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Gold Cross EMS, Inc. v. Children's Hospital of Alabama

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Augusta Division

June 1, 2015

GOLD CROSS EMS, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
THE CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF ALABAMA, Defendant.

ORDER

HONORABLE J. RANDAL HALL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Presently before the Court is Plaintiff Gold Cross EMS, Inc.'s ("Gold Cross") Motion for Reconsideration (doc. 62) following this Court's Order (doc. 61) granting, in part, Defendant The Children's Hospital of Alabama's ("CHOA") Motion for Summary Judgment. In the alternative, Gold Cross asks the Court to either certify the question to the Supreme Court of Georgia or certify that the issue warrants immediate interlocutory review by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The facts giving rise to this dispute were fully set forth in the Court's Order on the summary judgment motion and so the Court does not restate them here. For the reasons stated herein, the Court DENIES Gold Cross's Motion for Reconsideration (doc. 62). The Court similarly declines to certify the question to the Georgia Supreme Court or the issue for interlocutory review.

I. Motion for Reconsideration

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e), a party may seek to alter or amend a judgment in a civil case within twenty-eight days after the entry of the judgment. "[R]econsideration of a previous order is%an extraordinary remedy, to be employed sparingly.'" Williams v. Cruise Ships Catering & Serv. Int'l, N.V, , 320 F.Supp.2d 1347, 1358 (S.D. Fla. 2004) (citation omitted) . In fact, a motion for reconsideration is not an appeal, and thus it is improper on a motion for reconsideration to "ask the Court to rethink what it ha[s] already thought through - rightly or wrongly." Above the Belt, Inc. v. Mel Bohannan Roofing, Inc., 99 F.R.D. 99, 101 (E.D. Va. 1983), quoted in Weitz Co. v. Transp. Ins. Co., No. 08-23183, 2009 WL 1636125, at *1 (S.D. Fla. June 11, 2009) and Vidinliey v. Carey Int'l, Inc., No. l:07-cv-762, 2008 WL 5459335, at *1 (N.D.Ga. Dec. 15, 2008). A movant must "set forth facts or law of a strongly convincing nature to induce the court to reverse its prior decision." Cover v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 148 F.R.D. 294, 294 (M.D. Fla. 1993) (citation omitted).

Although Rule 59(e) does not set forth the grounds for relief, district courts in this Circuit have identified three that merit reconsideration of an order: (1) an intervening change in controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence; and (3) the need to correct clear error or prevent manifest injustice. See, e.g., Ctr. for Biological Diversity v. Hamilton, 3 85 F.Supp.2d 1330, 1337 (N.D.Ga. 2005); Sussman v. Salem, Saxon & Nielsen, P.A., 153 F.R.D. 689, 694 (M.D. Ga. 1994).

"Motions for reconsideration should not be used to raise legal arguments which could and should have been made before the judgment was issued." Lockard v. Equifax, Inc., 163 F.3d 1259, 1267 (11th Cir. 1998); see also Collins v. Int'l Longshoremen's Ass'n Local 1423, No. 2:09-cv-093, 2013 WL 393096, at *1 (S.D. Ga. 2013 Jan. 30, 2013) ("Motions for reconsideration should not be used to relitigate issues which have already been found lacking." (internal quotations omitted)); Michael Linet, Inc. v. Vill. of Wellington, Fla., 408 F.3d 757, 763 (11th Cir. 2005) ("[A party] cannot use a Rule 59(e) motion to relitigate old matters, raise argument or present evidence that could have been raised prior to the entry of judgment.") . Further, Rule 59(e) "is not a vehicle for rehashing arguments already rejected by the court or for refuting the court's prior decision." Wendy's Int'l v. Nu-Cape Constr., Inc., 169 F.R.D. 680, 686 (M.D. Ga. 1996).

Gold Cross moves for reconsideration based on a need to correct clear error or prevent manifest injustice. "A motion to reconsider is properly brought to correct a clear error in the court's interpretation of either the facts or the law. It should be used in order to prevent manifest injustice, however it is an extreme measure, and substantial discretion rests with the court in granting such a motion." Medley v. Westpoint Stevens, Inc., 162 F.R.D. 697, 698 (M.D. Ala. 1995) (internal citations omitted). "This ordinarily requires a showing of clear and obvious error where the interests of justice demand correction.'" McGuire v. Ryland Grp., Inc., 497 F.Supp.2d 1356, 1358 (M.D. Fla. 2007) (quoting Prudential Sec, Inc. v. Emerson, 919 F.Supp. 415, 417 (M.D. Fla. 1996)). "An error is not 'clear and obvious' if the legal issues are *at least arguable.'" United States v. Battle, 272 F.Supp.2d 1354, 1358 (N.D.Ga. 2003) (quoting Am. Home Assurance Co. v. Glenn Estess & Assocs., Inc., 763 F.2d 1237, 1239 (11th Cir. 1985)).

To support its claim of clear error, Gold Cross first argues that a case relied upon by CHOA and the Court, Gay v. Piggly Wiggly S., 358 S.E.2d 468 (Ga.Ct.App. 1987), actually supports a contrary result. However, the Piggly Wiggly court addressed both a factually and legally distinguishable issue. In Piggly Wiggly, the plaintiff was injured by the driver of a Piggly Wiggly truck. Id. at 469. Following that injury, the plaintiff purportedly received negligent care from two doctors and an individual employed by Physical Therapy Associates, Inc. ("PTA"). Id. at 470. The appeal, which addressed appropriate venue, centered on whether the defendants were successive rather than joint tortfeasors. Id. The trial court held that Piggly Wiggly was the original tortfeasor and PTA the successive. Id. For that reason, the court transferred the Piggly Wiggly portion of the action to another county. Id. The appellants argued that the driver and doctors, as well as their respective employers, were joint tortfeasors making the original venue appropriate. In addressing the respective relationships between the tortfeasors, the Georgia Court of Appeals posed the following two options as to their employers:

[I]f, under the circumstances of this case, the employees of Piggly Wiggly and PTA can be considered to be classic joint tortfeasors as between each other, then Piggly Wiggly and PTA, as vicarious joint tortfeasors with their respective employees, can be considered to be classic joint tortfeasors as between themselves and venue in Fulton County would be proper. If, on the other hand, the employees cannot be considered to be classic joint tortfeasors as between each other, then neither can Piggly Wiggly and PTA[.]

Id. at 471.

Gold Cross focuses its attention on this quote and argues that the Court committed clear error by not relying on it for its conclusion on the contribution issue. The Court disagrees. Factually, this Court was presented with a single hospital that contracted with an ambulance service which then selected its drivers. In contrast, the Piggly Wiggly court was presented with two distinct sets of employees and employers. To put the distinction into visual terms, the relationship between the Piggly Wiggly entities (two employers and their two employees) forms a square. In the case at bar, the relationship is more akin to a straight line: CHOA hired Gold Cross and Gold Cross in turn selected its drivers.

As quoted above, the Piggly Wiggly court presented two options. If the employees were considered joint tortfeasors amongst each other, then their employers could be vicarious joint tortfeasors. If the employees were not joint tortfeasors amongst each other, then their employers would not be either. The legal significance of these two options, however, is materially impacted [ by the language that precedes the court's presentation of them:

Accordingly, in some legal senses, including the| satisfaction of constitutional venue requirements, joint tortfeasors is a somewhat broader concept, embracing more than merely those individuals whose own, separate acts of negligence have allegedly produced a single injury and who have, as among themselves, an independent right of contribution. Joint tortfeasors is not limited to this concept of classic joint tortfeasors, but may extend also to include the concept of vicarious joint tortfeasors.

Id. (internal quotation marks omitted) (emphasis added). The law stated in Piggly Wiggly applies to appropriate venue. Indeed, the court expressly recognized that when addressing venue, the courts 6 may expand the traditional joint tortfeasor doctrine to consider vicarious joint tortfeasors. Expanding the definition as it applies to venue makes sense, as the plaintiff's selection of forum will necessarily occur prior to any discovery on the merits of a joint tortfeasor relationship. Importantly, however, the PigglyWiggly court ...


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