Sayles v. Allstate Insurance Company
MEMORANDUM (Order to follow as separate docket entry) re 37 MOTION for Leave to Appeal to the Third Circuit pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1292(b) filed by Allstate Insurance Company. Signed by Honorable A. Richard Caputo on 7/13/17. (jam)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
SAMANTHA SAYLES, individually and on
behalf of all others similarly situated,
CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:16-CV-01534
ALLSTATE INSURANCE COMPANY,
Presently before the Court is a Motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b) f or
Certification for Interlocutory Appeal of the portion of this Court’s May 10, 2017 Order
(Doc. 36) which denied Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss Counts I and II of Plaintiff’s
Complaint, filed by Defendant Allstate Insurance Company (“Allstate”). (Doc. 37.) For the
reasons that follow, Allstate’s Motion will be granted.
Because the factual and procedural history are both well known to the parties and
stated in the Court’s prior Memorandum in Sayles v. Allstate Insurance Co., No.
3:16-CV-01534, 2017 WL 1928408 (M.D. Pa. May 10, 2017) (Doc. 35), they need not be
repeated here other than to note the f ollowing:
Plaintiff Samantha Sayles (“Sayles”) originally filed this putative class action in the
Court of Common Pleas of Pike County, Pennsylvania on June 20, 2016. (See Doc. 1.)
Sayles alleges that an auto insurance policy issued by Allstate under which she was
insured (the “Policy”) contains an “examination requirement” that violates § 1796 of
Pennsylvania’s Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law, 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §
1701, et seq. (the “MVFRL”). (See Doc. 35, at 1-3.) The Complaint contained eight
Counts for relief. Count I seeks a declaratory judgment declaring that Allstate must, inter
alia, file a motion with a court of competent jurisdiction for an order directing an insured
to submit to a mental or physical examination whenever the mental or physical condition
of an insured is material to any claim for medical benefits. (Compl. ¶ 59.) Count II
alleges violations of § 1796 of the MVFRL on behalf of Sayles and all similarly situated
individuals. (Id. ¶ 62.) On July 25, 2016, Allstate removed the action to federal court.
(See Docs. 1 & 16.) On August 26, 2016, Allstate filed a Motion to Dismiss Sayles’s
Complaint in its entirety. (Doc. 10.) On May 10, 2017, the Court denied Allstate’s Motion
as to Counts I and II, and granted the remainder of Allstate’s Motion. (Docs. 35 & 36.)
On May 24, 2017, Allstate filed the instant Motion for Certification for Interlocutory
Appeal of the Court’s May 10, 2017 Order, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b). (Doc. 37.)
Sayles filed her Brief in Opposition on June 7, 2017. (Doc. 40.) Allstate f iled its Reply
Brief on June 21, 2017. (Doc. 41.) The Motion is now ripe for disposition.
II. Legal Standard
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b), a district judge may certify an order for
immediate appeal if it the judge finds that the order "involves a controlling question of
law as to which there is substantial ground for difference of opinion and that an
immediate appeal from the order may materially advance the ultimate termination of the
litigation." 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b). 1 The decision to certify an order for immediate appeal
District courts may grant a motion to certify an order for interlocutory appeal and
enter an amended order which includes the certification pursuant to § 1292(b). See
Matter of Hamilton, 122 F.3d 13, 14 (7th Cir. 1997) (citing Marisol by Forbes v.
Giuliani, 104 F.3d 524, 527-29 (2d Cir. 1996); Weir v. Propst, 915 F.2d 283, 286
(7th Cir. 1990); In re Benny, 812 F.2d 1133, 1136-37 (9th Cir. 1987); Nuclear
Eng’g Co. v. Scott, 660 F.2d 241, 245-48 (7th Cir. 1981)); see also Eisenberger v.
Chesapeake Appalachia, LLC, No. 3:09-CV-1415, 2010 WL 1816646, at *3-*4
(M.D. Pa. May 5, 2010) (Caputo, J.); St. Clair Intellectual Prop. Consultants, Inc.
v. Samsung Elecs. Co., Ltd., 2010 WL 430817, at *2 (D. Del. Feb. 4, 2010) (“A
court may grant a motion to certify and issue an amended order after an initial
ruling on the merits.”) (citing James Wm. Moore et al., Moore's Federal Practice §
203.32 (3d ed. 2009)) (emphasis in original). The time for Allstate to file its
petition with the Third Circuit runs from the date of entry of this Order. See
Matter of Hamilton, 122 F.3d at 14 (citing Fed. R. App. P. 5(a)).
lies within the sound discretion of the district court. Orson, Inc. v. Miramax Film Corp.,
867 F. Supp. 319, 320 (E.D. Pa. 1994) (citing Del. Valley Toxics Coal. v. Kurz-Hastings,
Inc., 813 F. Supp. 1132, 1142 (E.D. Pa. 1993)). However, the district court should
exercise its discretion mindful of the strong policy against piecemeal appeals. Link v.
Mercedes-Benz of N. Am., 550 F.2d 860, 863 (3d Cir. 1977), cert. denied, 431 U.S. 933
(1977). The burden is on the movant to demonstrate that such an appeal is warranted.
Orson, Inc., 867 F. Supp. at 320 (citing Rottmund v. Cont’l Assur. Co., 813 F. Supp.
1104, 1112 (E.D. Pa. 1992)).
Section 1292(b) “imposes three criteria for the district court's exercise of
discretion to grant a § 1292(b) certificate.” Katz v. Carte Blanche Corp., 496 F.2d 747,
754 (3d Cir. 1974). “The order must (1) involve a ‘controlling question of law,’ (2) offer
‘substantial ground for difference of opinion’ as to its correctness, and (3) if appealed
immediately ‘materially advance the ultimate termination of the litigation.’” Id. (quoting §
1292(b)). A “district court should certify an order for immediate appeal only if all three
requirements are met.” Orson, Inc., 867 F. Supp. at 321 (citing Piazza v. Major League
Baseball, 836 F. Supp. 269, 271 (E.D. Pa. 1993)).
As explained below, the Court finds that the requirements set forth in § 1292(b)
have been satisfied, and that an interlocutory appeal is warranted in this case.
Accordingly, Allstate’s Motion will be granted.
First, the Court concludes that its prior Order involves a “controlling question of
law,” thereby satisfying the first statutory criterion. A question of law is controlling if: (1)
an incorrect disposition would constitute reversible error; or (2) it is serious to the
conduct of the litigation, either practically or legally. Nationwide Life Ins. Co. v.
Commonwealth Land Title Ins. Co., No. 05-281, 2011 WL 1044864, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Mar.
23, 2011) (citing Katz, 496 F.2d at 755). “[O]n the practical level, saving of time of the
district court and of expense to the litigants was deemed by the sponsors [of 28 U.S.C. §
1292(b)] to be a highly relevant factor.” Katz, 496 F.2d at 755 (citation omitted). Here,
there is no doubt that the present matter involves a controlling question of law: If the
Court’s prediction concerning whether the Pennsylvania Supreme Court would find the
Policy’s examination requirement violative of Pennsylvania public policy is later deemed
to be incorrect, the Court’s disposition of Allstate’s Motion to Dismiss with respect to
Counts I and II would almost certainly constitute reversible error. Moreover, considering
that this case involves a putative class action which will likely demand significant
resources from both the parties and the Court, and considering that the only claims
remaining are contained in Counts I and II, there are substantial practical reasons f or
granting this interlocutory appeal as well.
Second and relatedly, the Court finds that an immediate appeal will also
“materially advance the ultimate termination of the litigation.” “Several factors are
pertinent in determining whether an immediate appeal would materially advance the
ultimate termination of the litigation, including: (1) whether the need for trial would be
eliminated; (2) whether the trial would be simplified by the elimination of complex issues;
and (3) whether discovery could be conducted more expeditiously and at less expense
to the parties.” Patrick v. Dell Fin. Servs., 366 B.R. 378, 387 (M.D. Pa. 2007) (citing
Interwave Tech., Inc. v. Rockwell Automation, Inc., No. Civ.A. 05-398, 2006 WL 401843,
at *6 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 16, 2006)). Of course, if this Court’s prior opinion with respect to the
Policy’s examination requirement were to be reversed, the need for trial would be
eliminated entirely, as only Counts I and II remain. Additionally, as this case is still in the
early stages of litigation, the need for discovery could also be eliminated pending the
outcome of the appeal.
Lastly, the Court concludes that there is a “substantial ground for difference of
opinion” as to the correctness of the Court’s Order with respect to the denial of Allstate’s
Motion to Dismiss as to Counts I and II. A substantial ground for difference of opinion
about a particular issue exists “when the matter involves ‘one or more difficult and pivotal
questions of law not settled by controlling authority.’” Nationwide Life Ins. Co., 2011 WL
1044864, at *2 (quoting McGillicuddy v. Clements, 746 F.2d 76, 76 n.1 (1st Cir. 1984));
see also Cuttic v. Crozer-Chester Med. Ctr., 806 F. Supp. 2d 796, 804-05 (E.D. Pa.
2011) (“[S]ubstantial grounds for difference of opinion exist where there is general doubt
or conflicting precedent as to the correct legal standard.”) (citations omitted). “The
clearest evidence of ‘substantial grounds for difference of opinion’ is where ‘there are
conflicting interpretations from numerous courts.’” Knopick v. Downey, 963 F. Supp. 2d
378, 398 (M.D. Pa. 2013) (quoting Beazer E., Inc. v. The Mead Corp., No. Civ.A. 910408, 2006 WL 2927627, *2 (W.D. Pa. Oct. 12, 2006)). Moreover, the absence of
controlling law on a particular issue can constitute “substantial grounds.” See Chase
Manhattan Bank v. Iridium Afr. Corp., 324 F. Supp. 2d 540, 545 (D. Del. 2004). Here, as
the Court recognized previously, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has not directly
weighed in on this specific issue, and therefore there is an absence of controlling law.
Additionally, as noted in the Court’s prior Memorandum, the opinion of the district court
in Williams v. Allstate Insurance Co., 595 F. Supp. 2d 532 (E.D. Pa. 2009), directly
conflicts with the portion of this Court’s May 10, 2017 Memorandum and accompanying
Order which Allstate now seeks to certify for interlocutory appeal. Furthermore, although
this Court does not find the holding of the Pennsylvania Superior Court in Fleming v.
CNA Insurance Cos., 597 A.2d 1206 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1991), to be on point or particularly
persuasive, the Court recognizes that the Superior Court’s decision to affirm the lower
court’s order compelling an IME was based on the existence of a policy provision similar
to that of Allstate’s examination requirement. The Court further recognizes that some
Pennsylvania state courts have cited to Fleming as approving of policy provisions akin to
Allstate’s examination requirement, while others have found Fleming to be inapposite.
See Sayles, 2017 WL 1928408, at *10-*11 & n.11. Consequently, not only is there an
absence of controlling law on this particular issue, but there are also conflicting
interpretations from multiple courts.
Accordingly, the Court finds that Allstate has satisfied the statutory criteria set
forth in § 1292(b). Considering the potential scope of this lawsuit and the unsettled
nature of this legal question, the Court believes this is the type of “exceptional case”
warranting an interlocutory appeal. See Nationwide Life Ins. Co., 2011 WL 1044864, at
*2. Furthermore, the Court concludes that a stay is appropriate in this case because the
issues awaiting resolution are dependent upon the outcom e of the certified appeal.
For the above stated reasons, Defendant Allstate’s Motion for Certification for
Interlocutory Appeal will be granted.
An appropriate order follows.
July 13, 2017
/s/ A. Richard Caputo
A. Richard Caputo
United States District Judge
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