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Feldman v. Trane

November 4, 2008

JANEEN FELDMAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TRANE, A SUBSIDIARY OF AMERICAN, STANDARD, CO., AND AMERICAN STANDARD, CO., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles P. Kocoras, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter comes before the court on the motion of Plaintiff Janeen Feldman to alter or amend our judgment of September 17, 2008, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e) or for relief from the same judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(1). For the reasons set forth below, the motion is denied.

BACKGROUND

This case was initially filed on May 11, 2007. After discovery was completed, Defendants Trane and Trane U.S. Inc. (collectively referred to herein as "Trane") expressed a desire to file a motion for summary judgment. A briefing schedule was set wherein Feldman was to respond to the pending motion by July 14. On that date, Feldman (without noticing the motion for hearing as required by this court's procedures for motion practice) requested an extension of time to respond, primarily because of demands from another case in which counsel was involved in state court. The motion was granted; Feldman's new time to respond was set for August 14, with Defendants afforded two weeks thereafter to file their reply.*fn1

August 14 came and went, with no response from Feldman. Two weeks later, Defendants filed a timely reply, noting that Feldman had filed no response and that her failure to do so triggered significant consequences under Local Rule 56.1. Nearly three more weeks elapsed with no word from her, and our ruling issued in due course. As set forth in the opinion, in light of the admission of the facts asserted by Trane pursuant to operation of the local rule, a merits determination in favor of Trane was warranted.

Fourteen calendar days and 10 business days after the ruling issued, Feldman filed the instant motion. In it, she requests that we vacate the order granting summary judgment and either deny the motion or permit her to file her own motion for summary judgment. The motion refers to two procedural bases for the relief requested: Fed. R. Civ. P. 59 and Fed. R. Civ. P. 60. Though the motion does not set forth the specific subsections of those two rules, the timing of its filing and the substance of its contents imply that Feldman is relying upon Rules 59(e) and 60(b)(1).

LEGAL STANDARDS

I. Rule 59(e) Motions

Rule 59(e) permits parties to file, within 10 days of the entry of a judgment, a motion to alter or amend that judgment. The rule does not provide a panacea for parties who do not prevail in a proceeding before a district court; relief is appropriate only in specific and narrow circumstances. To justify undoing a previous result via Rule 59(e), a movant can present evidence that was not available when the decision was rendered or specify areas in the record that clearly establish that the trial court made a manifest error of law or fact in reaching the challenged decision. In re Prince, 85 F.3d 314, 324 (7th Cir. 1996). Alternatively, the movant could demonstrate a change in the controlling law that occurred between the entry of the judgment and the filing of the motion, although the 10-day time frame for filing the motion makes this avenue an unlikely scenario in most cases. See Cosgrove v. Bartolotta, 150 F.3d 729, 732 (7th Cir. 1998). This type of motion does not allow a losing party to present arguments that were available during the previous proceedings and that should have been raised in that context. LB Credit Corp. v. Resolution Trust Corp., 49 F.3d 1263, 1267 (7th Cir. 1995). Neither does it provide a vehicle for presenting factual matters that were previously available but that were not brought to the court's attention. See id. Rather, the rule gives the district court the opportunity to correct manifest errors before the case proceeds into unnecessary appellate proceedings. Sosebee v. Astrue, 494 F.3d 583, 589 (7th Cir. 2007).

II. Rule 60(b)(1) Motions

A request for relief from judgment under Rule 60(b)(1) can be made up to a year after the judgment at issue was rendered. However, the request must be premised on the presence of "mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect." Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(1). For purposes of this rule, excusable neglect is not limited to situations involving circumstances beyond the party's control. Pioneer Investment Servs. v. Brunswick Assocs. Ltd. Partnership, 507 U.S. 380, 388, 113 S.Ct. 1489, 1495 (1993). Rather, relief can be warranted in instances where the neglect at issue is the product of a party's negligence. Id. at 394, 113 S.Ct. at 1497. However, not all neglect is excusable. See Easley v. Kirmsee, 382 F.3d 693, 698 (7th Cir. 2004). When deciding whether neglect is excusable or not, a trial court must examine "all relevant circumstances surrounding the party's omission...[including] the danger of prejudice to the [opponent], the length of the delay and its potential impact on judicial proceedings, the reason for the delay, including whether it was within the reasonable control of the movant, and whether the movant acted in good faith." Pioneer, 507 U.S. at 395, 113 S.Ct. at 1498. When an attorney's neglect is at issue, the expectation that counsel will honor the professional obligation to diligently monitor developments in all aspects of the representation of clients is also a consideration. See DeRango v. United States, 864 F.2d 520, 523 (7th Cir. 1988).

With these principles in mind, we turn to Feldman's motion.

DISCUSSION

I. Rule 59(e) ...


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