. After closer scrutiny and consideration of the parties' arguments and evidence, the Court concludes that Marion General is correct that Eib has failed to carry his burden of proof and his retaliation claim does not withstand summary judgment.

         Eib's response brief in opposition to the Hospital's motion is perfunctory and adds nothing to the mix. Eib dedicates the first two and a half pages of his three-page response to a recitation of the law regarding motions for reconsideration, and one paragraph to what could be deemed argument, to wit:

In its motion to reconsider, the Defendant does not present any new facts that were not available earlier nor any new law so as to compel the Court to reconsider its decision. Moreover, the Defendant has not shown that the Court has patently misunderstood its arguments or made errors of apprehension. In fact, the Defendant repeats most of its arguments from the briefs in support of its motion for summary judgment, making the instant motion a kind of sur-reply.

         Plaintiff's Response to Defendants' [sic] Motion to Reconsider (ECF 43), p. 2. Eib's “argument” is that the Court got it right the first time and should not revisit its prior rulings. But that is not correct. Marion General may not be presenting new or additional facts or law, but it has refined its presentation of the facts and evidence, sharpened the point on its legal arguments, and exposed the flaws in the Court's prior analysis (or lack thereof) of Eib's retaliation claim.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Plaintiff has failed to establish a causal link between his protected activity and his discharge.

         This Court held in its previous opinion that Eib's retaliatory discharge claim survived summary judgment because of a credibility issue. Opinion and Order (ECF 38), p. 32. Marion General argues that the Court “made several factual presumptions, unsupported by the record, then concluded, based on those unsupported assertions, that an issue of fact existed.” Brief in Support, p. 5. The Hospital argues as follows:

The Court's factual presumptions, which are unsupported by the record, are manifest errors of fact which stand in need of correction. Without the aid of such factual errors, there is no material issue of fact regarding causation, and MGH is entitled to judgment as a matter of law because Eib cannot establish the Hospital's decision-makers were aware of his alleged protected activity prior to making the decision to terminate his employment.

Id., p. 6.

         The Court concluded that the facts, when construed in Plaintiff's favor, gave rise to a credibility issue regarding retaliation. The Court's conclusion was based on Eib's assertion that on “May 2, 2016 . . . Mr. Eib, via counsel, corresponded with attorneys representing MGH at Ice Miller, LLP raising the issue of discriminatory conduct directed toward Mr. Eib in violation of the [ADEA].” Amended Complaint, p. 3. Eib also alleged that “[o]n or about September 27, 2016, Mr. Eib attended a meeting with representatives of MGH during which Mr. Eib stated that he had filed the above-reference[d] charge, after which Mr. Eib was immediately terminated.” Id., ...


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