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Simpson v. Commonwealth

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

September 27, 2016

JO ANN SIMPSON, individually and as personal representative of the estate of JOSHUA SIMPSON, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          James C. Cacheris United States District Court Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to Reconsider [Dkt. 29]. Plaintiff seeks reconsideration of this Court's Order granting Defendant's Motion to Dismiss [Dkt. 3], and dismissing Plaintiff's Complaint [Dkt. 1-1]. For the following reasons, the Court will deny Plaintiff's Motion to Reconsider.

         I. Background

         The facts of this case were discussed at length in this Court's previous Memorandum Opinion issued on July 21, 2016 [Dkt. 27], and are discussed here only as relevant to Plaintiff's Motion to Reconsider.

         Plaintiff Jo Ann Simpson (“Plaintiff” or “Mrs. Simpson”) brings this suit as the personal representative and administrator of the estate of the deceased, Joshua Michael Simpson (“Decedent” or “Mr. Simpson”). Decedent was an individual with a mental illness living in Warrenton, Virginia in 2014. (Compl., ¶¶ 4, 6.) Plaintiff brings claims against Defendant, the Commonwealth of Virginia (“the Commonwealth”); Defendant, Steven Flaherty in his official capacity as the Superintendent of the Virginia Department of State Police (“Superintendent Flaherty”); and Defendants, John Does (“Doe Defendants”), who are currently unidentified police officers employed by the Virginia Department of State Police (“VSP”). (Id. at ¶¶ 7-9.) Collectively, the Court will refer to the Commonwealth, Superintendent Flaherty, and the Doe Defendants as “Defendants.”

         On July 21, 2016, this Court issued an Order and accompanying Memorandum Opinion granting Defendant's Motion to Dismiss and dismissing Plaintiff's Complaint. On August 18, 2016, Plaintiff filed the instant Motion to Reconsider pursuant to Rule 59 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. On August 31, 2016, Defendants filed their Memorandum in Opposition [Dkt. 33]. Plaintiff filed her Reply brief on September 6, 2016 [Dkt. 34]. The motion is set for oral argument on September 22, 2016, at which point it will be ripe for decision.

         II. Legal Standard

         Plaintiff asks the Court to reconsider its Order dismissing her Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e). A court may amend a judgment under Rule 59(e) in the following three circumstances: “(1) to accommodate an intervening change in controlling law; (2) to account for new evidence not available at trial; or (3) to correct a clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice.” Hutchinson v. Staton, 994 F.2d 1076, 1081 (4th Cir. 1993). Amending a judgment “is an extraordinary remedy that should be applied sparingly.” Mayfield v. NASCAR, Inc., 674 F.3d 369, 379 (4th Cir. 2012). In order to justify reconsideration due to clear error, the error cannot be “just maybe or probably wrong; it must . . . strike [the Court] as wrong with the force of a five-week-old, unrefrigerated dead fish.” Fontell v. Hasset, 891 F.Supp.2d 739, 741 (D. Md. 2012)(quoting TFWS, Inc. v. Franchot, 572 F.3d 186, 194 (4th Cir. 2009)(citations omitted)).

         III. Analysis

         Plaintiff contends that relief pursuant to Rule 59(e) is appropriate here because: (1) there were relevant developments in Fourth Circuit case law subsequent to oral argument, but prior to issuance of the Order granting Defendants' Motion to Dismiss; and (2) the failure of this Court to “consider these new cases, as well as [unspecified] other factors, ” when ruling on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss “represents a manifest injustice.” (Pl.'s Mem. in Supp. at 2.) The Court will consider each of these bases for reconsideration in turn.

         A. Failure to Consider New Case Law

         Plaintiff first argues that her supplemental brief cited “new case law that the Court did not cite in its opinion.” (Pl.'s Mem. in Supp. at 2.) Plaintiff is correct that the Court's previous Memorandum Opinion did not cite every case included in Plaintiff's briefings on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. However, the Court's decision not to cite to the authority offered by Plaintiff did not stem from a failure to consider those cases. Rather, those cases did not appear in the forty-two page Memorandum Opinion granting Defendant's Motion to Dismiss out of a concern for the efficient management of judicial resources, as well as because the Court considered them to be so obviously distinguishable from the case at hand that extended discussion of them was unnecessary. To quell Plaintiff's concern that this Court may have ignored or overlooked relevant case law, the Court will now proceed to discuss and distinguish each case cited by the Plaintiff in her Motion to Reconsider.

         1. Estate of Armstrong v. Village of Pinehurst

         Plaintiff first contends that this Court “ignore[d] recent Fourth Circuit precedent addressing mental illness, ” specifically the case of Estate of Armstrong v. Village of Pinehurst, 810 F.3d 892 (4th Cir. 2016). (Pl.'s Mem. in Supp. at 5.) Plaintiff seems to argue that Armstrong stands for the proposition that the use of force is presumptively unreasonable when deployed against individuals who are mentally ill. It would be far more accurate to say instead that Armstrong clarified that ...


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