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Shelbyville Hospital Corp. v. Mosley

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Winchester Division

May 24, 2017

E. WAYNE MOSLEY, M.D., Defendant.



         This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Reconsideration [doc. 222], Plaintiff's Response in Opposition [223], and Defendant's Reply [doc. 224]. For the reasons herein, the Court will deny the motion.

         I. Background

         On February 10, 2016, this Court entered summary judgment against Defendant E. Wayne Mosley, M.D. (“Dr. Mosley”) after finding that he breached his Recruitment Agreement [doc. 1-1] with Plaintiff Shelbyville Hospital Corp. (“Shelbyville Hospital”). [Memo. Op., doc. 173, at 1-31]. Specifically, the Court determined that Dr. Mosley- while he participated in a mission trip in Africa and remained absent from his medical practice in Shelbyville, Tennessee, from November 12, 2012 to at least December 17, 2012-breached the portion of the Recruitment Agreement that required him to engage in the full-time practice of medicine in Shelbyville. [Id.].[1] As to the issue of damages, however, the Court reserved ruling and informed the parties that at a later date it intended to hold an evidentiary hearing. [Id. at 30-31]. Since then, each of the parties has fully briefed the issue of damages, and Dr. Mosley has requested the opportunity “to put on proof” at the hearing to show that after the breach he returned to his practice and is therefore entitled to receive a setoff, or a reduction, in the amount of damages “based upon partial continued performance.” [Def.'s Resp. to Mot. for Damages, doc. 180, at 2- 3, 7]. The Court went on to schedule the hearing for May 24, 2017. [Order Scheduling Hr'g, doc. 193, at 1].

         With about two weeks to spare before the hearing, Dr. Mosley elected to obtain new counsel, who moved for reconsideration of the Court's entry of summary judgment, [see Def.'s First Mot. for Reconsideration, doc. 213, at 1-4], and for empanelment of a jury to determine damages at the hearing, [see Def.'s Mot. for Pretrial Conference, doc. 214, at 1-2]. The Court denied Dr. Mosley's request for reconsideration as to the issue of liability, and it explained to the parties that no jury was necessary at the evidentiary hearing because Dr. Mosley has argued all along that his request for a setoff is equitable in nature. [Order Denying Reconsideration, doc. 218, at 1]. In response, Dr. Mosley again moved for reconsideration under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b), re-contesting the issue of liability and the Court's decision not to empanel a jury for today's hearing on damages. [See Def.'s Renewed Mot. for Reconsideration, doc. 222, at 1-8]. The Court now will address Dr. Mosley's motion.

         II. Legal Standard

         Under Rule 54(b), “any order or other decision . . . that adjudicates fewer than all the claims . . . may be revised at any time before the entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b). In short, Rule 54(b) authorizes courts to reconsider interlocutory orders before an entry of final judgment. A movant, to justify reconsideration under Rule 54(b), must show “(1) an intervening change of controlling law; (2) new evidence [is] available; or (3) a need to correct a clear error or prevent manifest injustice.” Rodriguez v. Tenn. Laborers Health & Welfare Fund, 89 F. App'x 949, 959 (6th Cir. 2004). “A motion under Rule 54(b), however, may not ‘serve as a vehicle to identify facts or raise legal arguments which could have been, but were not, raised or adduced during the pendency of the motion of which reconsideration was sought.'” Madden v. City of Chattanooga, No. 108-cv-160, 2010 WL 670107, at *2 (E.D. Tenn. Feb. 19, 2010) (quotation omitted). When considering a motion under Rule 54(b), a district court “must . . . temper[]” its ability to reconsider prior rulings with “the sound public policy litigation be decided and then put to an end.” Ind. State Dist. Council of Laborers & HOD Carriers Pension & Welfare Fund v. Omnicare, Inc., 719 F.3d 498, (6th Cir. 2013) (Gwin, J., concurring) (quotation omitted).

         III. Analysis

         First, Dr. Mosley contends that the Court should reconsider its nearly sixteen-month-old holding that Dr. Mosley is liable for breach of the Recruitment Agreement because evidence in the record shows that he arranged for his colleagues-fellow physicians-to cover his patients in his absence. [Def.'s Renewed Mot. for Reconsideration at 2-7]. To support this argument, he directs the Court to Paragraph B.1 in the Recruitment Agreement, which he believes permitted him to assign his contractual requirements to other physicians while he was away from Shelbyville, without incurring risk of liability for breach: “Any locum tenens coverage needed to meet the Full-Time Private Practice of Medicine in the Community requirements of the Agreement shall be at the expense of the Physician.” [Recruitment Agreement ¶ B.1]. Second, Dr. Mosley maintains that in a suit for breach of contract, damages is matter for the jury, even if it involves exclusively equitable issues. He claims that if the Court were to conduct the hearing without empanelling a jury, it would encroach on his Seventh Amendment right to have a jury deliberate on the existence and amount of any damages.

         Against the backdrop of these arguments, the Court would be remiss if it did not recognize that Dr. Mosley appears to take issue with how the Court denied his original motion for reconsideration. In denying this motion-in which Dr. Mosley contended that the Court, on summary judgment, “erroneously overlooked” the “express contractual language” in Paragraph B.1, [Def.'s First. Mot. for Reconsideration at 2]-the Court relied on the deposition testimonies of other physicians who served as Dr. Mosley's professional colleagues, [see Order Denying Reconsideration at 1]. Shelbyville Hospital presented these depositions to the Court in response to Dr. Mosley's request for reconsideration, to show that none of Dr. Mosley's colleagues ever agreed to cover his patients while he was in Africa. [See Pl.'s Resp. to First Mot. for Reconsideration, doc. 215, at 3-6]. Dr. Mosley now finds fault with the Court because, in denying his first motion for reconsideration, it relied on this “new evidence, ” which Shelbyville Hospital had “not previously urged [sic] by Plaintiff in support of the summary judgment motion itself.” [Def.'s Renewed Mot. Reconsideration at 1]. Based on this “new evidence, ” he maintains that the Court should have allowed him the “opportunity to rebut by filing a reply brief” before denying his initial motion for reconsideration. [Id.].

         A. Local Rule 7.1

         Under this district's local rules, “reply briefs are not necessary and are not required by the Court, ” unless “otherwise stated by the Court.” E.D. Tenn. L.R. 7.1(c). A party's right to file a reply brief is therefore entirely in the Court's discretion. See Hollingsworth v. Perry, 558 U.S. 183, 191 (2010) (noting that a district court's local rules have “the force of law” (quotation omitted)). The Court elected not to invite Dr. Mosley to file a reply brief because, simply, it did not require one. The Court has presided over this case for over three years and is intimately familiar with its issues, its history, and the parties. Partly from the deposition testimonies that Shelbyville Hospital filed with its response, the Court could plainly see that Dr. Mosley's argument under Paragraph B.1 is newly conceived-one that, as the non-movant on summary judgment, he had never raised as a source of material factual dispute-and is therefore untenable Rule 54(b)'s legal standard. See Madden, 2010 WL 670107 at *2 (recognizing that a motion for reconsideration under Rule 54(b) does not permit parties to “tender new legal theories for the first time” (quotation omitted)); see United States v. Barnes, No. 3:08-cv-996-J-34MCR, 2012 WL 3194419, at *3 (M.D. Fla. June 5, 2012) (“[The defendant] fails to identify any manifest error of law or fact in the Court's Order or present a need to correct manifest injustice. Instead, in the Motion, [the defendant's] new counsel simply raises three arguments that [the defendant] did not present in her summary judgment briefing.”).

         In addition, Dr. Mosley improperly characterizes this evidence-the deposition testimony of his colleagues-as “new evidence, ” a phrase that he repeats throughout his renewed motion. [Def.'s Renewed Mot. for Reconsideration at 1-4]. In the context of a motion for reconsideration, “new evidence” means “the evidence must have been previously unavailable, ” or in other words, the evidence must “not . . . exist prior to the district court's . . . . order.” GenCorp, Inc. v. Am. Int'l Underwriters, 178 F.3d 804, 834 (6th Cir. 1999); see Honaker v. Innova, Inc., No. 1:04-CV-132(M), 2007 WL 1832137 at *1 (W.D. Ky. June 26, 2007) (determining that no new evidence warranted change on reconsideration because the “evidence that [the plaintiff] considers ‘new' was available months prior to the entry of . . . judgment”). By this definition, the deposition testimonies that the Court relied on to deny Dr. Mosley's original motion for reconsideration were not new evidence because they were taken before the Court entered summary judgment in February 2016. [See Dr. Mosley Dep., doc. 215-1, at 1; Dortch Dep., doc. 215-2, at 1; Dr. Hazel Dep., doc. 215-3, at 1; Dr. Ramprasad Dep., doc. 215-4, at 1]. The Court will therefore reject Dr. Mosley's renewed argument for reconsideration.

         B. The Locum Tenens ...

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