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Allegheny v. H&H Metal Specialty

August 9, 2011


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



Plaintiff in this action is Pennsylvania company Allegheny Valve and Coupling Inc. ("Allegheny").*fn1 It develops and sells couplings and other products used to transfer liquids, including petroleum. Defendant H&H Metal Specialty, Inc. ("H&H") is a tool and die shop in New York that has manufactured Allegheny's products for more than 50 years. In 2004, Allegheny sought to end its relationship with H&H, which led to litigation. The parties settled their differences and entered into a formal settlement agreement ("the Agreement").*fn2 Subsequently, each party has alleged that the other has broken the Agreement.

On December 14, 2006, H&H filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment in this Court on its first counterclaim, which seeks $244,000 plus interest for Allegheny's failure to pay for inventory. Allegheny filed a Cross-Motion seeking Partial Summary Judgment for H&H's alleged breaches of the Agreement. This Court, in its Decision and Order dated September 23, 2007, denied each motion for partial summary judgment and dismissed Allegheny's first two causes of action. (Docket No. 73.)

Presently, each party has new motions before this Court. H&H seeks summary judgment on Allegheny's remaining causes of action and on its counterclaims. (Docket No. 79.)*fn3 In addition to opposing H&H's motion, Allegheny filed two cross-motions: the first seeks Reconsideration, under Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b), of this Court's dismissal of its first two causes of action (Docket No. 89), while the second requests Leave to File the Declaration of Dean Fralick. (Docket No. 116.) For the following reasons, H&H's motion is granted in part and denied in part, and Allegheny's motions are denied.


A. Allegheny's Cross-Motion for Reconsideration

In its previous decision, this Court concluded that Allegheny had not established that H&H breached the Agreement by failing to turn over dies. It determined that the Agreement unambiguously required H&H to relinquish only those dies that were listed on Exhibit B and that H&H fully complied with that requirement. Allegheny now seeks reconsideration of that decision under Fed. R. Civ. P 60(b). Specifically, it argues that "just cause" and new evidence warrant this reconsideration. Rule 60(b) provides relief from a judgment for, inter alia, mistakes, inadvertence, excusable neglect, newly discovered evidence, fraud or any other reason justifying relief. It provides "extraordinary judicial relief" that may "only be granted upon a showing of exceptional circumstances." Nemaizer v. Baker, 793 F.2d 58, 61 (2d Cir. 1986). Accordingly, granting Rule 60(b) relief is "disfavored." Empresa Cubana Del Tabaco v. General Cigar Co. Inc., 385 Fed. Appx. 29, 31 (2d Cir. 2010).

Allegheny presumably rests its first argument on the language in Rule (60)(b)(6) providing that a court may reconsider a judgment for "any other reason justifying relief." Seizing this language, Allegheny re-asserts its contention that H&H was to return all of the Allegheny dies, not just those listed in Exhibit B. However, a Rule 60(b) motion cannot serve as an attempt to "re-litigate the merits." Fleming v. New York Univ., 865 F.2d 478, 484 (2d Cir.1989). Nor can a 60(b) motion stand in for an ordinary appeal. Nemaizer, 793 F.2d at 61. Here, Allegheny's argument amounts to an appeal of this Court's decision dismissing its first two causes of action. It asks this Court to once again interpret the terms of the Agreement, but points to no "exceptional circumstances" that would warrant such a drastic measure. See id. A motion for reconsideration is an extraordinary remedy, and this Court will not reconsider issues already briefed, examined, and decided simply because Allegheny is dissatisfied with the decision.

Allegheny also requests reconsideration based on eighty-five new dies it discovered on H&H's premises.*fn5 This is an argument under Rule 60(b)(2), which permits relief from a judgment based on new material evidence. But as this Court already noted, H&H submitted signed documentation from Allegheny confirming it received the dies listed on Exhibit B, precluding any issue of material fact. Therefore, this "new evidence" does not alter this Court's previous finding: H&H sent Allegheny, and Allegheny received, all the dies required by the Agreement.

In further support of its motion for reconsideration, Allegheny requests leave to file the declaration of Dean Fralick, which it also regards as new evidence. In his declaration, Fralick states that he was employed by H&H in February and early March of 2006, and that soon thereafter he waslaid off. This time period is particularly significant. Pursuant to the Agreement, H&H and Allegheny mutually released each other from any alleged contractual violations occurring before February 16, 2006. Therefore, only their actions from this date forward can implicate the motions currently before this Court. Fralick declares that a few days before February 16, 2006 (the date Allegheny came to retrieve their dies from H&H), he saw Brian Ceci, a manager at H&H, supervise the removal of a truckload of Allegheny dies. He states that he overheard H&H employees say that they were taking the dies to Brain Ceci's personal garage, presumably in an effort to hide them from Allegheny. According to Fralick, these dies were eventually returned to H&H's facility where they were used to make parts for Betts Industries, Inc.*fn6 and other customers. According to Allegheny, this conclusively demonstrates that H&H violated the Agreement by preventing Allegheny from acquiring its dies.

Because this motion is made in support of Allegheny's motion for reconsideration, it is evaluated in light of the support it gives to that cause. Under this analysis, Allegheny's motion is denied for three reasons.

First, H&H has provided documentation from the New York State Department of Labor that Fralick's start date for unemployment insurance was February 12, 2006. This directly contradicts his statement that he was employed by H&H on February 16, 2006 and that he was able to witness these events in the course of his employment.*fn7 This is not, as Allegheny would have it, a mere matter of credibility. This uncontroverted document from the Department of Labor demonstrates that Fralick was not employed by H&H in the relevant time period, despite his assertions otherwise.

Second, Fralick makes no claim that any of the dies allegedly removed from H&H were dies that were listed on Exhibit B. Under this Court's earlier decision and the plain language of the Agreement, it is only these dies, specifically spelled out in Exhibit B, that H&H contracted to return to Allegheny. Since Fralick does not contend that any of those dies were hidden and improperly ...

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