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Med Flight Air Ambulance, Inc. v. MGM Resorts International

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

April 27, 2018



         THIS MATTER comes before the Court upon Plaintiff's Motion to Transfer to Cure Want of Jurisdiction, and Rule 60 Motion to Correct an Omission or for Other Reasons that Justify Relief, filed on December 8, 2017 (Doc. 69). Having reviewed the parties' briefs and applicable law, the Court finds that Plaintiff's request to transfer the case to the District of Nevada is well-taken, but on grounds other than Rule 60, but finds that the motion is denied in that Defendant MGM will remain as dismissed from this case for the present time.


         This case arises from a denial of insurance benefits for Mr. Hernandez in connection with a medical helicopter ride from a hospital in El Paso, Texas to Las Vegas, Nevada. Plaintiff Med Flight Air Ambulance, Inc. (“Med Flight”) is a New Mexico corporation with its principal business location located in Albuquerque, New Mexico. MGM is a Delaware corporation with its principal business location in Las Vegas, Nevada. MGM employed Adrian Hernandez and provides a self-insured health insurance plan to its employees, entitled the “MGM Resorts Health and Welfare Benefit Plan” (“MGM Plan”). MGM is the Plan Administrator of the MGM Plan, and Mr. Hernandez was a participant and beneficiary of the MGM Plan. Defendant UMR, Inc. (“UMR”) is a Delaware corporation that is registered and licensed to do business in the state of New Mexico. UMR is the Claims Administrator, along with MGM, of the MGM Plan. In this lawsuit, Plaintiff Med Flight claims that Defendants (including MGM) owed Mr. Hernandez as Plan participant-and therefore Plaintiff via assignment-purported benefits in the form of payment of the usual and customary charges for the emergency air transport of Mr. Hernandez.

         In December, 2014, Mr. Hernandez was initially treated on an emergency basis at Del Sol Medical Center in El Paso, Texas. The medical staff at that facility determined that the nature of his medical needs could not be adequately met by their facility, and arrangements were made with Plaintiff Med Flight to transport him to Valley Hospital Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he lived, and where his own doctors, who were familiar with his on-going medical issues, could treat him. He was medically transported, via airplane, to the facility in Las Vegas by Plaintiff Med Flight.

         On January 12, 2017, Med Flight filed a complaint in the Second Judicial District Court, County of Bernalillo, asserting breach of contract and unfair trade practices. Defendants removed the case to federal court on February 17, 2017 based on federal question jurisdiction under the federal ERISA statute (29 U.S.C. §1132(a)(1)(B) and §1132(g)(1) as well as diversity jurisdiction. The Amended Complaint has three counts asserted under ERISA. Count I alleges a breach of agreement between Defendants and Med Flight under 29 U.S.C. §1132(a)(1)(B); Count II asserts requested relief in the form of attorney fees and costs under §1132(g)(1); and Count III seeks relief under §1132(c) which provides for other civil enforcement penalties for violation of the statute.

         On November 22, 2017, this Court granted MGM's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction under Fed.R.Civ.P.12(b)(2), finding that Defendant MGM successfully demonstrated that litigation in New Mexico was unduly inconvenient and that any federal interest in litigating the dispute here in this state outweighed the burden imposed on MGM in having to defend the case here.[1] Doc. 67 (Mem. Opin. & Order). Currently, the Court's ruling on MGM's motion to dismiss still leaves Plaintiff's claims pending against UMR in this forum.


         In this motion, Plaintiff moves for an order modifying the Court's Memorandum Opinion and Order to order transfer of this entire dispute to Nevada, rather than dismissing MGM from the lawsuit. Plaintiff did not suggest transfer as an option in response to MGM's motion at the time of the briefing on the motion to dismiss, but now seeks to pursue this lawsuit in Nevada, MGM's home state of operations, rather than incurring the expense of an appeal of this Court's jurisdictional decision. Plaintiff seeks relief under both Fed.R.Civ.P.60 and 28 U.S.C. §1631.

         I. Rule 60 Plaintiff contends that Rule 60 is the appropriate procedural mechanism for relief because the Court has already issued an Order dismissing MGM, relying on either Rule 60(a) or (b)(6).

         A. Rule 60(a)

         Under Rule 60(a), a court “may correct a clerical mistake or a mistake arising from oversight or omission whenever one is found in a judgment or order or other part of the record.” Med Flight's request for transfer is not simply a ministerial correction of an error and does not qualify for relief under Rule 60(a). See Matter of West Texas Mktg. Corp., 12 F.3d 497, 504-05 (5th Cir. 1994) (“It is only mindless and mechanistic mistakes, minor shifting of facts, and no new additional legal perambulations which are reachable through Rule 60(a)”). The “touchstone” of Rule 60(a) is “fidelity to the intent behind the original judgment.” Tattersalls, Ltd. v. DeHaven, 745 F.3d 1294, 1298 (9th Cir. 2014). Here, the Court's Order dismissing Defendant MGM for lack of personal jurisdiction cannot be interpreted or clarified to mean that the case would then need to be transferred to Nevada. MGM would have to be “un-dismissed, ” reinserted as a party in this lawsuit and transfer would then have to be considered on its own separate merits. Plaintiff's request is denied under Rule 60(a). See, e.g., New CSI, Inc. v. Staffing 360 Sols., Inc., 865 F.3d 251, 263 (5th Cir. 2017) (Rule 60(a) motion denied where it urged the district court to change its substantive interpretation of the stock purchase agreement rather than drawing the court's attention to a true clerical error); Shuffle Tech Int'l, LLC v. Wolff Gaming, Inc., 757 F.3d 708, 712 (7th Cir. 2014) (Where court rescinded contract, plaintiff could not rely on an interpretation of the judgment that would have relieved it of any duty to refund the earnest money and thus, court's correction of judgment “made explicit what the parties must have assumed - that with the draft agreement rescinded the earnest money had to be returned).

         B. Rule 60(b)(6)

         Plaintiff also contends that Rule 60(b)(6) provides a mechanism for modification of the Court's Order. Rule 60(b)(6) allows relief from a judgment or order for “any other reason that justified relief.” Med Flight points out that it will be forced to refile a new case in Nevada if the Court denies its transfer request, and its claim will be lost if MGM is successful in arguing the application of the one-year limitations period pursuant to the health care plan agreement. Plaintiff also notes that the dismissal of MGM puts it in the “untenable and costly position of having to litigate this case in two forums in two different states.” Doc. 69 at 6.

         Rule 60(b)(6) is considered the “catch-all” ground for relief under Rule 60(b). However, the Tenth Circuit has consistently ruled that “Rule 60(b) is an extraordinary procedure permitting the court that entered judgment to grant relief therefrom upon a showing of good cause within the rule. It is not a substitute for appeal, and must be considered with the need for finality of judgment.” Cessna Fin. Corp. v. Bielenberg Masonry contracting, Inc.,715 F.2d 1442, 1444 (10th Cir. 1983); Galbert v. W. Caribbean Airways, 715 F.3d 1290, 1294 (11th Cir. 2013) (Rule 60(b)(6) movant must show that “absent such relief, an ‘extreme' and ‘unexpected' hardship will result, ” (quoting United States v. Swift & Co.,286 U.S. 106, 119 (1932)); see also Van Skiver v. U.S., 952 F.2d 1241, 1243 (10th Cir. 1991) (noting that relief under Rule 60(b) is discretionary and is warranted only in exceptional circumstances, and affirming denial of motion construed as motion seeking relief from judgment). Rule 60 is considered a “grand reservoir of equitable power to do justice in a particular case” and in order to get relief under this this rule, the situation must be one beyond the control of the party requesting relief. Federated Towing & Recovery, LLC v. Praetorian Ins. Co., 283 F.R.D. 644, 653 (D.N.M. 2012) (citing Van Skiver v. United States,952 F.2d 1241, 1244 (10th Cir.1991). Even legal error that provides a basis for relief must be extraordinary. 952 F.2d at 1244. None of these situations exist here. Plaintiff seeks relief here not because of unexpected circumstances, or because circumstances were beyond its control. Plaintiff chose to file suit here in New Mexico instead of Nevada but never thought to suggest that the Court transfer this case to Nevada in the event it lost on the motion to dismiss. Cmp. Federated Towing & Recovery, LLC v. Praetorian Ins. Co., 283 F.R.D. 644, 653 (D.N.M. 2012) (citing example of “extraordinary circumstances” where there had been a post-judgment change in the law arising out of the same accident as that in which plaintiffs had been injured) (referring to Pierce v. Cook & Co., 518 F.2d 720, 722 (10th Cir.1975) (en banc). Med Flight is requesting relief which it might have pursued before, ...

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