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Cosh v. United States

United States District Court, Third Circuit

November 1, 2013

DOUGLAS COSH, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant.

OPINION

KEVIN McNULTY, District Judge.

The United States of America seeks reconsideration, pursuant to Local Rule 7.1(i), of my Opinion (the "Opinion, " Docket No. 32) and Order (the "Order, " Docket No. 33), filed October 11, 2013, which denied the motion of the United States for summary judgment. I write this unpublished opinion primarily for the parties and will not repeat the analysis in that prior opinion; familiarity with it is assumed. This motion for reconsideration is denied, as such relief is not necessary to correct a clear error of law or to prevent manifest injustice. I deny it without oral argument, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. p. 78. I also deny it without awaiting responding papers, in the interest of efficiency. The government's motion raises no substantial arguments that have not been thoroughly briefed, considered and decided on the main motion.

I. Legal Standard

Motions for reconsideration are governed by Local Civil Rule 7.1(i). Bowers v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletics Assoc., 130 F.Supp.2d 610, 612 (D.N.J. 2001). That Rule states:

[A] motion for reconsideration shall be served and filed within 14 days after the entry of the order or judgment on the original motion by the Judge or Magistrate Judge. A brief setting forth concisely the matter or controlling decisions which the party believes the Judge or Magistrate Judge has overlooked shall be filed with the Notice of Motion.

L. Civ. R. 7.1(i).

A motion for reconsideration is "an extremely limited procedural vehicle." Tehan v. Disability Mgmt. Serus., Inc., 111 F.Supp.2d 542, 549 (D.N.J. 2000) (quoting Resorts Int'l, Inc. v. Greate Bay Hotel and Casino, Inc., 830 F.Supp. 826, 831 (D.N.J. 1992)). The movant has the burden of demonstrating either: (1) an intervening change in the controlling law has occurred; (2) evidence not previously available has become available; or (3) it is necessary to correct a clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice. Max's Seafood Cafe ex rel. Lou-Ann, Inc. v. Quinteros, 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir. 1999); Beety-Monticelli v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 343 F.Appx. 743, 747 (3d Cir. 2009) (non-precedential). In other words, such a motion may be granted where facts or controlling legal authority were presented to, but not considered by, the court. Mauro v. N.J. Supreme Ct., 238 F.Appx. 791, 793 (3d Cir. 2007) (non-precedential).

Reconsideration is not warranted, however, where (1) the movant simply repeats the cases and arguments previously analyzed by the court, Arista Recs., Inc. v. Flea World, Inc., 356 F.Supp.2d 411, 416 (D.N.J. 2005); see also Tehan, 111 F.Supp.2d at 549 ("Motions for reconsideration will not be granted where a party simply asks the court to analyze the same facts and cases it had already considered...."); or (2) the movant has filed the motion merely to disagree with or relitigate the court's initial decision, id.; see Morris v. Siemens Components, Inc., 938 F.Supp. 277, 278 (D.N.J. 1996) ("A party's mere disagreement with a decision of the district court should be raised in the ordinary appellate process and is inappropriate on a motion for reargument."). The motion is not a vehicle for a litigant to raise new arguments or present evidence that could have been raised prior to the initial judgment. See Bapu Corp. v. Choice Hotels Int'l, Inc., Civ. No. 07-5938, 2010 WL 5418972, at *2 (D.N.J. Dec. 23, 2010) (citing P. Schoenfeld Asset Mgmt. LLC v. Cendant Corp., 161 F.Supp.2d 349, 352 (D.N.J. 2001)).

Accordingly, relief pursuant to Rule 7.1 is reserved for those instances where the Court may have "overlooked" pertinent facts or controlling case law. See L. Civ. R. 7.1(i). Because the requirements are so stringent, motions for reconsideration typically are not granted; rather, relief is "an extraordinary remedy" to be granted "sparingly." A.K. Stamping Co., Inc., v. Instrument Specialties Co., Inc., 106 F.Supp.2d 627, 662 (D.N.J. 2000) (quoting NL Indus., Inc., v. Commercial Union Ins. Co., 935 F.Supp. 513, 516 (D.N.J. 1996)).

III. Analysis

The Court refers the parties to the statement of facts in the Court's October 11, 2013 Opinion. Docket No. 32. In that Opinion, I denied Defendant's motion for summary judgment, finding that there was a genuine, material issue of fact as to whether the plaintiff, Douglas Cosh, entered the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area for "purposes" of sport or recreation. In light of the statutory language, relevant case law, and supporting and opposition briefs, this Court held that New Jersey's Landlord Liability Act ("LLA"), N.J. Stat. Ann § 2A:42A-3, applies where a plaintiff entered the premises "for such purposes, " i.e., recreational purposes. I held that Cosh's purpose for entering the premises was relevant and material to that explicit statutory requirement. Therefore, an issue as to Plaintiff's purpose is a "material" one for purposes of summary judgment, and summary judgment is unwarranted where there exists such a genuine issue of material fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The evidence that Cosh entered the premises for the purpose of sport or recreation was materially in conflict. I therefore denied the motion, because, at this procedural stage, I could not hold as a matter of law that Cosh's negligence suit against the government was barred by the LLA.

The United States now argues that this Court's interpretation of the LLA, requiring that a plaintiff be on the premises for "purposes" of sport or recreation, creates a "manifest injustice" and that the decision should be reconsidered. If this Court's decision stands, says the government, "no landowner will ever again benefit from the statute in the manner the New Jersey Legislature intended." Motion for Reconsideration at 4.

That appeal to "manifest injustice" is just another way of saying I got it wrong-or perhaps really, really wrong. With one arguable exception ( see n.6, infra ), the government offers nothing that was not before the Court on the original motion. The government has proffered no proper basis for reconsideration under the Local Rules.[1]

That said, I have reexamined my decision. It is possible that I misread the statute, and wisdom ought not be rejected merely because it comes late. I continue to think, however, that my decision is consonant with the language and intent of the New Jersey statute. The allegedly "unjust" consequences-of which I am skeptical -must be averted, if at all, by the New Jersey Legislature. (And presumably the federal government, if it feels that strongly about the local law that it has incorporated by virtue of 28 U.S.C. § ...


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