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Molina v. Collin County

United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Sherman Division

January 17, 2018

GUILLERMO MURILLO MOLINA
v.
COLLIN COUNTY, TEXAS; ROBERT LANGWELL

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          AMOS L. MAZZANT, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff Guillermo Murillo Molina's (“Molina”) Motion for Reconsideration (Dkt. #65). After reviewing the relevant pleadings and motion, the Court finds the motion should be denied.

         BACKGROUND

         The issue before the Court concerns the Court's decision to grant Defendant Collin County's motion for summary judgment. On August 18, 2017, Collin County filed its Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. #31). On November 21, 2017, the Court entered a Memorandum Opinion and Order (the “Opinion”) granting Collin County's motion (Dkt. #59). As a result of the Court's ruling, on December 12, 2017, Molina filed a motion for reconsideration (Dkt. #65). Specifically, Molina requests the Court to reconsider its ruling as it pertains to Molina's claim under the Texas Tort Claims Act (“TTCA”). On January 3, 2018, Collin County filed its response (Dkt. #97) and Molina filed his reply (Dkt. #99).

         LEGAL STANDARD

         A motion seeking “reconsideration” may be construed under either Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) or 60(b). Shepherd v. Int'l Paper Co., 372 F.3d 326, 328 n.1 (5th Cir. 2004); see also Milazzo v. Young, No. 6:11-cv-350-JKG, 2012 WL 1867099, at *1 (E.D. Tex. May 21, 2012).

         Such a motion “‘calls into question the correctness of a judgment.'” Templet v. HydroChem Inc., 367 F.3d 473, 478 (5th Cir. 2004) (quoting In re Transtexas Gas Corp., 303 F.3d 571, 581 (5th Cir. 2002)).

         “If a motion for reconsideration is filed within 28 days of the judgment or order of which the party complains, it is considered to be a Rule 59(e) motion; otherwise, it is treated as a Rule 60(b) motion.” Milazzo, 2012 WL 1867099, at *1; see Shepherd, 372 F.3d at 328 n.1; Berge Helene Ltd. v. GE Oil & Gas, Inc., No. H-08-2931, 2011 WL 798204, at *2 (S.D. Tex. Mar. 1, 2011). Here, Molina filed his motion for reconsideration within 28 days of the Court's Opinion; therefore, Molina's motion is considered a Rule 59(e) motion.

         A Rule 59(e) 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.” Templet, 367 F.3d at 479 (citing Simon v. United States, 891 F.2d 1154, 1159 (5th Cir. 1990)). “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.'” Id. (quoting Waltman v. Int'l Paper Co., 875 F.2d 468, 473 (5th Cir. 1989)). “Relief under Rule 59(e) is also appropriate when there has been an intervening change in the controlling law.” Milazzo, 2012 WL 1867099, at *1 (citing Schiller v. Physicians Res. Grp., 342 F.3d 563, 567 (5th Cir. 2003)). “Altering, amending, or reconsidering a judgment is an extraordinary remedy that courts should use sparingly.” Id. (citing Templet, 367 F.3d at 479).

         ANALYSIS

         On November 21, 2017, the Court issued its Opinion dismissing, in pertinent part, Molina's claim under the TTCA against Collin County (Dkt. #59). The Court's analysis in its Opinion discussed whether Molina met its burden in establishing the existence of actual notice. The Court concluded that Molina did not meet his burden and that Collin County lacked actual notice.

         Molina argues that “based on recent Texas state court precedent” the evidence in this case supports a finding that Collin County had actual notice (Dkt. #65 at p. 5). The Court disagrees. Specifically, the Court finds that the recent Texas appellate court decision is distinguishable from the case at hand and does not constitute “an intervening change in the controlling law.” Milazzo, 2012 WL 1867099, at *1 (citing Schiller, 342 F.3d 567).

         Section 101.101 requires a plaintiff give a governmental entity notice of a claim against it “not later than six months after the day that the incident giving rise to the claim occurred.” Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 101.101(a). If the plaintiff does not provide a formal, written notice, then the plaintiff must prove that the governmental entity had actual notice “that death has occurred, that the claimant has received some injury, or that the claimant's property has been damaged.”[1] Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 101.101(c). “[G]overnmental entities have actual notice when they have knowledge of (1) a death, injury, or property damage; (2) the governmental unit's alleged fault producing or contributing to the death, injury, or property damage; and (3) the identity of the parties involved.” City of Dallas v. Carbajal, 324 S.W.3d 537, 538 (Tex. 2010) (quoting Cathey v. Booth, 900 S.W.2d 339, 341 (Tex. 1995)).

         Clarifying the second requirement, the Texas Supreme Court stated that the “governmental unit [must] have knowledge that amounts to the same notice to which it is entitled by section 101.101(a). That includes subjective awareness of its fault, as ultimately alleged by the claimant, in producing or contributing to the claimed injury.” Tex. Dep't of Criminal Justice v. Simons, 140 S.W.3d 338, 347 (Tex. 2004). “It is not enough that a governmental unit should have investigated an incident as a prudent person would have, or that it did investigate, perhaps as part of routine safety procedures, or that it should have known from the investigation it conducted that it might have been at fault.” Id. at 347-48. Further, “[f]ault, as it pertains to actual notice, is not synonymous with liability; rather, it implies responsibility for the injury claimed.” Univ. of Tex. Sw. Med. Ctr. at Dallas v. Estate of Arancibia ex rel. Vasquez-Anrancibia, 324 S.W.3d 544, 550 (Tex. 2010). However, “[s]tanding alone, mere knowledge that an incident or injury has occurred does not establish actual notice.” Univ. of Tex. Health Sci. Ctr. v. McQueen, 431 S.W.3d 750, 755 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2014, no pet.) (citing Cathey, 900 S.W.2d at 341). “The purpose of the notice requirement is ‘to enable governmental ...


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