United States District Court, D. New Mexico
BORDER AREA MENTAL HEALTH, INC., COUNSELING ASSOCIATES, INC., EASTER SEALS EL MIRADOR, FAMILIES & YOUTH, INC., HOGARES, INC., SOUTHWEST COUNSELING CENTER, INC., SOUTHERN NEW MEXICO HUMAN DEVELOPMENT, INC., TEAMBUILDERS COUNSELING SERVICES, INC., THE COUNSELING CENTER, INC., and VALENCIA COUNSELING, INC., Plaintiffs,
UNITED BEHAVIORAL HEALTH, INC. and UNITED HEALTHCARE INSURANCE COMPANY, INC., d/b/a OPTUMHEALTH NEW MEXICO, PUBLIC CONSULTING GROUP, INC., ELIZABETH A. MARTIN, ANDREW SEKEL, TIMOTHY S. MILLER, and JOHN DOES 1-10, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Vázquez United States District Judge.
MATTER comes before the Court on Plaintiffs' Motion for
Rule 54(b) Certification [Doc. 53]. The Court, having
considered the motion, briefs, and relevant law, and being
otherwise fully informed, finds that the Motion is well-taken
and will be granted.
23, 2016, Plaintiffs commenced this action in the First
Judicial District Court of New Mexico, Santa Fe County,
against United Behavioral Health, Inc. and United Healthcare
Insurance Company, Inc., Elizabeth Martin, Andrew Sekel, and
Timothy S. Miller (collectively, the "United
Defendants"), and Public Consulting Group, Inc.
("PCG"). Doc. 1-1. On November 3, 2016, United
Defendants removed the action to this Court. Doc. 1. In their
Complaint, Plaintiffs alleged claims against all Defendants
for tortious interference with contractual relations (Count
I), prima facie tort (Count II), and civil conspiracy (Count
III). Doc. 1-1. Plaintiffs also alleged violations of the New
Mexico Unfair Practices Act ("UP A") against United
Defendants (Count IV), and PCG (Count V). Id. On
July 18, 2017, the Court entered a Stipulated Order
dismissing with prejudice Plaintiffs' UPA claim against
PCG, which left remaining against PCG claims of tortious
interference, prima facie tort, and civil conspiracy. [Doc.
November 18, 2016, United Defendants filed a motion to compel
Plaintiffs to arbitrate the claims alleged against them. Doc.
6. In support of their motion, United Defendants argued that
agreements into which each Plaintiff had entered contained
valid and binding arbitration provisions, and that
Plaintiffs' claims fell directly within the scope of
those provisions. Id. Plaintiffs did not dispute
that they entered into valid arbitration agreements, but
opposed United Defendants' motion to compel on the basis
that their claims did not bear a reasonable relationship to
the subject matter of the arbitration agreements and thus did
not fall within the scope of those agreements. Doc. 29 at
4-10; Doc. 30 at 3-10.
Memorandum Opinion and Order entered March 28, 2018, the
Court granted United Defendants' motion to compel,
explaining that, by incorporating the AAA Rules into the
arbitration provisions set forth in the relevant agreements,
Plaintiffs and United Defendants clearly and unmistakably
agreed to arbitrate arbitrability. Doc. 46. Accordingly, the
Court further explained, all questions of arbitrability -
including the questions Plaintiffs raised as to whether their
claims reasonably relate to the subject matter of the
parties' agreements to arbitrate - must be resolved by an
arbitrator. Id. Under controlling Tenth Circuit
precedent, the Court found that it had no discretion to
decide whether Plaintiffs' claims were outside the scope
of the arbitration provisions in the relevant agreements, but
rather was obligated to defer that determination to the
arbitrator. Id. Accordingly, the Court found no
basis to deny United Defendants' motion compelling
arbitration of Plaintiffs' claims against it.
Id. Neither United Defendants nor Plaintiffs sought
dismissal of Plaintiffs' claims against United
Defendants, and accordingly, the Court did not entertain
whether dismissal was warranted.
November 18, 2018, PCG filed a motion to dismiss
Plaintiffs' claims against it pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Doc. 7. In its
supporting brief, PCG argued that Plaintiffs' claims
against it should be dismissed because (1) the Complaint
failed to state a claim against PCG for intentional
interference with contractual relations; (2) Plaintiffs'
prima facie tort claim failed to allege that PCG acted
lawfully and with specific intent to harm Plaintiffs; and (3)
Plaintiffs' claim for civil conspiracy was not
actionable. Doc. 8. The Court agreed with PCG, and in a
Memorandum Opinion and Order entered August 2, 2018 (the
"August 2, 2018 Order"), granted PCG's motion,
dismissing Plaintiffs' claims as to PCG in their
entirety. Doc. 47. The Court, however, did not enter a final
on August 30, 2018, Plaintiffs filed a Notice of Appeal to
appeal this Court's dismissal of their claims against
PCG. Doc. 48. After determining that the August 2, 2018 Order
was not a final decision, Plaintiffs moved in the Tenth
Circuit to dismiss, without prejudice, their appeal. On
October 2, 2018, the Tenth Circuit denied Plaintiffs'
motion without prejudice to renewal, stating that the Court
could not dismiss an appeal without prejudice.
then filed the instant motion, asking this Court to certify
its adjudication of Plaintiffs' claims against PCG as
final pursuant to Rule 54(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. Doc. 53. The Tenth Circuit abated Plaintiffs'
appeal pending this Court's disposition of
Plaintiffs' Rule 54(b) motion. PCG opposes
Plaintiffs' request for Rule 54(b) certification.
54(b) provides in relevant part that, "[w]hen multiple
parties are involved [in an action], the court may direct
entry of a final judgment as to one or more, but fewer than
all, . . . parties only if the court expressly determines
that there is no just reason for delay." Fed.R.Civ.P.
54(b). "Certification under Rule 54(b) is a two-step
process." McKibben v. Chubb, 840 F.2d 1525,
1528 (10th Cir. 1988). First, the court "must determine
that the judgment is final." Id. In other
words, the judgment must be "an ultimate disposition of
an individual claim entered in the course of a multiple
claims action." Id. (citation omitted). Next,
the court "must determine that there is no cause for
delay." Id. In making this second
determination, the court must weigh "Rule 54's
policy of preventing piecemeal appeals against the hardship
or injustice that might be inflicted on a litigant because of
the delay." Id. (citation omitted). "The
Supreme Court has suggested that the district court should
consider such factors as whether the claims under review were
separable from the others remaining to be adjudicated and
whether the nature of the claims already determined was such
that no appellate court would have to decide the same issues
more than once even if there were subsequent appeals."
Id. (citation omitted). In entering a Rule 54(b)
certification, district courts are counseled to "clearly
articulate their reasons and make careful statements based on
the record supporting their determination of
'finality' and 'no just reason for
delay.'" Stockton's Water Co., LLC v. Vaca
Partners, L.P., 425 F.3d 1263, 1265 (10th Cir. 2005).
request that the Court certify its dismissal of
Plaintiffs' claims against PCG as final pursuant to Rule
54(b). In support of their request, Plaintiffs argue that
both relevant factors, namely finality and just reason for
delay, weigh in favor of certification. PCG opposes
Plaintiffs' request, arguing that the factors weigh
against certification and that the motion is untimely. As set
forth herein, ...