United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Stephen W. Cooper, Esq., and Stacey R. Everson, Esq., The
Cooper Law Firm Chartered, Minneapolis, MN, on behalf of
Margaret R. Ryan, Esq., and Bradley J. Lindeman, Esq.,
Meagher & Geer, PLLP, Minneapolis, MN, on behalf of
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MONTGOMERY U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the undersigned United States District Judge
for a ruling on Plaintiff Douglas James Sellner's
(“Sellner”) Objection [Docket No. 254] to
Magistrate Judge Leo I. Brisbois' August 31, 2017 Order
(“Order”) [Docket No. 250] granting Defendants
MAT Holdings, Inc., Midwest Air Technologies, Inc., MAT
Industries, LLC, and Sanborn Manufacturing Company's
(collectively, “Defendants”) Motion to Amend the
Sixth Amended Pretrial Scheduling Order [Docket No. 242]. For
the reasons set forth below, the Objection is overruled.
factual background of Sellner's Objection is set forth in
Judge Brisbois' Order and is incorporated by reference.
The Order permits Defendants to move for summary judgment on
Sellner's claim for punitive damages. Sellner objects,
arguing that he satisfied the level of proof necessary to
survive summary judgment when he was granted leave to amend
his Complaint to file a claim for punitive damages. Sellner
contends that the standards for summary judgment and for
amending to add punitive damages are the same, and thus he
has already presented sufficient evidence to pursue punitive
damages at trial. Sellner thus argues that the Order allowing
Defendants to move for summary judgment on the issue of
punitive damages is clearly erroneous and contrary to law.
Standard of Review
standard of review applicable to an appeal of a magistrate
judge's order on a nondispositive issue is extremely
deferential. Reko v. Creative Promotions, Inc., 70
F.Supp.2d 1005, 1007 (D. Minn. 1999). The district court must
affirm an order by a magistrate judge unless it is
“clearly erroneous or contrary to law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a). “A finding is ‘clearly
erroneous' when although there is evidence to support it,
the reviewing court on the entire evidence is left with the
definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been
committed.” Chakales v. Comm'r of Internal
Revenue, 79 F.3d 726, 728 (8th Cir.1996). “A
decision is ‘contrary to law' when it ‘fails
to apply or misapplies relevant statutes, case law or rules
of procedure.'” Knutson v. Blue Cross &
Blue Shield of Minn., 254 F.R.D. 553, 556 (D. Minn.
2008) (quoting Transamerica Life Ins. Co. v. Lincoln
Nat'l Life Ins. Co., 592 F.Supp.2d 1087, 1093 (N.D.
Standard for Claiming Punitive Damages Versus Standard for
standard for granting a motion to amend to claim punitive
damages is not the same as the standard for surviving a
motion for summary judgment.” Popp Telecom, Inc. v.
Am. Sharecom, Inc., 361 F.3d 482, 491 n.10 (8th Cir.
2004)). In evaluating a motion to amend to add a claim for
punitive damages, the Court only considers whether the
plaintiff's evidence, ?if unrebutted, would
support a judgment [for punitive damages] in that party's
favor.” Olson v. Snap Prods., Inc., 29
F.Supp.2d 1027, 1034 (D. Minn. 1998) (emphasis added). In the
amendment context, the Court “makes no credibility
rulings, nor does the Court consider any challenge . . . to
the Plaintiff's proof.” Ulrich v. City of
Crosby, 848 F.Supp. 861, 867 (D. Minn. 1994).
contrast, on a motion for summary judgment the Court does not
ignore all evidence that challenges the plaintiff's
allegations. Instead, the Court must consider whether
“the record taken as a whole could [ ] lead a
rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving
party.” Mervine v. Plant Eng'g Servs.,
LLC, 859 F.3d 519, 521 (8th Cir. 2017) (emphasis added).
Thus, “while much of the same evidence is relevant to
both inquiries, they are distinct. [A] Magistrate Judge's
decision [to grant leave to amend to add punitive damages]
would not bar a summary judgment finding in light of the
different evidence considered and the procedural
context.” Sorin Grp. USA, Inc. v. St. Jude Med.,
S.C., Inc., 176 F.Supp.3d 814, 828 n.7 (D. Minn. 2016).
Sellner was granted leave to amend to add a claim for
punitive damages in 2014, the magistrate judge “only
considered the evidence submitted by [P]laintiff, including
the various witness affidavits, select[ed] deposition
testimony, expert affidavit and documentary evidence selected
by [P]laintiff.” Hr'g Tr. [Docket No. 103] at
27-28. At that procedural stage, no rebuttal evidence or
other challenges to Sellner's proof were considered.
Thus, the issue of whether “the record taken as a whole