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Reorganized FLI, Inc. v. Williams Companies, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Kansas

December 20, 2019

REORGANIZED FLI, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
THE WILLIAMS COMPANIES, INC.; DYNERGY MARKETING & TRADE; CMS ENERGY CORPORATION; CMS MARKETING SERVICES & TRADING COMPANY; AND CMS FIELD SERVICES, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JULIE A. ROBINSON CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Reorganized FLI, Inc. filed suit in 2005 against multiple defendants alleging a violation of the Kansas Restraint of Trade Act (“KRTA”). Plaintiff sought full consideration damages, or a full refund of its gas purchases, under K.S.A. § 50-115. That statute was repealed in 2013. Defendants sought summary judgment arguing that the repeal of § 50-115 operated retroactively and Plaintiff could no longer obtain full consideration damages, thus foreclosing Plaintiff's claim.

         On October 15, 2019, the Court ruled otherwise by finding that § 50-115 does not operate retroactively and denied Defendants' summary judgment motion. Defendants are now before the Court requesting reconsideration of the Court's order, or in the alternative, leave to file an interlocutory and expedited appeal to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals (Doc. 64). For the reasons described below, the Court denies the motion to reconsider and grants Defendants' motion to certify for interlocutory appeal.

         I. Procedural and Factual Background

         The factual background, statutory history, Kansas law, and cases addressing the KRTA are set forth in detail in the Court's prior order and will not be repeated at length here. Plaintiff filed this case in 2005, seeking full consideration damages. The case proceeded in multi-district litigation (“MDL”) in the District of Nevada for approximately fourteen years. During that time, the Kansas legislature amended the KRTA and repealed § 50-115, effective April 18, 2013. In a previous decision in the MDL case involving Defendants, but not this Plaintiff, the District of Nevada decided that “the best interpretation of Kansas law is that the 2013 repeal of the ‘full consideration' remedy under KRTA is retroactive to all cases.”[1]

         The Ninth Circuit, in a very brief opinion, reversed on other grounds, and remanded the case to the District of Nevada.[2] After remand to the District of Nevada, the MDL court recommended remand to the transferor courts, finding that “after three rounds of pretrial motion practice over the past two decades” and three reversals, “that dispositive motion practice should be concluded, and the matters should proceed to trial in the transferor courts.”[3] Thus, in May 2019, the MDL court remanded this case to this Court.

         Prior to the MDL remand of this case, Defendants had filed their motion for summary judgment on the issue of full consideration damages sought by Plaintiff in this case, with the District of Nevada. After remand, this Court allowed the parties to submit their previously-filed briefs relating to Defendants' motion for summary judgment. The Court also allowed very limited additional briefing.

         On October 15, 2019, the Court denied Defendants' motion. In this order, the Court found that the repeal of § 50-115 does not operate retroactively. Defendants now seek reconsideration of that order, or in the alternative, leave to file an interlocutory appeal to the Tenth Circuit.

         II. Motion to Reconsider

         A. Legal Standard

         D. Kan. Rule 7.3(b) governs motions to reconsider non-dispositive orders. Under that rule, a party may seek reconsideration on the following grounds: (1) an intervening change in the controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence; or (3) the need to correct clear error or prevent manifest injustice.[4] While a motion to reconsider is available where the court has “misapprehended the facts, a party's position, or the controlling law, ” such a motion does not permit a party to “revisit issues already addressed or to advance arguments that could have been raised in prior briefing.”[5] “The Tenth Circuit has observed that ‘a motion for reconsideration is an extreme remedy to be granted in rare circumstances.'”[6] “A party's failure to present its strongest case in the first instance does not entitle it to a second chance in the form of a motion to reconsider.”[7] Whether to grant a motion for reconsideration is left to the court's discretion.[8]

         B. Analysis

         Defendants seek reconsideration asserting that the Court committed clear error in three different ways. In Defendants' first argument, they contend that the Court erred by: (A) holding that K.S.A. § 50-115 does not operate retroactively and only operates prospectively, (B) relying on dicta from two Kansas cases, and (C) interpreting the savings statute erroneously. Defendants do not offer any compelling reasons for this Court's ruling to be considered clearly erroneous. Instead, Defendants just disagree with the Court's reasoning and holding. Having reviewed Defendants' arguments, the Court finds no reason to alter its previous findings.

         Second, Defendants contend that the Court clearly erred in determining that the Kansas legislature could not make the repeal retroactive. Again, Defendants just reiterate their previous position, seek to revisit issues already considered, and take issue with the Court's ultimate outcome. The Court finds no basis to reconsider its previous holding.

         For Defendants' final contention of error, they assert that the Court clearly erred by not giving deference to the MDL court's August 22, 2017, decision. Previously, Defendants did not assert the argument that this Court should defer to the transferee MDL court. Generally, the assertion of new arguments in a motion to reconsider is not appropriate. The Court recognizes, however, that the parties primarily briefed the issue by filing previously-filed briefs submitted to the MDL court, and thus there would be no reason for Defendants to discuss deference in those briefs. Defendants, however, did submit limited additional briefing to this Court. In this briefing, Defendants did not discuss deference to the MDL court although it did discuss the MDL court's previous opinion relating to full consideration and a different plaintiff. The Court will briefly consider Defendants' argument although it was not previously asserted.

         Although some deference should be given to a transferee court's decisions, there is no bright line as to the amount of deference.[9] Defendants assert that some courts find it improper to overturn orders of a transferee court and even courts that do not follow this exacting standard afford substantial deference to the transferee MDL court's decision.[10] Although this premise is technically correct, [11] as Plaintiff points out, these discussions generally relate to the amount of deference that a transferor court should give to a decision by the transferee MDL court in the same case.[12] Furthermore, deference is generally discussed in the context of overturning a MDL court's decision.[13]

         The Court recognizes and agrees that a central purpose of MDL proceedings is “promoting just and efficient litigation, ” and “having one court decide overlapping issues [] minimize[s] the risk of inconsistent rulings.”[14] This Court, however, did not overturn the transferee MDL court's decision. It simply disagreed with its holding, stated that the MDL court had discounted two Kansas cases, and determined that the opinion had limited persuasiveness.[15]In addition, the MDL decision involved the same Defendants but a different Plaintiff-a different case. Thus, the procedural posture of this case is different and substantial deference is not justified.

         Finally, as Plaintiff notes, the MDL judge issued another decision directly relating to this Plaintiff. Even though Defendants' motion for summary judgment was pending, the MDL court decided not to rule on the issue in this particular case and instead recommended remand of the remaining cases to their transferor courts. In its remand, the MDL court determined that dispositive motion activity should conclude and the cases should proceed to trial in the transferor courts.[16] As noted by the District of Kansas, a transferee MDL court's “decision to remand turns on the question of whether the case will benefit from further coordinated proceedings as part of the MDL. Remand is appropriate when the discrete function performed by the transferee court has been completed.”[17] The MDL court had the opportunity to decide the motion for summary judgment on the full consideration issue (the motion was pending before it) and consider Defendants' argument that Plaintiff's full consideration claim was foreclosed. Ultimately, the MDL court decided to recommend transfer of all cases back to the transferor courts. The Court finds that Defendants do not identify clear error in the summary judgment order with respect to the deference given to the MDL court. Accordingly, the Court denies Defendants' motion to reconsider.

         III. Motion for Leave to File Interlocutory Appeal

         A. Legal Standard

         The court of appeals may hear appeals from all final decisions of the district courts of the United States and certain interlocutory orders involving injunctions, appointing receivers and determining rights in admiralty cases.[18] With regard to other interlocutory orders, a district judge may certify an interlocutory order when she is of the opinion that (1) such order involves a controlling question of law; (2) a substantial ground for difference of opinion exists with respect to the question of law; and (3) an immediate appeal from the order may materially advance the ultimate termination of the litigation.[19] The Court retains discretion to certify an interlocutory order for appeal under section 1292(b).[20] Such certification is “limited to extraordinary cases in which extended and expensive proceedings probably can be avoided by immediate and final decision of controlling questions encountered early in the action.”[21]

         B. ...


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