United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
JOHN J. MANLEY d/b/a CHICAGO MARINE TOWING, Plaintiff,
BOAT/U.S., INC., a Virginia corporation, GREAT LAKES REPAIR, INC., d/b/a GREAT LAKES TOWING & REPAIR, a Michigan corporation, and RICHARD N. LENARDSON, an individual and resident of Michigan, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. DOW, Jr. United States District Judge
January 3, 2017, the Court granted Defendant Boat U.S.,
Inc.'s motion for summary judgment as to Plaintiff
Chicago Marine's claim for intentional interference with
prospective economic advantage and Chicago Marine's claim
for defamation per quod, and denied Boat U.S.'s
motion for summary judgment as to Chicago Marine's claims
for breach of contract for wrongful termination (Count I),
breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing
(Count II), and defamation per se (Count IV). [See
77]. Before the Court is Boat U.S.'s motion for
reconsideration of parts of the January 3, 2017 opinion
pursuant to F.R.C.P. Rule 54(b) . For the reasons that
follow, Boat U.S.'s motion  is denied. This case is
set for further status hearing on November 29, 2017 at 9:00
full background of this case is set forth in the Court's
summary judgment opinion, knowledge of which is assumed here.
[See 77 at 1-8.] Facts relevant to resolving Boat U.S.'s
motion are set forth in the analysis below.
has not yet been a final judgment in this case, thus Rule
54(b) governs Boat U.S.'s motion for reconsideration.
Under Rule 54(b), “any order or other decision [ ] that
adjudicates fewer than all the claims or the rights and
liabilities of fewer than all the parties does not end the
action as to any of the claims or parties and may be revised
at any time before the entry of a judgment adjudicating all
the claims and all the parties' rights and
liabilities.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b); see also Rothwell
Cotton Co. v. Rosenthal & Co., 827 F.2d 246, 251
(7th Cir.), opinion amended on denial of reh'g, 835 F.2d
710 (7th Cir. 1987) (affirming district court's denial of
motion to reconsider under Rule 54(b)).
under Rule 54(b) are discouraged and should be reserved for
circumstances in which the initial decision was
“clearly erroneous and would work a manifest
injustice.” See Ghashiyah v. Frank, 2008 WL
680203, at *3 (E.D. Wis. Mar. 10, 2008) (quoting
Christianson v. Colt Indus. Operating Corp., 486
U.S. 800, 817 (1988)) (internal quotation marks omitted). In
general, “litigants must fight an uphill battle in
order to prevail on a motion for reconsideration.”
Id. (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).
to reconsider under Rule 54(b) “are judged by largely
the same standards as motions to alter or amend a judgment
under Rule 59(e).” Ghashiyah, 2008 WL 680203,
at *3. The Court may grant a Rule 59(e) motion to alter or
amend the judgment if the movant presents newly discovered
evidence that was not available at the time of trial, points
to evidence in the record that clearly establishes a manifest
error of law or fact, or if the Court previously
misunderstood a party's arguments. Miller v. Safeco
Ins. Co. of Am., 683 F.3d 805, 813 (7th Cir. 2012);
United States v. Ligas, 549 F.3d 497, 501 (7th Cir.
2008). Rule 59(e) “enables the court to correct its own
errors and thus avoid unnecessary appellate
procedures.” Miller, 683 F.3d at 813 (citation
and internal quotation marks omitted). Rule 59(e) motions are
“not appropriately used to advance arguments or
theories that could and should have been made before the
district court rendered a judgment, or to present evidence
that was available earlier.” Id. (citation and
internal quotation marks omitted). Additionally,
“‘manifest error' is not demonstrated by the
disappointment of the losing party. It is the
‘wholesale disregard, misapplication, or failure to
recognize controlling precedent.'” Oto v.
Metro. Life Ins. Co., 224 F.3d 601, 606 (7th Cir. 2000)
(quoting Sedrak v. Callahan, 987 F.Supp. 1063, 1069
(N.D. Ill. 1997)).
U.S. seeks reconsideration of the Court's January 3, 2017
opinion to the extent that it denies Boat U.S.'s motion
for summary judgment as to Count I, Count II, and Count IV of
Chicago Marine's complaint.
Wrongful Termination of Contract (Count I) and Breach of
Implied Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing (Count
23, 2012, Boat U.S. terminated its contract with Chicago
Marine pursuant to which Chicago Marine was a Boat
U.S.-authorized marine towing company. [61-2 ¶¶ 6,
31.] According to the termination letter that it sent, Boat
U.S. terminated this agreement because Chicago Marine
materially breached it by failing to comply with the law of
salvage. [1, Exhibit D, at 1-2.] Specifically, Boat U.S.
determined that Manley's actions in connection with
Chicago Marine's July 1, 2012 salvage operation assisting
distressed boaters Nathan Locher and Laurie Jagla materially
violated salvage law because Manley both refused to tell
Locher the location of his boat and also refused to
immediately allow Locher access to his boat. [Id.]
Before terminating the Chicago Marine contract, Boat U.S.
conducted a thorough investigation of Chicago Marine's
handling of the July 1, 2012 salvage operation. [61-2 ¶
30.] Boat U.S. decided to terminate the contract based on
this investigation. [Id. ¶ 31.] Chicago Marine
subsequently brought claims against Boat U.S. for breach of
contract for wrongful termination (Count I) and breach of
implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing (Count II).
Boat U.S. filed a motion for summary judgment on both of
this termination breached the parties' contract depends
on whether Chicago Marine violated salvage law in connection
with the July 1, 2012 salvage operation at issue. Salvage law
concerns the compensation awarded to those who voluntarily
render assistance to vessels in peril at sea. The
Sabine, 101 U.S. 384, 384 (1879). The law of salvage
compensates potential salvors in order to incentivize their
efforts to save these vessels. Id.; see also
R.M.S. Titanic, Inc. v. The Wrecked & Abandoned
Vessel, 435 F.3d 521, 531 (4th Cir. 2006)
(“Without some promise of remuneration, salvors might
understandably be reluctant to undertake the often dangerous
and costly efforts necessary to provide others with
assistance.”). In order to secure this compensation,
salvage law gives salvors a maritime possessory lien on the
salved property. R.M.S. Titanic, 435 F.3d at 531;
The Snow Maiden, 159 F.Supp. 30, 32 (D. Mass. 1958).
This lien attaches “to the exclusion of all others,
including the property's true owner, ” but it does
not divest the true owner of title to the salved property.
R.M.S. Titanic, Inc. v. Haver, 171 F.3d 943, 963
(4th Cir. 1999); see also R.M.S. Titanic, 435 F.3d
at 531. Furthermore, salvors in possession of a salved vessel
have “duties of good faith, honesty, and diligence in
protecting the property” in their care. Haver,
171 F.3d at 964.
summary judgment opinion, this Court held that summary
judgment on Counts I and II was not warranted because a
reasonable jury could conclude that Chicago Marine did not
breach salvage law and that Boat U.S.'s early termination
of the contract was thus not permitted. [77 at 15.] The Court
found that there was a genuine dispute of material fact as to
Locher's and Jagla's mental states on the night of
the July 1, 2012 salvage operation, such that a reasonable
jury adopting Manley's assessment of their mental states
as drunk or ...