United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
EMILIO J. URENA, as assignee of Gregory S. Bryant, Plaintiff,
NATIONWIDE INSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA, Defendant.
C. NORTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
following matters are before the court on: (1) defendant
Nationwide Insurance Company of America's
(“Nationwide”) motion to alter or amend the
judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59, or
for relief from the judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 60, ECF No. 137; (2) plaintiff Emilio J.
Urena's (“Urena”) motion for summary
judgment, ECF No. 138; (3) Nationwide's motion to compel,
ECF No. 140; (4) Nationwide's motion to strike
Urena's motion for summary judgment, ECF No. 142; and (5)
Urena's motion to add Gregory S. Bryant
(“Bryant”) as a party, ECF No. 148. For the
reasons set forth below, the court denies Nationwide's
motion to alter or amend, or obtain relief from the judgment,
denies Urena's motion for summary judgment, denies
Nationwide's motion to compel, denies Nationwide's
motion to strike, and grants Urena's motion to add Bryant
as a party.
January 22, 2012, Bryant and Urena were involved in a vehicle
collision in Moncks Corner, South Carolina. Urena sustained
serve injuries as a result of the crash. At the time, Bryant
was insured under an automobile liability policy issued by
Nationwide. After negotiations between Nationwide and Urena
failed to resolve the matter, Urena filed a lawsuit against
Bryant in this court under the caption Emilio J. Urena v.
Gregory S. Bryant, Case No. 2:12-cv-00469 (the
“underlying tort action”). The jury returned a
verdict in the underlying tort action on December 12, 2013,
and a judgment was entered against Bryant in the amount of
$1, 150, 000 on December 17, 2013.
executed an instrument purporting to assign his claims
against Nationwide to Urena on December 5, 2013 (the
“Assignment”). Urena then filed the instant action in
his capacity as Bryant's assignee, claiming that
Nationwide was liable for negligence and bad faith in failing
to pay the policy limits under Bryant's automobile
insurance policy. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 19-21. At a
pretrial motion hearing, the parties and the court engaged in
the following exchange regarding the Assignment:
URENA'S COUNSEL: I don't think there's any issue
here about the assignment was given (sic). Is there any issue
NATIONWIDE'S COUNSEL: Not directly, Your Honor.
THE COURT: What does that mean?
NATIONWIDE'S COUNSEL: That means that the assignment was
obtained from Nationwide's insured before the tort trial
ever took place. That would be one of the subjects of inquiry
of Mr. Driggers, if we were allowed to depose him.
URENA'S COUNSEL: The reason I say that, I think Mr.
Bryant is --Mr. Bryant's in jail, we have to make
arrangements to get him here, if they have a question about
he signed this and gave it to us.
THE COURT: Well, since it's nonjury, we can always do
ECF No. 97, Pretrial Hr'g Tr. 9:8-22. The topic came up
again at the bench trial on July 20, 2015, where the parties
discussed the possibility of entering the Assignment into
evidence. This discussion was again quite brief, and
consisted of the following exchanges:
URENA'S COUNSEL: . . . [W]e have the assignment which
we'd like to put in evidence. We talked to you about
whether we have to bring the fellow from jail, or whether we
could do it afterwards or whatever. I don't know what
their position is. Are y'all agreeable to us putting in
the assignment as a document in evidence?
NATIONWIDE'S COUNSEL: If you have somebody here to
THE COURT: We'll worry about that after lunch, okay?
[. . .]
THE COURT: Okay. All right. Did you have any loose ends
y'all wanted to tie up before you rested?
URENA'S COUNSEL: We had the assignment. I would say one
thing. The assignment was the subject of a request  by the
defendant of the plaintiff, and they said admit that Mr.
Urena, through Mr. Driggers, obtained an assignment of Mr.
Bryant's claims against Nationwide before the
commencement of the tort trial. We said it was irrelevant.
Subject to that objection, plaintiff did obtain an assignment
from counsel for Bryant prior to trial. So we've admitted
the - they've requested us to admit the assignment, and
we've admitted it. The person who signed the assignment
is in jail. His lawyer is one of the witnesses, and he's
not here. We're trying to get him, but I don't know
whether we can or not. We'd like to be able to keep the
record open, and maybe if Your Honor's satisfied that we
get an affidavit authenticating that that's his signature
on these assignments, there was actually two assignments, the
first one they complained didn't -- said Nationwide
Insurance Company. And then we did it, redid it with
Nationwide Insurance Company of America. So there are two of
them that have been signed, both of them, I think, Mr.
Johnson was the witness on it, or the lawyer, and was there
when it was signed. He's the attorney who can
authenticate it, but he's not here. So however Your Honor
wants to handle it. We'd like to either keep it open or
rest with the understanding that the request to admit is
sufficient to show we have an assignment.
THE COURT: We'll keep it open with regard to tying up
that loose end, which is something we talked about in the
phone call on Friday. I guess what was irrelevant at the time
of the request to admit has now become relevant?
URENA'S COUNSEL: Well, it was irrelevant to the case, but
it's relevant to them saying that we don't have an
assignment, when they requested us to admit the assignment.
THE COURT: We'll leave it open. Just let me know how you
want to do it.
ECF No. 120, Bench Trial Tr. 139:11-20, 141:7-142:18. The
court then required the parties to submit proposed orders by
July 27, 2015, ECF No. 106, and issued its findings of fact
and conclusions of law on July 30, 2015, finding Nationwide
liable in the amount of $1, 100, 000.00. ECF No. 107. Though
the court left the record open during this interim period,
Urena did not submit any evidence confirming the authenticity
of the assignment. Nevertheless, in its findings of fact, the
court “assumed” that the assignment was valid.
ECF No. 107 at 4.
August 26, 2015, Urena filed a motion to amend the
court's findings of fact to make an unequivocal finding
that Bryant assigned his claims against Nationwide to Urena,
or in the alternative, to take additional testimony or allow
the admission of additional evidence on the issue. ECF No.
112. The court denied Urena's request to amend the
findings of fact, but granted his request to “open the
record to receive additional testimony and other evidence
relating to the assignment's validity.” ECF No. 129
parties subsequently deposed Bryant and his former attorney,
Brian Johnson (“Johnson”), and exchanged
interrogatories and requests for production. A number of
Nationwide's discovery requests sought information
regarding Urena's efforts to obtain evidence of the
Assignment's validity prior to trial and during the time
the record was left open for such evidence immediately after
trial. ECF No. 140-3 at 1-6. Urena “declined” to
respond to such requests, arguing they were irrelevant to the
assignment's validity and sought privileged information.
20, 2016, Nationwide filed the instant motion to alter or
amend the court's January 22, 2016 order opening the
record, and to obtain relief from the court's July 30,
2015 judgment. ECF No. 137. On June 1, 2016, Urena filed its
response to Nationwide's motion, as well as its own
motion for summary judgment on the issue of the
Assignment's validity. ECF No. 138, 139. On June 7, 2016,
Nationwide filed a motion to compel responses to its
discovery requests regarding Urena's efforts to obtain
evidence of the Assignment's validity at the time of
trial. ECF No. 140. On June 13, 2016, Nationwide filed a
motion to strike Urena's motion for summary judgment, ECF
No. 142, as well as a reply in support of its motion to alter
or amend, or obtain relief from the judgment. ECF No. 143. On
June 20, 2016, Nationwide filed a response in opposition to
Urena's motion for summary judgment. ECF No. 145. On June
24, 2016, Urena filed a motion to add Bryant as a plaintiff
in this action, ECF No. 148, as well as a response to the
motion to compel. ECF No. 147. On June 29, 2016, Urena filed
a reply in support of its motion for summary judgment. ECF
No. 150. On July 5, 2016, Nationwide filed separate replies
in support of its motion to strike and its motion to compel.
ECF Nos. 151, 152. On July 11, 2016, Nationwide filed a
response to Urena's motion to add Bryant as a party, ECF
No. 153, and on July 21, 2016, Urena filed a reply. ECF No.
154. The court held a hearing on August 2, 2016. The matter
is now ripe for the court's review.
Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment
Rule 59(e) does not specify a standard under which a district
court may alter or amend a judgment, the Fourth Circuit has
recognized that a court may grant a Rule 59(e) motion
“only in very narrow circumstances: (1) to accommodate
an intervening change in controlling law, (2) to account for
new evidence not available at trial, or (3) to correct a
clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice.”
Hill v. Braxton, 277 F.3d 701, 708 (4th Cir. 2002).
Rule 59(e) provides an “extraordinary remedy that
should be used sparingly.” Pac. Ins. Co., 148
F.3d at 403 (internal citation omitted); Wright v.
Conley, No. 10-cv-2444, 2013 WL 314749, at *1 (D.S.C.
Jan. 28, 2013). Rule 59(e) motions may not be used to make
arguments that could have been made before the judgment was
entered. See Pac. Ins. Co. v. Am. Nat'l Fire Ins.
Co., 148 F.3d 396, 403 (4th Cir. 1998). Moreover,
“[a] party's mere disagreement with the court's
ruling does not warrant a Rule 59(e) motion, and such a
motion should not be used to rehash arguments previously
presented or to submit evidence which should have been
previously submitted.” Sams v. Heritage Transp.,
Inc., No. 2:12-cv-0462, 2013 WL 4441949, at *1 (D.S.C.
August 15, 2013). Whether to alter or amend a judgment under
Rule 59(e) is within the sound discretion of the district
court. See, e.g., Bogart v. Chapell, 396
F.3d 548, 555 (4th Cir. 2005).
Motion for Relief from Judgment
60(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states:
On motion and just terms, the court may relieve a party or
its legal representative from a final judgment, order, or