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Quintero Esteban Quintero and Leticia v. United States of America

March 2, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Oliver W. Wanger United States District Judge



Following a bench trial on July 20, 2010, judgment was entered in favor of Plaintiffs Esteban Quintero ("Esteban") and Leticia Quintero ("Leticia") against the United States of America. (Doc. 55).

On August 11, 2010, Leticia filed a motion to amend the Judgment. (Docs. 61, 62). On August 16, 2010, Esteban filed a motion to amend the judgment. (Docs. 66, 67).

Leticia filed an "Amended Motion to Amend the Judgment" on August 17, 2010. (Doc. 70).

The United States filed opposition to Plaintiffs' motions on November 1, 2010. (Docs. 75, 76).


This action arises out of a vehicular accident in which Plaintiffs' motorcycle was struck by a United States Postal Service vehicle. After a three-day bench trial, the court found that the United States was liable to Plaintiffs due to the fact that the driver of the postal vehicle that struck Plaintiffs negligently operated the vehicle within the scope of her public employment and proximately caused Plaintiffs' injuries.

Evidence established that, at the time of trial, the total amount paid by Esteban and his insurer for all medical care resulting from the accident was $74,864.83. The evidence also established that the total amount billed by care providers for Esteban's medical care was, $363,708.08, significantly higher than the total amount paid. The trial evidence established that the total amount paid in full payment for medical care by Leticia and her insurers was $4,245.88, and the billed amount for such care was $8,295.90.


A. Rule 52

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(b) permits a court to amend findings rendered after a bench trial. Rule 52(b) provides:

On a party's motion filed no later than 28 days after the entry of judgment, the court may amend its findings - or make additional findings - and may amend the judgment accordingly.

Motions under Rule 52(b) are primarily designed to correct findings of fact which are central of the ultimate decision; the Rule is not intended to serve as a vehicle for rehearing. Davis v. Mathews, 450 F.Supp. 308, 318 (E.D. Cal. 1978).

B. Rule 60

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(a) allows the court to correct at any time, on its own initiative or on the motion of any party, a clerical mistake in a judgment, order or other part of the record. Rule 60(a) may be used by a court to make its decision reflect its actual intention and implications. Robi v. Five Platters, Inc., 918 F.2d 1439, 1445 (9th Cir. 1990). A court may amend its decision under Rule 60(a) so long as the change is consistent with the court's original intent. Harman v. Harper, 7 F.3d 1455, 1457 (9th Cir. 1993). "The basic distinction between 'clerical mistakes' and mistakes that cannot be corrected pursuant to Rule 60(a) is that the former consist of 'blunders in execution' whereas the latter consist of instances where the court changes its mind." Blanton v. Anzalone, 813 F.2d 1574, 1577 n.2 (9th Cir. 1987). Rule 60(a) may not be used to correct substantial errors, such as errors of law. Sanchez v. City of Santa Ana, 936 F.2d 1027, 1033 (9th Cir. 1997).

Rule 60(b) allows a court to relieve a party from a final judgment, order, or proceeding for six reasons: 1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect; 2) newly discovered evidence; 3) fraud, misrepresentation, or other misconduct of the adverse party; 4) the judgment is void; 5) the judgment has been satisfied, released or discharged; and 6) any other reason justifying relief. The six reasons are mutually exclusive, a motion cannot be brought under Rule 60(b)(6) if it falls into one of the other five areas. Lyon v. Agusta S.P.A., 252 F.3d 1078, 1088 (9th Cir. 2001). A motion under Rule 60(b) must be brought in a reasonable time or within a year if brought under subsections (1), (2), or (3). Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b).


A. Esteban's Request to Increase Medical Damages Award

Esteban seeks modification of the judgment in order to increase the amount of medical damages awarded. Esteban contends that he is entitled to medical damages equal to the full amount billed for his medical services, not the amount accepted by health care providers in full satisfaction of his medical debts. Although no published California authority establishes the rule advanced by Esteban, the issue of whether medical damages are limited to the amount actually paid for medical services is currently pending before the California Supreme Court. See Howell v. Hamilton Meats & Provisions, Inc., 179 Cal. App. 4th 686, 706-07 (Cal. Ct. App. 2009) (holding that ...

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