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Qwest Communications Corporation v. Free Conferencing Corporation

United States District Court, D. South Dakota

June 5, 2015

QWEST COMMUNICATIONS CORPORATION, a Delaware corporation, Third-Party Plaintiff,
v.
FREE CONFERENCING CORPORATION, a Nevada corporation, Third-Party Defendant.

ORDER DENYING MOTION TO VACATE JUDGMENT

KAREN E. SCHREIER, District Judge.

Pending is a motion by third-party plaintiff, Qwest Communications Corporation, to vacate the court's judgment entered on November 6, 2014, in favor of third-party defendant, Free Conferencing Corporation (FC). FC opposes the motion. For the following reasons, the motion to vacate is denied.

BACKGROUND

Qwest is a telecommunications provider known as an interexchange carrier (IXC). As an IXC, Qwest delivers long-distance calls from one local area to another. The call is then connected to the recipient by a local exchange carrier (LEC). In this case, Sancom, an LEC located in the Mitchell, South Dakota, area, filed suit against Qwest based on Qwest's alleged failure to pay certain bills. After the court referred three issues to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the FCC ruled on the first issue and reserved ruling on the other two issues. Sancom and Qwest then settled their dispute.

During the time period involved in the dispute between Sancom and Qwest, Sancom and FC engaged in access stimulation. As part of its litigation with Sancom, Qwest brought a third-party complaint against FC alleging unfair competition, civil conspiracy, and unjust enrichment. Following a court trial on May 13-20, 2014, and oral argument on September 22, 2014, the court issued a memorandum opinion finding in favor of FC on Qwest's claims and entered judgment against Qwest and in favor of FC. Qwest then filed this motion to vacate the court's judgment pursuant to Rule 59(e), or alternatively to amend erroneous findings of fact pursuant to Rule 52(b). Docket 411.

LEGAL STANDARD

Rule 59(e) allows a court to alter or amend a judgment.[1] Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e). "[Rule] 59(e) was adopted to clarify a district court's power to correct its own mistakes in the time period immediately following entry of judgment." Innovative Home Health Care, Inc. v. P.T.-O.T. Assocs. of the Black Hills, 141 F.3d 1284, 1286 (8th Cir. 1998). Thus, "Rule 59(e) motions serve a limited function of correcting manifest errors of law or fact or [presenting] newly discovered evidence." Id. (internal quotations omitted).

"A motion to alter or amend judgment cannot be used to raise arguments which could have been raised prior to the issuance of the judgment... [or] to introduce new evidence that could have been adduced during pendency of the summary judgment motion.... Nor should a motion for reconsideration serve as the occasion to tender new legal theories for the first time."

Concordia College Corp. v. W.R. Grace & Co., 999 F.2d 326, 330 (8th Cir. 1993) (final alteration in original) (quoting Hagerman v. Yukon Energy Corp., 839 F.2d 407, 413 (8th Cir. 1988)).

Rule 52(b) states that "the court may amend its findings-or make additional findings-and may amend the judgment accordingly. The motion may accompany a motion for a new trial under Rule 59." Fed.R.Civ.P. 52(b).

The primary purpose of Rule 52(b) is to enable the appellate court to obtain a correct understanding of the factual issues determined by the trial court as a basis for the conclusions of law and the judgment entered thereon. A party who failed to prove his strongest case is not entitled to a second opportunity to litigate a point, to present evidence that was available but not previously offered, or to advance new theories by moving to amend a particular finding of fact or a conclusion of law. It is said that the motion must raise questions of substance by seeking reconsideration of material findings of fact or conclusions of law to prevent manifest injustice or reflect newly discovered evidence.

9C Wright and Miller ยง 2582. "Rulings on motions to amend findings are committed to the sound discretion of the district court[.]" Id.

DISCUSSION

In its order on November 6, 2014, the court determined that Qwest's unfair competition claim failed because Qwest had not established either alleged underlying tort liability, tortious interference with contract, or inducement of regulatory violations. Docket 407 at 10-30. The court also found that Qwest had not established the elements of a civil conspiracy. Id. at 30-39. Finally, the court rejected Qwest's claim for equitable relief based on unjust enrichment. Id. at 39-43. Qwest asks the court to vacate its decision relating to Qwest's tortious interference with contract claim and its determination that equitable ...


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