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Minerley v. Aetna, Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

May 5, 2017

JAY MINERLEY, Individually and as Class Representative, Plaintiff,
v.
AETNA, INC., AETNA HEALTH, INC., AETNA HEALTH INSURANCE CO., AETNA LIFE INSURANCE CO., and THE RAWLINGS COMPANY, LLC, Defendants.

          KLEHR HARRISON HARVEY BRANZBURG LLP, Charles A. Ercole, Esq., Carianne P. Torrissi, Esq., KANNEBECKER LAW Charles Kannebecker, Esq. Counsel for Plaintiff

          LOWEY DANNENBERG COHEN & HART, P.C., Uriel Rabinovitz, Esq., Richard W. Cohen, Esq., Gerald Lawrence, Esq., Counsel for Defendants

          OPINION

          HILLMAN, United State District Judge

         Presently before the Court is “Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration and Petition to Vacate the Court's April 11, 2017 Order Denying Defendant's Motion to Strike Jury Trial Demand as Moot.” The Court based its ruling on the undisputed fact that none of the operative pleadings contain a jury trial demand. Plaintiff contends that this Court committed legal error because Plaintiff's original complaint, filed in state court, contains a jury trial demand. According to Plaintiff, that demand should control, despite the absence of a demand in the operative pleading.

         The Court holds that it did not commit clear legal error in denying as moot the Motion to Strike Jury Demand. Accordingly, the Motion for Reconsideration will be denied.

         I. RELEVANT FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff filed his original putative class action complaint in New Jersey state court on January 25, 2013. It undisputedly contained a jury demand. It also asserted no less than 33 counts, all asserting state law causes of action.

         On March 7, 2013, Defendants removed the suit from state court, asserting that this Court has federal question subject matter jurisdiction on the basis of ERISA complete preemption, as well as diversity of citizenship subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to the Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. 1332(d). Plaintiff initially moved to remand. But then, prior to the Court ruling on the motion, Plaintiff filed his “First Amended Class Action Complaint” which, by Plaintiff's own admission, mooted the asserted basis for the Motion to Remand, and accordingly Plaintiff withdrew the motion. [See Docket #16] This First Amended Class Action Complaint appears to be substantially similar to the original complaint, in that it also asserts 33 state law claims and contains a jury demand.[1]

         Defendants moved “for summary judgment or in the alternative to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).” [Docket # 18] The Order deciding the motion states: “Defendants' Motion is GRANTED-IN-PART such that all claims of Plaintiffs are dismissed as completely preempted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”) . . . Plaintiff Jay Minerley is GRANTED LEAVE TO AMEND the complaint within thirty (30) days to state a claim under ERISA § 502, 29 U.S.C. § 1132.” [Docket #46]

         Exactly 30 days later, Plaintiff filed his Second Amended Class Action Complaint which asserts only six counts -- all claims pursuant to ERISA -- and contains no jury demand. [Docket #50] This undisputedly is the operative complaint. Defendants' Answer to the Second Amended Class Action Complaint [Docket #86] also contains no jury demand.

         Subsequently, Defendants filed a “Motion to Strike Jury Demand.” On April 11, 2017, in a one-page order, this Court denied as moot the motion stating, “neither the Second Amended Complaint, nor Defendants' Answer thereto, contains a jury demand. See generally Fed. R. Civ. P. 38, ‘Right to A Jury Trial; Demand.'” [Docket #118]

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         In this District, Local Civil Rule 7.1(i) governs motions for reconsideration. Local Civil Rule 7.1(i) will apply rather than Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59 where no final judgment has been entered, but only a partial grant or denial of summary judgment. See Warner v. Twp. of S. Harrison, 885 F.Supp.2d 725, 747-48 (D.N.J. 2012). However, the standard for evaluating the request is the same. Id.

         “The scope of a motion for reconsideration . . . is extremely limited.” Blystone v. Horn, 664 F.3d 397, 415 (3d Cir. 2011). “The purpose of a motion for reconsideration is ‘to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence.'” Lazaridis v. Wehmer, 591 F.3d 666, 669 (3d Cir. 2010) (citing Max's Seafood Cafe ex rel. Lou-Ann, Inc. v. Quinteros, 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir. 1999)). A motion for reconsideration “must rely on one of three grounds: (1) an intervening change in controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence; or (3) the ...


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