Legal Memorandum: "Catch-all" Provision in TX

Issue: What is the ‘catch-all’ provision for relief from a judgment, and when is it appropriate to apply under Texas and Federal law?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Catch-all provision; Dismissal without prejudice; Dismissal with prejudice
Jurisdiction: Federal, Texas
Cited Cases: 281 F.3d 212
Cited Statutes: Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 60(b); Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 60(b)(6); Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 41
Date: 08/01/2014

The ground for relief from judgment based on “any other reason that justifies relief” is considered by courts to be a “catch-all” provision only applicable when no other ground applies.  Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 60(b)(6); Hess v. Cockrell, 281 F.3d 212, 215-16 (5th Cir. 2002) (internal citations omitted).  Courts seem to disfavor its use and only grant relief under it in very rare circumstances.  Id. 

When read as whole, the Fifth Circuit’s decision in Williams v. Brown & Root, Inc., 828 F.2d 325 (5th Cir. Tex. 1987), implies without expressly holding, that a case that where an involuntary dismissal without prejudice for failure to prosecute or to serve process within the 120-day period would effectively bar a claim because the statute of limitations has run, a court will be more likely to grant a 60(b) motion than in a case where there is time left before the statute runs. 

This concept is, perhaps, better understood in the context of the case.  The plaintiff’s case in Williams was dismissed without prejudice for failure to prosecute.  Id.  The plaintiff argued that the failure was based on a mistake by attorney; the court characterized plaintiff’s argument as a Rule 60(b) motion.  The plaintiff further argued that the dismissal was effectively with prejudice because the statute of limitations had run and should be treated as such and reviewed under the higher standard applied to Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 41 claims.  Id. at 328-39.

The court […]

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