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Han v. Hankook Tire Co., Ltd.

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

July 3, 2019

KAREN C. HAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
HANKOOK TIRE CO., LTD., DEFENDANT.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          HONORABLE SARA LIOI, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is the motion of plaintiff Karen C. Han (“Han”), pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e), for reconsideration of the Court's decision dismissing this action. (Doc. No. 23 [“Mot.”].) Defendant Hankook Tire Co., Ltd. (“Hankook”) opposes the motion (Doc. No. 24 [“Opp'n”]), and Han has filed a reply (Doc. No. 25 [“Reply”]). For the reasons that follow, the motion for reconsideration is DENIED.

         I. Background

         The factual and procedural background of this case, as well as the related 2004 case that forms the basis for this Court's judicial estoppel decision, was detailed in the Court's August 28, 2018 Memorandum Opinion for which Han now seeks reconsideration. (Doc. No. 21 [“MO”].) The Court assumes familiarity with this prior ruling. For purposes of providing context for the present motion, only a few salient facts need be restated. In 2004, Han and Peninsula Asset Management (“Peninsula”)-a company for which Han is the sole shareholder-brought a contract action against Hankook in this Court before the late Judge David D. Dowd, Jr. on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. (N.D. Ohio No. 5:04 CV 1153.) Han appealed from Judge Dowd's summary dismissal of the claims. Upon remand from the Sixth Circuit for the purpose of evaluating the existence of diversity jurisdiction, Han successfully argued that Peninsula was an indispensable party to the action, resulting in dismissal of the action by the district court for want of jurisdiction because there were “foreign entities on the two sides of this dispute.” Peninsula Asset Mgmt. (Cayman), Ltd. v. Hankook Tire Co., Ltd., No. 5:04 CV 1153, 2008 WL 302370, at *2 (N.D. Ohio Feb. 1, 2008).

         More than nine years later, Han filed the present action-without naming Peninsula as a party plaintiff-raising allegations involving the same contract between Peninsula and Hankook. Hankook sought dismissal of Han's contract claims because she was not a party to the contract between Hankook and Peninsula. In opposition, Han argued that she could maintain the action on behalf of herself and Peninsula because Peninsula was not an indispensable party, a representation contrary to the one she advanced in 2004. These inconsistent positions formed the basis for this Court's determination that judicial estoppel barred Han's claims.[1] Having successfully maneuvered out from under an unfavorable summary judgment ruling in the 2004 case by arguing that Peninsula was an indispensable party to the parties' contract dispute, the Court concluded that Han could not adopt a contrary position because it now suited her purposes. (MO at 279 [“Essentially, Han seeks to clear the previous jurisdictional hurdle by simply moving it out of the way by recharacterizing Peninsula's breach of contract claim as hers-an unseemly maneuver the Court must not permit.”].) See New Hampshire v. Maine, 532 U.S. 742, 743, 121 S.Ct. 1808, 149 L.Ed.2d 968 (2001) (a party may not “deliberately chang[e] [her position] according to the exigencies of the moment”) (quotation marks and citation omitted).

         II. Standard of Review

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not provide for motions for reconsideration. Such motions are typically treated as motions to alter or amend the judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e). McDowell v. Dynamics Corp. of Am., 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 Prods., Inc., No. 5:15-cv-1310, 2016 WL 3555431, at *3 (N.D. Ohio June 30, 2016). 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, among authority, Gore v. AT & T Corp., No. 2:09-CV-854, 2010 WL 3655994, at *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 new 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 & Blue Shield Mut. of Ohio, 930 F.Supp. 1182, 1184 (N.D. Ohio 1996).

         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 or prevent a manifest injustice. Rodriguez v. Tenn. Laborers Health & Welfare Fund, 89 Fed.Appx. 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)). Han bases her request for reconsideration on the third reason-to correct what she perceives as a clear error of law. (Mot. at 287.)

         III. Discussion

         A. Judicial Estoppel may be Employed in this Action

         As an initial matter, Han argues that the Court clearly erred in applying judicial estoppel to dismiss the action because “the judicial estoppel doctrine does not apply to questions of subject matter jurisdiction[.]” (Id. at 284.) In support of this position, Han cites cases, such as In re S.W. Bell Tel. Co., 535 F.2d 859, 861 (5th Cir.), judgment vacated by 556 F.2d 370 (5th Cir. 1977), holding that:

Judicial estoppel principles cannot conclusively establish jurisdictional facts. If facts come to light casting significant doubt on the power of a federal court to hear a pending case, it must, of course, re-examine its jurisdiction.

See Creaciones Con Idea, S.A. de C.V. v. Mashreqbank PSC, 232 F.3d 79, 82 (2d Cir. 2000) (another case cited by Han, providing “‘[I]rrespective of how the parties conduct their case, the courts have an independent obligation to ensure that federal jurisdiction is not extended beyond its proper limits'”) (quoting Wright v. Bankamerica Corp., 219 F.3d 79, 80 (2d Cir. 2000)).

         Hankook agrees that judicial estoppel cannot be employed to establish or expand federal jurisdiction. (Opp'n at 312, citing Ins. Corp. of Ireland, Ltd. v. Compagnie Des Bauxites De Guinee, 456 U.S. 694, 702, 102 S.Ct. 2099, 72 L.Ed.2d 492 (1982) (“no action of the parties can confer subject-matter jurisdiction upon a federal court”).) But it insists that “this case is different. Here, [the C]ourt properly applied judicial estoppel not to establish or expand jurisdiction, but to dismiss a case because of Han's unseemly gamesmanship.” (Id., emphasis in ...


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