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Davila v. Walmart Stores Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

April 27, 2017

JORGE DAVILA, Plaintiff,
WALMART STORES, INC., d/b/a WALMART STORE #2667, Defendant.



         In this removed premises liability action, plaintiff Jorge Davila (“Davila”) moves to alter or amend, or for relief from, summary judgment entered in favor of defendant Wal-Mart Stores Texas LLC (“Walmart”) after Davila failed to respond to Walmart's summary judgment motion. For the reasons that follow, the court denies the motion.


         Davila filed this lawsuit in Texas state court following his slip and fall at a Walmart store. Walmart removed the case on September 2, 2015, and then moved for summary judgment on September 26, 2016, over one year later. Davila did not respond to the motion by the October 17, 2016 deadline, and the court granted Walmart's motion for summary judgment on December 9, 2016. See Davila v. Walmart Stores, Inc., 2016 WL 7178974, at *1 (N.D. Tex. Dec. 9, 2016) (Fitzwater, J.) (“Davila I”).

         On January 6, 2017 Davila filed the instant motion pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e) and 60(b) to alter or amend or, alternatively, relieve plaintiff entirely from the judgment and reinstate summary judgment proceedings. He moves for this relief on two grounds. First, Davila maintains that his failure to respond to Walmart's summary judgment motion resulted from “an unfortunate calendaring error on the part of Plaintiff's counsel, ” rather than intentional or conscious disregard. P. Br. 6. Second, he now presents a “meritorious response, ” id. at 6, that includes newly submitted evidence of a witness statement from a Walmart employee, [1] id. at 4. Davila also cites a surveillance video submitted to the court in Davila I as further support. See Davila I, 2016 WL 7178974, at *1. He contends that granting the motion would not prejudice Walmart, but denying the motion would be “manifestly unjust” as to him. P. Br. 2. Walmart opposes the motion.


         The court will first consider whether Rule 59(e) or 60(b) provides the proper standard. Under Rule 59(e), a party may move to “alter or amend a judgment, ” while under Rule 60(b), a court may “relieve a party . . . from final judgment” for specific enumerated reasons. Rules 59(e) & 60(b). Whether Rule 59(e) or Rule 60(b) applies to a motion to reopen a case depends on when the motion is served. See Drew v. Life Ins. Co. of N. Am., 2009 WL 1856604, at *1 (N.D. Tex. Jun. 29, 2009) (Fitzwater, C.J.) (citing Lavespere v. Niagara Mach. & Tool Works, Inc., 910 F.2d 167, 173 (5th Cir. 1990), overruled on other grounds, Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069 (5th Cir. 1994)). “If [a] motion is served [no later than 28 days after the entry of the judgment], the motion falls under Rule 59(e); if it is served after that time, it falls under Rule 60(b).” Id.; see Rule 59(e). Because Davila filed this motion within 28 countable days of the date the judgment was entered, the court will consider it under the less onerous Rule 59(e) standard. See Drew, 2009 WL 1856604, at *1.


         Rule 59(e) motions serve the narrow purpose of allowing a party to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence. See Arrieta v. Yellow Transp., Inc., 2009 WL 129731, at *1 (N.D. Tex. Jan. 20, 2009) (Fitzwater, C.J.). “Such motions are not the proper vehicle for rehashing old arguments or advancing theories of the case that could have been presented earlier.” Id. (quoting AMS Staff Leasing, NA, Ltd. v. Associated Contract Truckmen, Inc., 2005 WL 3148284, at *3 (N.D. Tex. Nov. 21, 2005) (Fitzwater, J.) (internal quotation marks omitted). The movant must demonstrate valid reasons to justify the court's reconsideration of a prior ruling. See Hearn v. Quarterman, 2008 WL 679030, at *3 (N.D. Tex. Mar. 13, 2008) (Fitzwater, C.J.).

         While a district court has considerable discretion in deciding whether to reopen a case under Rule 59(e), reconsideration of a judgment after its entry is an extraordinary remedy that should be used sparingly. See Templet v. HydroChem Inc., 367 F.3d 473, 479 (5th Cir. 2004). Rule 59(e) generally “favor[s] the denial of motions to alter or amend a judgment[.]” S. Constructors Grp., Inc. v. Dynalectric Co., 2 F.3d 606, 611 (5th Cir. 1993) (footnote omitted).


         The court first considers whether the calendaring error by Davila's counsel is sufficient to warrant granting Rule 59(e) relief.


         In the context of Rule 60(b)(1)-which informs (although does not control) the court's Rule 59(e) analysis-the Fifth Circuit has held that it is not an abuse of discretion to deny relief when movant's proffered justification is counsel's “inadvertent mistake.” Drew, 2009 WL 1856604, at *3 (citing Edward H. Bohlin Co. v. Banning Co., 6 F.3d 350, 356-67 (5th Cir. 1993) (affirming denial of Rule 59(e) motion when plaintiff's only ...

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