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Wright v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

April 16, 2015

SAMUEL WRIGHT and ANDORA WRIGHT, Plaintiffs,
v.
STATE FARM FIRE AND CASUALTY COMPANY, Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO STRIKE CLASS ALLEGATIONS [38]

ARTHUR J. TARNOW, Senior District Judge.

Plaintiffs allege that, after Defendant failed to timely respond to their property insurance claim, Defendant denied them interest to which they were entitled under Michigan's Uniform Trade Practices Act (UTPA). Plaintiffs seek to sue on behalf of two classes. The "damages class" is to consist of policyholders similarly denied interest, and will seek recovery of the interest. The "injunctive relief class" will consist of all policyholders with covered property in Michigan, and will seek an injunction requiring Defendant to institute procedures to ensure the payment of interest in the future. Defendant has moved to Court to deny certification of both classes and strike the class allegations from Plaintiffs' complaint.

For the reasons stated below, Defendant's Motion to Strike Class Allegations [38] is GRANTED.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Defendant issued Plaintiffs an insurance policy against loss and damage to the contents of their Detroit home. On or about July 7, 2008, a fire occurred at Plaintiffs' dwelling, causing damage to their personal property. Plaintiffs submitted a personal property damage claim to Defendant and sent an inventory of their personal property on or about September 30, 2008. Defendant acknowledged receipt of this inventory on October 6, 2008. On January 30, 2009, Defendant responded to Plaintiffs' claims, paying Plaintiffs $36, 728.52 to compensate for the lost property.

Plaintiffs filed their Complaint [1] on December 30, 2009, alleging that they were entitled to interest on their claim under Michigan Compiled Laws § 500.2006 due to Defendant's failure to timely respond. In their complaint, Plaintiffs expressed an intent to certify the following class:

All persons who: (a) held State Farm property insurance policies covering personal property located in Michigan; (b) suffered loss to their personal property in Michigan covered by those policies; (c) submitted a claim(s) to State Farm for loss to their personal property in Michigan; (d) were not provided notice in writing within 30 days that State Farm was rejecting the claim(s) and the specific basis for the rejection and/or were not provided within 30 days of receipt of their claim(s) a request in writing from State Farm specifying any additional materials needed to constitute a satisfactory proof of loss; (e) were thereafter not paid by State Farm on their claim(s) within 60 days of receipt of their claims; and (f) were not paid 12% interest per annum from 60 days after receipt thereof.

On February 18, 2010, Defendant paid Plaintiffs the statutory interest they sought.

Defendant filed a Motion to Strike Class Allegations [38] on September 21, 2012. The Court held a hearing on the motion on May 1, 2013. At the hearing, Plaintiffs' counsel indicated that when Plaintiffs moved for class certification, they would likely seek certification of an additional class. The additional class would seek an injunction ordering Defendant to establish procedures to ensure compliance with Michigan Compiled Laws § 500.2006. With respect to the damages class identified in the complaint, Plaintiffs' counsel identified "the overriding common question" as the scope of Defendant's statutory duty to pay interest. The Court expressed doubt that this qualified as a common question, since the existence and scope of the statutory duty did not appear open to dispute. Ultimately, the Court granted Plaintiffs' request to file a supplemental brief. The Court directed Plaintiffs to include in the supplemental brief their "final definition of the class[es], including what the common issues are." Plaintiffs filed their Supplemental Brief [51] on June 7, 2013. Defendant filed its own Supplemental Brief [53] on July 12, 2013. On March 27, 2015, Defendant filed a Notice of Supplemental Authority [54].

ANALYSIS

A court may resolve a class-certification question on a defendant's motion to strike class allegations even if the plaintiff has not yet moved to certify the class. Pilgrim v. Universal Health Card, LLC, 660 F.3d 943, 949 (6th Cir. 2011). Before certifying a class, a district court must conduct a rigorous analysis into whether the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 have been satisfied. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 131 S.Ct. 2541, 2551 (2011) (citing General Telephone Co. of Southwest v. Falcon, 457 U.S. 147, 160-61 (1982)). Plaintiffs bear the burden of showing that the Rule 23 requirements are met. See id.

Rule 23(a) sets the following requirements for class certification:

(1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members ...

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