CONSULT AMERICA, INC. v. MARVIN REX RANKIN No. 11-12203.
CONSULT AMERICA, INC., CAREGIVERS OF PENSACOLA, INC., Plaintiffs-Appellants. v. MARVIN REX RANKIN, III, EDD BALCH, RANKIN-SHELTON-HUNTER, INC., WATERCOLOR MANAGEMENT, INC., fka Rankin-Shuttleworth, Inc., fka Rankin-Rivers, Inc., SUNBELT GENERAL AGENCY, INC., et al., Defendants-Appellees.
United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit.
March 19, 2012.
Before BARKETT and HULL, Circuit Judges, and HUNT, District Judge.
DO NOT PUBLISH
ConsultAmerica, Inc. and Caregivers of Pensacola, Inc. appeal the denial of their motion for relief under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(1).
Gene Church owns appellants ConsultAmerica, Inc. and Caregivers of Pensacola, Inc., which operate nursing homes in Alabama and Florida respectively. In 2000, the insurance agency Rankin-Shelton-Hunter, Inc. ("RSH") provided Church insurance for his nursing homes using an offshore insurer named Bayport Indemnity, Ltd. For eight years, appellants paid the premiums and RSH settled all claims that the appellants submitted.
Nonetheless, in 2010, the appellants filed a complaint against RSH and related parties alleging that Bayport Indemnity, Ltd. was not an actual company and that the defendants violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO") and committed state law fraud.
The district court's order was a final judgment and the Court notified the appellants that the case was closed and updated the docket. The order, however, contained the phrase "without prejudice." The appellants seized upon this phrase and submitted an amended complaint. Prior to this dismissal, the appellants had not attempted to amend. The district court struck the amended complaint, explaining that amendment was improper because the case was already closed. By this date, the appellants could no longer timely appeal the initial dismissal or move to alter or amend the judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e). Attempting to amend the complaint through another avenue, the appellants moved under Rule 60(b)(1) for relief from the final judgment and claimed that their mistaken attempt to amend was excusable neglect because they believed that the dismissal without prejudice invited amendment.
Rule 60(b)(1) authorizes a court to relieve a party from a final judgment or order upon a showing of "mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect." But an "attorney's misunderstanding of the plain language of a rule cannot constitute excusable neglect such that a party is relieved of the consequences of failing to comply with a statutory deadline."
We find no reversible error. The district court did not abuse its discretion when it denied the appellants relief from the final judgment under Rule 60(b).
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