United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
Glen E. Conrad Chief United States District Judge.
Totoian brought this action against William Lee Andrews, III
("Andrews"), Virginia Worldwide Group, LLC
("Virginia Worldwide"), Black Ink of Virginia, Inc.
("Black Ink"), and others, alleging that defendants
were in a scheme to defraud him. The plaintiff also sought to
pierce the corporate veil, holding defendant Andrews liable
for the wrongs of Virginia Worldwide, a business entity which
was wholly owned by Andrews. Throughout the course of the
litigation/ the Clerk made entries of default against several
of the defendants and several others were dismissed. The case
proceeded to a jury trial, which was held on November 22,
2016, against the three remaining defendants: Andrews,
Virginia Worldwide, and Black Ink. After deliberations, the
jury returned with a completed special verdict form,
indicating that it found Virginia Worldwide liable in the
amount of $20, 870 and that plaintiff had not pierced the
corporate veil. The matter is currently before the court on
plaintiffs motion to amend judgment. For the reasons that
follow, the plaintiffs motion will be denied.
motion to alter or amend judgment under Rule 59(e) is not
intended as a means for a dissatisfied litigant to reargue
"the very issues that the court has previously
decided." DeLong v. Thompson, 790 F.Supp. 594,
618 (E.D. Va. 1991). "A Rule 59(e) motion may only be
granted in three situations: '(1) to accommodate an
intervening change in controlling law; (2) to account for new
evidence not available [previously]; or (3) to correct a
clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice.'"
Mavfield v. Natl Ass'n for Stock Car Auto Racing.
Inc., 674 F.3d 369, 378 (4th Cir. 2012) (quoting
Zinkand v. Brown, 478 F, 3d 634, 637 (4th Cir.
2007)). The decision to alter or amend a judgment pursuant to
Rule 59(e) is within the sound discretion of the district
court. See, e.g., Dennis v. Columbia
Colleton Med. Ctr., Inc., 290 F.3d 639, 653 (4th Cir.
2002). "It is an extraordinary remedy that should be
applied sparingly" and only in "exceptional
circumstances." Mavfield, 674 F.3d at 378.
these principles, the court concludes that the plaintiff is
not entitled to relief under Rule 59(e). At trial, plaintiff
introduced evidence that Virginia Worldwide transferred funds
to Black Ink; that Black Ink had a bank account opened and
maintained personally by Andrews; that Andrews was the sole
owner of both Black Ink and Virginia Worldwide; and that
Andrews was the sole person directing the activities of Black
Ink and Virginia Worldwide. In light of these facts, the
plaintiff asks the court to "harmonize" what
plaintiff alleges is an inconsistent jury finding: that
Virginia Worldwide defrauded him but Andrews did not. See
Bristol Steel & Iron Works v. Bethlehem Steel Corp.,
41 F.3d 182, 190 (4th Cir. 1994) ("The answers to
special verdicts should be reconciled under any rational
theory consistent with the evidence, and equally the answers
should be harmonized if possible."). Accordingly,
plaintiff asks the court to amend judgment so that both
Andrews and Virginia Worldwide are responsible for the
judgment in plaintiffs favor.
court does not see the inconsistency plaintiff alleges in the
jury's verdict. The Supreme Court of Virginia has
specifically held that proof of dominion or control of a
corporation is not enough to pierce the corporate veil.
Hence, the plaintiff must also establish "that the
corporation was a device or sham used to disguise wrongs,
obscure fraud, or conceal crime" in order to hold the
shareholder liable. Perpetual Real Estate Servs., Inc. v.
Michaelson Props., Inc., 974 F.2d 545, 548 (4th Cir.
1992) (quoting Cheatle v. Rudd's Swimming Pool Supply
Co., Inc., 234. Va. 207, 212 (1987)). In this case, the
jury was instructed regarding this standard, See Jury
Instructions, Docket. No. 95. The jury was also instructed on
plaintiffs claims of unjust enrichment and receipt of stolen
goods against Black Ink.
jury's determination that plaintiff did not successfully
pierce the corporate veil, that only the corporate entity was
liable, that Black Ink was not unjustly enriched and did not
receive stolen goods, and that neither Andrews nor Black Ink
wrongfully appropriated plaintiffs property is internally
consistent and in congruence with the law of corporations.
See, e.g., Perpetual Real Estate Servs., Inc., 974
F.2d at 547-48 ("Virginia courts have long recognized
the basic proposition that a corporation is a legal entity
separate and distinct from its shareholders."). From the
jury's verdict, it appears that while the jury understood
Virginia Worldwide to be under the dominion and control of
Andrews, it did not believe that Virginia Worldwide was used
to "disguise wrongs, obscure fraud, or conceal
crime." Id. This conclusion is further
supported by the fact that $20, 870 judgment represents the
amount of money that remained in Worldwide Virginia's
possession. Simply put, it appears that the jury treated
Virginia Worldwide independently of Andrews and Black Ink.
This is a rational view of the case and a view that controls.
See Bristol, 41 F.3d at 190 (citing Atl. & Gulf
Stevedores, Inc. v. Ellerman Lines, Ltd., 369 U.S. 355,
the court does not believe the jury verdict to be the product
of a "clear error of law or . . . manifest injustice,
" Mayfield, 674 F.3d at 378. Additionally,
plaintiff presents no argument regarding a change of law and
does not argue that there is any new evidence. See
id. While the plaintiff may disagree with the
court's decision on this issue, "mere disagreement
does not support a Rule 59(e) motion." Hutchinson v.
Staton, 994 F.2d 1076, 1082 (4th Cir. 1993); see
also Pritchard v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 3
F.App'x 52, 53 (4th Cir. 2001) ("When the motion
[for reconsideration] ., . merely requests the district court
to reconsider a legal issue or to 'change its mind, '
relief is not authorized.") (quoting United States
v. Williams, 674 F.2d 310, 312 (4th Cir. 1982)).
Accordingly, the plaintiffs motion to alter or amend the
judgment will be denied.
reasons stated, plaintiffs motion to amend judgment will be
denied. The Clerk is directed to send certified copies of