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Smith v. Sprint/United Management Co.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

October 6, 2017

ANTHONY SMITH, Plaintiff,
v.
SPRINT/UNITED MANAGEMENT COMPANY, and LINDSEY MASON, Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S RULE 60(b) MOTION

          William J. Martínez, Judge

         Plaintiff Anthony Smith (“Plaintiff”) brings this action pro se against Defendants Sprint/United Management Company and Lindsey Mason (collectively, “Defendants”) alleging employment discrimination and retaliation based on race, breach of contract against Sprint, and tortious interference with contractual relations against Mason. (ECF No. 56.) The Court previously entered judgment which dismissed Plaintiff's claims without prejudice. (ECF No. 128.) Before the Court is Plaintiff's “Rule 60(B) Motion, ” which asks the Court to vacate judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(1) on grounds of “mistake.” (“Motion, ” ECF No. 135.) For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is a former Sprint employee who was terminated in July 2013 for alleged “poor performance after receiving several oral and written warnings and corrective action notices.” (ECF No. 17 at 8.) Plaintiff asserts that Defendants discriminated against him on the basis of race and gender, and that Sprint retaliated against him for filing an EEOC charge. (ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 11, 16, 23-25.) Plaintiff further contends that Sprint's employment manuals created an employment contract, and on this basis Plaintiff asserts claims for breach of contract against Sprint and tortious interference with contract against Mason, Plaintiff's former supervisor. (Id. ¶¶ 49-73.)

         On April 6, 2016, Defendants moved for summary judgment. (ECF No. 73.) Plaintiff filed a response on May 24, 2016 (“Response, ” ECF No. 86), however, his Response was missing pages 42-46. Plaintiff was notified by the Clerk of Court via U.S. Mail on May 25, 2016 that those pages were missing. (Id.) Since that time, Plaintiff has received and responded to mail sent to that address from the Clerk of Court.

         On February 24, 2017, United States Magistrate Judge Kristen L. Mix issued an order which recommended granting Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, and further recommended entering judgment in favor of Defendants on all claims. (“Recommendation, ” ECF No. 121.) In Judge Mix's Recommendation, she noted that Plaintiff was notified that “pages 42-46 of his Response were missing from Plaintiff's submission to the Court, but Plaintiff did not provide the missing pages or otherwise amend his Response to correct this omission.” (Id. at 1.)

         Plaintiff filed an objection to Judge Mix's recommendation, in which he argued that he was not aware “that his Response was missing pages 42-46, ” and that had he known this, Plaintiff would have “provided the clerk of the court the missing pages.” (“Objection, ” ECF No. 124 at 1-2.) In his Objection Plaintiff further argued that had Judge Mix read the missing pages she “would not have recommended that Defendants' [M]otion for [S]ummary [J]udgment be granted in its entirety.” (Id. at 2.)

         On March 27, 2017, the Court adopted Judge Mix's Recommendation, granted Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, and entered judgment in favor of Defendants on all claims in this matter. (“Dismissal Order, ” ECF No. 127.) In the Dismissal Order, the Court noted that “Plaintiff does not attach the missing pages in his Objection nor does he assert why Judge Mix's analysis would have changed based on those missing pages.” (Id. at 6.) On April 21, 2017, after judgment was entered (ECF No. 128), Plaintiff filed a Notice of Appeal as to the Court's Dismissal Order (ECF No. 129). On July 21, 2017, Plaintiff filed the instant Motion asking the Court to vacate the Dismissal Order pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(1) on grounds of “mistake.” (ECF No. 135 at 3.) As for the “mistake, ” Plaintiff asserts that he mistakenly filed an incomplete Response brief and that recently, on June 18, 2017, he “searched his 1995 Honda civic that has been inoperative and discovered that [] pages 42-46 had slid underneath the passenger seat of his vehicle.” (Id. at 4.)[1] Defendants responded on August 11, 2017 (ECF No. 136), and Plaintiff replied on August 25, 2017 (ECF No. 137).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(1) permits the court to relieve a party from a final judgment, order or other proceeding on the grounds of “mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect.” The rule “seeks to strike a delicate balance between two countervailing impulses: the desire to preserve the finality of judgments and the incessant command of the court's conscience that justice be done in light of all the facts.” Cessna Fin. Corp. v. Bielenberg Masonry Contracting, Inc., 715 F.3d 1442, 1444 (10th Cir. 1983).

         A motion for relief from a judgment under Rule 60(b) is addressed to the sound discretion of the trial court. Zimmerman v. Quinn, 744 F.2d 81, 82 (10th Cir. 1984); see also LeaseAmerica Corp. v. Eckel, 710 F.2d 1470, 1475 (10th Cir. 1983) (decision whether relief should be granted under Rule 60(b) is discretionary and the ruling should not be disturbed exception for a manifest abuse of discretion). Morever, the Court is “mindful that Rule 60(b) ‘relief is extraordinary and may only be granted in exceptional circumstances.'” Beugler v. Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Ry. Co., 490 F.3d 1224, 1229 (10th Cir. 2007) (citing Amoco Oil Co. v. EPA, 231 F.3d 694, 697 (10th Cir. 2000)).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Plaintiff cites Cashner v. Freedom Stores, Inc. for the “general proposition” that relief should be granted in his favor so long as he demonstrates “an excusable litigation mistake.” (ECF No. 135 at 4 (citing Cashner, 98 F.3d 572, 576 (10th Cir. 1996)).) Plaintiff contends that he was not on notice of the missing pages and that his failure to submit those missing pages was “accidental.” (Id. at 3.) Plaintiff further asserts that this “accidental” incomplete submission “qualifies as a mistake under Rule 60(b)(1). (Id. at 5.)

         The Court disagrees with Plaintiff. In the Court's view, Plaintiff's fails to establish “an excusable litigation mistake.” See Cashner, 98 F.3d at 576. The burden of proving excusable mistake rests with the party moving to have the judgment set aside. See Pelican Prod. Corp. v. Marino, 893 F.2d 1143, 1146 (10th Cir. 1990). The Court may consider the reason for the mistake-including whether it was within the reasonable control of the movant-and whether the movant acted in good faith. See Jennings v. Rivers, 394 F.3d 850, 856 (10th Cir. 2005). Further, the reason for the mistake is the most important factor in determining whether the mistake is excusable. Id. at 857. “Carelessness by a litigant or his counsel does not afford a basis for relief under Rule 60(b)(1).” Pelican Prod. Corp., 893 F.2d at 1146; see also Standard Newspapers, Inc. v. King, 375 F.2d 115, 116 (2d Cir. 1967) (denying relief based on attorney's careless actions in misplacing papers in an ...


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