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United States of America, ex. rel. Rafter H Construction, LLC v. Big-D Construction Corp.

United States District Court, D. Idaho

January 22, 2019

THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ex. rel. RAFTER H CONSTRUCTION, LLC, an Idaho limited liability company, and NEAL HIKIDA, Plaintiffs,
v.
BIG-D CONSTRUCTION CORP, a Utah corporation, and BIG-D CORPORATION, a Utah corporation and DOE DEFENDANTS 1-20, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          David C. Nye Chief U.S. District Court Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiffs/Relators, Rafter H Construction, LLC, and Neal Hikida's (“Plaintiffs”) Motion for Reconsideration. Dkt. 26. Having reviewed the record and briefs, the Court finds that the facts and legal arguments are adequately presented. Accordingly, in the interest of avoiding further delay, and because the Court finds that the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument, the Court will decide the Motion without oral argument. Dist. Idaho Loc. Civ. R.

         7.1(d)(2)(ii). For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds good cause to GRANT the Motion.

         II. BACKGROUND

         The underlying facts of the case are not overly relevant to the current motion. That said, the Court fully outlined the substantive facts in its prior Decision (Dkt. 25) and incorporates the same herein by reference.

         On October 24, 2018, the Court issued its Memorandum Decision and Order granting Plaintiffs' Motion for an Award of Costs and Attorneys' Fees. In that Decision, the Court found that Plaintiffs were entitled to their requested fees and costs under existing settlement agreements as well as the False Claims Act qui tam provisions. See 31 U.S.C. § 3730(d)(1). The Court struggled, however, to determine whether to direct the award to Plaintiffs themselves or Plaintiffs' counsel. Ultimately, the Court determined that the proper course of action was to award the fees and costs to Plaintiffs (not Plaintiffs' counsel directly) and furthermore, that the award was to be used as an “off-set” of pre-existing debt obligations between the parties.

         Plaintiffs filed the instant motion asking the Court to reconsider its prior decision and instead direct that the award go to Plaintiffs' Counsel directly. Plaintiffs proffer three reasons for their request: “(1) Relators assigned their right to an award of costs and attorneys' fees to counsel; (2) there was no ‘debt' or judgment against Relator / Plaintiff Neal Hikida, and therefore any set off is improper and without any basis; and (3) allowing Defendants a right of set off rewards them for the very fraud perpetrated against the government and thwarts the aims, goals, and intent of the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. § 3729.” Dkt. 26-1, at 2.

         Defendants take issue with each of Plaintiffs' arguments, but most strongly oppose the motion on its face, alleging that the motion is not properly before the Court in the first place. After outlining the applicable legal standard in this case, the Court will begin with a discussion regarding motions to reconsider generally and then address the substance of Plaintiffs' position.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         Plaintiffs do not initially state a rule upon which they base their request for relief. In their reply brief, however, they mention Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) which outlines that:

[A]ny order or other decision, however designated, that adjudicates fewer than all the claims or the rights and liabilities of fewer than all the parties does not end the action as to any of the claims or parties and may be revised at any time before the entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims and all the parties' rights and liabilities.

         In light of the posture of this case-specifically that this case itself is settled-the Court is not entirely sure that Rule 54(b) provides an appropriate avenue for reconsideration. This aside, the Court is not without options. As Defendants correctly note, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59 does “permit[] a district court to reconsider and amend a previous order.” Carroll v. Nakatani, 342 F.3d 934, 945 (9th Cir. 2003). The Ninth Circuit has cautioned, however, that this Rule offers an “extraordinary remedy, to be used sparingly in the interests of finality and conservation of judicial resources.” Id.

(quoting 12 James Wm. Moore et al., Moore's Federal Practice § 59.30[4] (3d ed. 2000)).

         Critically, “a losing party cannot use a Rule 59(e) motion to relitigate old matters or to raise arguments that could have been raised before the entry of judgment.” Coffelt v. Yordy, No. 1:16-CV-00190-CWD, 2016 WL 9724059, at *1 (D. Idaho Nov. 30, 2016); see also Sch. Dist. No. 1J, Multnomah Cnty. v. ACandS, Inc., 5 F.3d 1255, 1263 (9th Cir. 1993).

         Under Rule 59, “there are four limited grounds upon which” a district court may grant a motion for reconsideration: “(1) the motion is necessary to correct manifest errors of fact or law; (2) the moving party presents newly discovered evidence; (3) reconsideration is necessary to prevent manifest injustice; or (4) there is an intervening change in the law.” Coffelt, 2016 WL 9724059 at *1 (citing Turner v. Burlington N. Santa Fe R.R. Co., 338 F.3d 1058, 1063 (9th Cir. 2003)).

         IV. ANALYSIS

         A district court has inherent authority and wide latitude in controlling-among other things-its calendar and docket, as well as its orders and decisions. Ultimately, it is the Court's duty “to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 1. In certain circumstances, this may mean that a Court must reconsider, modify, or even reverse a prior determination.

         The Court does not take reconsideration lightly. Time, expense, and precedent are all concerns the Court must weigh when a party seeks reconsideration of a prior order or decision. To succeed on a motion to reconsider, a party must first establish that they have the right to ask for reconsideration; that is to say, they must establish that one or more of the limited grounds for reconsideration are present. If that is ...


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