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Myles v. Domino's Pizza, LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division

March 15, 2017




         This wrongful death action is before the Court on the “Motion to Alter, Amend, or Vacate” filed by Amesha and Kaquisha Myles regarding this Court’s January 19, 2017, memorandum opinion and order. Doc. #86. Because the motion states no grounds for this Court to modify its January 19 ruling, the motion will be denied.

         I Procedural History

         On January 19, 2017, this Court entered a memorandum opinion and order dismissing the second amended complaint in this action brought by “Diana Myles, Individually, And As Administrator Of The Estate Of Johnny Lee Myles, And For And On Behalf Of All Other Parties Entitled To Recover For The Wrongful Death Of Johnny Lee Myles, Deceased,” “with leave to refile within twenty-one (21) days of the issuance of this order.” Doc. #77. In its order, the Court held that claims brought by Diana as Administratrix of the estate were barred by the probate exception to federal jurisdiction because such claims were subject to a defense, supported by sufficient evidence, which required the Court to evaluate the validity of state probate proceedings. Id.

         On February 9, 2017, “Amesha Myles and Kaquisha Myles On Behalf Of All Other Parties Entitled To Recover For The Wrongful Death of Johnny Lee Myles, Deceased” filed a third amended complaint. Doc. #80. On February 16, 2017, the plaintiffs, arguing that this Court misapplied the probate exception, filed the instant motion seeking modification of the Court’s January 19 ruling. Doc. #86. The defendants responded in opposition on March 2, 2017. Doc. #90. The plaintiffs replied on March 13, 2017.[1] Doc. #95.

         II Standard of Review

         The plaintiffs’ motion seeks relief under Rule 59(e) and Rule 60(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Doc. #86 at 2.

         Under Fifth Circuit jurisprudence:

A Rule 59(e) motion “calls into question the correctness of a judgment.” This Court has held that such a motion is not the proper vehicle for rehashing evidence, legal theories, or arguments that could have been offered or raised before the entry of judgment. Rather, Rule 59(e) “serve[s] the narrow purpose of allowing a party to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence.” Reconsideration of a judgment after its entry is an extraordinary remedy that should be used sparingly.

Templet v. HydroChem, Inc., 367 F.3d 473, 478–79 (5th Cir. 2004) (internal citations omitted). “A motion to alter or amend the judgment under Rule 59(e) must clearly establish either a manifest error of law or fact or must present newly discovered evidence and cannot be used to raise arguments which could, and should, have been made before the judgment issued.” Schiller v. Physicians Res. Grp. Inc., 342 F.3d 563, 567 (5th Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b), a court may relieve a party from a final judgment on the basis of a “mistake.” “[I]n this circuit, the rule may be invoked for the correction of judicial error, but only to rectify an obvious error of law, apparent on the record.” Hill v. McDermott, Inc., 827 F.2d 1040, 1043 (5th Cir. 1987).

         III Analysis

         “Federal jurisdiction ordinarily exists over lawsuits that could have been brought in a state court, so long as complete diversity of citizenship and the requisite amount in controversy are present. For compelling historical reasons, however, a federal court has no jurisdiction to probate a will or administer an estate.” Breaux v. Dilsaver, 254 F.3d 533, 536 (5th Cir. 2001). The Seventh Circuit has identified four rationales for application of the probate exception: (1) a historical argument, that probate matters “were not included in the Judiciary Act’s grant of jurisdiction to the federal courts” (2) “the need for legal certainty concerning whether probate matters and will contests should be in state or federal courts;” (3) advancing judicial economy by allowing “questions as to a will’s validity [to] be resolved concurrently with the task of estate administration;” and (4) “to avoid unnecessary interference with state probate proceedings.” Georges v. Glick, 856 F.2d 971, 973–74 (7th Cir. 1988).

         The probate exception “reserves to state probate courts the probate or annulment of a will and the administration of a decedent’s estate; it also precludes federal courts from endeavoring to dispose of property that is in the custody of a state probate court. But it does not bar federal courts from adjudicating matters outside those confines and otherwise within federal jurisdiction.” Marshall v. Marshall, 547 U.S. 293, 311–12 (2006). Put differently, it removes from federal court jurisdiction “proceedings that ‘interfere with’ state probate proceedings, assume general jurisdiction of the probate, or assume control of property in the custody of the probate court.” Lemery v. Ford Motor Co., 244 F.Supp.2d 720, 725 (S.D. Tex. 2002) (collecting cases). “In determining whether a suit in federal court ‘interferes’ with state probate proceedings, this court considers whether the plaintiff’s claim implicates the validity of the probate proceedings or whether the plaintiff is merely seeking adjudication of a claim between the parties.” Dilsaver, 254 F.3d at 536.

         In its memorandum opinion, this Court held that Diana’s claims as Administratrix were barred by the probate exception because the defendants asserted a defense, supported by sufficient evidence, that Diana obtained her appointment as Administratrix through fraud. Doc. #77 at 11–13. The Court reached this conclusion because, insofar as Mississippi law requires that orders obtained through fraud be voided, consideration of Diana’s claims as Administratrix would have placed the Court in the position of invalidating the Chancery Court’s appointment of Diana as Administratrix, an action clearly barred by the probate exception. Id. As support for its analysis, the Court relied on Berman ...

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