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Slapikas v. First American Title Insurance Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

June 19, 2014

ANTHONY L. SLAPIKAS, ALICE B. SLAPIKAS, and IVY FODOR, for themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,


JOY FLOWERS CONTI, District Judge.

Anthony L. Slapikas, Alice B. Slapikas, and Ivy J. Fodor (collectively the "named plaintiffs" or "plaintiffs") ask the court to vacate the order entered on March 7, 2014, and administratively close this case pending the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's decision in Grimes v. Enterprise Leasing Company of Philadelphia LLC., No. 4 MAP 2014, 2014 WL 349263 (Pa. Jan. 30, 2014). (ECF No. 440.) Plaintiffs argue that this relief is appropriate because: (1) the dispositive issue in this case, i.e. whether individualized proof of justifiable reliance is required under Pennsylvania's Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law's ("UTPCPL") catchall provision, may be decided in Grimes; (2) awaiting the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's decision in Grimes will avoid the irreparable injustice that would result if plaintiffs claims are extinguished due only to the "fortuity of the timing between proceedings in this case and the decision in Grimes;" and (3) it will avoid, for both plaintiffs and First American, the necessity and costs of further proceedings. (ECF No. 441 at 2.)[1]

For the reasons that follow, plaintiffs' motion will be denied.

I. Procedural Background

In this case, the named plaintiffs claim that they, and a putative class, qualified for discounted rates for title insurance policies purchased in conjunction with the refinancing of their mortgages, but that First American failed to apply the discounts, resulting in an overpayment. (ECF No. 1.) This court dismissed all common law claims against First American in October 2012, leaving only plaintiffs' UTPCPL claims. (ECF No. 324.) In July 2013, First American filed a motion for summary judgment with respect to each named plaintiff's UTPCPL claim, and a second motion to decertify the class. (ECF Nos. 366, 367.) On March 7, 2014, this court granted both motions.

The court entered judgment as a matter of law on the UTPCPL claims because the named plaintiffs failed to present sufficient evidence of justifiable reliance. The court rejected plaintiffs' theories that reliance need not be shown for each individual claim because, among other things, First American engaged in deceptive conduct and plaintiffs had a fiduciary relationship with their title insurance agents. The court relied on the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit's decision in Hunt v. United States Tobacco Company , 538 F.3d 217 (3d Cir. 2008). In Hunt, the court of appeals held that a private plaintiff pursuing a claim under Pennsylvania's UTPCPL must individually prove justifiable reliance due to the causation requirement in that statute's standing provision, 73 Pa. Cons. Stat. ยง 201-9.2(a). Hunt , 538 F.3d at 227.

In addition to entering judgment as a matter of law in favor of First American on the named plaintiffs' claims, the court decertified the class because there had been clarification in the law regarding class actions since the court issued its preliminary certification ruling in 2008, and because individual questions would predominate in this case. (ECF No. 438 at 24.) For instance, the court found that "a jury will need to inquire into each transaction to establish entitlement to the reissue or refinancing rate, " to determine whether each putative class member justifiably relied on line 1108 of the HUD-1, and to determine the amount of damages, (id. at 17, 24), all of which would be incompatible with the United States Supreme Court's recent decisions in Comcast and Wal-Mart. Comcast Corporation v. Behrend , 133 S.Ct. 1426, 1433 (2013); Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes , 131 S.Ct. 2541, 2551 (2011). The court concluded that no plaintiff could satisfy the requirements of Rule 23 and decertified the class.

Twenty-seven days after the court's issuance of that decision, plaintiffs filed a motion to "alter or amend the judgment" pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e), "and for reconsideration." (ECF No. 440.) Plaintiffs requested oral argument in order to "further explain the nature of the relief that is being sought and the reasons why this court should grant that relief." (ECF No. 440 at 1.) The court considered plaintiffs' request, but given the voluminous submissions of the parties, on both this motion and the prior dispositive motions, and given that the instant motion can be decided on purely legal grounds that have been clearly and repeatedly briefed, the court concluded that a hearing would not assist the court and is not required.

II. Standard of Review

The purpose of a motion for reconsideration "is to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence." Harsco Corp. v. Zlotnicki , 779 F.2d 906, 909 (3d Cir. 1985). A party seeking reconsideration must show at least one of the following: (1) an intervening change in the controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence that was not available when the court granted the motion for summary judgment; or (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or fact or to prevent manifest injustice. Max's Seafood Cafe ex rel. Lou-Ann, Inc. v. Quinteros , 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir. 1999); North River Ins. Co. v. CIGNA Reinsurance Co. , 52 F.3d 1194, 1218 (3d Cir. 1995). The same legal test is applied under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e). Blystone v. Horn , 664 F.3d 397, 415-16 (3d Cir. 2011).[2]

By reason of the interest in finality at the district court level, motions for reconsideration should be granted sparingly; the parties are not free to relitigate issues the court already decided. Am. Beverage Corp. v. Diageo N. Am., Inc., No. 12-601, 2013 WL 4010825, at *1 (W.D. Pa. Aug. 6, 2013); Rottmund v. Cont'l Assurance Co. , 813 F.Supp. 1104, 1107 (E.D. Pa. 1992). Stated another way, a motion for reconsideration is not properly grounded in a request for a district court to rethink a decision it, rightly or wrongly, already made. Williams v. Pittsburgh , 32 F.Supp.2d 236, 238 (W.D. Pa. 1998). Just as motions for reconsideration should not be used to relitigate issues already resolved by the court, they should not be used to advance additional arguments that could have been made by the movant before judgment. Solis v. Makozy, No. 09-1265, 2012 WL 1458232, at *1 (W.D. Pa. Apr. 27, 2012); Reich v. Compton , 834 F.Supp. 753, 755 (E.D. Pa. 1993), aff'd in part, rev'd in part, 57 F.3d 270 (3d Cir. 1995).

III. Discussion

On April 3, 2014, plaintiffs filed this motion seeking to vacate the March 7, 2014 judgment for the purpose of entering an order that administratively closes the case pending the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's decision in Grimes. (ECF No. 441 at 3.) Plaintiffs' contention is that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court might change existing UTPCPL case law in Grimes, and under that potentially new law, their UTPCPL catchall claims could survive even without individualized proof of justifiable reliance. According to plaintiffs, this court's failure to vacate the March 7, 2014 judgment and stay this case indefinitely, while awaiting the decision in Grimes, will result in manifest and irreparable injustice. (Id. at 2.)

First American argues that the outcome of Grimes will not impact this case. (ECF No. 446 at 4.) First American contends that plaintiffs' claims failed because: (1) plaintiffs cannot establish justifiable reliance under the UTPCPL, and (2) plaintiffs cannot satisfy the rigorous class action requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 23. (ECF No. 443 at 6.) First American argues that plaintiffs' motion fails to assert a change in law under the UTPCPL, only the possibility of a change. (Id.). First American ...

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