United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
October 5, 2004.
LEO THOMPSON, Plaintiff,
CARPENTERS UNION LOCAL #10 CHICAGO and NORTHEAST ILLINOIS DISTRICT COUNCIL OF CARPENTERS, Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: BLANCHE MANNING, District Judge
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
On July 28, 2004, this court denied plaintiff Leo Thompson's
Motion to Reinstate and File an Amended Complaint because he
failed to bring a new action in compliance with Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 41(a)(2) and Title VII after voluntarily
dismissing his complaint on May 22, 2003. Before this court is
Mr. Thompson's Motion for Reconsideration under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 59(e) and Defendants' Motion for Rule 11
Sanctions. For the following reasons, both motions are denied.
When examining Mr. Thompson's Motion to Reinstate, the court
relied on well-established law regarding voluntary dismissals
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(2). Because a
voluntary dismissal of a complaint "leaves the situation as if
the earlier action had never been filed," the statute of
limitations is not tolled during the pendency of the dismissal.
See Hoosier Bancorp of Ind., Inc. v. Rasmussen, 90 F.3d 180,
184 (7th Cir. 1996); see also Brown v. Hartshorne Public School
Dist. No. 1, 926 F.2d 959, 961 (10th Cir. 1991) (it is hornbook
law that voluntary dismissal without prejudice leaves parties as
though action had never been brought). Accordingly, this court concluded that Mr. Thompson could not file a new Title VII
complaint because the statute of limitations had run. See
42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1); see also Vanderlei v. Dedicated
Transp., No. 99 C 1212, 1999 WL 259894, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 7,
II. MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) serves the limited
function of allowing the court to correct manifest errors of law
or fact or consider newly discovered material evidence. Neal v.
Newspaper Holdings, Inc., 349 F.3d 363, 368 (7th Cir. 2003);
Oto v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 224 F.3d 601, 606 (7th Cir.
2000) (manifest error is wholesale disregard, misapplication, or
failure to recognize controlling precedent). Whether to grant a
Rule 59(e) motion "is entrusted to the sound judgment of the
district court." Matter of Prince, 85 F.3d 314, 324 (7th Cir.
Mr. Thompson brings this Rule 59(e) motion contending that this
court told him that he could reinstate his case within one year's
time when his health was better after his voluntary dismissal on
May 22, 2003. However, Mr. Thompson's interpretation of the court
hearing in which his case was voluntarily dismissed is
inaccurate. At no time during that hearing did the court tell Mr.
Thompson he could reinstate his case within one year's time.
Specifically, after the court granted Mr. Thompson's motion to
dismiss, the following transpired:
The Court: Very well. Your motion is granted, Mr.
Thompson: Is that that I have leave to dismiss
The Court: That's what you requested, and there is no
objection to it. So that will be the order.
Attorney Potts: Judge, I would just note that I did
not receive that motion, nor do I know whether any of
the other plaintiffs' attorneys received it.
The Court: But you represent a plaintiff, is that
Potts: That's correct. The Court: Okay. Would you like to have an
opportunity to review it? Do you have an extra copy
of your motion?
Thompson: No, Your Honor, but I did mail each
The Court: You mailed it to everyone?
Attorney Schaefer: I don't believe we received it
yet, Your Honor.
The Court: Pardon me?
Schaefer: We have not received it yet.
The Court: You have not received it?
Schaefer: No, Your Honor.
The Court: When did you mail it, Mr. Thompson?
Thompson: Tuesday morning. I filed it Monday
afternoon, and I put it in the post Tuesday morning.
The Court: This past Tuesday?
The Court: Oh, well, the mail is kind of slow. You're
saying that to say what, sir?
Potts: I simply wanted to make the record clear to
the extent that it makes any difference to the Court
on whether proper notice was given of the motion.
The Court: Well, as I see it, Mr. Thompson is a
co-plaintiff. You represent a co-plaintiff, is that
Potts: That's correct.
The Court: Mr. Thompson simply wants to dismiss his
portion of the case, so I don't really see where
Potts: Since I have not seen it, I didn't know
exactly what relief was being sought, Your Honor. The Court: Oh, okay. He's seeking leave to dismiss
Potts: Understood, Judge.
The Court: If you'd like, I'll pass the case, and you
can take a look at my copy.
Potts: I don't think that will be necessary, Judge.
Your Honor has made it clear what the relief sought
The Court: Okay, Would you like to see it, counsel?
Schaefer; No, Your Honor.
The Court: Okay.
Thompson: Your Honor, I am going to refile this at a
later date when my health is better.
The Court: Okay. It's granted. It's granted. It's
dismissed without prejudice, Mr. Thompson. All right?
(See Transcript of Proceedings Before the Honorable Blanche M.
Manning, May 22, 2003, at 3-5).
Regardless of whether Mr. Thompson interprets this exchange as
the court acquiescing to his request that he could refile his
claim when his health was better, it is beyond the court's
authority to allow a plaintiff to refile a complaint that is not
in compliance with the federal rules, in this matter Rule
41(a)(2). See Tuke v. United States, 76 F.3d 155, 157 (7th Cir.
1996) ("The Supreme Court insists that federal judges carry out
the rules of procedure, whether or not those rules strike the
judges as optimal"). As discussed, the statute of limitations had
run on Mr. Thompson's Title VII action. The court does not have
the authority to extend the statute of limitations to fit Mr.
Because Mr. Thompson has not established that this court has
committed a manifest error of law or fact, see Neal,
349 F.3d at 368, the court, in its discretion, denies his Motion for
Reconsideration. See Matter of Prince, 85 F.3d at 324. III. MOTION FOR RULE 11 SANCTIONS
Sanctions under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11 may be
imposed when litigants file pleadings or motions that are
frivolous, legally unreasonable, without adequate investigation
of the underlying facts or law, or that are filed with improper
motives. See Brunt v. SEIU, 284 F.3d 715, 721 (7th Cir. 2002);
Independent Lift Truck Builders Union v. NACCO Materials
Handling Group, Inc., 202 F.3d 965, 968-69 (7th Cir. 2000).
Here, the defendants contend that Mr. Thompson's counsel did not
adequately investigate the underlying law or facts when he filed
Mr. Thompson's Motion for Reconsideration. They attach the "safe
harbor" letter sent to counsel requesting that the Motion for
Reconsideration be withdrawn according to the requirements of
The court notes that counsel filed the Motion for
Reconsideration under Rule 59(e) in a timely fashion, but before
the transcript of the May 22, 2003, hearing of the voluntary
dismissal was made available to the parties. Thus, counsel did
not have the benefit of the exact language of the court's
exchange with Mr. Thompson. Without the benefit of the
transcript, counsel apparently filed the timely motion based on
his client's representations. As such, the court cannot say that
counsel did not adequately research the facts in this matter in
light of the time requirements necessary to file a Rule 59(e)
motion. Under the circumstances, this court would be hard-pressed
to conclude that Rule 11 sanctions are warranted in this matter. IV. CONCLUSION
Based on the foregoing, the court denies Mr. Thompson's Motion
for Reconsideration pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
59(e) [R.136-1]. The court also denies the Defendants' Motion for
Rule 11 Sanctions [R. 139-1].
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