Durant v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company

Filing 76

ORDER denying defendant's 53 Motion for Reconsideration ; denying defendant's 65 Motion to strike; granting plaintiff's 67 Motion to certify questions to the WA Supreme Court. Parties to file a stipulation within 45 days re agreed upon narrower language for the class definition signed by Judge Richard A Jones.(RS)

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1 HONORABLE RICHARD A. JONES 2 3 4 5 6 7 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON AT SEATTLE 8 9 10 11 BRETT DURANT, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, 12 Plaintiff, 13 16 ORDER v. 14 15 CASE NO. C15-1710 RAJ STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, 17 Defendant. 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 This matter comes before the Court on Defendant State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company’s (“State Farm” or “Defendant”) motion for reconsideration (Dkt. # 53), motion to strike (Dkt. # 65), and Plaintiff’s motion to certify a question to the Washington Supreme Court (Dkt. # 67). Having reviewed the parties’ motions and the balance of the record, the Court finds oral argument unnecessary. For the reasons that follow, the Court DENIES both of State Farm’s motions and GRANTS Plaintiff’s motion. 26 27 ORDER- 1 1 I. 2 Plaintiff seeks to bring a class action lawsuit against State Farm to halt State BACKGROUND 3 Farm’s alleged practice of denying coverage for benefits based on a finding of 4 “maximum medical improvement.” The Court granted class certification in this matter 5 and sought input from the parties whether to certify relevant questions to the Washington 6 Supreme Court or whether to seek guidance from the Office of the Insurance 7 Commissioner (OIC). Dkt. ## 50, 55. The parties filed a joint response stating that “both 8 Plaintiff and State Farm believe that the Court should not certify these questions to the 9 Washington Supreme Court.” Dkt. # 51. However, the parties have since disagreed 10 about whether the Court should seek guidance from the OIC. See, e.g., Dkt. ## 60, 63, 11 67, 70, 72, 74. 12 State Farm seeks reconsideration of the Court’s Order granting class certification. 13 Dkt. # 53. Both parties ask the Court to strike their adversaries’ briefs. Dkt. ## 63, 65. 14 Finally, Plaintiff states that he has changed his position regarding whether this Court 15 should certify questions to the Washington Supreme Court; he now moves the Court to 16 certify those questions. Dkt. # 67. 17 II. 18 A. Motion for Reconsideration 19 Pursuant to Local Rule 7(h), motions for reconsideration are disfavored, and will ANALYSIS 20 ordinarily be denied unless there is a showing of (a) manifest error in the prior ruling, or 21 (b) facts or legal authority which could not have been brought to the attention of the court 22 earlier through reasonable diligence. Local Rules W.D. Wash. LCR 7(h)(1). Defendant 23 does not meet this standard. Defendant’s motion reargues its position that the Court 24 should not certify the class—a position the Court rejected. Parties cannot use motions for 25 reconsideration to simply obtain a second bite at the apple, and this is what Defendant 26 27 ORDER- 2 1 appears to be doing with its motion. For these reasons, the Court DENIES the motion. 2 Dkt. # 53. 3 Defendant contends that the parties agreed to narrow the language of the proposed 4 class definition. Dkt. ## 53 at 2, 54 at ¶ 3. Plaintiff does not address this apparent 5 agreement. The Court directs the parties to file a stipulation with the Court containing 6 the agreed upon language for a narrower class definition to replace the language from the 7 Court’s prior order. The parties must do so within forty-five (45) days of the date of this 8 Order. 9 10 B. Motions to Strike On April 7, 2017, pursuant to Local Rule 7(g), Plaintiff notified the Court he 11 would file a Surreply. Dkt. # 62. In his Surreply, Plaintiff moves the Court to strike 12 Defendant’s “overlength” reply brief and responds to “new issues” raised by Defendant 13 in its Reply. Dkt. # 63. Plaintiff cites Local Rule 7(e) for his argument that Defendant 14 exceeded the page limit on its Reply to the Motion for Reconsideration. Dkt. # 63 at 2. 15 However, Local Rule 7(e) does not prescribe a page limit for reply briefs to motions for 16 reconsideration. The Court did not limit Defendant’s Reply. Dkt. # 55. For this reason, 17 the Court DENIES Plaintiff’s motion to strike due to length. 18 On April 11, 2017, Defendant filed its own motion to strike, requesting that the 19 Court strike Plaintiff’s Surreply. Dkt. # 65. Defendant argues that it did not violate the 20 Court’s page limit rules and responds to Plaintiff’s arguments regarding “new issues.” 21 Id. This motion reads as a response to Plaintiff’s Surreply; Defendant fails to present a 22 basis for striking the Surreply. Plaintiff’s Surreply satisfies the requirements under the 23 Local Rules, and the Court finds no reason to strike that pleading. For these reasons, the 24 Court DENIES Defendant’s motion to strike. 25 26 27 ORDER- 3 1 C. Motion to Certify Questions to the Washington Supreme Court 2 Whether to certify a question to the state supreme court is within the sound 3 discretion of the federal court. See Thompson v. Paul, 547 F.3d 1055, 1065 (9th Cir. 4 2008). Where state law is unsettled, and the answers to the Court’s questions are 5 dispositive of the issues, certification to the state supreme court is appropriate. Amaker v. 6 King County, 540 F.3d 1012, 1013 (9th Cir. 2008); RCW 2.60.020. Certification is 7 appropriate in this case where the state issues are unsettled and a determination would 8 dispose of nearly all the claims. The Court finds certification to the Washington Supreme 9 Court especially compelling because the OIC has already presented potentially competing 10 legal theories on the issue. Dkt. # 74-1. Moreover, both parties agree that guidance from 11 the OIC will not be binding on this Court, and input of the Washington Supreme Court 12 “will ensure that this case proceeds to judgment (and through any appeal) on a firm legal 13 footing.” Allen v. Dameron, No. C14-1263RSL, 2016 WL 4772484, at *2 (W.D. Wash. 14 Apr. 22, 2016); see also Dkt. ## 67, 70. The Court also finds that certifying the questions 15 in this matter to the Washington Supreme Court will “save time, energy, and resources 16 and help[ ] build a cooperative judicial federalism.” Lehman Bros. v. Schein, 416 U.S. 17 386, 391 (1974). 18 For the foregoing reasons, the Court certifies the following questions to the 19 Washington Supreme Court: 20 1. Does an insurer violate WAC 284-30-395(1)(a) or (b) if that insurer denies, 21 limits, or terminates an insured’s medical or hospital benefits claim based on a 22 finding of “maximum medical improvement”? 23 2. Is the term “maximum medical improvement” consistent with the definition of 24 “reasonable” or “necessary” as those terms appear in WAC 284-30-395(1)? 25 The Clerk of Court is directed to submit to the Washington Supreme Court 26 certified copies of this Order, a copy of the docket in the above-captioned matter, and 27 ORDER- 4 1 Dkt. ## 1, 4, 5, 7, 27-32, 34-44, 46, 50, 51, 67, 68, and 70-74. The record so compiled 2 contains all matters in the pending cause deemed material for consideration of the state 3 law questions certified for answer. 4 The plaintiff in this action is designated as the appellant before the Washington 5 Supreme Court. The Clerk of Court shall notify the parties as soon as possible, but no 6 more than three days, after the above-described record is filed with the Washington 7 Supreme Court. 8 III. 9 For the reasons stated above, the Court DENIES Defendant’s motion for CONCLUSION 10 reconsideration and motion to strike. Dkt. ## 53, 65. The Court INSTRUCTS the 11 parties to file a stipulation within forty-five (45) days of the date of this Order containing 12 the agreed upon narrower language for the class definition. The Court GRANTS 13 Plaintiff’s motion to certify questions to the Washington Supreme Court. Dkt. # 67. The 14 Clerk of Court is DIRECTED to certify the questions as described above. 15 16 Dated this 10th day of July, 2017. 17 A 18 19 The Honorable Richard A. Jones United States District Judge 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 ORDER- 5

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