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Cedar Lane Farms, Corp. v. Besancon

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

December 21, 2017




         This matter is before the Court on the motion of plaintiff Cedar Lane Farms, Corp. (“CLF”) to vacate the Court's decision and judgment dismissing CLF's complaint against defendant United States Department of Energy (“DOE”) (Doc. Nos. 18[1] and 19 [“JE”]), and for leave to file an amended complaint. (Doc. No. 20 [“Mot.”].) DOE opposed the motion (Doc. No. 22 [“Opp'n”]), and plaintiff filed a reply (Doc. No. 23 [“Reply”]). For the reasons that follow, the motion is denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The factual background of this case is detailed in the Court's memorandum opinion from which CLF seeks relief. See Cedar Lane, 2017 WL 1155564, at *1-2. Briefly, CLF leased certain property from defendants William and Sandra Besancon (“property”). CLF sublet a portion of the property to Touchstone Research Laboratory, Ltd. (“Touchstone”) pursuant to a subrecipient agreement for an algae research project that Touchstone was performing for DOE (“project”). As part of the project, certain assets were purchased and constructed on the property (“assets”). The subrecipient agreement provides that at the end of the project, Touchstone would request that DOE transfer the assets to Touchstone, who would in turn transfer them to CLF, but Touchstone could not guarantee that DOE would transfer ownership of the assets. Id. at *1 (“[Touchstone] cannot guarantee that [DOE] will transfer ownership at the end of the project and therefore title may reside with DOE even after the completion of the project.”) (quoting subrecipient agreement).

         CLF's complaint sought declaratory judgment that DOE has no ownership interest in the assets. CLF also sought declaratory judgment that the Besancons had no ownership interest in the assets, and a declaration that the assets are the personal property of CLF. Id. at *2 (citation omitted).

         DOE moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) on the grounds that the government has not waived sovereign immunity from suit. The Court agreed, finding that although the complaint satisfied the first requirement of an action under the Administrative Procedures Act (“APA”) by seeking non-monetary relief, it did not meet the second requirement-that DOE acted unlawfully. Id. at *3. Thus, the Court granted DOE's motion to dismiss and, because there was no independent basis for jurisdiction over CLF's claims against the Besancons, those claims were dismissed without prejudice. Id. at *3-4.

         In the instant motion, CLF contends that facts have emerged after the original complaint was filed which cure the jurisdictional defects of the original complaint against DOE. Specifically, CLF had the assets valued “and discovered that the per unit fair market value of the Assets was less than $5, 000.” (Mot. at 109.[2]) CLF argues that, pursuant to 2 C.F.R. § 910.360(g), assets with this valuation become CLF's property with no further obligation to DOE. The motion states that when CLF advised DOE of the assets' valuation, DOE responded that the value was greater than $5, 000.00 and demanded payment. (Id. at 109-110.) According to CLF, DOE's disagreement with CLF's valuation and demand for payment constitutes an unlawful act which satisfies the second requirement for an APA action, and confers subject matter jurisdiction upon the Court. Thus, CLF contends that it should be permitted to amend the complaint to assert these new facts. (Id. at 109-110, 113.)


         A. Standard of Review

         Pursuant to Rule 59, CLF seeks to vacate the Court's dismissal of its claims against DOE and, then, to file an amended complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 15. Post-judgment Rule 15 motions turn on the same factors as the Rule 59 inquiry. Morse v. McWhorter, 290 F.3d 795, 799 (6th Cir. 2002) (“Where a timely motion to amend judgment is filed under Rule 59(e), the Rule 15 and Rule 59 inquiries turn on the same factors.”) (citations 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 previously available; 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)). Rule 59 does not permit a party to relitigate matters that were or could have been raised earlier, or to argue a new legal theory. Howard v. United States, 533 F.3d 472, 475 (6th Cir. 2008) (citations omitted).

         B. Analysis

         1. Rule 59 does not support the motion

         CLF contends that “[n]ew facts emerged after the filing of the [c]omplaint, which [CLF] believes will resolve the jurisdictional issue that formed the basis of the motion to dismiss and [CLF] simply seeks to amend the [c]omplaint to add these facts.” (Mot. at 111.) But the emergence of new facts after the complaint is filed is not the standard. “To constitute ‘newly discovered evidence, ' the evidence must have been previously unavailable[]” during prior proceedings. Leisure Caviar, LLC v. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Serv., 616 F.3d 612, 617 (6th Cir. 2010) (quoting GenCorp, Inc. v. Am. Int'l Underwriters,178 F.3d 804, 834 (6th Cir. 1999)); see also Cameron v. Hess Corp., No. 2:12-CV-00168, 2013 WL 6157999, at *3 (S.D. Ohio Nov. 25, 2013) (“A ...

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