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Eiland v. Arctic Food Services

October 31, 2008

JOHNIE EILAND AND VINCENT WADE, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ARCTIC FOOD SERVICES, INC., D/B/A ARCTIC FOOD SERVICES, INC./PANSKE TRUCKING, INC. AND PANSKE TRUCKING INC., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Herndon, Chief Judge

MEMORANDUM and ORDER

I. Introduction

Now before the Court is Plaintiffs' motion to reconsider Court's Order staying proceedings and compelling arbitration and alternative motion to compel Defendants to pay costs of arbitration (Doc. 24). Defendants oppose the motion (Doc. 26). Based on the following, the Court DENIES Plaintiffs' motion.

On January 29, 2008, Johnie Eiland and Vincent Wade filed a complaint against their former employer Arctic Food Services, Inc./Panske Trucking, Inc. for unlawful employment practices on the basis of natural origin, citizenship, race, age and retaliation brought pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA") (Doc. 2). On April 21, 2008, the Court granted Defendants' motion to stay proceedings and compel arbitration (Doc. 23).

II. Analysis

Technically, a "motion to reconsider" does not exist under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Seventh Circuit has held, however, that a motion challenging the merits of a district court order will automatically be considered as having been filed pursuant to Rule 59(e) or Rule 60(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See, e.g., Mares v. Busby, 34 F.3d 533, 535 (7th Cir. 1994); United States v. Deutsch, 981 F.2d 299, 300 (7th Cir. 1992). Under these rulings, the date the motion was filed determined under what rule it would be analyzed. See United States v. Deutsch, 981 F.2d 299, 300 (7th Cir. 1992). If the motion was served within 10 days of the rendition of the judgment/order, the motion fell under Rule 59(e); if it was served after that time, it fell under Rule 60(b). Id. (citations omitted). Most recently, however, the Seventh Circuit has clarified that although motions filed after 10 days of the rendition of the judgment are still analyzed under Rule 60(b), motions filed within 10 days of the rendition of the judgment can be analyzed under either rule depending upon the substance of the motion.

[W]hether a motion filed within ten days of the rendition of the judgment should be analyzed under Rule 59(e) or Rule 60(b) depends on the substance of the motion, not on the timing or label affixed to it. Therefore, the former approach -- that, no matter what their substance, all post-judgment motions filed within 10 days of judgment would be construed as Rule 59(e) motions -- no longer applies. In short, motions are to be analyzed according to their terms. When the substance and label of a post-judgment motion filed within 10 days of judgment are not in accord, district courts should evaluate it based on the reasons expressed by the movant. Neither the timing of the motion, nor its label . . ., is dispositive with respect to the appropriate characterization of the motion.

Obriecht v. Raemisch, 517 F.3d 489, 493 (7th Cir. 2008) (citations omitted).

Here, the Court entered its Order staying the case and compelling arbitration on April 21, 2008 (Doc. 23). Plaintiffs filed this motion on July 18, 2008. Obviously, the analysis of this motion falls under Rule 60(b). Rule 60(b) authorizes a district court to relieve a party from final judgment or order for six reasons:

(1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect; (2) newly discovered evidence ...; (3) fraud ...; (4) the judgment is void; (5) the judgment has been satisfied, released, or discharged ...; or (6) any other reason justifying relief from the operation of the judgment.

The first five grounds for Rule 60(b) relief do not apply, as Plaintiffs do not claim (and the record does not reveal) any mistake, excusable neglect, newly discovered evidence, fraud, fundamental defect voiding the judgment, or satisfaction of the judgment. Nor have Plaintiffs demonstrated any "other reason justifying relief" from the Order.

The Seventh Circuit emphasized that Rule 60(b) relief is reserved for exceptional circumstances. Mares v. Busby, 34 F.3d 533, 535 (7th Cir. 1994). "Rather, it exists to allow courts to overturn decisions where 'special circumstances' justify an 'extraordinary remedy.'" Cash v. Illinois Div. of Mental Health, 209 F.3d 695, 697 (7th Cir. 2000)(quoting Russell v. Delco Remy Div. of General Motors Corp., 51 F.3d 746, 749 (7th Cir. 1995)).

Plaintiffs move the Court to reconsider its Order staying the case and compelling arbitration because the arbitration agreements impose unreasonably high costs on Plaintiffs which effectively deny them access to a reasonable forum within which they may vindicate their federal and state rights. Plaintiffs maintain that they do not have the financial means to pay such fees. Plaintiffs draw support from cases holding that arbitration provisions that require plaintiffs to pay a substantial portion of the costs of arbitration are invalid. See, Shankle v. B-G Maintenance Mgmt. of Colorado, Inc., 163 F.3d 1230, 1234 (10th Cir. 1999)(invalidating agreement that required plaintiff to pay one-half of arbitrator's fees to invoke arbitration procedure); Paladino v. Avnet Computer Techs. Inc., 134 F.3d 1054, 1062 (11th Cir. 1998)(finding that arbitration agreement requiring employee to pay one-half of costs and "steep filing fees" is unenforceable). However, other courts have reached different conclusions than the cases cited by Plaintiffs. See e.g. Williams v. Cigna Fin. Advisors, Inc., 197 F.3d 752, 763-64 (5th Cir. 1999)(finding that public policy not violated when plaintiff was required to pay $3,650 in arbitration costs pursuant to mandatory fee-splitting provision), cert. denied 529 U.S. 1099 (2000); Rosenberg v. Merill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc., 170 F.3d 1, 16 (1st Cir. 1999)(refusing to invalidate arbitration agreement with fee-splitting provision because fees not yet levied and judicial review available; and noting that arbitration often more affordable for plaintiffs than litigation); Koveleskie v. SBC Capital Mkts., Inc., 167 F.3d 361, 366 (7th Cir. 1999)(adopting Rosenberg analysis), cert. denied, 528 U.S. 811 (2000).

Plaintiffs have presented no special circumstances justifying the extraordinary remedy. Plaintiffs' motion takes umbrage with the Court's ruling and rehashes an argument raised previously. Furthermore, Plaintiffs have not made a showing that the expenses that they necessarily and definitely would incur would make arbitration prohibitive. See James v. McDonald's Corp., 417 F.3d 672, 679 (7th Cir. 2005). "A party seeking to invalidate an arbitration agreement on the ground that arbitration would be prohibitively expensive bears the burden ...


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