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Mullinix v. Mount Sinai School of Medicine

United States District Court, S.D. New York

January 23, 2015

KATHLEEN MULLINIX, Plaintiff,
v.
MOUNT SINAI SCHOOL OF MEDICINE, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

P. KEVIN CASTEL, District Judge.

Defendant Mount Sinai School of Medicine moves for partial reconsideration of this Court's Memorandum and Order of July 24, 2014 ("July Order"). Mullinix v. Mount Sinai Sch. of Med., 12-cv-8659, 2014 WL 3687217 (S.D.N.Y. July 24, 2014). Specifically, Mount Sinai seeks reconsideration of the Court's denial of summary judgment as to plaintiff Kathleen Mullinix's claim for breach of contract.

Mullunix alleged that Mount Sinai breached its contractual obligation to pay Mullinix severance. In its July Order, this Court denied Mount Sinai's motion for summary judgment as to Mullinix's breach of contract claim, noting that, "[w]ithout reviewing Mullinix's job description, the Court is unable to determine whether removal of Mullinix's duties as director was a material change to her duties, such that it would constitute a breach of the agreement." Id. at *20. This conclusion was based on the fact that Mount Sinai had not provided the Court with Mullinix's job description in support of its motion for summary judgment. Id.

Mount Sinai contends that this Court should have granted it summary judgment on its alternative argument: that Mullinix failed to comply with the contractual condition precedent to Mount Sinai's obligation to pay severance-the execution of an agreement releasing claims against the hospital. (Def. Support of Motion for Reconsideration, p. 1.) Mullinix counters that she had no obligation to execute Mount Sinai's proposed agreement as a condition of receiving severance because "Mount Sinai failed to provide a waiver and release that complied with the provisions of the employment contract." (Pl. Opposition to Motion for Reconsideration, "Pl. Opp., " pp. 2-3.)

Upon reconsideration, and for reasons that will be explained, Mount Sinai's motion for reconsideration is granted. The Court concludes that Mullinix's failure to sign a severance agreement or explain her reason for not doing so, which would have enabled Mount Sinai to meet her objection, extinguishes her breach of contract claim.

I. Background

Mullinix's employment contract with Mount Sinai provided that if she were terminated without cause during the initial term of her contract, she would receive severance payments and benefits for the longer of the remainder of the initial term of her contract or six months from the effective date of her termination. (Plevan Decl. Ex. 17 at D 00099, § III(A).) Mullinix claims that Mount Sinai breached her employment contract by not providing her with these severance benefits during the six-month period after the date of termination. (Pl. Opp. to Def. Motion for Sum. J., pp. 25-26.) The employment contract states:

[I]f you become entitled to any payments pursuant to paragraph III. A. or B. hereof, as a condition of receiving such amounts, you shall execute and agree to be bound by a waiver and general release of any and all claims (other than to enforce your rights to payments and benefits payable under paragraph III.A. and B.) arising out of or relating to your employment with Mount Sinai and termination thereof in such form as may be required by Mount Sinai.

(Plevan Decl. Ex. 17 at D 00101, § IV.) Thus, "a condition of receiving such amounts [as severance]" was the "execut[ion] and agree[ment] to be bound by a waiver and general release... in such form as may be required by Mount Sinai." (Id.)

On April 13, 2012, Teri Willey, of Mount Sinai, sent Mullinix a proposed agreement containing a waiver and release of all claims against Mount Sinai relating to her employment and termination. (Pl. 56.1 ¶ 149.) The proposed agreement states that Mullinix had "at least twenty-one (21) days to review, to consider, or to negotiate the terms of the Agreement and [could take] as much time as she wished prior to signing the Agreement." (Plevan Decl. Ex. 49 at D00301-02, ¶ 8.) Mullinix did not execute the agreement nor did she propose alternative terms.

After this Court denied Mount Sinai's motion for summary judgment as to Mullinix's breach of contract claim, Mount Sinai filed a motion for reconsideration on August 7, -, urging the Court to reconsider the argument that Mount Sinai had no obligation to pay severance because Mullinix failed to fulfill the condition precedent of singing a severance agreement. (Doc. 60.)

II. Standard of Review

Motions for reconsideration are governed by Local Civil Rule 6.3 and Rule 60(b), Fed.R.Civ.P. A motion to reconsider is "addressed to the sound discretion of the district court." See Mendell ex rel. Viacom, Inc. v. Gollust, 909 F.2d 724, 731 (2d Cir. 1990). Such motions are "generally not favored and [are] properly granted only upon a showing of exceptional circumstances." Marrero Pichardo v. Ashcroft, 374 F.3d 46, 55 (2d Cir. 2004) (citation omitted). "The standard for granting such a motion is strict, and reconsideration will generally be denied unless the moving party can point to controlling decisions or data that the court overlooked-matters, in other words, that might reasonably be expected to alter the conclusion reached by the court." Shrader v. CSX Transp., Inc., 70 F.3d 255, 257 (2d Cir. 1995). "[A] motion to reconsider should not be granted where the moving party seeks solely to relitigate an issue already decided." Id . Motions for reconsideration "should be granted only when the defendant identifies an ...


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