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Dweck Law Firm, L.L.P. v. Mann

September 29, 2004

THE DWECK LAW FIRM, L.L.P., PLAINTIFF,
v.
CYNTHIA ALLEN MANN, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shira A. Scheindlin, U.S.D.J.

MEMORANDUM: OPINION AND ORDER

The Dweck Law Firm, L.L.P. ("Dweck") sued Cynthia Allen Mann ("Mann"), a former client, alleging breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. A bench trial began on August 3, 2004 and was scheduled to conclude on August 4, 2004. At the close of the defendant's case, Dweck elected to withdraw its claim for breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing and instead pursue a claim against Mann for fees based on quantum meruit. This Court awarded Dweck fees based on quantum meruit and pre-judgment interest amounting to $224,177.*fn1 Mann now moves for reconsideration of that decision on the ground that the Court overlooked controlling legal authority. For the following reasons, Mann's motion is denied.

At the Court's request, the parties have also addressed the issue of whether the judgment in this action should be a charging lien against the underlying lawsuit by Mann, or enforceable on an immediate basis against all of Mann's assets. Having considered their submissions, I now conclude that Dweck may elect to receive the full amount of the award as a charging lien, or to receive a reduced award, enforceable immediately and against all of Mann's assets.

I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A. Standard of Review for Motion for Reconsideration

Motions for reconsideration are governed by Local Civil Rule 6.3 and are committed to the sound discretion of the district court.*fn2 Reconsideration is an "extraordinary remedy to be employed sparingly in the interests of finality and conservation of scarce judicial resources."*fn3

Under Local Civil Rule 6.3, "the moving party must demonstrate controlling law or factual matters put before the court on the underlying motion that the movant believes the court overlooked and that might reasonably be expected to alter the court's decision."*fn4 The standard for granting a motion for reconsideration is strict so as to prevent repetitive arguments on issues that have been thoroughly considered by the court.*fn5 But the court may grant a motion for reconsideration to "correct a clear error or prevent manifest injustice."*fn6

A motion for reconsideration is not a substitute for appeal.*fn7 Nor is it a vehicle "to reargue those issues already considered when a party does not like the way the original motion was resolved."*fn8 Accordingly, the moving party may not "advance new facts, issues or arguments not previously presented to the Court."*fn9

II. DISCUSSION

A. The Date from Which Pre-Judgment Interest Should Run

The Court awarded Dweck pre-judgment interest on the fee award running from March 22, 1999, the date Mann discharged Dweck. Mann contends that the Court overlooked controlling legal authority to the effect that prejudgment interest must be computed from the date Dweck demanded payment for his services in quantum meruit, not from the date of discharge.

Under New York law, prejudgment interest is computed from "the earliest ascertainable date the cause of action existed."*fn10 Mann cites a number of cases involving awards of counsel fees in which courts interpret the 'earliest ascertainable date' to be the earliest date on which a demand for payment following the completion of services was made. Mann's argument does not meet the strict standards required of a motion for reconsideration. The Court did not overlook the authority on which Mann relies, but simply did not find it persuasive. While it is true, as Mann argues, that many courts have, without analysis, fixed the date from which interest runs as the date of the first demand for payment, others have used the method adopted by the Court ( i.e., the date of termination).*fn11 The Court found that Dweck's cause of action arose on the date Mann discharged the firm, following Dweck's refusal of Mann's demand that it renegotiate its fee downwards.*fn12 At that time a cause of action in quantum meruit accrued.*fn13 In short, Dweck must be deemed to have sought payment as of that date.*fn14

Even if I found the alternative rule to be applicable, interest would not run from the date Dweck brought the present action seeking payment in quantum meruit, as Mann argues, but from the earliest date after discharge on which Dweck sought payment, regardless of whether Dweck sought payment in quantum meruit or under the contract.*fn15 The latest possible date from which interest could be awarded ...


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