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Ball v. USAA Life Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division

February 13, 2017

CHERYL BALL, individually and on behalf of the ESTATE OF JAMES MICHAEL BALL, Plaintiff,



         This matter is before the court on defendant USAA Life Insurance Company's ("USAA") motion for reconsideration of the court's May 16, 2016 order granting in part and denying in part plaintiff Cheryl Ball's ("plaintiff) motion to compel. ECF No. 29. For the reasons set forth below, the court grants USAA's motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff alleges that her husband, James Michael Ball ("Ball"), served in the Army for 27 years prior to retiring from active duty. Compl. ¶ 4. Ball applied for life insurance with USAA on April 17, 2012 and obtained two life insurance policies on May 20, 2012. Id., ¶ 5. On December 13, 2013, Ball was killed in a hit and run motor vehicle accident, and the cause of death was listed as blunt force injuries to the head after being ejected from a motorcycle. Id., ¶ 6. After Ball's death, plaintiff submitted a claim for life insurance benefits. Id., ¶ 7. Plaintiff alleges that USAA denied her claim on November 24, 2014. Id., The plaintiff filed her complaint on October 27, 2015 in the Court of Common Pleas for Dorchester County, bringing the following causes of action: (1) breach of contract; (2) insurance bad faith; and (3) attorney's fees pursuant to South Carolina Code § 38-59-40. USAA filed a notice of removal on January 7, 2016.

         On February 19, 2016, plaintiff filed a motion to compel USAA to submit full and complete responses to various interrogatories and requests for production. ECF No. 10. The instant motion concerns plaintiff's Request for Production 9, which seeks:

Clear, legible copies of USAA Life Insurance Company's advertising and promotional materials regarding life insurance coverage which were used in the calendar years 2009 through 2014.

ECF No. 10-1 at 3. USAA argued that such materials were irrelevant because they had no bearing on plaintiff's entitlement to life insurance benefits or the reasonableness of USAA's decision to deny those benefits. ECF No. 13 at 5. On May 16, 2016, the court issued an order granting plaintiff's motion to compel with respect to Request for Production 9. ECF No. 24 at 10-11. The court determined that Request for Production 9 was “relevant to the [] bad faith claim and does not appear unduly burdensome.” Id. at 11. However, the court limited its holding to advertising and promotional materials used in South Carolina from 2009 until 2012 (the “Marketing Materials”), explaining that because Ball purchased his life insurance policies in 2012, “advertising materials [used] after 2012 have no relevance in this case.” Id.

         On June 13, 2016, USAA filed the instant motion to reconsider the court's May 16, 2016 order pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b). ECF No. 29.

         Plaintiff filed a response on June 30, 2016. ECF No. 35. The motion is now ripe for the court's review.

         II. STANDARD

Pursuant to Rule 54(b),
any order or other decision, however designated, that adjudicates fewer than all the claims or the rights and liabilities of fewer than all the parties does not end the action as to any of the claims or parties and may be revised at any time before the entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims and all the parties' rights and liabilities.[1]

         “While the precise standard governing motions to reconsider an interlocutory order is unclear, the Fourth Circuit has stated that Rule 54(b) motions are ‘not subject to the strict standards applicable to motions for reconsideration of a final judgment.'” Regan v. City of Charleston, S.C., 40 F.Supp.3d 698, 701 (D.S.C. 2014) (quoting Am. Canoe Ass'n v. Murphy Farms, Inc., 326 F.3d 505, 514 (4th Cir. 2003)). Nevertheless, “the [c]ourt should grant a Rule 54 motion only under narrow circumstances.” In re MI Windows & Doors, Inc. Prod. Liab. Litig., No. 2:12-cv-01258-DCN, 2012 WL 5471862, at *2 (D.S.C. Nov. 9, 2012) (quoting Bailey v. Polk Cty., N.C. , 2012 WL 122565, at *2 (W.D. N.C. Jan. 17, 2012)). Courts in this circuit have looked to the standards governing Rule 59(e) for guidance. Broadvox-CLEC, LLC v. AT & T Corp., 98 F.Supp.3d 839, 850 (D. Md. 2015); Regan, 40 F.Supp.3d at 702. “Therefore, reconsideration under Rule 54 is appropriate on the following grounds: (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.” Ashmore v. Williams, No. 8:15-cv-03633, 2017 WL 24255, at *2 (D.S.C. Jan. 3, 2017).

         III. ...

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