Law School Case Brief
E.C. Styberg Eng'g Co. v. Eaton Corp. - No. 03-C-0571-DRH, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21067 (E.D. Wis. Mar. 17, 2008)
Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(a) applies only to an error of transcription, copying, or calculation, and not to a fundamental failure of discovery or notification. It does not allow a court to correct language that the judge intended the clerk to employ.
Rule 60(b) provides for relief from judgment for "mistake, inadvertence, surprise or excusable neglect." Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(1). Rule 60(b) is an "extraordinary remedy that is to be granted only in the most exceptional circumstances." Motions under the rule cannot include arguments that could have been made on direct appeal or in a timely motion for reconsideration under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e).
A plaintiff seeking to amend a complaint after judgment has been entered against him or her must first have the judgment reopened pursuant to Rule 59(e) or Rule 60(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, then request leave to amend pursuant to Rule 15(a). The decision to grant or deny is committed, of course, to a court's discretion.
Plaintiff Styberg sued Defendant Eaton Corp. in state court claiming that Eaton breached a contract to buy 13,000 transmission components from Styberg. The court found that no contract existed between the parties and found in favor of Eaton. The court ordered that Judgment reflecting the same be entered. On appeal, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the decision. Thereafter, Styberg filed a motion pursuant to Rule 60 to correct mistakes in the statement of the judgment. Styberg stated that an accurately stated Judgment was needed to eliminate a potential procedural bar to Styberg seeking equitable relief, which was supported by the Record and doctrine of promissory estoppel. Eaton opposed the motion and argued that the only claim before the Court was a breach of contract claim and that Styberg's attempt to add a claim of promissory estoppel was untimely. Thereafter, Styberg filed its motion pursuant to Federal Rule 15 for Amendment of its pleading and motion for judgment based in equity and on the doctrine of promissory estoppel. Styberg stated in his motion that its pleadings should be amended to accurately define the issues to be made and the adjudications made in this case. Styberg further asked the Court to do corrective-equitable justice and decide the equitable remedies inherent in the Record to which Styberg is entitled. Eaton opposed the same.
1. Was Rule 60 an available remedy for plaintiff in order to remove the procedural bar for it to seek an equitable relief?
2. Was plaintiff qualified to avail his right under Rule 15 to file an amended complaint as a matter of course before filing of a responsive pleading?
1. The Court ruled that Rule 60 was inapplicable in this case. In relation to Rule 60(a), there was no clerical or other error in the Judgment entered. Further, the Judgment was not ambiguous as Styberg suggested. The Judgment accurately reflected the meaning of the Court's decision: that the Court found no contract existed and that judgment be entered in favor of Defendant. In relation to Rule 60(b), the Court denied the motion on the ground that Styberg could have raised this argument regarding promissory estoppel at various times in the litigation but did not do so.
2. The Court held that Styberg's right under Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to file an amended complaint as a matter of course before filing of a responsive pleading was terminated when the Court entered judgment for Eaton. Court held that amendment was barred by undue delay and the amendment would be highly prejudicial to Defendant at that stage in the litigation. Styberg did not offer a legitimate explanation for its failure to present its theory of promissory estoppel to the Court before it held the bench trial, prior to the Court entering judgment, after judgment and prior to appeal and during the appeal.
The Court denied plaintiff Styberg’s motions.
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