Qazizadeh v. Pinnacle Health Sys.

Citation214 F.Supp.3d 292
Decision Date04 October 2016
Docket NumberCASE NO. 1:14–CV–2037
Parties Salim QAZIZADEH, Plaintiff v. PINNACLE HEALTH SYSTEM and Pinnacle Health Medical Services, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Middle District of Pennsylvania

Margaret Schuetz Coleman, Timothy P. O'Brien, Law Office of Timothy P. O'Brien, Pittsburgh, PA, for Plaintiff.

Richard C. Seneca, Seneca Law, Lewisberry, PA, for Defendants.


William W. Caldwell, United States District Judge

I. Introduction

Presently before the court are the parties' cross-motions for reconsideration. Plaintiff Salim Qazizadeh ("Plaintiff") moves for reconsideration of the portion of this court's July 11, 2016 order, (Doc. 54), and accompanying memorandum, (Doc. 55), denying him partial summary judgment. (See Doc. 59). Defendants Pinnacle Health System and Pinnacle Health Medical Services ("Defendants") move this court to reconsider the portion of the same order and memorandum where partial summary judgment was granted to Plaintiff. (See Doc. 57). For the reasons discussed below, the court will deny Defendants' motion for reconsideration and grant Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration.

II. Background

The court thoroughly set forth this case's complicated factual and procedural history in its July 11, 2016 memorandum, (Doc. 55 at 1–13), and thus will not repeat itself here. When Plaintiff moved for summary judgment on March 31, 2016, the only remaining claims in the litigation were breach of contract and violation of Pennsylvania's Wage Payment and Collection Law ("WPCL"), 43 PA. STAT. AND CONS. STAT. ANN. §§ 260.1–260.45. (See Doc. 35; Doc. 55 at 1–2). On July 11, 2016, the court granted partial summary judgment in Plaintiff's favor. (Doc. 54). The court granted summary judgment with respect to Plaintiff's breach of contract claim regarding his suspension without pay, but denied Plaintiff's motion in all other respects. (Id. )

Neither party was enchanted with the court's decision, and accordingly filed cross-motions for reconsideration. (Docs. 57, 59). Both motions have been extensively briefed and are ripe for consideration.

III. Discussion
A. Standard of Review

Defendants ask the court to reconsider the portion of its July 11, 2016 order granting Plaintiff partial summary judgment; Plaintiff seeks reconsideration of the portion of the order denying partial summary judgment. Both sides take pains to distinguish what piece of the order they want the court to reconsider, attempting to garner a more favorable standard of review. At base, however, each litigant simply requests reconsideration of a single interlocutory order granting partial summary judgment.

The legal standard regarding motions for reconsideration of orders granting partial summary judgment is not entirely cohesive within the district courts. Compare York Int'l Corp. v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co. , 140 F.Supp.3d 357 (M.D. Pa. 2015) (treating motion for reconsideration of grant of partial summary judgment as motion to alter or amend under FED. R. CIV. P. 59(e) and applying stringent standard requiring change in controlling law, new evidence not previously available, or "the need to correct a clear error of law or fact or to prevent manifest injustice") (citation omitted) and Peerless Ins. Co. v. Pa. Cyber Charter Sch. , 19 F.Supp.3d 635 (W.D. Pa. 2014) (accord), with St. Mary's Area Water Auth. v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co. , 472 F.Supp.2d 630 (M.D. Pa. 2007) (treating motion for reconsideration of grant of partial summary judgment as review of an interlocutory order under FED. R. CIV. P. 54(b) and applying standard of permitting reconsideration whenever "consonant with justice to do so") (quoting United States v. Jerry , 487 F.2d 600, 605 (3d Cir. 1973) ). Confusingly, some district courts have invoked the "when-consonant-with-justice" standard when deciding a motion for reconsideration of an interlocutory order under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b), only to apply the more stringent requirements of cases involving reconsideration of final orders. See, e.g. , Am. Guarantee & Liab. Ins. Co. v. Fojanini , 99 F.Supp.2d 558, 560–61 (E.D. Pa. 2000) ; Dayoub v. Penn–Del Directory Co. , 90 F.Supp.2d 636, 637 (E.D. Pa. 2000).

The court reaffirms the better-reasoned view that motions for reconsideration of interlocutory orders—whether denials of summary judgment, grants of partial summary judgment, or any other non-final orders—are motions under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b). Therefore, reconsideration of such orders may be had even if the movant cannot show an intervening change in controlling law, the availability of new evidence that was not available when the court issued the underlying order, or "the need to correct a clear error of law or fact or to prevent manifest injustice." See Max's Seafood Café ex rel. Lou–Ann, Inc. v. Quinteros , 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir. 1999) (enumerating grounds for reconsideration of final order) (citation omitted). Instead, the court may permit reconsideration whenever "consonant with justice to do so." St. Mary's Area Water Auth. , 472 F.Supp.2d at 632 (quoting Jerry , 487 F.2d at 605 ).

That being said, the court is also acutely aware of the need for finality of judgments and preservation of judicial resources. Before entertaining a motion for reconsideration of an interlocutory order, the movant must still establish good cause for why the court should revisit its prior decision. See Confer v. Custom Eng'g Co. Emp. Health Benefit Plan , 760 F.Supp. 75, 77 (W.D. Pa. 1991). Moreover, whether involving a final or interlocutory order, a motion for reconsideration is "not to be used as a means to reargue matters already argued and disposed of or as an attempt to relitigate a point of disagreement between the Court and the litigant." Ogden v. Keystone Residence , 226 F.Supp.2d 588, 606 (M.D. Pa. 2002) (citation omitted). A reconsideration motion should not be used to try to get a "second bite at the apple," Kropa v. Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. , 716 F.Supp.2d 375, 378 (M.D. Pa. 2010), or to raise new arguments or evidence that could have been proffered prior to the issuance of the order in question, McDowell Oil Serv., Inc. v. Interstate Fire & Cas. Co. , 817 F.Supp. 538, 541 (M.D. Pa. 1993).

B. The Cross–Motions for Reconsideration

With the above standard in mind, the court turns to the litigants' respective motions for reconsideration.1 The court will address each motion in turn.

1. Defendants' Motion for Reconsideration

Defendants assert that this court, in its summary judgment decision, "misapprehended" both the definition of the word "comply" in Plaintiff's 2013 Physician Employment Agreement ("PEA") and the application of contract interpretation principles. (Doc. 58 at 3). Defendants submit two arguments for why this is so: (1) the court relied on too narrow a definition of "comply," (Id. at 4, 7), and (2) the word "comply"—with its numerous possible definitions—creates a latent ambiguity in the contract, (Id. at 8–9).

Notably, Defendants raised neither argument in opposition to Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, even though Plaintiff relied on similar "misapprehensions" in his supporting brief. (See Doc. 36 at 8–12). A motion for reconsideration is not a vehicle to raise new arguments that could have been raised before the issuance of the order in question. McDowell Oil , 817 F.Supp. at 541. Defendants should have raised these arguments in their opposition to Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. Nevertheless, the court will briefly discuss why it finds neither argument availing.

Defendants first complain that the court erroneously adopted too narrow of a meaning of the word "comply" as it appears in paragraph 4 of the PEA, (Doc. 38–3 at 2), by limiting its reach to those Human Resources provisions that Plaintiff could affirmatively act in accordance with or abide by. Defendants contend that because, in some dictionary entries, comply can also mean "[to] yield; to accommodate; or to adapt oneself to ," (Doc. 58 at 7), it follows that the contested phrase "[p]hysician shall also comply with all of [Pinnacle Health System ("PHS") ]'s Human Resources Policies and Procedures" provides for the wholesale incorporation by reference of every one of PHS's HR policies and procedures into Plaintiff's individual employment contract. The court finds this contention untenable.

First, as the court explained in its summary judgment memorandum, long-established contract law provides that incorporation by reference to an extraneous document should be applied narrowly. See Capricorn Power Co., Inc. v. Siemens Westinghouse Power Corp. , 324 F.Supp.2d 731, 750 (W.D. Pa. 2004) ("[W]here incorporated matter is referred to for a specific purpose only, it becomes a part of the contract for such purpose only, and should be treated as irrelevant for all other purposes.") (quoting 11 Samuel Williston & Richard A. Lord, A Treatise on the Law of Contracts § 30:25 (4th ed. 2003) ); Guerini Stone Co. v. P.J. Carlin Constr. Co. , 240 U.S. 264, 277, 36 S.Ct. 300, 60 L.Ed. 636 (1916) ("In our opinion the true rule, based upon sound reason and supported by the greater weight of authority, is that in the case of...a reference by the contracting parties to an extraneous writing for a particular purpose makes it a part of their agreement only for the purpose specified.") (citations omitted). Consequently, "shall also comply" does indeed incorporate by reference some standards with which Plaintiff must affirmatively act or abide by. But contrary to Defendants' assertion, it does not provide for the wholesale incorporation of every policy and procedure of PHS into Plaintiff's personal employment contract.

Second, interpreting "comply" in the manner Defendants suggest would create the absurd result of a highly skilled, specialist physician—who has signed an individualized contract that purports to represent the entirety of his employment agreement—being contractually bound to the same policies and procedures as any other...

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