Basham et al v. American National County Mutual Ins Co et al
ORDER granting 17 Motion to Stay Responses to Multiple Defendants' Motions to Dismiss as set forth. See Order for specifics. Signed by Honorable Susan O. Hickey on March 26, 2012. (mfr)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
EDDIE BASHAM, as Administrator of the
Estate of James Basham, and FREDA
MCCLENDON, Individually and as Class
Representatives on Behalf of All Similarly
CASE NO. 12-CV-4005
AMERICAN NATIONAL COUNTY
MUTUAL INSURANCE CO., et al.,
Pending is Plaintiffs’ Motion to Stay Responses to Multiple Defendants’ Motions to Dismiss,
filed January 19, 2012. (ECF No. 17). On January 26, 2012, the following Separate Defendants
responded: 21st Century Casualty Co., 21st Century Ins. Co. of the Southwest, 21st Century Ins. Co.,
21st Century Insurance Group (“21st Century” collectively) and ANPAC Louisiana Insurance
Company, American National County Mutual Ins Co, American National General Insurance Co.,
American National Property & Casualty Co., Pacific Property & Casualty Company (“ANPAC”
collectively). (ECF Nos. 83 and 85). The remaining defendants have raised no objection. Plaintiff
filed a consolidated reply on February 3, 2012. (ECF No. 96). The Court finds the matter ripe for
On December 7, 2011, Plaintiffs filed a class action complaint in the circuit court of Miller
County, Arkansas, alleging a conspiracy among Defendants to underpay uninsured and under-insured
motorist claims through the use of a software program called “Colossus,” developed by the
Computer Sciences Corporation. (ECF No. 5). Defendants filed a notice of removal on January 17,
2012, arguing that this Court possesses jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005, 28
U.S.C. §§ 1332, 1453. Defendants began filing motions to dismiss immediately following removal.
The Travelers and Infinity Defendants filed motions to dismiss on January 18 (ECF Nos. 6, 10); the
21st Century and Erie Defendants filed theirs on January 23 (ECF Nos. 23, 25, 29); and the Farm
Bureau Mutual Group, ANPAC and Pacific Defendants filed theirs on January 24. (ECF No. 39, 49,
56). All other defendants have either filed an answer or have properly filed motions to extend the
time to file an answer. On January 19, Plaintiff s filed their motion to stay responses to these motions
to dismiss. (ECF No. 17). Only the 21st Century and ANPAC Defendants have responded in
opposition. (ECF Nos. 83 and 85).
In their motion, Plaintiffs ask the Court to stay the deadline for responses to Defendants’
pending motions to dismiss until thirty (30) days from the date the Court rules on Plaintiffs’ remand
motion. In response, 21st Century and ANPAC urge the Court to address the personal jurisdiction
arguments contained in their motions to dismiss before deciding any future question concerning
subject matter jurisdiction posed by a remand motion. They assert that under Ruhrgas AG v.
Marathon Oil Co., 526 U.S. 574 (1999), this Court possesses discretion to address threshold personal
jurisdiction questions before ruling on subject matter jurisdiction. Specifically, they contend that the
issue of personal jurisdiction is straightforward and should be afforded immediate attention.
Plaintiffs argue that personal jurisdiction is a complex question in this case and the interests of
judicial efficiency weigh in favor of deciding subject matter jurisdiction first.
While the Court understands that it may elect to address a threshold personal jurisdiction
argument before deciding whether subject matter jurisdiction exists, see, e.g., Ruhrgas, 526 U.S. at
585, it declines to do so in this case. 21st Century and ANPAC frame the personal jurisdiction issue
as a simple one, but Plaintiffs contend that their argument will likely hinge on novel theories of
conspiracy jurisdiction, requiring further briefing and potential document discovery. Furthermore,
unlike in Ruhrgas, addressing the personal jurisdiction arguments of 21st Century and ANPAC will
not dispose of the case in its entirety. Remand and subject matter jurisdiction would still have to be
addressed, and the Court would have to revisit the issue of personal jurisdiction concerning those
separate defendants who have raised such arguments in their pending motions to dismiss but have
not objected to Plaintiffs’ instant motion to stay. Because the Court does not expect the issue of
subject matter jurisdiction to be especially burdensome, the Court finds that deciding Plaintiffs’
remand motion first is the most efficient way to proceed. See Ruhrgas, 526 U.S. at 588-7 (noting that
subject matter jurisdiction is appropriately addressed first when the issue “involve[s] no arduous
Plaintiffs’ Motion to Stay Responses to Multiple Defendants’ Motions to Dismiss (ECF No.
17) is therefore GRANTED. Plaintiffs’ deadline to respond to any motion to dismiss filed by
Defendants before the Court addresses remand is stayed until the Court issues its remand ruling. In
the event the Court denies remand and retains jurisdiction, Plaintiffs shall have thirty (30) days from
such order’s entry-date to file their responses to any motions to dismiss that were pending before the
Court’s remand ruling.
IT IS SO ORDERED, this 26th day of March, 2012.
/s/ Susan O. Hickey
Hon. Susan O. Hickey
United States District Judge
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