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Jenkins v. Seifert

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

August 11, 2017

BRAD JENKINS, Plaintiff,



         This matter is before the Court on Defendant's motion for reconsideration. ECF No. 14. Defendant argues that the Court should reconsider its June 12, 2017 Order denying Defendant's motion to dismiss for the following reasons: (1) Plaintiff lacks standing because his claims are predicated on a determination of heirship in Harris County, Texas; (2) Plaintiff lacks Article III standing; (3) all of Plaintiff's claims are subject to the probate exception and should be dismissed; and (4) Plaintiff's claim for breach of fiduciary duty should be dismissed for failure to state a claim. Plaintiff opposes the motion, arguing that the Court properly considered and ruled on the issues contained in Defendant's motion to dismiss and that the Court should not consider issues that were not previously presented to the Court. ECF No. 16. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion for reconsideration will be denied.


         I. Legal Standard

         The Court agrees with Defendant that Rule 54(b) applies to the motion for reconsideration. A district court has “the inherent power to reconsider and modify an interlocutory order any time prior to the entry of judgment.” K.C. 1986 Ltd. P'ship v. Reade Mfg., 472 F.3d 1009, 1017 (8th Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Although the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not expressly provide for motions to reconsider, Rule 54(b) encompasses the power to revise an interlocutory order any time prior to the entry of final judgment. See, e.g., Thunder Basin Coal Co., L.L.C. v. Zurich Am. Ins. Co., No. 4:12-CV-231 (CDP), 2013 WL 6410012, at *1 (E.D. Mo. Dec. 9, 2013); Jiang v. Porter, No. 4:15-CV-1008 (CEJ), 2016 WL 193388, at *1 (E.D. Mo. Jan. 15, 2016) (applying Rule 54(b) to a motion to reconsider the denial of a motion to dismiss).

         Rule 54(b) provides that “any order . . . [that] does not end the action as to any of the claims or parties [ ] may be revised at any time before the entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims and all the parties' rights and liabilities.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b). Under Rule 54(b), a court may reconsider an interlocutory order to “correct any clearly or manifestly erroneous findings of fact or conclusions of law.” Bancorp Servs., L.L.C. v. Sun Life Assur. Co. of Canada, No. 4:00-CV-1073 (CEJ), 2011 WL 1599550, at *1 (E.D. Mo. Apr. 27, 2011) (internal quotations and citations omitted).

         “A motion to reconsider under Rule 54(b), however, may not serve as a vehicle to identify facts or raise legal arguments which could have been, but were not, raised or adduced during the pendency of the motion of which reconsideration was sought.” Id. (quoting Jones v. Casey's Gen. Stores, 551 F.Supp.2d 848, 854 (S.D. Iowa 2008)); see also Evans v. Contract Callers, Inc., No. 4:10-CV-2358 (FRB), 2012 WL 234653, at *2 (E.D. Mo. Jan. 25, 2012) (“Although the Court ‘has the power to revisit prior decisions of its own . . . in any circumstance, [it] should be loathe to do so in the absence of extraordinary circumstances such as where the initial decision was clearly erroneous and would work a manifest injustice.'”) (quoting Christianson v. Colt Indus. Operating Corp., 486 U.S. 800, 817 (1988)). “[W]hen evaluating whether to grant a motion to reconsider, the Court also has an interest in judicial economy and ensuring respect for the finality of its decisions, values which would be undermined if it were to routinely reconsider its interlocutory orders.” Trickey v. Kaman Indus. Techs. Corp., No. 1:09-CV-00026 (SNLJ), 2011 WL 2118578, at *2 (E.D. Mo. May 26, 2011) (internal citation omitted).

         II. Standing

         Defendant first argues that Plaintiff lacks standing because he has not been adjudicated an heir by the Texas probate court. This argument is contained in Defendant's motion to dismiss, and the authorities set forth in Defendant's motion for reconsideration are almost identical to those set forth in Defendant's reply.[1] ECF No. 10-1. The Court previously ruled on Defendant's arguments regarding Plaintiff's standing as an heir and specifically pointed to Defendant's failure to dispute the Application for Letters of Administration attached to Plaintiff's response to Defendant's motion to dismiss. Defendant represented to the Texas probate court that she and Plaintiff were the only heirs, and she cannot take the opposite position for the benefit of her arguments before another court. Defendant in her motion for reconsideration did not dispute the representation she made to the Texas probate court, provide any new evidence that would require reconsideration of the Court's previous analysis on this point, or show any clearly or manifestly erroneous conclusions of law that would result in injustice.

         In her motion for reconsideration, Defendant also argues that Plaintiff lacks Article III standing, which was not previously raised or briefed. While Defendant's motion for reconsideration may not serve as a vehicle to identify legal arguments which could have been, but were not, raised during the motion to dismiss, Defendant correctly notes that Article III standing is a jurisdictional requirement, and “[a]ny party or the court may, at any time, raise the issue of subject matter jurisdiction.” Gray v. City of Valley Park, Mo., 567 F.3d 976, 982 (8th Cir. 2009) (internal citation omitted).

         To establish Article III standing, a plaintiff must show (1) an “injury in fact, ” (2) a sufficient “causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of, ” and (3) a “likel[ihood]” that the injury “will be redressed by a favorable decision.” Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus, 134 S.Ct. 2334, 2341 (2014) (citing Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992)). Defendant argues that Plaintiff cannot show an actual or threatened injury, and she cites Lamica v. LaPierre, No. 5:05 CV 964 (JFJS/GJD), 2006 WL 3423861, at *1 (N.D.N.Y. Nov. 28, 2006) in support. Specifically, Defendant argues that Lamica stands for the proposition that if the only damage inflicted by the alleged wrong is a reduction of the estate's assets, that injury does not satisfy the standing requirements of Article III.

         Defendant, however, misconstrues the holding in Lamica. There, the second will at issue leaving all real property to the plaintiff and all personal property to the defendant was presumed valid due to the res judicata effect of its probate in Virginia. If the plaintiff were to prevail in his lawsuit against the defendant, the damages sought would go to the estate and not benefit the plaintiff or the plaintiff's share in the estate. As a result, the district court held that the plaintiff could not show an actual or threatened injury under Article III. Id. at *3.

         Therefore, Lamica does not, as Defendant argues, stand for the proposition that a reduction in the estate can never constitute an actual or threatened injury under Article III. Plaintiff here asserts that he was injured as a result of Defendant's undue influence over Ruth Jenkins, which resulted in a number of lifetime transfers that diminished Ruth Jenkins' assets at the time of her death. Here, Mother apparently left no will, and Plaintiff claims in his complaint that these lifetime unlawful transfers should be voided. To the extent such transfers reduced the assets contained in the estate, to which Plaintiff appears to have a claim, his interests are affected. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, the Court finds that, at this juncture, Plaintiff has Article III standing to sue.

         III. ...

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