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The Belt Railway Company of Chicago v. United Transportation Union

June 18, 2012

THE BELT RAILWAY COMPANY OF CHICAGO AND THE UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD COMPANY, PLAINTIFFS-COUNTERCLAIM DEFENDANTS,
v.
UNITED TRANSPORTATION UNION DEFENDANT-COUNTERCLAIMANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Marvin E. Aspen, District Judge:

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

On April 3, 2012, we issued an Order granting the summary judgment motion brought by United Transportation Union ("UTU") and denying the summary judgment motion brought by Plaintiffs Belt Railway Company of Chicago ("Belt Railway") and Union Pacific Railroad Company ("Union Pacific"). (Order (Dkt. No. 40) at 1.) Presently before us is a motion to alter or amend that Order pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e).

BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

As the facts presented in the case are set forth in the previous Order, we need not repeat them here. (See id. at 2--5.) Briefly, the case arises out of a Public Law Board No. 7304 ("Board") order enforcing a Memorandum of Understanding ("MOU"). On July 13, 2011, Plaintiffs petitioned the Court to review and vacate the Board's award ("Award") pursuant to Section 3 First (q) of the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. § 153 First (q). (Compl. (Dkt No. 1).) UTU counterclaimed for enforcement on August 22, 2011, pursuant to Section 3 First (p), 45 U.S.C. § 153 First (p). (Answer and Countercl. (Dkt. No. 16).) Thereafter, the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. On April 3, 2012, we denied Plaintiffs' motion, granted Defendant's motion, and enforced the award at issue. (Order (Dkt. No. 40) at 1.)

At the summary judgment stage, Plaintiffs argued that the Board erred by failing to provide Union Pacific with notice of the hearing, and that this error provided two reasons to vacate the award. We stated that the Board likely did fail to provide required notice and that such failure would provide justification for vacating the reward. However, we did not decide the issue because we found that Plaintiffs waived any objection by not presenting it to the Board. (Id. at 11--12.) Specifically, we found Plaintiffs' argument that they were unaware Union Pacific would be affected by the Board's judgment unpersuasive and that there was ample opportunity for Belt Railway to object to the Board's failure to notify Union Pacific. (Id.) We therefore held that it was too late to raise the objection at this time. (Id. at 13.)

STANDARD OF REVIEW

To succeed on a Rule 59(e) motion, the moving party must present newly discovered evidence, point out an intervening change in controlling law, or clearly establish that the court committed a manifest error of law or fact. See Caisse Nationale de Credit Agricole v. CBA Indus., Inc., 90 F.3d 1264, 1269--70 (7th Cir. 1996); Publishers Res., Inc. v. Walker--Davis Publ'ns, Inc., 762 F.2d 557, 561 (7th Cir. 1985). Indeed, reconsideration is appropriate in limited circumstances, such as "where (1) the court has patently misunderstood a party; (2) the court has made a decision outside the adversarial issues presented to the court by the parties; (3) the court has made an error not of reasoning but of apprehension; (4) there has been a controlling or significant change in law . . . or (5) there has been a controlling or significant change in the facts." BP Amoco Chem. v. Flint Hills Res., LLC, 489 F. Supp. 2d 853, 856 (N.D. Ill. 2007); Bank of Waunakee v. Rochester Cheese Sales, Inc., 906 F.2d 1185, 1191--92 (7th Cir. 1990); see also Hickory Farms, Inc. v. Snackmasters, Inc., 509 F. Supp. 2d 716, 719 (N.D. Ill. 2007) ("Reconsideration is appropriate, generally speaking, only when the Court overlooked or misunderstood something."). However, the motion for reconsideration should be granted if doing so would "enable 'the court to correct its own errors and thus avoid unnecessary appellate procedures.'" Divane v. Krull Elec. Co., 194 F.3d 845, 848 (7th Cir. 1999) (citing Moro v. Shell Oil Co., 91 F.3d 872, 876 (7th Cir. 1996)).

ANALYSIS

1. Motion to Alter or Amend

As mentioned above, our previous order found that there was ample opportunity for Belt Railway to object to the lack of notice. (Order (Dkt. No. 40) at 3.) We did not, however, specifically address whether or not Union Pacific had an opportunity to object. In a footnote, we indicated that because "[t]he parties do not distinguish between Belt Railway and Union Pacific in the case . . . we do not address any concerns that Union Pacific, assuming it did not have knowledge of the suit, would not have waived this objection." (Id. at 12 n.3.) Union Pacific now asserts that we made a manifest error when we observed that "[t]he parties do not distinguish between Belt Railway and Union Pacific."

Union Pacific first requests that we reconsider our assumption about the legal separateness of the two plaintiffs. In this regard, we find no manifest error. Union Pacific simply misunderstands our Order. We did not take the position that Belt Railway and Union Pacific were legally the same entity. In deciding that the parties had not distinguished between Belt Railway and Union Pacific, we were not implying that they had been or should be treated as one. Instead, we were observing that the portions of the parties' briefs that addressed waiver did not distinguish between Belt Railway and Union Pacific. (See Pls.' Reply to Def.'s Opp'n to Pls.' Mot. for Summ. J. (Dkt. No. 33) at 7 (not referring to Union Pacific's lack of knowledge); Pls.' Resp. to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. (Dkt. No. 30) at 9 (same).) In other words, we interpreted Plaintiffs' briefing as failing to address the possibility that one could have waived the right for notice while the other had not. We thus followed the parties' lead and did not distinguish between the two when deciding whether the notice requirement had been waived.

Union Pacific's second request addresses this treatment specifically. It asserts that we should reconsider whether Union Pacific, as distinct from Belt Railway, ever waived its statutory right to notice. While belated legal attacks are viewed with great suspicion, we do not think that Union Pacific intentionally withheld the current argument. See Caisse Nationale, 90 F.3d at 1269--70. Rather, we concede that we "patently misunderstood" Plaintiffs' argument when we found that it did not address this possibility. See Bank of Waunakee, 906 F.2d at 1191 ("A motion for reconsideration performs a valuable function where 'the Court has patently misunderstood a party.'" (citing Above the Belt, Inc. v. Mel Bohannan Roofing, Inc., 99 F.R.D. 99, 101 (E.D. Va. 1983)).

When addressing the Board's failure to provide adequate notice, Plaintiffs explain that UTU never alleged that Union Pacific knew of the arbitration proceeding, and "mere awareness of the existence of 'an issue' does not constitute notice of proceeding to resolve that issue sufficient to satisfy the Board's obligation." (Pls.'s Resp. to Def. Mot. for Summ. J. (Dkt. No. 30) at 9.) When addressing Defendant's argument that Plaintiffs waived this objection, Plaintiffs changed focus and argued only that Belt Railway's actions during the arbitration did not waive its objection because it could not have known Union Pacific would be affected. We found this latter argument unpersuasive and held that Belt Railway should have objected to the lack of notice at an earlier stage. We further found that Plaintiffs' focus on Belt Railway's ability to object at an earlier stage prevented us from addressing whether Union Pacific had, and waived, that opportunity. Upon reviewing the briefing, it is clear that the latter section addressed only Belt Railway because ...


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