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Alberton v. Commonwealth Land Title Insurance Co.

January 26, 2010

A.D. ALBERTON & MARK C. KESSLER PLAINTIFFS,
v.
COMMONWEALTH LAND TITLE INSURANCE CO. DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Eduardo C. Robreno, J.

MEMORANDUM

Before the Court is a request to appoint Plaintiff Mark C. Kessler ("Kessler") as the class representative for Subclass B in accordance with the Court's conditional class certification order entered on January 31, 2008. For the reasons set forth below, the Court concludes that Kessler constitutes an adequate class representative for Subclass B.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

This case involves a class action brought against Commonwealth Land Title Insurance ("Defendant") on behalf of individuals who allegedly were overcharged for title insurance purchased between July 25, 2000 and August 1, 2005. Defendant is in the business of selling title insurance policies. The rates that Defendant may charge for its policies are governed by the Title Insurance Rating Bureau of Pennsylvania Manual (the "TIRBOP Manual").*fn1 The TIRBOP Manual sets forth the following mandatory three-tiered pricing structure: (1) Default Rate - applicable when a purchaser does not qualify for a special rate; (2) Reissue Rate - 90% of the Default Rate and applicable when a property owner purchases title insurance within ten years of obtaining a policy on the same property; and (3) Refinance Rate - 80% of the Reissue Rate and applicable when a property owner purchases title insurance within three years of obtaining a policy on the same property.

Section 5.3 of the TIRBOP Manual provides the following with respect to eligibility for the Reissue Rate:*fn2

A purchaser of a title insurance policy shall be entitled to purchase this coverage at the reissue rate if the real property to be insured is identical to or is part of real property insured 10 years immediately prior to the date the insured transaction closes when evidence of the prior policy is produced notwithstanding the amount of coverage provided by the earlier policy.

TIRBOP Manual § 5.3.

Section 5.6 of the TIRBOP Manual provides the following with respect to eligibility for the Refinance Rate:

When a refinance or substitution loan is made within 3 years from the date of closing of a previously insured mortgage or fee interest and the premises to be insured are identical to or part of the real property previously insured and there has been no change in the fee simple ownership, the Charge shall be 80% of the reissue rate. Id. § 5.6. Plaintiffs allege that Defendant did not adhere to the mandatory pricing scheme established by these sections by failing to charge the appropriate discounted rate for qualified purchasers of title insurance.

B. Procedural History

On January 31, 2008, the Court entered an order conditionally certifying the class (the "Certification Order"). The Certification Order established two subclasses, pursuant to the following class definition:

The class shall consist of all persons or entities who, from July 25, 2000 until August 1, 2005, paid premiums for the purchase of title insurance from defendant Commonwealth Title Insurance Company, in connection with a refinance of a mortgage or fee interest with respect to real property located in Pennsylvania that was insured by a prior title insurance policy within ten years of the refinance transaction, and were not charged the applicable Reissue Rate or Refinance Rate discount for title insurance on file with the Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner. The class shall be divided into two sub-classes. Subclass A shall include all class members whose purchase of insurance from Commonwealth was made within the three years of the prior purchase of title insurance. Subclass B shall include all class members whose purchase of insurance from Commonwealth was made more than three years but within ten years of the date of the prior purchase of title insurance.

Alberton v. Commw. Land Title Ins. Co., 247 F.R.D. 469, 482-83 (E.D. Pa. 2008), rev'd on other grounds, Hunt v. U.S. Tobacco Co., 538 F.3d 217 (3d Cir. 2008). The Certification Order specified that the class was certified on a conditional basis and final certification was contingent on ...


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