In Re Pacific Fertility Center Litigation

Filing 901

ORDER by Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley granting 883 Motion for Entry of Judgment under Rule 54(b). (ahm, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 8/13/2021)

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Case 3:18-cv-01586-JSC Document 901 Filed 08/13/21 Page 1 of 5 1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 7 IN RE: PACIFIC FERTILITY CENTER LITIGATION 8 Re: A.B., C.D., E.D., G.H., and I.J 9 10 Case No. 18-cv-01586-JSC ORDER RE: MOTION FOR ENTRY OF JUDGMENT UNDER RULE 54(B) Re: Dkt. No. 883 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 13 Plaintiffs A.B., C.D., E.F., G.H., and IJ prevailed at trial on their product liability and 14 failure to recall claims against Chart Industries. Because Plaintiffs also brought claims against 15 Pacific Fertility Center, Prelude, and Pacific MSO (the “PFC entities”) which have been stayed 16 pending arbitration, this action remains pending and judgment was not entered following the 17 jury’s verdict on Plaintiffs’ claims against Chart. Plaintiffs now move for entry of judgment under 18 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) arguing that there is no just reason to delay entry of 19 judgment on their claims against Chart pending arbitration of their claims against the remaining 20 Defendants. (Dkt. No. 883.) Having considered the parties’ briefs, the Court concludes that oral 21 argument is unnecessary, see N.D. Cal. Civ. L.R. 7-1(b), and GRANTS the motion. 22 23 DISCUSSION Under Rule 54(b), “[w]hen an action presents more than one claim for relief ... or when 24 multiple parties are involved, the court may direct entry of a final judgment as to one or more, but 25 fewer than all, claims or parties only if the court expressly determines that there is no just reason 26 for delay.” This “Rule was adopted ‘specifically to avoid the possible injustice of delay[ing] 27 judgment o[n] a distinctly separate claim [pending] adjudication of the entire case.... The Rule thus 28 aimed to augment, not diminish, appeal opportunity.’” Jewel v. Nat’l Sec. Agency, 810 F.3d 622, Case 3:18-cv-01586-JSC Document 901 Filed 08/13/21 Page 2 of 5 1 627–28 (9th Cir. 2015) (quoting Gelboim v. Bank of Am. Corp., 574 U.S. 405, 409-10 (2015) 2 (alterations in original)). 3 A two-step process governs the Rule 54(b) analysis. “A district court must first determine 4 that it has rendered a ‘final judgment,’ that is, a judgment that is ‘an ultimate disposition of an 5 individual claim entered in the course of a multiple claims action.’” Wood v. GCC Bend, LLC, 422 6 F.3d 873, 878 (9th Cir. 2005) (quoting Curtiss–Wright Corp. v. Gen. Elec. Co., 446 U.S. 1, 7 7 (1980)). Second, the court “must determine whether there is any just reason for delay.” Wood, 422 8 F.3d at 878. The latter determination focuses on: “(1) the interrelationship of the certified claims 9 and the remaining claims in light of the policy against piecemeal review; and (2) equitable factors such as prejudice and delay.” Tsyn v. Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC, No. 14-CV-02552-LB, 2016 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 WL 7635883, at *2 (N.D. Cal. June 27, 2016) (citing Curtiss-Wright, 446 U.S. at 8-10; Gregorian 12 v. Izvestia, 871 F.2d 1515, 1518-20 (9th Cir. 1989)). 13 “It is left to the sound judicial discretion of the district court to determine the ‘appropriate 14 time’ when each final decision in a multiple claims action is ready for appeal. This discretion is to 15 be exercised ‘in the interest of sound judicial administration.’” Jewel, 810 F.3d at 628 (quoting 16 Curtiss-Wright, 446 U.S. at 7); see also Jewel, 810 F.3d at 628 (“juridical concerns” regarding 17 piecemeal appeals are reviewed de novo; otherwise, “discretionary judgment of the district court 18 should be given substantial deference”). 19 A. Final Judgment as to Plaintiffs’ Claims Against Chart 20 Chart does not argue—nor could it—that the jury’s verdict in Plaintiffs’ favor on all three 21 of the claims pled, finding of damages, and allocation of fault between Chart and the PFC entities 22 constitutes a final judgment as to Plaintiffs’ claims against Chart. The jury’s verdict constitutes “a 23 judgment in the sense that it is a decision upon a cognizable claim for relief, and ... final in the 24 sense that it is an ultimate disposition of an individual claim entered in the course of a multiple 25 claims action.” Curtiss-Wright, 446 U.S. at 7 (internal citation and quotation marks omitted). The 26 first step of the Rule 54(b) inquiry is thus easily resolved. 27 B. Just Reasons to Delay Entry of Final Judgment 28 Having found finality, the Court must next determine whether there is any just reason for 2 Case 3:18-cv-01586-JSC Document 901 Filed 08/13/21 Page 3 of 5 1 delay considering the policy against piecemeal appeals and the equities involved. Curtiss-Wright, 2 446 U.S. at 8. Chart insists that entering final judgment here will spawn multiple appeals on 3 overlapping facts and legal issues and that the equities do not weigh in Plaintiffs’ favor. The 4 Court disagrees. 5 1) Avoidance of Piecemeal Litigation 6 Chart maintains that Rule 54(b) relief is inappropriate here because any appeal would not resolve all of Plaintiffs’ claims nor would it include all the parties. See Jewel, 810 F.3d at 630 (“A 8 final complication is that not all of the parties are included in this appeal, nor does this appeal 9 resolve all of the Jewel plaintiffs’ claims.”). Chart emphasizes that Plaintiffs’ claims against the 10 PFC entities—which arise out of the same facts here—will be adjudicated in arbitration and the 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 7 arbitration decision will be subject to confirmation or vacatur by this Court, and to an appeal 12 following this Court’s decision. 13 Chart relies heavily on the Ninth Circuit’s statement in Wood that “[t]he greater the overlap 14 the greater the chance that this court will have to revisit the same facts—spun only slightly 15 differently—in a successive appeal.” 422 F.3d at 882. However, as Plaintiffs note, the Ninth 16 Circuit also stated that “[w]e do not mean to suggest that claims with overlapping facts are 17 foreclosed from being separate for purposes of Rule 54(b). Certainly they are not.” Id. at 881. In 18 Wood, “the factual issues overlap[ped] entirely—not just substantially; and the only legal right 19 asserted [wa]s the right not to be discriminated against on account of age.” Id. at 882. 20 While the factual circumstances underlying Plaintiffs’ claims against Chart are nearly the 21 same as for their claims against the PFC entities, “the claims under review [are] separable from the 22 others remaining to be adjudicated and [] the nature of the claims already determined [is] such that 23 no appellate court would have to decide the same issues more than once even if there were 24 subsequent appeals.” Curtiss-Wright, 446 U.S. at 8. That is, although Chart’s appeal could raise 25 challenges to the jury’s factual findings and this Court’s legal conclusions, an appeal of the 26 arbitration decision regarding the PFC entities would not have a similar scope. “Neither erroneous 27 legal conclusions nor unsubstantiated factual findings justify federal court review of an arbitral 28 award under the statute.” Biller v. Toyota Motor Corp., 668 F.3d 655, 662 (9th Cir. 2012). 3 Case 3:18-cv-01586-JSC Document 901 Filed 08/13/21 Page 4 of 5 1 Chart’s insistence that the Court’s review of the arbitration decision “necessitates analyzing how 2 the arbitrators applied the law to the facts of the case, the same facts Chart will raise on appeal” is 3 unavailing. (Dkt. No. 896 at 5.) “[T]he FAA does not sanction judicial review of the merits, and 4 whether or not the panel’s findings are supported by the evidence in the record is beyond the scope 5 of our review.” Lagstein v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyd's, London, 607 F.3d 634, 640–41 (9th 6 Cir. 2010) (cleaned up). 7 Accordingly, juridical concerns such as avoidance of piecemeal litigation do not weigh 8 against Rule 54(b) certification here. 9 2) Equitable Considerations Next, the Court must consider “traditional equitable principles such as prejudice and 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 delay.” Gregorian v. Izvestia, 871 F.2d 1515, 1519 (9th Cir. 1989). Plaintiffs insist that the 12 equities weigh decidedly in favor of immediate entry of judgment because it would delay entry of 13 judgment by at least a year and “deprive Plaintiffs of the use of their sizable monetary awards for 14 fertility services made necessary by the tank failure.” (Dkt. No. 883 at 7.) Plaintiffs also argue 15 that a lengthy delay would prejudice the claims of other IVF patients who were harmed by the 16 same incident suggesting that these individuals “will likely be entitled to rely on the res judicata 17 effects of that trial in their own proceedings.” (Id. at 8.) 18 Chart’s argument that Plaintiffs will not be prejudiced by any delay because any delay 19 would be minor is unpersuasive for several reasons. First, to the extent that Plaintiffs seek to use 20 the damages awards to pursue fertility services, any delay in their ability to do so is prejudicial. 21 Second, that the arbitration with the PFC entities is set for 2022 is unavailing given the pace of the 22 arbitration proceedings—the Court first compelled arbitration of Plaintiffs’ claims against PFC in 23 2019—and even if the arbitration occurs in 2022 there is no certainty as to when a decision will 24 issue thereafter (or at least Chart has not pointed to anything that requires a decision within a 25 certain amount of time). Finally, that Plaintiffs have reached a settlement in principal with the 26 PFC entities which would resolve Plaintiffs’ arbitration claims as part of a global settlement does 27 not weigh against entry of judgment against Chart now. While Chart suggests that the Court will 28 need to offset Chart’s obligation to Plaintiffs to account for the settlement payment, Plaintiffs 4 Case 3:18-cv-01586-JSC Document 901 Filed 08/13/21 Page 5 of 5 1 persuasively note that any such offset is both speculative and would only relate to the economic 2 damages and not the $13.05 million in non-economic damages. See Garcia v. Duro Dyne Corp., 3 156 Cal. App. 4th 92, 100 (2007) (“a nonsettling defendant is not entitled to an offset for such a 4 settlement until the settlement monies have been paid.”); Id. at 102 (“a nonsettling defendant is not 5 entitled to an offset credit under section 877 for the portion of any settlement that is attributable to 6 noneconomic damages.”). 7 8 Accordingly, the balance of equities weighs in Plaintiffs’ favor and there is no just reason to delay entry of judgment. CONCLUSION 9 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 13 For the reasons stated above, Plaintiffs’ motion for entry of judgment under Rule 54(b) is GRANTED. The Clerk is instructed to enter final judgment on Plaintiffs’ claims against Chart using the proposed final judgment submitted by Plaintiffs. (Dkt. No. 883-1.) 14 This Order disposes of Docket No. 883. 15 IT IS SO ORDERED. 16 Dated: August 13, 2021 17 18 JACQUELINE SCOTT CORLEY United States Magistrate Judge 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 5

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