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HANSEN v. CALDWELL'S DIVING CO.

June 7, 2005.

ERIC C. HANSEN, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CALDWELL'S DIVING CO., INC., et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MARY COOPER, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter comes before the Court on pro se plaintiffs' motion for leave to file a motion for relief from judgment, entered in Civil Action Nos. 94-1751 and 00-3805, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 60(a) and (b), as required by a November 30, 2000 order in Civil Action No. 00-3805. The Court, for the reasons stated herein, will deny plaintiffs' motion for leave to file a Rule 60 motion.

BACKGROUND

  I. Procedural History from 1994 to 2001

  Plaintiff pro se, Eric C. Hansen ("Hansen") filed a complaint in February 1994 in the Court of Common Pleas for the Fourteenth Judicial Circuit in Beaufort, South Carolina, seeking damages for injuries he sustained in 1991 while working on a crane barge owned by his employer Caldwell's Diving Co., Inc (the "SC Action"). (11-29-00 Op. & Ord. at 1.) Hansen's South Carolina attorney later retained an attorney in New Jersey to file a similar complaint in this Court against Caldwell's Diving Co., Inc., a/k/a Caldwell Diving Co., Inc. ("Caldwell"), and Cargo Gear, Inc., Civil Action No. 94-1751 (the "NJ Action"), in case defendants successfully moved to dismiss the SC Action on jurisdictional grounds. (Id. at 1-2.) The NJ Action was voluntarily dismissed with prejudice because the defendants did not oppose jurisdiction in South Carolina. (Id. at 2.)

  Hansen executed and delivered a written offer to settle the SC Action for $1,138,960 in cash along with a full waiver of a Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act ("LHWCA") lien in the amount of $181,160.04. (1-10-05 Hansen Cert., Ex. 4, 5-12-00 3d Cir. Op., at 2; Id., Ex. 9, Ord. Granting Moran's Mot., at 1.) Hansen refused to sign the releases after the defendants accepted the offer, however. (1-10-05 Hansen Cert., Ex. 4, 5-12-00 3d Cir. Op., at 2.) Defendants' motion to enforce the settlement was granted and an order was issued dismissing the SC Action with prejudice on June 12, 1996. (Id.) The portion of the settlement involving Employers Insurance of Wausau's ("Wausau") waiver of the LHWCA lien was conditioned on Hansen's release of all future claims under the LHWCA.*fn1 (1-10-05 Hansen Cert., Ex. 9, Ord. Granting Moran's Mot., at 1.) That portion of the settlement was never consummated.*fn2 (Id.) Hansen's then attorney, Robert J. Moran, accordingly placed the disputed $181,160.04 in an escrow account. (Id.)

  Hansen, proceeding pro se, moved to reopen the NJ Action in November, 1998. (11-29-00 Op. & Ord. at 2.) This Court granted Hansen's motion. (Id.) The defendants in that action moved to dismiss on res judicata grounds on March 22, 1999. (Id.) The Court treated defendants' motions as motions for summary judgment. (Id.) The Court found, on June 29, 1999, that the NJ Action was "nearly identical" to the SC Action, which had been dismissed with prejudice pursuant to a settlement agreement, because it alleged the same cause of action against the same defendants based on the same set of facts. (Id.) The Court concluded, therefore, that the NJ Action was barred by res judicata and granted defendants' motions. (Id.)

  Hansen appealed our decision to the Third Circuit on July 13, 1999. (Id.) The Third Circuit affirmed our decision on May 12, 2000. (Id.) Hansen then moved for default judgment in the NJ Action on May 17, 2000. (Id.) The Court denied Hansen's motion for default judgment, on June 23, 2000, finding Hansen's motion to be frivolous, and notifying Hansen of the possibility of sanctions if further frivolous filings continued. (Id. at 2-3.)

  Hansen and his wife, Gail A. Hansen, initiated an action, under Civil Action No. 00-3805, in this Court on August 7, 2000 against Caldwell Diving Co., Inc., James D. Caldwell, Marion K. Caldwell, The Caldwell Group, and certain unknown individuals and companies. (Id. at 3.) The defendants moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the claims raised therein were barred by the doctrine of res judicata and the statute of limitations. (Id.) The defendants also moved for Rule 11 sanctions, contending that the complaint was frivolous and warranted the imposition of monetary sanctions to deter Hansen from further filing frivolous pleadings. (Id.) The Court granted defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint and motion for sanctions on November 29, 2000. (Id. at 12.) The Court also enjoined Hansen from filing any further papers related to the subject of this case without prior approval of the district court. (Id. at 13.) The Court stated:
Before leave shall be granted to file any papers, Hansen must file a certification or attestation that the claims he wishes to present are new claims never before raised and disposed on the merits by any federal court and that he knows of no reason to believe his claims are foreclosed by controlling law.
(Id.) The Third Circuit affirmed our decision on October 9, 2001. (dkt. entry no. 16.) Hansen litigated his claim under the LHWCA before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"). (1-14-05 Hansen Cert., Ex. 5, 12-5-02 Compl. at 2.) The ALJ determined that Hansen was a seaman pursuant to the Jones Act and was excluded from coverage under the LHWCA on August 7, 1998. (Id.) Hansen's final appeal of that decision was dismissed by the United States Supreme Court on November 26, 2001. (Id.) The United States Department of Labor issued a letter to Hansen advising him that he was not covered by the LHWCA and that funds paid to him must be re-paid to Wausau. (Id.; Id., Ex. 6, Ord. Granting Hansen's Mot., at 2.)

  II. Procedural History in South Carolina Court Beginning in 2002

  Wausau filed a complaint, on December 6, 2002, in the South Carolina Court of Common Pleas against Hansen and Moran demanding entry of judgment against defendants in the amount of $181,160.04 plus accrued interest and costs. (1-14-05 Hansen Cert., Ex. 5, 12-6-05 Compl., at 3.) Hansen filed an answer and counterclaim against Wausau, on January 16, 2003, asserting, inter alia, that he was entitled to collection of the lien. (Id., Ex. D., Pl.'s Response Hansen's Mot., at 3.) Moran filed a motion, on December 31, 2002, requesting that the contested escrow funds be deposited with the court. (Hansen Br. at 12.) Hansen then filed a crossclaim against Moran for breach of contract, negligence, breach of trust, and violation of the Unfair Trade Practices Act. (1-14-05 Hansen Cert., Ex. 9, Ord. Granting Moran's Mot., at 2.) Hansen filed a motion for leave to file a third-party complaint against Caldwell on December 3, 2003. (Id., Ex. D, Pl.'s Response to Hansen's Mot., at 3.) Moran withdrew his motion to deposit the escrow funds with the court on December 18, 2003. (Id., Ex C, Ord. Granting Hansen's Mot., at 1.) The South Carolina Court of Common Pleas granted Hansen's motion for judgment on the pleadings on January 26, 2004 holding that Wausau's claim against Hansen was not a cognizable cause of action. (Id., Ex. 6, Ord. Granting Hansen's Mot., at 5.) The court ordered Moran to release the escrow funds to Hansen within ten days of service of the order. (Id.) Wausau filed a motion for reconsideration and alteration of the court's order on the grounds that: (1) Wausau had a valid judicially created lien under LHWCA and (2) the court lacked jurisdiction to order the escrow funds be given to Hansen. (2-2-05 Hansen Cert., Ex. 7, Pl.'s Reconsideration Mot.)

  The South Carolina Court of Common Pleas granted Wausau's reconsideration motion in part relating to the release of the escrow funds ("February 18, 2004 Order"). (Id., Ex. 8, 2-18-04 Ord.) The court found that because Moran withdrew his motion to deposit funds with the court, there was no pending motion regarding the funds. (Id.) The court later amended its February 18, 2004 Order, on February 20, 2004, redacting language that indicated that Moran withdrew his motion to deposit funds with the court. (Id., Ex. 9, 2-20-04 Ord.) Hansen's attorney, David B. Marvel, filed a motion to compel release of the escrow funds on behalf of his client on March 2, 2004. (Id., Ex. 10, Mot. Compel.) The court denied that motion on March 9, 2004, finding that the court had not ordered the funds to be held in escrow and therefore lacked jurisdiction to order the funds released. (Id., Ex. 11, Ord. Denying Mot. Compel.) The South Carolina Court of Common Pleas, during oral argument on April 5, 2004, granted Moran's: (1) summary judgment motion and dismissed the crossclaims against Moran and (2) motion to deposit the escrow funds with the court. (Id., Ex. 12, Judgment in a Civil Case, at 2.)

  Hansen filed a third-party complaint against Caldwell, on April 13, 2004, for maintenance and cure and breach of the settlement agreement. (1-14-05 Hansen Cert., Ex. 7, 3d Party Compl.) Caldwell moved to dismiss the complaint, on August 13, 2004, arguing that: (1) plaintiff initiated the action beyond the statute of limitation; (2) the complaint failed to state a cause of action; and (3) the claim for maintenance and cure was barred by res judicata. (Id., Ex. 8, Mot. Dismiss.)

  The South Carolina Court of Common Pleas considered Marvel's motion to be relieved as Hansen's counsel and whether Hansen's claims should be removed to federal court at a hearing held on August 12, 2004. (Id., Ex. 10, Dismissal Ord., at 1.) Hansen informed the court that he wanted his claims against Wausau and Caldwell to be removed to federal court in New Jersey. (Id. at 2.) The court advised Hansen that removal to a federal court in New Jersey ...


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