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Armendariz v. Santa Fe County Board of Commissioners

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

October 23, 2018

GABRIEL ARMENDARIZ, ERIC DION COLEMAN, JACOB GOMEZ, TONY LOVATO, MATTHEW J. LUCERO, EDWARD R. MANZANARES, JOE MARTINEZ, CHRISTOPHER MAVIS, PHILIP TALACHY, FELIPE J. TRUJILLO, and JOSEPH VIGIL, on their own behalf and on behalf of a class of similarly situated persons, Plaintiffs,
v.
SANTA FE COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS, and MARK GALLEGOS, in his individual and official capacity, and INDUSTRIAL COMMERCIAL COATINGS, LLC, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING COUNTY DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO RECONSIDER

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court upon a Motion to Reconsider Memorandum Opinion and Order Denying Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Third Cause of Action, filed by Defendants Santa Fe County Board of Commissioners and Mark Gallegos (“County Defendant” or “Defendants”) on September 25, 2018 (Doc. 166). Having reviewed the parties' briefs and applicable law, I find that Defendant's action is not well-taken and shall be denied.

         BACKGROUND

         This case is a putative class action arising from Defendants' renovation of the shower facilities at the Santa Fe Adult Correctional Facility (“ACF”) in the spring of 2014 when Plaintiffs and the class members were inmates at the ACF. Plaintiffs allege that they were exposed to dust, debris, and hazardous chemicals, which caused them injury.

         As mentioned in the Court's decision, the federal case before the Court here is a continuation of a prior state court class action by Plaintiffs in the First Judicial District Court County of Santa Fe, State of New Mexico. See Doc. 140 (Mem. Opin. & Order). The state court action was filed in March 2016 by two of the named Plaintiffs in this case, Joe Martinez and Christopher Mavis, on their own behalf and on behalf of a class of similarly situated persons, and asserted state law claims brought under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act (“TCA”). The federal case was initiated a year later when Plaintiffs Mavis and Martinez joined with additional named Plaintiffs to file a class action asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. §1983 (Doc. 1). Both the state and federal lawsuits are based on the same underlying facts.

         Pursuant to an agreement among the parties, all claims raised in both lawsuits are being litigated here in federal court. As part of that agreement, Plaintiffs were granted leave to amend the federal complaint to include the state law claims that had been raised in the state court action and to add Industrial Commercial Coatings, LLC (“ICC”) as a Defendant. Following the filing of the amended complaint, Plaintiffs dismissed the state case without prejudice.

         On March 20, 2018, the County Defendants filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' Tort Claims Act claims. The Court denied the motion, finding that Plaintiffs' counsel had relied on defense counsel's representations when they agreed to dismiss the state court and that Plaintiffs' state law claims survived:

         Defendants have waived the statute of limitations defense, are estopped from asserting the defense, and that Plaintiffs' state law claims are equitably tolled. Doc. 140 at 1. Defendants seek reconsideration of the Court's ruling in that decision.

         DISCUSSION

         A motion to reconsider is appropriate where a court has patently misunderstood a party, or has made a decision outside the adversarial issues presented to the court by the parties, or has made an error not of reasoning, but of apprehension. Servants of the Paraclete v. Does, 204 F.3d 1005, 1012 (10th Cir. 2000) (citations omitted); Huff v. UARCO, Inc., 925 F.Supp. 550, 561 (N.D.Ill. 1996).

         Defendants raise several arguments in their motion to reconsider, claiming that the Court misapprehended the facts and the law in its rulings. The main thrust of these arguments is twofold:

         (1) the Court's conclusion that County Defendants waived their defense turns on a misapprehension of fact and law; and

         (2) that equitable estoppel does not apply to the “new named Plaintiffs'” Tort Claims Act claims.[1]

         The Court agrees with Plaintiffs that the motion to reconsider revisits issues on which the Court has already devoted considerable time and does not indicate that the Court has misapprehended either the law or facts. However, the Court presents Defendants' main arguments below ...


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