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Hood v. Hartford Life and Accident Insurance Co.

February 23, 2009

LAURIE HOOD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
HARTFORD LIFE AND ACCIDENT INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Frank C. Damrell, Jr. United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This matter is before the court on (1) plaintiff's motion for reconsideration of the court's December 2, 2008 memorandum and order (the "Order"), granting defendant's summary judgment motion with respect to plaintiff's breach of contract cause of action and punitive damages claim; and (2) defendant's motion for reconsideration of the court's Order, denying defendant's summary judgment motion with respect to plaintiff's breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing cause of action. For the reasons set forth below, plaintiff's and defendant's respective motions for reconsideration are DENIED.*fn1

BACKGROUND

This action arose out of defendant's decision to cancel plaintiff's long-term disability ("LTD") benefits. Since 1991, plaintiff had continuously received monthly disability benefits from defendant due to a serious medical condition known as Crohn's disease.*fn2 However, when plaintiff's file came up for periodic review in April 2006, defendant determined that plaintiff likely had the capacity to perform light duty or sedentary work on a full time basis. On June 28, 2007, defendant terminated plaintiff's LTD benefits. Subsequently, plaintiff filed suit for breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, for which she sought full past, present, and future benefits, general damages for emotional distress, and punitive damages. In the course of discovery in this action, defendant determined that plaintiff's ability to participate in full time work was in doubt. On June 4, 2008, defendant reopened plaintiff's claim and reinstated plaintiff's benefits. Defendant subsequently paid plaintiff for all past due disability payments, as well as interest thereon.*fn3

On September 11, 2008, plaintiff filed a motion seeking partial summary judgment of her causes of action for breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. (Pl.'s P. & A. for Patrial Summ. J. ("Pl.'s P. & A."), filed Sept. 11, 2008). Defendant then filed an opposition and cross-motion for summary judgment, or, in the alternative, partial summary judgment regarding plaintiff's claims. (Def.'s Opp'n & Cross-Mot. for Summ. J. ("Def.'s P. & A."), filed Oct. 3, 2008). On December 2, 2008, the court granted defendant's summary judgment motion as to plaintiff's breach of contract cause of action, finding that since plaintiff had been fully compensated for all past due benefits owed under the insurance policy, she had no cognizable contract damages. Plaintiff's motion on that claim was therefore denied. The court further granted defendant's summary judgment motion as to plaintiff's punitive damages claim based on plaintiff's failure to oppose the motion on that specific issue. However, as to plaintiff's cause of action for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, the court denied the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment, finding that both parties proffered sufficient evidence such that a reasonable jury could find for either plaintiff or defendant on this cause of action. Both parties now move for reconsideration of these findings.

STANDARD

Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 59(e) and 60(b) are "extraordinary remed[ies] to be used sparingly in the interests of finality and conservation of judicial resources." Kona Enterprises, Inc. v. Estate of Bishop, 229 F.3d 877, 890 (9th Cir. 2000). Thus, the Ninth Circuit has made clear that absent "highly unusual circumstances," reconsideration of an order is appropriate only where (1) the court is presented with newly-discovered evidence, (2) the court committed "clear error or the initial decision was manifestly unjust," or (3) there is an intervening change in the controlling law. School Dist. No. 1J, Multnomah County, Or. v. AcandS, Inc., 5 F.3d 1255, 1263 (9th Cir. 1993). When a motion for reconsideration is based on a claim of clear error, as in this case, the moving party must do more than repeat arguments made in the underlying motion. "Reiteration of arguments originally made in support of, or in opposition to, a motion . . . do not provide a valid basis for reconsideration." Reliance Ins. v. Doctors Co., 299 F. Supp. 2d 1131, 1154 (D. Hawaii 2003); Backlund v. Barnhart, 778 F.2d 1386, 1388 (9th Cir. 1985).

Likewise, a court does not err in declining to reconsider claims or arguments not originally pleaded; in the absence of new evidence or a change in the law, a party may not use a motion for reconsideration to present new arguments or claims not raised in the original papers. See 389 Orange Street Partners v. Arnold, 179 F.3d 656, 665 (9th Cir. 1999). Ultimately, a party seeking reconsideration must show "more than a disagreement with the Court's decision, and recapitulation of the cases and arguments considered by the court before rendering its original decision fails to carry the moving party's burden." United States v. Westlands Water Dist., 134 F. Supp. 2d 1111, 1131 (E.D. Cal. 2001).

ANALYSIS

1. Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration

A. Breach of Contract

Plaintiff asserts that the court committed clear error in its decision to grant summary judgment to defendant on her breach of contract cause of action. Plaintiff contends that the court erred in not viewing plaintiff's cause of action as of the date the complaint was filed. Defendant, however, claims that since it fully compensated plaintiff for all past-due disability benefits (including interest), plaintiff does not have any cognizable damages upon which a breach of contract cause of action can be sustained.

In California, "[a] cause of action for breach of contract requires proof of the following elements: (1) existence of the contract; (2) plaintiff's performance or excuse for nonperformance; (3) defendant's breach; and (4) damages to plaintiff as a result of the breach." CDF Firefighters v. Maldonado, 158 Cal. App. 4th 1226, 1239 (2008). California Insurance Code section 10111 provides that "[i]n life or disability insurance, the only measure of liability and damage is the sum or sums payable in the manner and at the times as provided in the policy to the person entitled thereto." Further, California Civil Code section 3302 limits damages from breach of contract to "the amount due by the terms of the obligation, with interest thereon."

In moving for reconsideration, plaintiff simply restates and reargues her position as previously articulated in her motion for summary judgment. Nothing new is stated. Instead, plaintiff merely contests the propriety of the court's ruling and application of the relevant law. In that regard, plaintiff argues the court committed clear error by 1) not considering plaintiff's breach of contract claim from the date plaintiff filed suit, and 2) not addressing authorities cited by plaintiff. The court previously considered this precise argument and the authorities raised by plaintiff herein, and thus plaintiff's motion is properly denied on that basis alone. Reliance, 299 F. Supp. 2d at 1154 (recognizing that in moving for reconsideration, a ...


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