United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
PETER J. WELLIN, et. al, Plaintiff,
WENDY WELLIN, individually and as Trustee of the Keith S. Wellin Florida Revocable Living Trust u/a/d December 11, 2001 Defendant.
C. NORTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the court on two motions to reconsider filed
by defendant Wendy Wellin - one in her individual capacity
(“Wendy”), ECF No. 544, and one in her official
capacity as trustee of the Keith S. Wellin Florida Revocable
Living Trust u/a/d December 11, 2001 (“trustee
Wendy”), ECF No. 545. For the reasons stated below, the
court denies both motions.
the parties are well-acquainted with this case, the court
will dispense with a recitation of facts and include only a
procedural history of the matters at hand.
court issued the February 12, 2015 order denying trustee
Wendy's motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(7) and Wendy's motion
to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
12(b)(1). ECF No. 32. The court held that the probate
exception to diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §
1332(a) did not apply to Wendy or trustee Wendy and that the
Colorado River doctrine did not apply to Wendy
because the companion probate case pending in state court
(the “Probate Action”) was not a parallel suit
and because the exceptional circumstances required to abstain
from jurisdiction did not exist.
February 6, 2018, plaintiffs Peter J. Wellin, Cynthia Plum,
and Marjorie King (the “Wellin children”) amended
their counterclaims in the Probate Action (the “Amended
Counterclaims”) to add a declaratory judgment against
trustee Wendy and tort and contract claims against Wendy. ECF
No. 544-1. The Amended Counterclaims are identical to the
claims before this court. ECF No. 544 at 6-8.
April 27, 2018, Wendy, both in her individual capacity and in
her capacity as trustee, filed a motion for reconsideration
of the court's February 12, 2015 order pursuant to Rule
54(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. ECF No.
544-545. The Wellin children responded on May 11, 2018. ECF
No. 547. Wendy replied, both in her individual capacity and
in her capacity as trustee, on May 25, 2018, and provided a
supplemental reply on August 23, 2018. ECF No. 553, 586. Both
motions have been fully briefed and are now ripe for the
Motion to Reconsider
54(b) states, in relevant part:
[A]ny 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.
the precise standard governing motions to reconsider an
interlocutory order is not specified, 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.” Am. Canoe Ass'n v. Murphy
Farms, Inc., 326 F.3d 505, 514 (4th Cir. 2003); see also
R.E. Goodson Constr. Co. v. Int'l Paper Co.,
2006 WL 1677136, at *1 (D.S.C. June 14, 2006) (noting that
the Fourth Circuit has offered little guidance as to the
appropriate standard for evaluating Rule 54(b) motions other
than admonishing district courts not to apply the standard
for Rule 60(b) motions). A motion brought under Rule 54(b) is
typically judged by the same analysis as a motion brought
under Rule 59(e), which may only be granted for the following
reasons: “(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.” Grayson Consulting,
Inc. v. Cathcart, 2014 WL 587756, at *1 (D.S.C. Feb. 14,
2014) (quoting Pac. Ins. Co. v. Am. Nat'l Fire Ins.
Co., 148 F.3d 396, 403 (4th Cir. 1998)); Slep-Tone
Entm't Corp. v. Garner, 2011 WL 6370364, at *1 (W.D.
N.C. Dec. 20, 2011). However, Rule 54(b)'s approach also
involves broad flexibility to revise interlocutory orders
before final judgment as the litigation develops and new
facts or arguments come to light. Carlson v. Bos. Sci.
Corp., 856 F.3d 320, 325 (4th Cir. 2017). Nowhere is
that flexibility greater and more unflagging than in the
context of subject matter jurisdiction issues. Am. Canoe
Ass'n, 326 F.3d at 514-15.
court first considers Wendy's motion to reconsider in her
official capacity as trustee and then considers her motion to
reconsider in her individual capacity.
Trustee Wendy's Motion to Reconsider
Wendy seeks reconsideration of the court's February 12,
2015 order which denied trustee Wendy's motion to dismiss
for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under the probate
exception to federal jurisdiction. The February 12, 2015
order thoroughly analyzed trustee Wendy's motion to
dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under the
probate exception to federal jurisdiction finding that
“the probate exception does not divest this court of
jurisdiction to adjudicate the claim, ” ECF ...