Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Erie Insurance Exchange, An Unincorporated Association v. Erie Indemnity Company

October 5, 2012

ERIE INSURANCE EXCHANGE, AN UNINCORPORATED ASSOCIATION, BY JOSEPH S. SULLIVAN AND ANITA SULLIVAN, JENNA L. DEBORD, AND PATRICIA R. BELTZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ERIE INDEMNITY COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: McVerry, J.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF COURT

Presently before the Court for disposition is the PETITION FOR REMAND, with brief in support, filed by Plaintiff, Erie Insurance Exchange (Document Nos. 11 and 12), the MEMORANDUM IN OPPOSITION filed by Defendant Erie Indemnity Company (Document No. 14), the REPLY BRIEF filed by Plaintiff (Document No. 17), and the SURREPLY IN OPPOSITION filed by Defendant (Document No. 21). After careful consideration of the submissions of the parties and the applicable case and statutory law, the Petition for Remand will be granted and this case will be remanded to the Court of Common Pleas of Fayette County.

Background

Plaintiff, Erie Insurance Exchange ("Exchange") initiated this action on August 1, 2012, by the filing of a three-count Complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Fayette County, Pennsylvania, against Defendant Erie Indemnity Company ("Erie Indemnity"). The original Complaint was filed on behalf of the Exchange pursuant to Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 2152, which authorizes members to bring an action on behalf of an unincorporated association as trustees ad litem.*fn1 The Complaint alleges state law claims for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and equitable relief. Distilled to its essence, the Complaint alleges that Erie Indemnity, acting as a fiduciary and agent for the Exchange, misappropriated significant sums over a period of fifteen (15) years, involving service charges, late payments, and policy reinstatement fees.

On August 22, 2012, Erie Indemnity filed a Notice of Removal, in which it contends that removal is proper because the case is a "class action" and removable pursuant to the diversity principles of the Class Action Fairness Act ("CAFA"), 28 U.S.C. 1332(d).

Exchange filed the instant Petition for Remand in which it argues that this Court does not have subject matter jurisdiction under CAFA because this case is not a "class action" as defined under CAFA. According to Exchange, "this case was brought under state law by the sole method to bring suit on behalf of an unincorporated association," Memo. at 6 and not "for an individual member's recovery." Reply at 2.

Exchange is a reciprocal insurance exchange created pursuant to the Pennsylvania Insurance Code. 40 Pa. Cons. Stat. §§ 961-971. The Code provides that "[i]ndividuals, partnerships, and corporations of this Commonwealth, hereby designated subscribers, are hereby authorized to exchange reciprocal or inter-insurance contracts with each other, or with individuals, partnerships, and corporations of other States and countries, providing indemnity among themselves from any loss which may be insured against any provision of the insurance laws excepting life insurance." 40 Pa. Cons. State. § 961. Exchange currently has a total of more than two million subscribers in at least ten different states and the District of Columbia.

The Code further provides that "[s]uch contracts may be executed by an attorney, agent or other representative, herein designated attorney, duly authorized and acting for such subscribers." 40 Pa. Cons. State. § 963. Erie Indemnity is the attorney-in-fact for the subscribers of Exchange.

Although the caption of the Complaint does not include the designation "Class Action," and the Complaint does not contain a separate heading styled "Class Action Allegations,"*fn2 Erie Indemnity argues that this lawsuit "seeks to bring claims in a representative capacity on behalf of more than two million members of the Exchange, in a class action within the meaning of the Class Action Fairness Act." Notice of Removal, at ¶ 13. Counsel for Exchange has steadfastly denied that this lawsuit is a class action and strenuously maintains that this lawsuit was brought only on behalf of Exchange, an unincorporated association.

Discussion

A. The Original Complaint

The dispute in this matter arises from several phrases contained in the original Complaint which, according to Erie Indemnity, clearly reflect that the Complaint "not only 'resembles' a class action - it is a class action." Memo. in Opp'n, at 2. Specifically, Erie Indemnity points to the following:

* The title page states that the Complaint is "Filed on behalf of: All members of Erie Insurance Exchange by Joseph S. Sullivan and Anita Sullivan, Patricia R. Beltz, and Jenna L. DeBord, trustees ad litem, Plaintiffs;"

* in paragraphs 1 - 4, the individual trustees ad litem identify themselves as "a member of the unincorporated association" who is "filing this complaint on ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.