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B&S Transport, Inc. v. Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

November 17, 2017

B&S TRANSPORT, INC., et al., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
BRIDGESTONE AMERICAS TIRE OPERATIONS, LLC, et al., DEFENDANTS.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          SARA LIOI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on motion of plaintiffs B&S Transport, Inc. (“B&S”) and Ronnie Harris (“Harris”) (collectively, “plaintiffs”) for reconsideration of the Court's memorandum opinion (Doc. No. 138 [“MO”]) denying plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment, and granting the motion for summary judgment of defendants Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, LLC (“BATO”) and Bridgestone Americas, Inc. (“BA”) (collectively, “defendants”). (Doc. No. 140 [“Mot.”].) Defendants opposed the motion for reconsideration (Doc. No. 141 [“Opp'n”]), [1] and plaintiffs filed a reply (Doc. No. 142 [“Reply”]).

         I. BACKGROUND

         The factual background of this case is detailed in the Court's memorandum opinion from which plaintiffs seek reconsideration. (See MO at 5866-69.) Briefly, Harris, who is African-American, founded B&S, which is owned by Harris and his wife. In 1991, B&S became an authorized dealer of Bridgestone tires; the federal government is its primary customer. Defendants notified plaintiffs in February 2013 that they were terminating B&S's dealership agreement effective December 31, 2013. Plaintiffs contend that defendants terminated the dealership because of race, and brought a complaint asserting one federal claim of race discrimination pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1981, as well as state law claims.

         The parties filed cross motions for summary judgment. Plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment was denied and defendants' motion for summary judgment was granted. In so ruling, the Court found that plaintiffs failed to establish that there was a genuine dispute of material fact with respect to the fourth element of a prima facie case of race discrimination under the McDonnell Douglas/Burdine burden-shifting framework.[2] (MO at 5882.)

         Notwithstanding the Court's finding regarding the fourth element, the Court assumed, for the purpose of analysis, that plaintiffs were able to establish a prima facie case, and proceeded to consider defendants' non-discriminatory reason for terminating plaintiffs' dealership agreement and, then, whether that reason is a pretext for race discrimination. (See MO at 5882-83.) The Court found that plaintiffs advanced no evidence from which a reasonable jury could conclude that defendants' stated reason for terminating plaintiffs' tire dealership was a pretext for race discrimination. (MO at 5889.)

         In their motion, plaintiffs claim that the Court erred in concluding that: (1) plaintiffs did not establish the fourth element of a prima facie case of race discrimination; and (2) there was insufficient evidence from which a reasonable jury could conclude that defendants' stated reason for terminating plaintiffs' dealership was a pretext for race discrimination.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review

         As plaintiffs note at the outset, the federal rules of civil procedure do not provide for motions for reconsideration. Such motions are typically treated as a motion to alter or amend the judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e). McDowell v. Dynamics Corp. of America, 931 F.2d 380, 382 (6th Cir. 1991) (citing Smith v. Hudson, 600 F.2d 60, 62 (6th Cir. 1979)). The purpose of Rule 59(e), however, is not to provide an unhappy litigant with an opportunity to relitigate issues already considered and rejected by the Court. Morgantown Mach. & Hydraulics of Ohio, Inc. v. Am. Piping Prod., Inc., No. 5:15-CV-1310, 2016 WL 3555431, at *3 (N.D. Ohio June 30, 2016) (citation omitted). In other words, a motion for reconsideration is not a substitute for appeal. See CitiMortgage, Inc. v. Nyamusevya, No. 2:13-CV-00680, 2015 WL 1000444, at *4 (S.D. Ohio Mar. 5, 2015) (citing Gore v. AT & T Corp., No. 2:09-CV-854, 2010 WL 3655994, *1 (S.D. Ohio Sept. 14, 2010) (“Motions for reconsideration should not be used as a substitute for appeal nor should they be used as a vehicle for mere disagreement with a district court's opinion.”)). Neither is a Rule 59(e) motion properly used to advance a new legal theory or evidence to support a prior argument when either or both, with due diligence, could have been discovered and offered during the initial consideration of the issue. McConocha v. Blue Cross and Blue Shield Mut. of Ohio, 930 F.Supp. 1182, 1184 (N.D. Ohio 1996) (citation omitted).

         Generally, only three situations justify a district court in altering or amending its judgment: (1) to accommodate an intervening change in controlling law; (2) to account for new evidence not available at trial; or (3) to correct a clear error of law or to prevent a manifest injustice. Rodriguez v. Tenn. Laborers Health & Welfare Fund, 89 F. App'x 949, 959 (6th Cir. 2004) (citing Reich v. Hall Holding Co., 990 F.Supp. 955, 965 (N.D. Ohio 1998)); see also Huff v. FirstEnergy Corp., No. 5:12CV2583, 2014 WL 2441768, at *2 (N.D. Ohio May 29, 2014) (The party seeking to alter or amend judgment under Rule 59(e) “‘must either clearly establish a manifest error of law or must present newly discovered evidence.'”) (quoting Roger Miller Music, Inc. v. Sony/ATV Publ'g, LLC, 477 F.3d 383, 395 (6th Cir. 2007)).

         B. Analysis

         Plaintiffs do not contend that there has been an intervening change in law or new evidence. Rather, plaintiffs argue that the Court committed an error of law. An error occurs where the Court exhibits a “wholesale disregard, misapplication, or failure to recognize controlling precedent.” Huff, 2014 WL 2441768, at *2 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); Jackson v. Ford Motor Co., No. 15-1180, 2016 WL 4533028, at *1 (W.D. Tenn. Mar. 21, 2016) (“A ‘clear error of law' occurs where the original ruling overlooked or disregarded some argument or controlling authority or where the moving party successfully points out a manifest error[.]”) (some internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting United States v. Ladeau, No. 3:10-CR-00242-1, 2012 WL 5838125, at *2 (M.D. Tenn. Nov. 15, 2012) (further citation omitted)).

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