Liberty Ins. Corp. v. SM Energy, CIVIL ACTION NO. H-12-3092

CourtUnited States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
Writing for the CourtLee H. Rosenthal
PartiesLIBERTY INSURANCE CORPORATION, Plaintiff, v. SM ENERGY, et al., Defendants.
Decision Date14 January 2013
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION NO. H-12-3092

SM ENERGY, et al., Defendants.



SIGNED: January 14, 2013


Liberty Insurance Corporation sued to establish its statutory subrogation rights to recover workers' compensation benefits it paid after an oil-field accident killed one of its insured's employees and severely injured another. Liberty paid workers' compensation benefits to the injured employee and the deceased's family and estate. The workers' compensation beneficiaries filed suit in Texas state court against the employer and the company that owned the oil wells and had contracted with the employer. The parties reached a settlement agreement. At that point, Liberty asserted a right to be reimbursed for the workers' compensation benefits it had paid and to receive a credit for workers' compensation benefits that it would pay in the future. The beneficiaries and the employer asserted that Liberty had contractually waived its subrogation rights in the insurance policy it had issued. The settlement could not be completed due to Liberty's claimed right to statutory subrogation out of the settlement funds the third-party-tortfeasor premises owner would pay the beneficiaries.

In this federal suit, Liberty sought a declaratory judgment that it was entitled to reimbursement for the workers' compensation benefits it had paid and would pay. Liberty sued the premises owner, SM Energy; the widow, Leonola Hernandez individually, on behalf of Daniel

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Hernandez, Sr.'s estate, and as next friend of Daniel Hernandez, Jr.; Abraham Hernandez; and Kathy Cantu, as Daniel Hernandez's next friend. Two of the defendants — SM Energy and Leonola Hernandez, in both her individual and representative capacities — answered and counterclaimed, and moved for summary judgment on Liberty's claims and their counterclaims. In a December 18, 2012 memorandum and opinion, this court granted the defendants' motions for summary judgment, finding that Liberty had waived its subrogation rights against them and that the right to subrogation included the right to reimbursement. Liberty now moves that this court reconsider its earlier opinion.

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not specifically provide for a motion for reconsideration. Shepherd v. Int'l Paper Co., 372 F.3d 326, 328 (5th Cir. 2004); see also St. Paul Mercury Ins. Co. v. Fair Grounds Corp., 123 F.3d 336, 339 (5th Cir. 1997). Motions asking a court to reconsider a judgment or order are generally analyzed under the standards for a motion to alter or amend judgment under Rule 59(e) or a motion for relief from a judgment or order under Rule 60(b). Hamilton Plaintiffs v. Williams Plaintiffs, 147 F.3d 367, 371 n.10 (5th Cir. 1998).

The defendants oppose Liberty's motion for reconsideration on the basis that it was filed more than 10 days after the court issued its opinion. Effective December 1, 2009, Rule 59(e) was amended to provide parties with 28 days from entry of a judgment to move to alter or amend that judgment. FED. R. CIV. PROC. 59(e). Because Liberty's motion for reconsideration was filed within 28 days of this court's opinion, its motion is appropriately considered under Rule 59(e).

A Rule 59(e) motion "calls into question the correctness of a judgment." Templet v. HydroChem Inc., 367 F.3d 473, 478-79 (5th Cir. 2004) (citing In re Transtexas Gas Corp., 303 F.3d 571, 581 (5th Cir. 2002)). "A motion to alter or amend the judgment under Rule 59(e) 'must clearly

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establish either a manifest error of law or fact or must present newly discovered evidence' and 'cannot be used to raise arguments which...

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