United States District Court, D. Maryland
ROBERT HOROWITZ, et al.
FEDERAL INSURANCE COMPANY d/b/a Chubb & Son
DEBORAH K. CHASANOW UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
pending and ready for resolution in this insurance case is a
motion for relief from judgment filed by Plaintiffs Robert
and Cathy Horowitz (“Plaintiffs”). (ECF No. 26).
The issues have been fully briefed, and the court now rules,
no hearing being deemed necessary. Local Rule 105.6. For the
following reasons, the motion for relief from judgment will
factual and procedural background to this case may be found
in the memorandum opinion issued on January 4, 2016. (ECF No.
14, at 1-2). That opinion and an accompanying order granted a
motion to dismiss filed by Defendant Federal Insurance
Company (“Defendant”). Plaintiffs then filed a
motion to alter or amend the judgment pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e) which was denied on May 27, 2016. (ECF No.
19). Plaintiffs appealed, and the United States Court of
Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the dismissal. (ECF
No. 24). On May 25, 2017, Plaintiffs filed a motion for
relief from judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(2). (ECF
No. 26). Defendant responded, (ECF No. 28), and Plaintiffs
replied. (ECF No. 31).
Standard of Review
consideration of a [Fed.R.Civ.P.] 60(b) motion proceeds in
two stages: first, the court must assess whether the movant
has met each of three threshold conditions; and second, if
the threshold requirements have been met, the court must
determine whether the movant has satisfied one of the six
enumerated grounds for relief under the rule.”
Holland v. Va. Lee Co., Inc., 188 F.R.D. 241, 248
(W.D.Va. 1999) (citing Nat'l Credit Union Admin. Bd.
v. Gray, 1 F.3d 262, 264, 266 (4th Cir.
threshold requirements are timeliness, a meritorious claim or
defense, and the absence of unfair prejudice to the other
side. Rule 60(b) allows for a party to move for relief from a
judgment based on one of six grounds including “newly
discovered evidence.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(2). In
determining whether to exercise the power under Rule 60(b),
courts must engage in a delicate balancing of the
“sanctity of final judgments, expressed in the doctrine
of res judicata, and the incessant command of the
court's conscience that justice be done in light of ALL
the facts.” Compton v. Alton S.S. Co., 608
F.2d 96, 102 (4th Cir. 1979) (emphasis in
original) (quoting Banker's Mortg. Co. v. United
States, 423 F.2d 73, 77 (5th Cir. 1970)).
argue that the motion for relief is timely because it was
filed within a year of the court's ruling on its motion
to alter or amend the judgment and shortly after a decision
in the case between these parties before the Maryland
Insurance Administration (“MIA”). (ECF No. 26, at
2-5). Defendant argues that the motion is late because
judgment was entered more than a year before the motion and,
regardless, Plaintiffs did not file within a reasonable time.
(ECF No. 28, at 2).
case, Plaintiffs filed a motion to amend the judgment
pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 59, and Rule 59 motions
“affect the finality of the judgment.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 59 advisory committee notes to 1995 amendment. A
Rule 59 motion acts to “suspend the finality of the
judgment” until the district court has ruled.
Communist Party of Ind. v. Whitcomb, 414 U.S. 441,
445 (1974). Thus, a Rule 59 motion tolls the date of final
judgment for the purposes of “the appeals-limitation
period.” Dove v. Codesco, 569 F.2d 807, 809
(4th Cir. 1978). Other courts have also held that
a Rule 59 motion tolls the date of final judgment for the
purposes of subsequent motions before the district court
including motions pursuant to Rule 60. Int'l Ctr. for
Tech. Assessment v. Leavitt, 468 F.Supp.2d 200, 206
(D.D.C. 2007) (“In other words, the suspension of
finality on the basis of a timely-filed Rule 59(e) motion is
not only applicable to an appeal. Accordingly, the court
concludes that a timely filed Rule 59(e) motion suspends the
finality of a judgment not just at the appellate level, but
at the district court level as well.”). Although that
ruling is logical and persuasive, it will not be necessary to
rule definitively because, even if timely, the motion will be
denied on other grounds.
60(b)(2) requires not only that a motion be made within a
year of final judgment but also that it be filed within
“a reasonable time.” Plaintiffs claim that their
delay was reasonable because the delay allowed them to
incorporate an MIA decision into their motion. (ECF No. 26,
at 5). Defendant argues the delay was unreasonable. When a
party waits for a few of months to “strengthen the
basis for [a] motion”, the delay is reasonable.
Bouret-Echevarria v. Caribbean Aviation Maintenance
Corp., 784 F.3d 37, 44 (1st Cir. 2015)
(finding reasonable a three month delay used to obtain
additional information to support a motion pursuant to Rule
60(b)). Here, Plaintiffs delayed six months which allowed for
further development in a related administrative proceeding.
This delay is not an example of a party sleeping on its
rights but rather of using additional time to attempt to
improve their case. Thus, Plaintiffs' motion filed
shortly after a ruling in the administrative proceeding was
filed within a reasonable time. See Wells Fargo Bank,
N.A. v. AMH Roman Two NC, LLC, 859 F.3d 295, 300
(4th Cir. 2017).
allege that setting aside the judgment will not unfairly
prejudice Defendant. (ECF No. 26, at 6). Defendant does not
dispute this. (ECF No. 28). There does not appear to be any
loss of evidence or witnesses. See Westlake Legal Group
v. Yelp, Inc. 599 F.App'x 481, 484 (4th