Bass, Berry & Sims attorney Chris Lazarini examined a case in which plaintiffs sought relief from the court after a ruling granting defendants’ motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ putative class action alleging ERISA violations. The court in denying plaintiffs’ motion for relief determined that the “new” evidence brought forth by plaintiffs was not in fact “new” but was known by the plaintiffs prior to the initial ruling and therefore should have been discovered earlier. The plaintiffs, requesting relief under Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b), did not meet the heavy burden of showing that the new evidence could not have been discovered earlier. 

Chris provided the analysis for Securities Online Litigation Alert (SOLA). The full text of the analysis is below and used with permission from the publication. If you would like to receive additional content from the SOLA, please visit the SOLA website to sign up for the newsletter.

Fleming vs. Fidelity Management Trust Co., No. 16-cv-10918 (D. Mass., 5/3/18) 

A party seeking relief from a judgment or order on the ground of newly discovered evidence faces a heavy burden of showing that the new evidence, with reasonable diligence, could not have been discovered earlier. 

In September 2017, the Court granted Defendants’ Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss Plaintiffs’ putative class action alleging ERISA violations (SOLA 2017-39). Now, the Court considers Plaintiffs’ motion to vacate and amend the dismissal order and for leave to file an amended complaint. Plaintiffs seek relief under Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e) (providing that relief may be granted where the original judgment evidenced a manifest error of law, where there is newly discovered evidence, or in certain other narrow circumstances) or Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b) (setting forth various grounds for relief from an order, including newly discovered evidence that, with reasonable diligence, could not have been discovered earlier). 

At the outset, the Court notes that relief under both Rules is extraordinary and granted sparingly. The Court rejects Plaintiffs’ argument that “they worked diligently” after entry of the dismissal order to bring new facts to light. Plaintiffs knew of the allegedly “new” facts at the outset or during the pendency of the motion to dismiss and elected to wait and see how their original complaint fared before seeking leave to amend. Pointing out that over a year passed between the filing of the motion to dismiss, which highlighted deficiencies in the complaint, and the entry of the dismissal order, the Court takes Plaintiffs to task for not proffering the “new” evidence earlier.

The Court also rejects Plaintiffs’ arguments that it would be manifestly unjust to deny the motion, given the importance of the substantive issues to the putative class and ERISA’s complexity. Here, it is not denial of the motion that deprives Plaintiffs of the opportunity to amend; rather, it is the strategic choice to rely on the original complaint that does so. Finding no “new” evidence, no manifest legal error and no other exceptional circumstances, the Court denies the motion. 

The Court also discusses how Fed. R. Civ. P. 15 is affected by the post-order motion: it lacks authority to consider the motion to amend under Rule 15 unless the dismissal order is set aside under Rule 59(e) or Rule 60(b).