United States District Court, D. Montana, Missoula Division
L. Christensen, United States District Court Chief Judge
the Court is Plaintiff John Meyer's ("Meyer")
Motion for Reconsideration Under Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure 59(e). (Doc. 32.) Meyer urges the Court to
reconsider its Order dismissing his case without prejudice.
(Doc. 28.) There, the Court granted Defendant
UnitedHealthCare Insurance Company's ("United")
motion for judgment on the pleadings after concluding that:
(1) ERISA governs Meyer's insurance policies; and (2)
because Meyer failed to respond, United's argument that
ERISA preempts his claims is well taken. (Id. at 7,
9.) Meyer now contends that his failure to provide a
counter-argument on the preemption issue was excusable
neglect that justifies the Court's reconsideration. (Doc.
33 at 3.) The Court agrees.
October 2015, Meyer began receiving health care coverage from
United. United insured Meyer through group policies issued to
his then-employer Wildearth Guardians. (Docs. 12 at 3-4;
December 2015, while he was covered by United, Meyer was
involved in a life-threatening ski accident. (Doc. 10 at
2-3.) Meyer's annual in-network out-of-pocket maximum was
$6, 000. (Id. at 5.) Meyer was hospitalized for two
weeks at the Billings Clinic in Billings, Montana, before
being transferred to the Community Medical Center in
Missoula, Montana. (Doc. 10 at 3.) Ultimately, Meyer was
personally billed well over his $6, 000 out-of-pocket
maximum. (Id. at 7-8.)
originally brought suit in this Court in July of 2017,
alleging claims against United under ERISA. (Id. at
6.) However, after United's Associate General Counsel
informed Meyer that she believed that the group policies were
not subject to ERISA, he agreed to dismiss his case without
prejudice. (Id.; see also Meyer v. UnitedHealthcareIns.
Co., No. CV 17-98-M-DLC, Doc. 5 at 1 (D. Mont. Dec. 5,
First Amended Complaint in this case, Meyer alleged three
state law claims under Montana's Unfair Trade Practices
Act ("MUTPA"). (Doc. 10 at 10-12.) Specifically, he
claimed that United "engaged in unfair practices,"
"breached its contract," and "committed
fraud" during its handling of his claim. (Id.
at 10-12.) Meyer sought general and compensatory damages,
special damages, punitive damages, attorney fees, and
injunctive relief regarding United's prospective billing
practices. (Id. at 12.)
moved for judgment on the pleadings (Doc. 23), arguing that
ERISA governs the policies at issue and, therefore, federal
law preempts Meyer's state-law claims (Doc. 24). After
considering whether the "safe-harbor" described by
Zavora v. Paul Revere Life Ins. Co., 145 F.3d 1118,
1120 (9th Cir. 1998) exempted Meyer's group policies from
ERISA, the Court concluded that ERISA does control in this
case. (Doc. 28 at 5, 7.) Meyer only provided an argument
regarding this threshold issue of whether ERISA applies at
all. (Doc. 26 at 2-3.) Therefore, pursuant to Local Rule
7.1(d)(1)(B)(ii), the Court treated as well-taken
United's next argument concerning ERISA's conflict
and express preemption of Meyer's claims, and it
accordingly granted United's motion. (Doc. 28 at 9.)
Meyer moves the Court to reconsider the preemption issue,
arguing that his failure to address it in his response brief
was excusable neglect based on United's alleged
"misrepresentation, misconduct, and fraud," and as
a result, he "has experienced injury and circumstances
beyond his control." (Doc. 33 at 3, 33.)
empowering a district court to vacate its own judgment
"when the equities so demand," Am. Games, Inc.
v. Trade Prods., Inc., 142 F.3d 1164, 1168 (9th Cir.
1998), Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60 "attempts to
strike a proper balance between the conflicting principles
that litigation must be brought to an end and that justice
should be done," Delay v. Gordon, 475 F.3d
1039, 1045 (9th Cir. 2007) (quoting 11 Charles Alan Wright,
Arthur R. Miller & Mary Kay Kane, Federal Practice
and Procedure § 2851 (2d ed. 1995)). Therefore,
upon "just terms, the court may relieve a party .. .
from a final judgment, order, or proceeding" based on,
inter alia: "excusable neglect;"
"fraud ... misrepresentation, or misconduct;" or
"any other reason that justifies relief."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(1), (3), (6).
60(b) "does not particularize the factors that justify
relief; [instead] it provides courts with authority
'adequate to enable them to vacate judgments whenever
such action is appropriate to accomplish justice.'"
United States v. Washington, 98 F.3d 1163 (9th Cir.
1996) (quoting Klapprott v. United States, 335 U.S.
601, 614-15 (1949)). And, while a district court has
"wide discretion in passing upon on motion under [Rule]
60(b)," the Ninth Circuit emphasizes that "the
policy of the law is to favor a hearing of a litigant's
claim on the merits." Russell v. Cunningham,
279 F.2d 797, 804 (9th Cir. 1960).
neglect encompass[es]... omissions caused by
carelessness" and, as its name suggests, "includes
cases of negligence." Lemoge v. United States,
587 F.3d 1188, 1192 (9th Cir. 2009) (alteration in original)
(internal citations omitted). When a party argues for relief
based on his "excusable neglect" under Rule
60(b)(1), "the court must consider all relevant
circumstances." M.D. by and through Doe v.
Newport-Mesa Sck, 840 F.3d 640, 642 (9th Cir. 2016) (per
curiam) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).
decide whether neglect is excusable, "district courts
should explicitly use the Pioneer-Briones framework
for analysis." Lemoge, 587 F.3d at 1192. The
equitable Pioneer-Briones analysis requires a
district court to examine "at least four factors: (1)
the danger of prejudice to the opposing party; (2) the length
of delay and its potential impact on proceedings; (3) the
reason for the delay; and (4) whether the movant acted in
good faith." Id. (quoting Bateman v. U.S.
Postal Serv.,231 F.3d 1220, 1223-24 (9th Cir. 2000)).
Furthermore, while discussion and analysis under the
Pioneer-Briones framework is required, "the
district court may consider  the factors without discussing
how much weight it gives to each." Newport-Mesa
Sch., 840 F.3d at 643. Additionally, though not an
explicit Pioneer-Br ...