United States District Court, D. Montana, Missoula Division
LESLEY M. FIX, Plaintiff,
THE HARTFORD LIFE AND ACCIDENT INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.
L. CHRISTENSEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT CHIEF JUDGE.
States Magistrate Judge Jeremiah C. Lynch entered his
Findings and Recommendation on March 6, 2017, recommending
denial of Plaintiff Lesley Fix's ("Fix") motion
for summary judgment. Fix timely filed objections and is
therefore entitled to de novo review of those findings and
recommendations to which she specifically objected. 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1)(C). This Court reviews for clear error those
findings and recommendations to which no party objects.
See McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Commodore Bus. Mack,
Inc., 656 F.2d 1309, 1313 (9th Cir. 1981); Thomas v.
Am, 474 U.S. 140, 149 (1985). "Clear error exists
if the Court is left with a definite and firm conviction that
a mistake has been committed." United States v.
Syrax, 235 F.3d 422, 427 (9th Cir. 2000). Because the
parties are familiar with the factual background of this
case, it will not be repeated here.
threshold matter, Defendant The Hartford Life and Accident
Insurance Company ("Hartford") contends that
Fix's objections fail to satisfy the requirements set by
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and this District's
Local Rules for lodging objections to proposed findings and
recommendations by a United States magistrate judge. Indeed,
under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, "[w]ithin 14
days after being served with a copy of the recommended
disposition, a party may serve and file specific
written objections to the proposed findings and
recommendations." Fed. R Civ. P. 72(b) (emphasis added).
The amount of specificity is further clarified by this
Court's Local Rules, which hold that an objection to a
magistrate judge's findings and recommendations must
(1) each factual finding of the magistrate judge to which
objection is made, identifying the evidence in the record the
party relies on to contradict that finding; and
(2) each recommendation of the magistrate judge to which
objection is made, setting forth the authority the party
relies on to contradict that recommendation.
L.R. 72.3(a); see also 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C)
("Within fourteen days after being served with a copy,
any party may serve and file written objections to such
proposed findings and recommendations as provided by rules of
court. A judge of the court shall make a de novo
determination of those portions of the report or specified
proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is
close review of Fix's objections, it appears that she
slightly modified her briefs in support of the motion for
summary judgment to serve as her Rule 72 objections.
(Compare Docs. 26 and 30, with Doc. 34.)
Further, though these objections discuss Judge Lynch's
conclusions generally, Fix essentially recycles her previous
arguments in an attempt to relitgate her case. This is not
the purpose of 28 U.S.C. § 636. See Kenneally v.
Clark, CV-10-67-BU-RFC-JCL, 2011 WL 4959672, at * 1 (D.
Mont. Oct. 18, 2011) ("Objections to a magistrate's
Findings and Recommendations are not a vehicle for the losing
party to relitigate its case.") (citing Camardo v.
General Motors Hourly-Rate Employees Pension Plan, 806
F.Supp. 380, 382 (W.D.N.Y.1992) ("There is no increase
in efficiency, and much extra work, when a party attempts to
relitigate every argument which it presented to the
Magistrate Judge.")). Thus, as a result of Fix's
failure to specify her objections in accordance with Rule 72,
the Court is permitted to overrule the objections without
analysis. Kenneally, 2011 WL 4959672, at * 1
(citing Sullivan v. Schriro, CV-04-1517-PHX-DGC,
2006 WL 1516005, at *1 (D. Ariz. May 30, 2006)).
despite Fix's lack of specified objections to Judge
Lynch's legal conclusions, the Court is not relieved of
its duty to review the Findings and
Recommendation. Id. Upon review of the Findings
or Recommendations, the Court agrees with Judge Lynch that
Fix's motion should be denied. Harfford's decision to
terminate Fix's disability insurance benefits was not an
abuse of discretion, or arbitrary or capricious. See
Tapley v. Locals 302 and 612 of the International Union of
Operating Engineers-Employers Construction Industry
Retirement Plan, 728 F.3d 1134, 1139-1140 (9th Cir.
2013) (equating the abuse of discretion standard with the
arbitrary and capricious standard of review when reviewing a
denial of ERISA benefits).
discussed by Judge Lynch, three physicians, Dr. Origitano,
Dr. Trontel, and Dr. Lavin, found that no restrictions should
be imposed on Fix. These findings were confirmed on
independent review by Dr. Levy and on appeal by Dr.
Defilippis and Dr. Shah. Based upon these opinions and
reports, the Court cannot say that Harfford's decision to
terminate Fix's benefits was arbitrary and capricious.
Further, though Dr. Lindsay's opinion that Fix is not
restricted appears to cite inconsistent findings, the Court
cannot say that Hartford's conclusion that Fix was not
disabled was arbitrary and capricious.
the Court is not persuaded by the remainder of Fix's
arguments which contend that Hartford's decision to
terminate benefits was arbitrary and capricious, specifically
the arguments that: (1) Hartford could not terminate benefits
without determining if Fix's condition had improved; (2)
Fix was disabled as a result of her migraine headaches; (3)
Hartford did not give adequate weight to her subjective
complaints of migraines and diminished cognitive abilities;
(4) Hartford improperly relied on non-examining medical care
consultants; and (5) Hartford failed to give adequate
consideration to Fix's March 2013 neuropsychological
exam. The Court agrees with Judge Lynch that these arguments
fail to show that Hartford's decision terminate benefits
was not reasonable based upon the administrative record, an
abuse of discretion, or arbitrary and capricious.
IT IS ORDERED that:
(1) Judge Lynch's Findings and Recommendations (Doc. 33)
are ADOPTED IN FULL;
(2) Plaintiff Lesley Fix's Motion for Summary Judgment
(Doc. 25) is DENIED;
(3) Defendant The Hartford Life and Accident Insurance
Company's Cross Motion for Summary Judgment ...