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Arch Insurance Co. v. Goldens Bridge Fire Department

United States District Court, S.D. New York

April 24, 2018

ARCH INSURANCE COMPANY a/s/o GOLDENS BRIDGE FIRE DISTRICT, Plaintiff,
v.
GOLDENS BRIDGE FIRE DEPARTMENT, Defendant.

          ORDER

          NELSON S. ROMAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Arch Insurance Company ("Arch"), as subrogee of Goldens Bridge Fire District, brought this action against Defendant Goldens Bridge Fire Department (the "Fire Department"), seeking to recover $9, 188, 352.71 in damages relating to a fire in Defendant's operating premises. (Am. Compl., ECF No. 18.) On April 6, 2018, this Court issued an Opinion and Order granting Plaintiff an extension of time to effectuate proper service and denying Defendant's motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint for insufficient service of process as moot. (April 6, 2018 Opinion & Order, ECF No. 35.) Presently before the Court is Defendant's motion for reconsideration of the April 6, 2018 Order. (Def.'s Mot for Reconsideration ("Def.'s Mot."), ECF No. 37.) For the following reasons, Defendant's motion for reconsideration is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Reconsideration of a Court's previous order is "an extraordinary remedy to be employed sparingly in the interests of finality and conservation of scarce judicial resources," In re Initial Pub. Offering Sec. Litig., 399 F.Supp.2d 298, 300 (S.D.N.Y. 2005) (internal citation and quotation omitted), aff'dsub nom. Tenney v. Credit Suisse First Boston Corp., Nos. 05-CV-3430, 2006 WL 1423785, at *1 (2d Cir. 2006). Motions for reconsideration are governed by Local Civil Rule 6.3 and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b), and “[t]he standard for granting a motion for reconsideration . . . is strict.” Targum v. Citrin Cooperman & Co., LLP, No. 12-CV-6909 (SAS), 2013 WL 6188339, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 25, 2013). Indeed, 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.'” Pac. Life Ins. Co. v. Bank of New York Mellon, No. 17-CV-1388 (KPF), 2018 WL 1871174, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 17, 2018) (quoting Shrader v. CSX Transp., Inc., 70 F.3d 255, 257 (2d Cir. 1995)). A motion for reconsideration, however, “is not a vehicle for . . . presenting the case under new theories . . . or otherwise taking a second bite at the apple.” Analytical Surveys, Inc. v. Tonga Partners, L.P., 684 F.3d 36, 52 (2d Cir. 2012) (quotation and citation omitted). Nor is such a motion “an occasion for repeating old arguments previously rejected . . . .” RSM Prod. Corp. v. Fridman, No. 06-CV-11512, 2008 WL 4355406, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 23, 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         Further, the decision to grant or deny a motion for reconsideration rests within “the sound discretion of the district court.” Aczel v. Labonia, 584 F.3d 52, 61 (2d Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         DISCUSSION

         The gravamen of Defendant's motion for reconsideration is this Court's references in its April 6th Order to Defendant's failure to adequately raise an insufficient service of process defense in both the answer to the original Complaint and the answer to the Amended Complaint. (Def.'s Mot. at 1.) As Defendant notes, however, paragraph 23 of the Amended Answer states that “Defendant is entitled to dismissal of the complaint based upon insufficient service of process, the knowledge and details of which rest within the plaintiff's knowledge and control . . . .” (Am. Answer, ECF No. 19.) Defendant' motion is, thus, granted to the extent that the Court acknowledges Defendant's inclusion of the insufficient service of process defense in their Amended Answer.

         That acknowledgement, however, does not alter the substantive outcome of the Court's previous ruling. First, as the Court noted in the April 6th Order, Defendant failed to properly assert the insufficient service of process defense in its Answer to the original Complaint. Arch Ins. Co. v. Goldens Bridge Fire Dep't, No. 16-CV-9921 (NSR), 2018 WL 1725225, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 6, 2018). Rather, Defendant merely stated that the Court “lack[ed] jurisdiction over the defendant” without any elaboration. (Id.) Such bald assertions, alone, do not properly raise an insufficient service of process defense. See Santos v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 902 F.2d 1092, 1095 (2d Cir. 1990) (“As one would reasonably infer from the fact that the Rules list separately the defenses of lack of personal jurisdiction and insufficiency of service of process, these two defenses, while often related, are not identical.”).

         Although Defendant eventually asserted an insufficient service of process defense in its Answer to the Amended Complaint, such efforts were made over four months after Defendant's original Answer and, even more notably, after the statute of limitations had purportedly run on Plaintiff's claims. Moreover, Defendant had ample opportunity to raise its concerns regarding the sufficiency of service before the statute of limitations had run-either in its original Answer or in a timely motion to dismiss-yet Defendant failed to do so. As the Second Circuit has noted, and as this Court explained in its previous opinion, “[a] defendant cannot justly be allowed to lie in wait, masking by misnomer its contention that service of process has been insufficient, and then obtain a dismissal on that ground only after the statute of limitations has run, thereby depriving the plaintiff the opportunity to cure the defect.” Santos, 902 F.2d at 1096. Thus, even considering Defendant's Answer to the Amended Complaint, the months-long delay in properly raising the issue of service is no less troubling to this Court.

         Further, the Courts notes that it would be inequitable to allow Defendant to revive the previously waived sufficiency of process defense in its Answer to the Amended Complaint without providing Plaintiff a similar opportunity to cure any defects in service through proper service of its Amended Complaint.

         Ultimately, however, this Court's previous decision did not turn on whether Defendant waived the insufficiency of service defense. As the Court noted in its April 6, 2018 Opinion, even absent waiver, the Court “would nevertheless exercise its discretion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(m) to grant Plaintiff an extension of time to effectuate proper service, rendering Defendant's motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint for insufficient service of process moot.” Arch Ins. Co., 2018 WL 1725225, at *4. Defendant fails to raise any new arguments why the Court's exercise of such discretion was improper. Rather, Defendant merely repeats the same arguments regarding Plaintiff's purportedly inadequate attempts to effectuate service in an effort to take the proverbial “second bite of the apple.”[1]

         This Court has already rejected Defendant's arguments, particularly in light of the Second Circuit's admonition that "Rule 4 of the Federal Rules is to be construed liberally to further the purpose of finding personal jurisdiction in cases in which the party has received actual notice." Rotnandette v. Weetabix Co., 807 F.2d 309, 311 (2d Cir. 1986) (internal quotation marks omitted). Because Defendant had sufficient notice to file responsive pleadings and engage in motion practice, and because a dismissal of Plaintiff s Amended Complaint under Rule 4(m) would, in effect, become a dismissal with prejudice given the statute of limitations, this Court reiterates that "the balance of equities and the general preference for deciding cases on the merits" warrant granting Plaintiff an extension of time to serve Defendants. See DeLvca v. AccessIT Grp., Inc., 695 F.Supp.2d 54, 67 (S.D.N.Y. 2010).

         CONCLUSION

         For the foregoing reasons, Defendant's motion for reconsideration of Plaintiff s extension time of effectuate service is granted in part and denied in part. The Court acknowledges Defendant's reference to insufficient service of process in its Answer to the Amended Complaint, but nonetheless finds an extension of time pursuant to Rule 4(m) ...


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