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Bethel v. Berkshire Hathaway Homestate Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

June 17, 2019

MICHAEL BETHEL, Plaintiff,
v.
BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY HOMESTATE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO ALTER OR AMEND JUDGMENT

          CHRISTINE M. ARGUELLO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Michael Bethel's Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment. (Doc. # 104.) Defendant Berkshire Hathaway Homestate Insurance Company filed a Response (Doc. # 107) on March 15, 2019, and Plaintiff filed a Reply (Doc. # 108) on March 29, 2019. Based on the following reasons, Plaintiff's Motion is denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Court detailed the factual background of this case in its Order Granting Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and Denying Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. (Doc. # 101.) The Court's previous Order is incorporated by reference, and the details explained therein need not be repeated here. The Court recounts only the facts necessary to address Plaintiff's Motion to Alter Judgment.

         This case involves an insurance dispute arising from a fire that occurred in December 2016 at a property that Plaintiff owned. The property (“Covered Property”) was insured by Defendant, and the policy (“Policy”) was in effect at the time of the fire. Defendant investigated the incident and determined the fire was accidental and that the Covered Property suffered a total loss that was covered by the Policy. (Id. at 1-2.)

         Plaintiff had purchased the Covered Property for $100, 000 in May 2016. Based on a certified appraisal, Defendant calculated that the value of the Covered Property at the time of the December 2016 fire-seven months after Plaintiff had purchased it-was $109, 000. Plaintiff asserts that, based on the terms of the Policy, he is entitled to the policy limit of $407, 000 rather than the Covered Property's market value of $109, 000. (Id. at 2-3.)

         The parties filed cross Motions for Summary Judgment (Doc. ## 55, 63), and on January 28, 2019, the Court entered an Order Granting Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and Denying Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. # 101). After interpreting the language of the Policy, the Court rejected Plaintiff's argument that Defendant's evaluation of the Covered Property's market value constituted a breach of Defendant's contractual duties. Specifically, the Court found that “evaluating the Covered Property's market value was consistent with Defendant's obligation to determine the property's [Actual Cash Value].” (Doc. # 101 at 13.) Accordingly, the Clerk of the Court entered Final Judgment in favor of Defendant and against Plaintiff. (Doc. # 102.)

         Plaintiff subsequently filed the instant Motion in which he argues that the Court should alter or amend its judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) gives federal courts the power to alter or amend judgments under certain circumstances. Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e). The Rule provides that no later than 28 days after the entry of a judgment, a party may file a motion “to alter or amend” the judgment. Id. “The ‘narrow aim' of Rule 59(e) is ‘to make clear that the district court possesses the power to rectify its own mistakes in the period immediately following the entry of judgment.'” Greene v. Town of Blooming Grove, 935 F.2d 507, 512 (2d. Cir. 1991) (quoting White v. N.H. Dep't of Emp't Sec., 455 U.S. 445, 451 (1982)). “The granting of a motion to alter or amend is an extraordinary remedy which is used sparingly in order to further the strong public policy interest in finalizing litigation and conserving judicial resources.” Sala v. United States, 251 F.R.D. 614, 619 (D. Colo. 2008) (quoting Torre v. Federated Mut. Ins. Co., 906 F.Supp. 616, 619 (D. Kan. 1995)). Accordingly, “[m]otions to alter or amend judgment are regarded with disfavor.” Kerber v. Qwest Group Life Ins. Plan, 727 F.Supp.2d 1076, 1077 (D. Colo. 2010) (citing Mellon v. Cessna Aircraft Co., 64 F.Supp.2d 1061, 1063 (D. Kan. 1999)).

         The Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit recognizes three basic grounds upon which a Rule 59(e) motion may be granted: “(1) an intervening change in the controlling law, (2) when new evidence previously was unavailable, and (3) the need to correct clear error or prevent manifest injustice.” Hayes Family Tr. v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 845 F.3d 997, 1004 (10th Cir. 2017) (quoting Servants of the Paraclete v. Does, 204 F.3d 1005, 1012 (10th Cir. 2000)). A Rule 59(e) motion is not an appropriate vehicle “to revisit issues already addressed or advance arguments that could have been raised in prior briefing.” Servants of the Paraclete, 204 F.3d at 1012 (citing Van Skiver v. United States, 952 F.2d 1241, 1243 (10th Cir. 1991)). Rather, relief under Rule 59(e) is appropriate only where “the court has misapprehended the facts, a party's position, or the controlling law.” Id.

         III. ANALYSIS

         Plaintiff advances three arguments in support of his Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment pursuant to Rule 59(e). Specifically, Plaintiff asserts that alteration or amendment is warranted based on: “Surprise” (Doc. # 104 at 2); new evidence (id. at 3); and the need to correct a clear error in the Court's prior ruling (id. at 5). The Court will address each argument in turn.

         A. ...


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