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Byrge v. Premium Coal Co., Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville

February 5, 2018

PHILLIS S. BYRGE, on behalf of the Estate of REDDIN BYRGE, Plaintiff,
v.
PREMIUM COAL CO. INC., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          C. CLIFFORD SHIRLEY, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This case is before the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), Rule 73(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and the consent of the parties, for all further proceedings, including entry of judgment [Doc. 16].

         Now before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment [Doc. 33]. Plaintiff has responded [Doc. 35] in opposition to the Motion. The Motion is ripe for adjudication. Accordingly, for the reasons set forth below, the Court finds Defendants' Motion [Doc. 33] not well taken, and it is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Although discussed herein to the extent relevant to the Court's analysis, the Court presumes familiarity with the facts of this case as well as the analysis in the underlying opinion. Relevant here, on March 31, 2017, the Court entered a Memorandum Opinion [Doc. 31] granting Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment. A separate Judgment [Doc. 32] was also entered. Specifically, the Court found that Plaintiff was entitled to 20% additional compensation and interest on the additional compensation.

         Defendants have now moved the Court, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e), to alter or amend the March 31 Judgment in this case.

         II. POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES

         Defendants argue that the plain language of the Longshore and Black Lung Acts and the Department's regulations preclude a finding that the penalty in 33 U.S.C. § 914(f) applies in this case. Further, Defendants assert the prior black lung precedent holds that the Longshore Act's procedures do not supersede black lung regulations. Defendants continue that the Court's analysis equating the Longshore Act and the Black Lung program is not supported by fact or law.

         Plaintiff responds [Doc. 35] that pursuant to 20 C.F.R. § 725.502(b)(2), the thirty-day grace period for payment only applies to back benefits and that regardless, the thirty-day period expired on April 4, 2013. Plaintiff submits that the ALJ's 2013 decision is the relevant “compensation order” and contained all the information that Defendants needed to initiate monthly payments to Mr. Byrge.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         As mentioned above, Defendants' Motion was filed pursuant to Federal Rule Civil Procedure 59(e). Rule 59(e) provides, “A motion to alter or to amend a judgment must be filed no later than 28 days after the entry of the judgment.” A court may grant a Rule 59(e) motion to alter or amend if there is: (1) a clear error of law; (2) newly discovered evidence; (3) an intervening change in controlling law; or (4) a need to prevent manifest injustice. Intera Corp. v. Henderson, 428 F.3d 605, 620 (6th Cir. 2005). A Rule 59(e) motion is not supposed to be “used to relitigate old matters, or to raise arguments . . . that could have been raised prior to the entry of judgment. Hanson v. Madison Cnty Detention Ctr., No. 5:14-CV-99-REWS, 2017 WL 3022323, at *4 (E.D. Ky. July 17, 2017) (quoting Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker, 128 S.Ct. 2605, 2617 n.5 (2008)).

         Defendants do not specifically explain the basis for their Rule 59(e), but given the language in their Motion (i.e., the Court reached a contrary interpretation; the Court has no sound basis, and the Court's analysis is not supported by fact or law), the Court will treat the Motion as if Defendants are arguing that the Court committed clear error of law.

         IV. ANALYSIS

         Defendants request that the Court reconsider as follows: (1) whether Defendants' payments were in keeping with the regulatory language setting the date the payments were due and were, therefore, timely; (2) whether prior case law, including Sixth Circuit precedent, requires this Court to follow Department of Labor's black lung rules and not Longshore rules in matters concerning the payment of benefits; (3) whether the Court's decision properly accounts for the fact that in black lung claims, but not in Longshore claims, it is necessary to coordinate a transition from payments made by the federal government in accordance with federal disability benefit program rules used in Social Security Act programs that are not designed to accommodate an immediate switch over from federal payments to ...


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