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Bank of America, N.A. v. Jericho Baptist Church Ministries, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

January 10, 2020

BANK OF AMERICA, N.A., Plaintiff,


          Paula Xinis, United States District Judge.

         Currently pending and ripe for resolution is Bank of America (“BOA”)'s renewed motion for summary judgment on all claims asserted by Jericho Baptist Church Ministries, Inc. (“Jericho D.C.”). ECF No. 244. Also pending is Jericho D.C.'s Motion for Reconsideration. ECF No. 249. For the following reasons, the Court grants BOA's motion and denies Jericho D.C.'s motion.

         I. Background

         The Court has previously set out the relevant facts, procedural posture, and appropriate standard of review in its earlier memorandum opinion addressing the propriety of summary judgment. ECF No. 201. The Court incorporates its previous opinion and will not repeat itself here. The Court's initial denal of summary judgment rested on the assumption that Jericho D.C. could offer at trial a qualified expert in commercial banking procedures to establish the standard of ordinary care in the banking industry by which the jury could measure BOA's course of conduct. ECF Nos. 201, 202. Since that ruling, BOA successfully moved to exclude Jericho D.C.'s only proffered expert on this topic, Susan Riley. ECF Nos. 243, 251-1 at 98. In light of the Court having excluded Riley, BOA now renews its summary judgment motion.

         Jericho D.C. also moves for the Court to reconsider its ruling as to Riley. Because this reconsideration motion potentially affects the outcome of BOA's summary judgment motion, the Court first addresses the propriety of reconsideration and then turns to the merits of BOA's summary judgment motion.

         II. Jericho D.C.'s Motion for Reconsideration

         Jericho D.C. urges this Court to either reconsider its ruling or allow an out-of-time designation of a new expert. ECF No. 249. Both requests are unfounded.

         Regarding re-designation of a new expert, Jericho D.C. has established no good cause for reopening discovery, which closed August 6, 2018. ECF. No. 181. During discovery, the Court had granted multiple extensions of time and had given both parties ample opportunity to prepare their respective cases. See, e.g., ECF Nos. 148, 167, 181. Jericho D.C. chose to designate Susan Riley as its sole standard-of-care expert and vigorously persisted in her bona fides. Now that BOA succeeded in excluding Riley, the Court will not allow Jericho D.C. a “do-over.”

         As for urging the Court to reconsider exclusion, Jericho D.C. cites not one scintilla of procedural law in support of its position. The Court begins with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 54(b) provides that “any order or other decision, however designated, that adjudicates fewer than all the claims or the rights and liabilities . . . may be revised at any time before the entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims and the parties' rights and liabilities.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b). When assessing whether revision is proper, the Court looks to the standard for reconsideration articulated in Rules 59(e) and 60(b).

         A motion for reconsideration brought under Rule 59(e) need not be granted unless the Court finds “an intervening change of controlling law, that new evidence has become available, or that there is a need to correct a clear error or prevent manifest injustice.” Robinson v. Wix Filtration Corp., LLC, 599 F.3d 403, 411 (4th Cir. 2010). “Rule 59(e) motions may not be used, however, to raise arguments which could have been raised prior to the issuance of the judgment. . . .” Pacific Ins. Co. v. American Nat. Fire Ins. Co., 148 F.3d 396, 403 (4th Cir. 1998). “[I]f a party relies on newly discovered evidence in its Rule 59(e) motion, the party must produce a legitimate justification for not presenting the evidence during the earlier proceeding. In general, reconsideration of a judgment after its entry is an extraordinary remedy which should be used sparingly.” Id. (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).

         Rule 60(b) sets forth broader but overlapping bases for reconsideration, none of which apply here. As with Rule 59(e), “Rule 60(b) does not authorize a motion merely for reconsideration of a legal issue.” United States v. Williams, 674 F.2d 310, 312 (4th Cir. 1982); see also Bank v. M/V “Mothership”, No. ELH-18-3378, 2019 WL 2192488, at *4 (D. Md. May 20, 2019) (“Rule 60(b) was not intended as a substitute for a direct appeal from an erroneous judgment.”) (citation omitted).[1]

         Jericho D.C.'s motion makes no attempt to comply with the rules. Rather, the motion rests largely, if not exclusively, on the notion that this Court erred in considering “inadmissible hearsay” related to the circumstances of Riley's prior employment. ECF No. 249. However, the Court's exclusion of Riley did not depend on this challenged evidence. The Court agrees with BOA that, at best, the documents in question are relevant as to only Riley's lack of relevant experience, not the substance of her opinions. To be sure, the Court excluded Riley based on her lack of qualifications and stands by that decision. But independently, the Court determined that Riley's opinions were unreliable and lacking in foundation and methodology. ECF No. 251-1 at 103. (“Next, and in the alternative, even if I were to find that Ms. Riley was sufficiently trained, educated and experienced, the opinions that she laid out . . . simply are not reliable”). Thus, even if somehow the Court erred in admitting the challenged documents, the decision to exclude Riley remains on solid footing. Jericho D.C. has failed to justify that reconsideration is warranted. The motion is denied.

         III. BOA's Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment

         BOA contends that summary judgment on all claims is warranted because without an expert to opine on the relevant industry standard of care and BOA's breach of the same, no reasonable ...

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