United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Greenville Division
ORDER AND OPINION
Howe Hendricks United States District Judge
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff’s Motion to
Alter or Amend (ECF No. 40). For the reasons set forth
herein, the Motion is denied.
Court assumes familiarity with the facts and procedural
history of this case, which are set forth in detail in the
Court’s September 30, 2015 Order (ECF No. 36) granting
in part and denying in part Defendants’ Motion to
Dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted. On October 28, 2015, Plaintiff filed a
Motion to Alter or Amend, moving the Court to reconsider its
dismissal of Plaintiff’s first, second, and fourth
causes of action. (ECF No. 40 at 1.) Defendants responded on
November 16, 2015 (ECF No. 43), and Plaintiff replied on
November 30, 2015 (ECF No. 47). The Court has thoroughly
reviewed the briefing and the relevant legal authorities on
this matter, and now issues the following ruling.
Court’s Order granting in part and denying in part
Defendant’s Renewed Motion to Dismiss is an
interlocutory order under Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b). “Motions
for reconsideration of interlocutory orders are not subject
to the strict standards applicable to motions for
reconsideration of a final judgment.” Am. Canoe
Ass’n v. Murphy Farms, Inc., 326 F.3d 505, 514
(4th Cir. 2003) (citation omitted). “This is because a
district court retains the power to reconsider and modify its
interlocutory judgments . . . at any time prior to final
judgment when such is warranted.” Id. at
514-15 (citing Fayetteville Investors v. Commercial
Builders, Inc., 936 F.2d 1462, 1469 (4th Cir.1991));
see also United States v. Duke Energy Corp., 218
F.R.D. 468, 473-74 (M.D. N.C. 2003) (“A court may
revisit interlocutory orders at any time prior to final
judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b) or its inherent
Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has not specifically
articulated the standard for evaluating a motion for
reconsideration filed under Rule 54(b). Long v.
O’Reilly’s Auto. Stores, Inc., C/A No.
6:12-901-MGL, 2014 WL 2864589, at *2 (D.S.C. June 23, 2014).
Although the strict standards applicable to motions for
reconsideration brought pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 59 do not
apply, “District courts in the Fourth Circuit look to
the standards of motions under [Rule 59] for guidance.”
Id. (citing R.E. Goodson Constr. Co., Inc. v.
Int’l Paper Co., C/A No. 4:02-4184-RBH, 2006 WL
1677136, at *1 (D.S.C. June 14, 2006); Akeva L.L.C. v.
Adidas Am., Inc., 385 F.Supp.2d 559, 565-66 (M.D. N.C.
2005)); see also Pure Fishing, Inc. v. Normark
Corp., C/A No. 3:10-2140-CMC, 2012 WL 4009628, at *1
(D.S.C. Sept. 12, 2012) aff’d, 564 F.
App’x 601 (Fed. Cir. 2014) (“This court finds the
standard applicable to reconsideration of final orders
useful, though non-binding.”). As with a motion under
Rule 59, “appropriate reasons for granting
reconsideration under Rule 54 are: (1) to follow an
intervening change in controlling law; (2) on account of new
evidence; or (3) to correct a clear error of law or prevent
manifest injustice.” Long, 2014 WL 2864589 at
*2. “The ultimate responsibility of the federal courts,
at all levels, is to reach the correct judgment under
law.” Am. Canoe Ass’n, 326 F.3d at 515.
Definition of “Current Employment
first argues that the Court erroneously relied on an
inapplicable definition of “current employment
status” in finding that Plaintiff had failed to state a
claim under the Medicare as Secondary Payer
(“MSP”) statute, as codified in 42 U.S.C. §
1395y. (ECF No. 40-1 at 10.) Plaintiff asserts that the Court
committed a clear error of law by applying the definition of
“current employment status” in the regulations
instead of the definition provided in the MSP statute itself.
(Id.) Plaintiff cites the U.S. Supreme Court ruling
in Stenberg v. Carhart, 530 U.S. 914 (2000), for the
proposition that where Congress has provided a definition in
a statute for a particular word or phrase, courts must follow
that definition in giving effect to Congress’ intent.
Id. at 942 (“When a statute includes an
explicit definition, [an interpreting court] must follow that
definition, even if it varies from that term’s ordinary
meaning.” (citing Meese v. Keene, 481 U.S.
465, 484-485 (1987)). Plaintiff further cites dicta from an
out-of-circuit district court decision for the proposition
that, “‘[T]he Congress intended that the term
‘current employment status’ be given the broadest
possible application.’” Santana v. Deluxe
Corp, 12 F.Supp.2d 162, 172 (D. Mass. 1998) (quoting 60
Fed. Reg. 45344-01, 45356 (Aug. 31, 1995)).
definition of “current employment status” set
forth by Congress in the MSP statute, 42 U.S.C. §
1395y(b)(1)(E)(ii), is as follows: “An individual has
‘current employment status’ with an employer if
the individual is an employee, is the employer, or is
associated with the employer in a business
relationship.” Id. Plaintiff argues that this
definition of “current employment status” trumps
the definition of the same phrase set forth in the applicable
regulation, which reads in pertinent part: “An
individual has current employment status if . . . [t]he
individual is actively working as an employee . . . or . . .
[t]he individual is not actively working and . . .
[i]s receiving disability benefits from an employer for
up to 6 months . . . .” 42 C.F.R. § 411.104
Court disagrees with Plaintiff that it committed a clear
error of law by following the applicable definition of
“current employment status” in the regulation
promulgated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services’ Health Care Financing Administration
(“HCFA”), which retains regulatory authority to
enforce the mandates of the MSP statute. See Health Ins.
Ass’n of Am., Inc. v. Shalala, 23 F.3d 412, 415
(D.C. Cir. 1994). Plaintiff’s arguments on this point
are unconvincing to show that HCFA’s regulatory
definition constitutes anything more than proper guidance on
the application of the Congressional language under
particular circumstances. Such regulations are to be upheld
unless they “contradict ‘the unambiguously
expressed intent of Congress’ or [are] not a
‘reasonable interpretation’ of an ambiguous
statutory provision.” See Id. (quoting
Chevron U.S.A. v. Natural Resources Defense Council,
467 U.S. 837, 842-43 (1984)). The regulatory definition in
question does neither, and is therefore entitled to
deference. Moreover, the HCFA’s instruction to construe
broadly the term “current employment status”
applies to the breadth of business relationships Congress
intended to capture; in other words, the term
“encompasses not only individuals who are actively
working but also individuals under contract with the employer
whether or not they actually perform services for the
employer, such as attorneys on retainer, tradesmen and
insurance agents.” 60 Fed. Reg. 45, 344-01, 45, 356
(Aug. 31, 1995); see Santana, 12 F.Supp.2d at 172
(declining to extend the MSP’s statutory protection for
active individuals and those with current employment status
to a disabled former employee receiving health benefits and
granting summary judgment to the defendant employer on MSP
claim). Therefore, the Court declines to reconsider its prior
ruling on the MSP claim on this basis.
remainder of Plaintiff’s arguments regarding dismissal
of the MSP claim (Fourth Cause of Action, ECF No. 1
¶¶ 74-79) either rehash arguments raised in her
Opposition to the Motion to Dismiss or fail to raise
colorable assertions that the Court committed a clear error
of law. Consequently, the Court will not address them here.
As fully set forth in the Court’s prior Order,
Plaintiff’s MSP claim fails to plausibly allege a
violation of the MSP statute, and the Court’s dismissal
of that claim will remain undisturbed.
The Health Plan Provisions’ Viability ...