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Charles anderson et al v. Norman Liles et al

July 29, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Joan B. Gottschall


Before the court is the plaintiffs' motion for reconsideration of this court's March 30, 2011 opinion partially denying their motion for summary judgment.


The plaintiffs, a local painter's union (the "Union") and trustees of various benefit funds (the "Funds"), sued Norman Liles, a sole proprietor doing business as Putnam County Painting, Putnam County Painting, Inc., and Illinois Valley Coating, Inc., to recover fringe benefit contributions, dues, and assessments allegedly owed per the terms of three collective bargaining agreements ("CBAs"). According to Liles, before he signed the 1999-2004 CBA, Mark Leonard, a Union agent, promised him that "painters working in Liles' 'shop' would not become Union members," and "'if it doesn't work out, you just let me know and you can get out of the union at any time you want. You just call me and tell me you want out of the union and you're out.'" Anderson v. Liles, No. 06 C 4229, --- F. Supp. 2d ----, 2011 WL 1195772, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 30, 2011) (quoting Liles Dep. at 60-61, ECF Nos. 130-2, 130-3, 130-4, 130-5, 130-6).

The first two CBAs, which were in effect from 1999 through 2004 and 2004 through 2008, contained an evergreen (or automatic renewal) clause, which provided:

This agreement shall be in effect until April 30, [ending year], and shall continue in effect from year to year thereafter and, unless the parties otherwise agree, the parties hereto hereby specifically adopt the Agreement between the Union and the Association for the contract period subsequent to April 30, [same year as above], and each such subsequent Agreement thereafter unless written notice of such termination of Agreement is given from the Employer or the Union at least one hundred and twenty (120) days prior to the expiration of the then current Agreement adopted by reference. (1999-2004 CBA at Art. XVII § 1, ECF No. 127-5; 2004-2008 CBA at Art. 18 § 18.1, ECF No. 127-6.)

Liles contends that he terminated any contractual obligation he had to the Union or Funds when he sent them a letter on April 30, 2004 wherein he stated, "Please be advised that the new collective bargaining agreement is not acceptable to me and is not in our best business interest. Therefore, I will not be signing the agreement. Please consider this my official notice, that as of May 1, 2004, I am withdrawing from the union." (Liles Dep. Ex. 1 at 2, ECF No. 130-7.) In a reply letter dated May 10, 2004, the Union wrote, in pertinent part, "Be advised that your notice of termination is untimely." (Liles Dep. Ex. 2 at 4, ECF No. 130-7.) On May 20, 2004, Liles sent another letter, in which he wrote, "I am still standing with my decision to withdraw from the painters' union" and "For the jobs where union painters will be employed, I will continue to pay into the benefits program for them." (Liles Dep. Ex. 3 at 6, ECF No. 130-7.)


"The purpose of [a motion for reconsideration] is to bring the court's attention to newly discovered evidence or to a manifest error or law or fact." Neal v. Newspaper Holdings, Inc., 349 F.3d 363, 368 (7th Cir. 2003). "A 'manifest error' is not demonstrated by the disappointment of the losing party." Oto v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 224 F.3d 601, 606 (7th Cir. 2000). Rather "[i]t is the 'wholesale disregard, misapplication, or failure to recognize controlling precedent.'" Id. (quoting Sedrak v. Callahan, 987 F. Supp. 1063, 1069 (N.D. Ill. 1997)). "A district court may reconsider a prior decision when there has been a significant change in the law or facts since the parties presented the issue to the court, when the court misunderstands a party's arguments, or when the court overreaches by deciding an issue not properly before it." United States v. Ligas, 549 F.3d 497, 501 (7th Cir. 2008). "However, because judicial opinions are not intended as mere first drafts, subject to revision and reconsideration at a litigant's pleasure, motions to reconsider are not appropriate vehicles to advance arguments already rejected by the Court or new legal theories not argued before the ruling." Schilke v. Wachovia Mortg., FSB, 758 F. Supp. 2d 549, 554 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 14, 2010) (citations and quotations omitted); see Neal, 349 F.3d at 368 (holding that it was not an abuse of discretion for the district court to deny a motion to reconsider wherein "the plaintiffs simply took the opportunity to reargue the merits of their cases").


The plaintiffs argue that the court made a manifest error of the law when: (a) it found that Liles' April 30, 2004 letter "would have been sufficient to end Liles' [contractual] obligation to the Funds as of April 30, 2008," Anderson, 2011 WL 1195772, at *4, and (b) held that the parol evidence rule did not bar evidence of the oral agreement Liles alleges he made with the Union. The court will address each argument in turn.

A.The court did not err when it found that Liles' April 30, 2004 letter terminated Liles' contractual obligation to the Funds as of April 30, 2008.

As an initial matter, the plaintiffs' motion for reconsideration on this point is denied because the plaintiffs do nothing more than reiterate an argument they made in support of their motion for summary judgment; namely, that Liles' notice of termination "was neither timely nor clear and unambiguous," (Pls.' Mem. in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J. at 11, ECF No. 125.) See Ahmed v. Ashcroft, 388 F.3d 247, 249 (7th Cir. 2004) ("'Reconsideration is not an appropriate forum for rehashing previously rejected arguments or arguing matters that could have been heard ...

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