O'Gara v. Countrywide Home Loans Inc.
MEMORANDUM OPINION re 76 motion to certify class. Signed by Judge Leonard P. Stark on 7/12/12. (ntl)
IN THE UNITED STATES J)ISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF DELAWARE
GREG O'GARA, On Behalf Of The ESTATE OF
TAMARA PORTNICK, Individually and On
Behalf of All Others Similarly Situated,
C.A. No. 08-113-LPS
COUNTRYWIDE HOME LOANS, INC.,
Carmella P. Keener, Esq., ROSENTHAL MONHAIT & GODDESS, P.A., Wilmington, DE.
Robert I. Harwood, Esq. and Roy Shimon, Esq., HARWOOD FEFFER LLP, New York, NY.
Jeffrey M. Norton, Esq., NEWMAN FERRARA LL~, New York, NY.
Attorneys for Plaintiff.
Richard D. Kirk, Esq. and Stephen B. Brauerman, EsR.., BAYARD, P.A., Wilmington, DE.
Thomas M. Hefferon, Esq. and Sabrina M. Rose-Sm~th, Esq., GOODWIN PROCTER LLP,
Attorneys for Defendant.
Date: July 12, 2012
-( ~Q. /'r-s~, U.S. Distri;~e:
Pending before the Court is a Motion to Certify Class filed by plaintiff Greg O'Gara, on
behalf of the Estate of Tamara Portnick ("Plaintiff'). (D.I. 76) For the reasons discussed below,
the Court will deny Plaintiffs Motion to Certify Cla~s.
Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. ("Defendant"! or "Countrywide" 1) is a nationwide
mortgage lender. (D.I. 80, Ex. 1 ~ 2) At loan closin~s, borrowers who obtain loans from
Countrywide execute Notes and Mortgage Deeds of rrust ("Mortgage Agreements") governing
the terms of their loans. (!d.) The Mortgage Agree1ents contain provisions permitting
Countrywide to recover costs, fees, and expenses in the event that borrowers default upon their
obligations (the "Fee Provisions"). 2 Once a borrowd defaults, Countrywide can initiate
foreclosure proceedings. (D.I. 80, Ex. 1 ~ 4)
During the Class Period, 3 approximately 150 clifferent law firms worked on foreclosure
proceedings for Countrywide, and each firm provided services pursuant to a standardized
"Countrywide" will also be used interchange~bly to refer to Countrywide Home Loan
Servicing, L.P, a servicing subsidiary ofCountrywid~ Home Loans, Inc. (See D.I. 80 at 4 n.1)
Tamara Portnick's Mortgage Agreement contained a provision that stated: "the Note
Holder will have the right to be paid back by me for 4ll of its costs and expenses in enforcing this
Note to the extent not prohibited by applicable law. Those expenses include, for example,
reasonable attorneys' fees." (D.I. 76, Ex. C § 6(E)) Countrywide's uniform mortgage agreement
contains similar language: "Lender may charge Borrqwer fees for services performed in
connection with Borrower's default ... including, but not limited to, attorneys' fees, property
inspection and valuation fees." (!d., Ex. D § 14)
The "Class Period" is defined as February 15, 2002 through present. (D.I. 77 at 1)
agreement with Countrywide. (See D.l. 76, Ex. A at 21:19-25; id., Ex. A at 73:10-21) 4 Pursuant
to the standardized agreement, Countrywide's outsid¢ counsel submitted their invoices for
attorneys' fees and costs to Countrywide's Foreclosure and Bankruptcy Finance Department.
(See id., Ex. B. at 40:6-7; 40:16-41 :5) Countrywide ~eviewed foreclosure counsel's invoices to
determine if the total time billed was within the "inv,stor insurer allowable amount" 5 applicable
to the loan at issue. (See id., Ex. B at 19:5-22) If for~closure counsel's invoices exceeded the
investor insurer allowable amount without prior apprpval, then Countrywide reviewed the bills
submitted for accuracy. (See id., Ex. Bat 23:9-11, 2J: 17-24:6, 24:1 0-21) If counsel's invoices
did not exceed the investor insured allowable amoun~, then the charges were not reviewed unless
a billing accuracy audit was conducted. 6 (See id., ExJ A at 56:8-10,71:9-11, 75:12-18; id., Ex. G
If a borrower voluntarily paid to bring a loan ~ut of default, ending foreclosure, then the
loan became known as a "reinstated loan" and was
s~bject to a reconciliation review by
Countrywide. (D.I. 80 at 6) When a borrower notifi4d Countrywide that he or she wanted to
reinstate the loan, Countrywide would calculate the abiount necessary to reinstate. 7 (Id.) After
All citations to depositions are in the format pf page#:line#.
The "investor insurer allowable amount" wa& the maximum allowable attorneys' fees
that the loan's investor or insurer was willing to pay for a foreclosure action.
Not all loans were subject to the billing accutacy audit. Rather, Countrywide determined
the number of loans to audit for billing accuracy by u~ing a formula that randomly generated a
percentage of loans Countrywide should audit. Base4 on the number of loans that the formula
generated as requiring audit, Countrywide randomly ~elected loans to review for billing accuracy
to fulfill that number. (See D.l. 76, Ex. A at 60:3-7, 60:19-63:22)
The reinstatement amount was comprised of K the fees and costs foreclosure counsel
had already billed to date and (2) the fees and costs f~reclosure counsel informed Countrywide it
the loan was reinstated, Countrywide conducted a loan reconciliation review to compare the
estimated fees and costs listed on the reinstatement qj.Iote with those actually incurred by
foreclosure counsel. (See D.l. 76, Ex. Bat 46:15-47:~) In the event that the borrower was
overcharged, Countrywide refunded the amount of otercharge to the borrower. (See id at 46:1447:8) Tamara Portnick's loan was subject to the rein~tatement process. (D.I. 80 at 6)
On February 25, 2008, Plaintiff filed a putati~e class action complaint alleging,
individually and on behalf of all others similarly situJted, that Defendant charged "inflated,
unverifiable or false costs, fees and expenses associa~ed with enforcement proceedings." (D.I. 1
~ 17) Plaintiff asserts three causes of action: breach tf contract, unjust enrichment, and breach of
duty of good faith and fair dealing. (Id
November 14, 2011, after completing
discovery related to class certification, Plaintiff filed the pending Motion to Certify Class. (D.I.
Plaintiff seeks to certify a class (the
"Propose~ Class") consisting of:
All individuals who (i) executed a Mortgage Note providing the
note holder is entitled to be "paid bac~ ... for all its costs and
expenses in enforcing the note ... includ[ing] ... reasonable
attorneys' fees;" and (ii) have been su~ject to an enforcement
action concerning the Mortgage Note ~y Countrywide; (iii)
received a demand from Countrywide ~o pay costs, fees and
expenses in excess of those Countrywfde and/or its agents actually
incurred or were obligated to pay; andj(iv) suffered damages as a
result [during the Class Period].
(Id at 1-2; see D.l. 77 at 1) Plaintiff seeks class certipcation pursuant to Rules 23(a), 23(b)(2),
expected to bill between the date the quote was reque~ted and the date reinstatement was likely to
occur. (See D.l. 76, Ex. Bat 46:4-13,49:17-50:15, 53:4-7; see also D.l. 80, Ex. 4)
and 23(b)(3) ofthe Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (D.I. 76 at 1) Additionally, pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(g), Plaintiff seek~ appointment ofthe law firm of Harwood
Peffer LLP ("Harwood Peffer") as class counsel. (D.~. 77 at 19)
The parties completed briefing on the Motion, to Certify Class on March 23, 2012. (D.I.
88) The Court held oral argument on May 15, 2012. See Mot. Hr'g Tr., May 15, 2012 (D.I. 89
and, hereinafter, "Tr.").
"Class certification is proper only if the trial dourt is satisfied, after a rigorous analysis,
that the prerequisites of Rule 23 are met." In re Hyd1ogen Peroxide Antitrust Litig., 552 F.3d
305, 309 (3d Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks orJitted). In reviewing a motion for class
certification, such "rigorous analysis may include pef'orming a preliminary inquiry into the
merits." !d. at 317 (internal quotation marks omitted). "Although the district court's findings for
the purpose of class certification are conclusive on th~t topic, they do not bind the fact-finder on
themerits." !d. at318.
Class certification under Rule 23 has two prirtcipal components. First, the party seeking
certification must establish the four requirements of Rule 23(a):
(1) the class is so numerous that joind¢r of all members is
impracticable [numerosity]; (2) there 4re questions of law or fact
common to the class [commonality]; (p) the claims or defenses of
the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of
the class [typicality]; and (4) the reprebentative parties will fairly
and adequately protect the interests of[the class [adequacy].
!d. at 309 n.6 (internal quotation marks omitted). "S¢cond, the proposed class must satisfy at
least one of the three requirements listed in Rule 23(b)." Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes,--- U.S.
----, 131 S. Ct. 2541,2548 (2011).
Here, Plaintiff relies on Rule 23(b)(2) and Ru~e 23(b)(3). Rule 23(b)(2) applies when
"the party opposing the class has acted or refused to act on grounds that apply generally to the
class, so that final injunctive relief or corresponding ~eclaratory relief is appropriate respecting
the class as a whole." !d. at 2548-49. Class certification under Rule 23(b)(3) "is permissible
when the court finds that questions of law or fact conh.mon to class members predominate over
any questions affecting only individual members, an4 that a class action is superior to other
available methods for fairly and efficiently adjudicati~g the controversy." Hydrogen Peroxide,
552 F.3d at 310 (internal quotation marks omitted).
Importantly, "a class may not be certified witlp.out a finding that each Rule 23 requirement
is met." !d. "Factual determinations necessary to mdke Rule 23 findings must be made by a
preponderance of the evidence. In other words, to
a class the district court must find that
the evidence more likely than not establishes each fa4t necessary to meet the requirements of
Rule 23." !d. at 320.
Rule 23(a) Requirements
Rule 23(a)(1) requires that the class be "so numerous that joinder of all members is
impracticable." "No minimum number of plaintiffs is required to maintain a suit as a class
action," but the Third Circuit has generally found that classes with over forty members satisfy the
numerosity requirement. See Stewart v. Abraham, 215 F.3d 220, 226-27 (3d Cir. 2001).
Plaintiff asserts that numerosity is easily satisfied because, during the Class Period,
hundreds ofthousands of Countrywide mortgage loans fell into foreclosure and were subject to
Countrywide's imposition and collection of costs, fec:fs, and expenses. (D.I. 77 at 8-9) Defendant
contends that Plaintiff has failed to show numerosity because there is no evidence in the record
regarding the actual number of Countrywide mortga~es that fell into foreclosure during the Class
Period. (D.I. 80 at 29)
At this stage of the litigation, "it is not necessf!.ry [for Plaintiff] to demonstrate the precise
number of class members when a reasonable
can be inferred from facts in the record."
Szczubelek v. Cendant Mortgage Corp., 215 F.R.D. 107, 116 (D.N.J. 2003); see also Lloydv.
City ofPhila., 121 F.R.D. 246,249 (E.D. Pa. 1988) (''A court may even certify a class whose size
is unknown, if common sense or common knowledge indicates that it will be large."). 8 Despite
the lack of record evidence regarding the exact number of Countrywide mortgages that fell into
foreclosure during the Class Period, the Court concluaes that there were at least hundreds of
these mortgages, and, thus, numerosity is satisfied. 9
Rule 23(a)(2) requires that "there are questioJ1S oflaw or fact common to the class." "A
Countrywide's counsel concedes that the Court has discretion to apply its common sense
in making a determination on numerosity. (See Tr. at 50)
The Court bases its conclusion on the number of mortgage foreclosures handled by the
law firms that Countrywide used as its outside couns¢1 coupled with the voluminous number of
mortgages that Countrywide services. (See D.I. 1 at 1~ 10, 14; Tr. at 20-21)
finding of commonality does not require that all
members share identical claims." In re
Prudential Ins. Co. Am. Sales Practice Litig., 148 F .3d 283, 310 (3d Cir. 1998). Rather,
commonality requires "the plaintiff to demonstrate that the class members have suffered the same
injury," which means more than "that they have all st,tffered a violation of the same provision of
law." Waf-Mart, 131 S. Ct. at 25 51 (internal quotati<)n marks omitted). Plaintiff must
demonstrate that its claim depends on "a common cotitention ... of such a nature that it is
capable of classwide resolution - which means that determination of its truth or falsity will
resolve an issue that is central to the validity of each ~me of the claims in one stroke." !d.
Here, the claims of both Plaintiff and the Proposed Class depend on the contention that
Countrywide breached a common provision of their Mortgage Agreements. 10 Proof that
Countrywide had a standard policy not to investigate the accuracy of bills submitted by its
outside counsel would help resolve the claims of all class members because it would demonstrate
that Countrywide's standard policy was not to comply with the Fee Provisions of its Mortgage
Agreements. 11 Thus, the Proposed Class satisfies the commonality requirement.
Rule 23(a)(3) requires that "the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical
Defendant's contention that Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate that Countrywide used a
standard form contract for borrowers is unpersuasive. (See D.l. 80 at 12) Indeed, in its briefing,
Countrywide admitted that "the Mortgage Agreements typically contained provisions permitting
Countrywide to recover amounts incurred in enforcing a Note." (!d. at 3) The record evidence
also supports Plaintiffs claim that Countrywide used a standard form contract for most Mortgage
Agreements. (See D.l. 76, Ex. Bat 65:21-66:1; Tr. at 6) Additionally, the Proposed Class is
limited to those borrowers who had Mortgage Agreements containing specific uniform language.
lndeed, Plaintiffhas produced evidence to support its contention that Countrywide had a
standard policy of collecting costs, fees, and expenses from borrowers without verifying the
accuracy and reasonableness. (See D.l. 83 at 4 n.l (collecting evidence))
of the claims or defenses of the class." The Third Circuit has identified three interrelated
considerations that play a part in assessing whether typicality is satisfied:
(1) the claims of the class representative must be generally the
same as those of the class in terms of both (a) the legal theory
advanced and (b) the factual circumstances underlying the theory;
(2) the class representative must not be subject to a defense that is
both inapplicable to many members of the class and likely to
become a major focus ofthe litigation; and (3) the interests and
incentives of the representative must tie sufficiently aligned with
those of the class.
In re Schering Plough Corp. ERISA Litig., 589 F.3d 585, 599 (3d Cir. 2009).
Here, all three considerations weigh in favor of finding typicality. First, Plaintiffs legal
claims -breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and breach of the duty of good faith and fair
dealing - are identical to those of the Proposed Class. The basic factual circumstances
supporting Plaintiffs claims- namely, Defendant's failure to verify the accuracy of foreclosure
counsel's bills and the contractual provision contained in the Mortgage Agreement which
required Plaintiff to pay back all fees and costs incurned by Countrywide in the foreclosure action
- are shared by the rest of the Proposed Class. Indeed, Plaintiff has defined the Proposed Class
in such a way so as to ensure typicality among the class members with respect to the language
contained in their Mortgage Agreements. The fact that individual class members underwent
different types of foreclosure proceedings does not defeat typicality, as all claims are based on a
breach of contract theory involving Countrywide's systematic practice of not verifying the
accuracy of outside counsel's bills. See generally Beck v. Maximus, Inc., 457 F.3d 291, 296 (3d
Cir. 2006) ("[F]actual differences will not render a claim atypical if the claim arises from the
same event or practice or course of conduct that gives rise to the claims of the class members,
and if it is based on the same legal theory.") (internal quotation marks omitted); Weisfeld v. Sun
Chern. Corp., 210 F.R.D. 136, 140 (D.N.J. 2002) ("[I]n instances wherein it is alleged that the
defendants engaged in a common scheme relative to all members of the class, there is a strong
assumption that the claims of the representative parties will be typical of the absent class
Second, Plaintiff is not subject to a unique defense that is inapplicable to many members
of the class and likely to become a major focus of the litigation. Although Countrywide contends
that it will assert various defenses that are only applicable to individual class members (see D.I.
80 at 24-27), there is no evidence that any of these defenses are unique to Plaintiff. Rather, it
appears that these defenses apply to the claims of numerous class members. 12
Finally, there is no evidence that the Plaintiff.s interests are not aligned with those of the
Proposed Class. Plaintiff and all members of the Proposed Class have a common interest in
obtaining recovery from Countrywide.
Accordingly, the Proposed Class satisfies the typicality requirement.
Adequacy of Representation
Rule 23(a)(4) requires that "the representative part[y] will fairly and adequately protect
the interests of the class." "First, the adequacy inquiry tests the qualifications of the counsel to
represent the class. Second, it seeks to uncover conflicts of interests between named parties and
the class they seek to represent." In re Warfarin Sodium Antitrust Litig., 391 F.3d 516, 532 (3d
Cir. 2004) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).
For instance, Defendant contends it will assert a voluntary repayment defense against
those class members who had their loans reinstated. (D.I. 80 at 25) This defense will apply not
only to Plaintiff, but also to all other class members who had their loans reinstated.
Defendant does not object to the adequacy of Harwood Peffer to serve as class counsel.
(Tr. at 50) The attorneys of Harwood Peffer are experienced class action attorneys who have
been successful in prosecuting class actions and complex civil litigation in courts throughout the
country. (See D.l. 76, Ex. H) Thus, the Court concludes that Harwood Peffer will adequately
represent the interests of the Proposed Class.
Additionally, the Court concludes that Plaintiff will fairly and adequately protect the
interests of the Proposed Class. There is nothing in the record to support the conclusion that a
conflict exists between Plaintiff and the Proposed Class, and Defendant does not challenge the
adequacy of Plaintiff to serve as class representative. (Tr. at 50) Both Plaintiff and the Proposed
Class have a strong interest in establishing Countrywide's liability and recovering damages.
Therefore, the Proposed Class satisfies the adequacy of representation requirement.
Rule 23(b) Requirements
Having determined that the Proposed Class meets the prerequisites of Rule 23(a), the
Court will next address whether the Proposed Class meets the additional requirements of Rule
23(b). For the reasons set forth below, the Court concludes that the Proposed Class cannot be
certified under either Rule 23(b)(2) or (b)(3).
First, Plaintiff seeks class certification pursuant to Rule 23(b)(2), under which class
certification is appropriate if "the party opposing the class had acted or refused to act on grounds
generally applicable to the class." Plaintiff contends that the Proposed Class can be certified
pursuant to Rule 23(b)(2) because "the focus of this action is to obtain class-oriented declaratory
and injunctive relief: namely, to enjoin the illegal billing practices and procedures by
Countrywide and to order revision of the language of the Mortgage Note to make its terms clear
to unwitting borrowers." (D.I. 77 at 14) Although one goal of this action is to obtain injunctive
relief for the Proposed Class, this alone is not sufficient to certify a class under Rule 23(b)(2)
where the class also seeks monetary damages. In Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, the Supreme
Court stated that Rule 23(b)(2) "does not authorize class certification when each class member
would be entitled to an individualized award of monetary damages." 131 S. Ct. at 2557. If they
were to prevail, the members of the Proposed Class would be entitled to different amounts of
monetary damages based on the specific amount that they were overcharged for attorneys' fees
The Supreme Court left open the possibility that monetary awards incidental to injunctive
relief may be permissible under Rule 23(b)(2). See id. at 2561; see also Gates v. Rhom & Haas
Co., 655 F.3d 255,264 n.13 (3d Cir. 2011). However, the Court concludes that the Proposed
Class's claims for monetary damages are not incidental to injunctive relief. Here, damages
cannot be determined by a formula on a class-wide basis; instead, determining damages will
involve individualized assessments of class members' claims and may require the Court to
examine statutory defenses which hinge on the conduct of individual class members. See WalMart, 131 S. Ct. at 2561 (noting that if individual litigation is required to determine damages and
assess statutory defenses then this prevents monetary relief from being "'incidental' to the class
Accordingly, the Proposed Class cannot be certified pursuant to Rule 23(b)(2).
Alternatively, Plaintiff seeks class certification pursuant to Rule 23(b)(3), which requires
that "questions of law or fact common to the class members predominate over any questions
affecting only individual members, and that a class action is superior to other available methods
for fairly and efficiently adjudicating the controversy." Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate that
the Proposed Class meets the predominance and superiority requirements ofRule 23(b)(3).
The predominance requirement of Rule 23(b)(3) "tests whether proposed class [is]
sufficiently cohesive to warrant adjudication by representation." In re Hydrogen Peroxide, 552
F.3d at 310-11. To establish predominance, issues common to class members must predominate
over individual issues. See In re Prudential, 148 F.3d at 314-15. Common issues do not
predominate if "proof of the essential elements of the cause of action requires individual
treatment." Newton v. Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc., 259 F.3d 154, 172 (3d Cir.
2001 ). Whether an element requires individual or common treatment depends on the nature of
the evidence that will suffice to resolve it. See In re Hydrogen Peroxide, 552 F.3d at 311. When
an issue requires both individual and common proof, the Court must determine which proof is
key to its outcome. See In re Linderboard Antitrust Litig., 305 F.3d 145, 162-63 (3d Cir. 2002).
Plaintiff contends that "[p ]redominance is readily met in cases, such as this, alleging a
common course of conduct by defendant." (D .I. 77 at 15) In response, Defendant argues that
many individualized questions predominate: questions regarding breach- including services
preformed, fees charged, and foreclosure practices; questions regarding the calculation of
damages (including whether specific class members even suffered damages at all); and questions
relating to class-member-specific defenses - including mitigation of damages, whether there is a
voluntary payment defense available, and whether res judicata is applicable to individual class
members' claims. (See D.I. 80 at 16-27)
The Court concludes that individualized questions predominate over questions common
to the Proposed Class. Here, Plaintiff alleges that class members entered into standard form
Mortgage Agreements with Countrywide and that Countrywide breached the Fee Provisions
contained in the Mortgage Agreements by "impos[ing] on Class members inflated, unverifiable
or false costs, fees and expenses associated with enforcement proceedings." (D.I. 1 at~ 17(a);
20-21) Plaintiff correctly points out that claims arising from standard form contracts
are generally viewed as being "particularly appropriate" for class treatment where they are
subject to generalized proof. (See D.I. 77 at 9-10 (collecting cases)) However, where, as here,
numerous individualized inquiries are required to determine breach and damages, class
certification is not appropriate. See Jim Ball Pontiac-Buick-GMC, Inc. v. DHL Express (USA),
Inc., 2011 WL 815209, at *6 (W.D.N.Y. Mar. 2, 2011) ("[C]ourts have denied certification even
in cases that involved form contracts where numerous individual inquiries were required to
determine whether a breach ofthe contract could be found."); see also Spagnola v. Chubb Corp.,
264 F.R.D. 76,99 (S.D.N.Y. 2010); Sparano v. Southland Corp., 1996 WL 681273, at *1-2
(N.D. Ill. Nov. 21, 1996).
Proving breach of contract will require individualized proof raising many individualized
issues. 13 A breach of contract claim has three basic elements: (1) a valid contract, (2) breach of
Both parties have briefed the applicability of Rule 23(b)(3) to Plaintiffs breach of
contract claim only, acknowledging that the unjust enrichment and breach of good faith and fair
dealing claims are dependent claims. (See D.I. 80 at 12 n.13) Accordingly, in determining
whether Plaintiff can prove its case with evidence common to the Proposed Class, the Court
analyzes only the breach of contract claim.
that contract, and (3) damages resulting from the breach. 14 Although existence of a standard
contract is common to all class members and can be demonstrated on a class-wide basis, breach
and damages cannot. For instance, in order to determine whether there was a breach, it will be
necessary to analyze what each class member paid and what services outside foreclosure counsel
performed related to that class member's case. In order to assess whether outside counsel's fees
and costs were reasonable, it will be necessary to examine the specific services that outside
counsel performed in connection with each foreclosure proceeding, which will vary from class
member to class member. 15 Moreover, it will be necessary to assess whether each individual
attorneys' billing rate and hours expended were reasonable, an inquiry involving individual
factual questions which must be answered with individualized proof. 16 Numerous courts have
recognized that predominance cannot be satisfied where a court must make a reasonableness
determination of individual charges. See, e.g., St. Louis Park Chiropractic, P.A. v. Fed. Ins.,
These three elements are required in every state to prove breach of contract. (See D.I.
83, Ex. A (listing elements required to prove breach of contract claim in fifty states and District
of Columbia)) A number of states impose an additional requirement- namely, that a plaintiff
demonstrate its own performance of the contract. However, the performance of Plaintiff or
members of the Proposed Class is not in dispute in this case and, therefore, does not impact the
The services involved in a foreclosure proceeding vary from client to client due to state
law variations and individual actions of the borrower and third parties. (See Tr. at 31-32; D.I. 80
at 18-22 (discussing some individualized issues that occur even with routine foreclosure
Although Plaintiff contends that Countrywide had flat fee arrangements with certain law
firms (Tr. at 17), this does not end the reasonableness inquiry. In order to assess whether the flat
fee was reasonable, it would be necessary to examine what attorneys in a given locality typically
charge for foreclosure proceedings, which will vary by location. (See Tr. at 49) Additionally, it
would be necessary to examine what services foreclosure counsel actually performed in order to
assess whether the flat fee charged was reasonable - and, as discussed above, this involves
individualized factual questions that cannot be answered through class-wide proof.
Co., 342 Fed. Appx. 809, 813-13 (3d Cir. July 22, 2009) (denying class certification, in part,
because determining reasonableness of medical charges on expense-by-expense basis would
necessarily require individualized inquiry); Liberty Lincoln Mercury, Inc. v. Ford Mktg. Corp.,
149 F.R.D. 65,75-76 (D.N.J. 1993) (denying class certification, in part, because determining
reasonableness of individual car dealer's retail price for car part would require individualized
Furthermore, proving damages requires class-member-specific proof. Plaintiff has failed
to present any evidence regarding how damages can be proven on a class-wide basis. 17 Thus,
predominance is not satisfied here. See Chudner v. Transunion Interactive, Inc., 201 0 WL
5662966, at *1 (D. Del. Dec. 15, 2010) (denying class certification because "plaintiff ... failed
to explain how evidence of damages can be proven on a class-wide basis"); see also Newton, 259
F.3d at 189 (concluding that determination of individualized damages caused individual
questions to be "overpowering," thereby defeating predominance). Proving damages will require
individualized evidence of the services performed by the outside foreclosure counsel on each
class member's case and an analysis of each counsel's hourly billing rate. Based on the need for
individualized proof, class certification is not appropriate. See Newton, 259 F.3d at 172.
Moreover, Defendant will assert class-member-specific defenses that increase the
At the hearing, Plaintiffs counsel suggested that damages may be proven through a
formula and expert testimony. (Tr. at 24) However, Plaintiff failed to produce an expert on
damages or put forth a formula for determining damages on a class-wide basis. At this stage of
the litigation, the Court cannot rely on Plaintiffs mere speculation; rather, it is Plaintiffs burden
to come forward with evidence explaining how damages can be calculated on a class-wide basis.
See Chudner v. Transunion Interactive, Inc., 2010 WL 5662966, at *1 (D. Del. Dec. 15, 2010)
(noting that "to pass a rigorous analysis examination, a Plaintiff must do more than state a
formula could be used to calculate class-wide damages"); see also Newton, 259 F.3d at 187-88.
individual questions that cannot be answered through class-wide proof. For instance, Defendant
contends that it will assert that res judicata and estoppel bar the claims of certain class members
based on the fact that some class members were involved in bankruptcy or other judicial
proceedings, in which they litigated foreclosure expenses that they now seek to recover. (See
D.l. 80 at 25; Tr. at 45-46) Additionally, Defendant argues it will have a voluntary repayment
defense for those class members who had their loans reinstated. (D.I. 80 at 25-26) Defendant
further argues that it will assert statute of limitations defenses with respect to some class
members. (!d. at 26) Each ofthese proposed defenses will require individualized proof, which
weighs against a finding ofpredominance. 18 See generally Ritti v. U-Haul Int'l., Inc., 2006 WL
1117878, at* 11 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 26, 2006) (determining that presence of individualized defenses
In sum, due to the numerous individualized questions relating to breach, damages, and
potential defenses, the Court concludes that Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate that common
questions predominate over individualized issues. 19
In light of the Court's finding that the Proposed Class does not satisfy the predominance
requirement, the Court will not address Rule 23(b)(3)'s superiority requirement at length. See
The presence of unique defenses alone does not defeat predominance, but is something
that should be considered. See Myers v. Hertz Corp., 624 F.3d 537, 551 (2d Cir. 2010).
During the course of briefing on the instant motion, the Third Circuit issued its en bane
decision in Sullivan v. DB Investments, Inc., 667 F.3d 273 (3d Cir. 2011). The parties addressed
the applicability of Sullivan to this case in several briefs (D.I. 83, 87, 88) and during the oral
argument. The Court has considered Sullivan (which certified a settlement class) and concludes
that it does not alter the outcome here. For the reasons stated above, Plaintiff has failed to satisfy
the predominance requirement.
Johnston v. HBO Film Mgmt., Inc., 265 F.3d 178, 194 (3d Cir. 2001); In re LifeUSA Holding
Inc., 242 F.3d 136, 147 (3d Cir. 2001) (stating because proposed class does not meet
predominance requirement, "we need not dwell at length on the superiority requirement ...
inasmuch as failure to meet any ofthe requirements ofRules 23(a) and (b) precludes certification
of a class"). "However, the diversity of ... issues that defeat the ... predominance requirement
 compel[s] the conclusion that the superiority requirement is likewise not met." Danvers Motor
Co. v. Ford Motor Co., 543 F.3d 141, 149 (3d Cir. 2008).
The superiority inquiry requires a court to "balance, in terms of fairness and efficiency,
the merits of a class action against those of alternative available methods of adjudication."
Georgine v. Amchem Prods., Inc., 83 F.3d 610, 632 (3d Cir. 1996) (internal quotation marks
omitted). There are four nonexclusive factors that a court should consider in connection with the
superiority inquiry of Rule 23(b)(3):
( 1) the interest of individual members of the class in controlling the
prosecution ofthe action, (2) the extent of litigation commenced
elsewhere by class members, (3) the desirability of concentrating
claims in a given forum, and (4) the management difficulties likely
to be encountered in pursuing the class action.
Danvers, 543 F.3d at 149; see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(3)(A)-(D).
Here, the fourth factor counsels strongly against finding that a class action is a superior
means for adjudicating this controversy. The multitude of individualized issues present in
proving breach and damages would entail complicated mini-litigations within the class action
itself.2° Although the Court agrees with Plaintiff that the claims could be divided into sub-groups
lndeed, Plaintiff has failed to propose a trial plan demonstrating that it would possible
or practicable to try this case as a class action given the many individualized issues present. (Tr.
based on common state law, 21 the claims would still require individualized evidence regarding
the specific fees charged to each class member and the reasonableness of the fees. Consequently,
it would be neither more fair nor more efficient to proceed with this matter as a class action.
Thus, Plaintiff has failed to satisfy the superiority requirement.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court will deny Plaintiffs Motion for Class Certification.
An appropriate Order follows.
See D.I. 83, Ex. A (wherein Plaintiff groups causes of action into state law groups)
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