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Lima v. Aetna Life Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

September 22, 2014

EDISON LIMA, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
AETNA LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, And FEDERAL EXPRESS CORPORATION SHORT TERM DISABILITY PLAN, Defendants.

Thomas Joseph Hagner, Esquire, Hagner & Zohlman, LLC, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, Attorney for Plaintiff Edison Lima, Jr.

Elizabeth Marie Fong Low, Esquire, Federal Express Corporation, Memphis, Tennessee, Attorney for Defendants Aetna Life Insurance Company and, Federal Express Corporation Short Term Disability Plan.

OPINION

NOEL L. HILLMAN, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court by way of Plaintiff Edison Lima, Jr.'s motion [Doc. No. 24] seeking an extension of time to file an appeal pursuant to Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a)(5). Defendants oppose Plaintiff's motion. The Court has considered the parties' submissions and decides this matter pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78.

For the reasons expressed below, Plaintiff's motion will be denied.

I. BACKGROUND

This Court issued an Opinion and Order on December 31, 2013 denying Plaintiff's summary judgment motion and granting Defendants' motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 in this ERISA matter. (See Op. [Doc. No. 22] 25, Dec. 31, 2013; Order [Doc. No. 23] 1, Dec. 31, 2013.) Generally, Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a)(1)(A) requires that a party file a notice of appeal within thirty (30) days after the judgment or order appealed from. FED. R. APP. P. 4(a)(1)(A). Accordingly, Plaintiff had thirty days from the date of the December 31, 2013 Opinion and Order to file a notice of appeal regarding this matter - that is until January 30, 2014. Despite recognizing this deadline, [1] Plaintiff failed to file a notice of appeal within the time provided for under Rule 4(a)(1)(A).

On February 5, 2014, six (6) days after the thirty-day deadline expired, Plaintiff filed the present motion for an extension of time to file his appeal under Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a)(5). (Pl.'s Notice of Mot. for Extension of Time of File Appeal [Doc. No. 24] 1.) Simultaneously, Plaintiff also filed a formal notice of appeal. (Notice of Appeal [Doc. No. 25] 1.) In support of the present motion, Plaintiff submitted a one page Declaration of Counsel from his attorney, Thomas J. Hanger, Esquire. Hanger, on behalf of his client, purportedly seeks this "extension of time to file the within appeal due to the fact that" Hanger was "on trial in the matter of Chang v. Friedmann, Docket No. BUR-L-2756-07, Burlington County Superior Court, Law Division" from January 6, 2014 up to and including the date on which the present motion was filed - February 5, 2014.[2] (Decl. of Counsel in Supp. of Notice of Mot. for Extension of Time to File Appeal [Doc. No. 24-1] ¶ 3.) As a result of the timing of the Chang trial in Burlington County Superior Court, Hanger contends that he "did not have the opportunity to discuss th[is] matter with [his] client[, ]" Plaintiff Edison Lima, Jr. (Id.) Defendants oppose Plaintiff's motion, primarily arguing that Plaintiff cannot establish either excusable neglect or good cause as required under Appellate Rule 4(a)(5).

II. ANALYSIS

A. Appealing an Order of the District Court

As both the United States Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit have recognized, the timely filing of a notice of appeal is mandatory and jurisdictional. Hohn v. United States, 524 U.S. 236, 247 (1998) (citing Torres v. Oakland Scavenger Co., 487 U.S. 312, 315 (1988)); Benn v. First Judicial Dist. of Pa., 426 F.3d 233, 237 (3d Cir. 2005) (explaining that "[c]ompliance with the Rules of Appellate Procedure for proper filing of a notice of appeal is mandatory and jurisdictional.'") (citing Lusardi v. Xerox Corp., 975 F.2d 964, 970 n.7 (3d Cir. 1992)); see also FED. R. APP. P. 3(a)(1) (providing in pertinent part that "[a]n appeal permitted by law as of right from a district court to a court of appeals may be taken only by filing a notice of appeal with the district clerk within the time allowed by Rule 4.").

"28 U.S.C. § 2107(a) states that: Except as otherwise provided in this section, no appeal shall bring any judgment, order or decree in an action, suit or proceeding of a civil nature before a court of appeals for review unless notice of appeal is filed, within thirty days after the entry of such judgment, order or decree.'" Ragguette v. Premier Wines & Spirits, 691 F.3d 315, 322-23 (3d Cir. 2012). In accordance with this statutory authority, Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a)(1)(A) requires that "[i]n a civil case, except as provided in Rules 4(a)(1)(B), 4(a)(4), and 4(c), the notice of appeal required by Rule 3 must be filed with the district clerk within 30 days after entry of the judgment or order appealed from." FED. R. APP. P. 4(a)(1)(A).

Despite the general rule that a notice of appeal must be filed within thirty days, "district courts do have limited authority to grant an extension of the 30-day time period.'" Ragguette, 691 F.3d at 323 (citing Bowles v. Russell, 551 U.S. 205, 208 (2007)). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2107(c), a "district court may, upon motion filed not later than 30 days after the expiration of the time otherwise set for bringing appeal, extend the time for appeal upon a showing of excusable neglect or good cause." Accordingly, "Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a)(5) authorizes a party to file" a motion seeking to extend this thirty-day time period. Ragguette, 691 F.3d at 323. Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a)(5) provides in pertinent part that "[t]he district court may extend the time to file a notice of appeal if: (i) a party so moves no later than 30 days after the time prescribed by this Rule 4(a) expires; and (ii) regardless of whether its motion is filed before or during the 30 days after the time prescribed by this Rule 4(a) expires, that party shows excusable neglect or good cause."[3] FED. R. APP. P. 4(a)(5)(A).

In the present motion, Plaintiff seeks such an extension pursuant to Appellate Rule 4(a)(5)(A). There is no dispute that Plaintiff has satisfied the first requirement of Appellate Rule 4(a)(5)(A) given that he filed the present motion for an extension just six days after the thirty-day period provided for in Appellate Rule 4(a)(1)(A) expired. (See also Defs.' Resp. in Opp'n to Pl.'s Notice of Mot. for Extension of time to File Appeal [Doc. No. 28] 2) (observing that "Plaintiff's counsel has filed [the present] motion within that period" of time provided for ...


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