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Cohen v. State Farm Insurance Co.

December 13, 2007

WILLIAM COHEN, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFF
v.
STATE FARM INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge James M. Munley United States District Court

(Judge Munley)

MEMORANDUM

Before the court for disposition is the plaintiff's motion for class certification. The motion has been fully briefed and argued. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be denied.

Background

Plaintiff, William Cohen is a citizen of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. (Compl. ¶ 6). He was injured in a motor vehicle accident that occurred in Newburgh, New York. (Id. at ¶ 4). At the time of the accident, he was covered by an insurance policy issued by the Defendant State Farm Insurance Company. (hereinafter "defendant" or "State Farm"). The insurance contract was entered into within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. (Id.).

Following the accident, the plaintiff made a claim under the policy for first-party "Personal Injury Protection" ("PIP") medical benefits. Plaintiff claims that the defendant mishandled his claim by refusing to provide coverage in accordance with the policy and Pennsylvania law. (Id. at 5).

Accordingly, he instituted the instant action in the Court of Common Pleas of Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania on January 9, 2007. (Doc. 1, Ex. A). Defendant removed the action to this court on February 8, 2007.

Plaintiff's complaint asserts causes of action for the following: breach of contract; breach of good faith and fair dealing; breach of duty to its insured; misrepresentation; violation of the Unfair Insurance Practices Act; and bad faith. Additionally, and most important for the instant motion, plaintiff seeks to bring this action as a class action lawsuit. Plaintiff filed a motion to certify the class on July 10, 2007 bringing the action to its present posture.*fn1

Jurisdiction

This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to the diversity jurisdiction statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1332. The plaintiff is a citizen of the state of Pennsylvania. (Compl. ¶ 6) The defendant is an Illinois corporation with a principal place of business in Illinois. Because we are sitting in diversity, the substantive law of Pennsylvania shall apply to the instant case. Chamberlain v. Giampapa, 210 F.3d 154, 158 (3d Cir. 2000) (citing Erie R.R. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78 (1938)).

Discussion

Plaintiff seeks to proceed on his own behalf and on behalf of the following class: "[A]ll persons insured under motor vehicle insurance policies issued by Defendant within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania who filed claims for PIP benefits following out-of-state accidents and were refused coverage in violation of both the subject policy of insurance and Pennsylvania law." (Compl. ¶ 10). . Class actions are covered by Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides:

One or more members of a class may sue or be sued as representative parties on behalf of all only if

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

(2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class,

(3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class, and

(4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.

FED. R. CIV. P. 23(a).

The plaintiff must establish these four prerequisites. Johnston v. HBO Film Mgmt., Inc., 265 F.3d 178, 183 (3d Cir. 2001). A class may be certified only if the court is "satisfied, after a rigorous analysis, that the prerequisites of Rule 23(a) have been satisfied." Beck v. Maximus, Inc., 457 F.3d 291,297 (3d Cir. 2006) (quoting Gen. Tel. Co. Sw. v. Falcon, 457 U.S. 147, 161 (1982)). In addition to establishing the prerequisites under 23(a), a plaintiff who seeks to proceed as a class representative must also establish that the case is maintainable as a class action under one of the three subsections to Rule 23(b). Plaintiff proceeds under 23(b)(3). Which requires that "the court finds that questions of law or fact common to the members of the class predominate over any questions affecting only individual members, and that a class action is superior to other available methods for the fair and efficient adjudication of the controversy. . . . " FED. R. CIV. P. 23(b)(3).

Defendant argues that plaintiff has not established any of these factors. We will address them in seriatim.

I. Numerosity

The first prerequisite for certifying a class is that the "class is so numerous that joinder of all members is ...


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