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Gerace v. Cliffstar Corp.

July 30, 2009

BRENDA GERACE; LEE ANN JOHNSON; AND KIMBERLY WEINERT, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CLIFFSTAR CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William M. Skretny United States District Judge

DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

On October 5, 2007, the Honorable John T. Elfvin, Senior United States District Judge, issued a Memorandum and Order denying Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment ("Elfvin Decision"). The case was reassigned to this Court on October 17, 2007, after Judge Elfvin elected to take inactive senior judge status.

Presently before this Court is Defendant's Motion for Reconsideration of Judge Elfvin's Decision or, in the alternative, certification of Judge Elfvin's Decision for interlocutory appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.*fn1 Plaintiff opposes the motion and seeks leave to file an Amended Complaint.*fn2 For the reasons discussed below, Defendant's Motion is denied, and Plaintiffs' request for leave to amend their Complaint is granted.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs Brenda Gerace, Lee Ann Johnson, and Kimberly Weinert commenced this action by filing a Complaint in the United States District Court for the Western District of New York on February 1, 2005, alleging that Defendant Cliffstar Corporation, their employer, discriminated against them in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq ("ADA") and New York State Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. §§ 290 et seq ("NYHRL"). This Court assumes the parties' familiarity with the facts, and prior proceedings in this case. Only those facts necessary to resolve the present motions are discussed below.

On May 12, 2006, Defendant moved for summary judgment. (Docket No. 23.) Defendant argued, inter alia, that 1) Plaintiff's were not "disabled" within the meaning of the ADA, 2) Plaintiffs were not "otherwise qualified" within the meaning of the ADA and NYHRL, 3) Plaintiffs have not established a reasonable accommodation that Defendant could have provided them, and 4) Plaintiffs were not discharged "because of" their disabilities.

Judge Elfvin denied Defendant's Motion. (Docket No. 43.) First, Judge Elfvin held that while some of Plaintiffs' alleged limitations did not qualify as disabilities under the ADA, their restrictions on lifting and reaching did qualify as disabilities. Because Plaintiffs raised an issue of material fact on these limitations, Judge Elfvin denied Defendant's Motion to the extent it urged that Plaintiffs were not disabled. (Id. at 9-14.) Alternatively, Judge Elfvin held that even if Plaintiffs were not actually disabled, Plaintiffs raised an issue of material fact as to whether they were "regarded as" disabled by Defendant. (Id. at 15.)

Third, Judge Elfvin held that Plaintiffs' evidence regarding accommodations raised a material fact as to whether they were "otherwise qualified." (Id. at 15.) And lastly, Judge Elfvin held that Plaintiffs raised an issue of material fact as to whether they were terminated "because of" their disabilities. (Id. at 17-18.)

Following Judge Elfvin's Memorandum and Order, Defendant moved for reconsideration. Defendant argues that Judge Elfvin committed four legal errors, which are discussed below, and its Motion for Summary Judgment should be granted. Defendant alternatively argues that this Court should certify Judge Elfvin's Decision for immediate appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Motion for Reconsideration

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not specifically provide for motions for reconsideration. Courts have considered a motion for reconsideration to be either a Rule 59(e) motion to alter or amend a judgment or a Rule 60(b) motion for relief from a judgment or order. Ass'n of Retarded Citizens of Connecticut, Inc. v. Thorne, 68 F.3d 547, 553 (2d Cir.1995). Although the rules differ somewhat in their applicability and the standard of review employed by the court, there is some overlap and in many situations, such as in the present case, a motion for reconsideration may be brought under either, or both rules. Id.

Rule 59(e) authorizes a motion "to alter or amend a judgment." Rule 59(e) "must be narrowly construed and strictly applied in order to discourage litigants from making repetitive arguments on issues that have been thoroughly considered by the court." Range Road Music, Inc. v. Music Sales Corp., 90 F. Supp. 2d 390, 391-92 (S.D.N.Y. 2000). A motion for reconsideration "is appropriate only where the movant demonstrates that the Court has overlooked controlling decisions or factual matters that were put before it on the underlying motion... and which, had they been considered, might have reasonably altered the result before the court." Id. at 392 (internal quotation omitted).

Rule 60(b) provides for relief from a judgment on limited grounds including mistake, inadvertence, surprise, excusable neglect or newly discovered evidence. "The party seeking relief from judgment has an onerous standard to meet." United States v. Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters, 247 F.3d 370, 392 (2001). A motion under Rule 60(b) is addressed to the discretion of the court so long as the court does not base its decision on an erroneous interpretation of the law. Gucci America, Inc. v. Gold Center Jewelry, 158 F.3d 631, 634 (2d Cir.1998).

Motions for reconsideration are not to be used as a means to reargue matters already disposed of by prior rulings or to put forward additional arguments that could have been raised prior to the decision. Sidney v. United States, 03-CV-791, 2006 WL 1144549, *4 (W.D.N.Y. Apr. 28, 2006).

In the present Motion, Defendants raise many of the same arguments that were thoroughly considered by Judge Elfvin. To the extent this Court does not address an argument raised by Defendant in this Motion for Reconsideration, this Court agrees with the reasoning in the Elfvin decision and finds that additional discussion is unnecessary.

1. Whether Judge Elfvin Disregarded the Supreme Court's Decision in Toyota Motor Mfg., Ky., Inc. v. Williams in Concluding that Plaintiffs ...


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