United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
SAMANTHA SAYLES, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
ALLSTATE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.
RICHARD CAPUTO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is a Motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1292(b) for Certification for Interlocutory Appeal of the
portion of this Court's May 10, 2017 Order (Doc. 36)
which denied Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Counts I and
II of Plaintiff's Complaint, filed by Defendant Allstate
Insurance Company (“Allstate”). (Doc. 37.) For
the reasons that follow, Allstate's Motion will be
the factual and procedural history are both well known to the
parties and stated in the Court's prior Memorandum in
Sayles v. Allstate Insurance Co., No. 3:16-CV-01534,
2017 WL 1928408 (M.D. Pa. May 10, 2017) (Doc. 35), they need
not be repeated here other than to note the following:
Samantha Sayles (“Sayles”) originally filed this
putative class action in the Court of Common Pleas of Pike
County, Pennsylvania on June 20, 2016. (See Doc. 1.)
Sayles alleges that an auto insurance policy issued by
Allstate under which she was insured (the
“Policy”) contains an “examination
requirement” that violates § 1796 of
Pennsylvania's Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility
Law, 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 1701, et seq.
(the “MVFRL”). (See Doc. 35, at 1-3.)
The Complaint contained eight Counts for relief. Count I
seeks a declaratory judgment declaring that Allstate must,
inter alia, file a motion with a court of competent
jurisdiction for an order directing an insured to submit to a
mental or physical examination whenever the mental or
physical condition of an insured is material to any claim for
medical benefits. (Compl. ¶ 59.) Count II alleges
violations of § 1796 of the MVFRL on behalf of Sayles
and all similarly situated individuals. (Id. ¶
62.) On July 25, 2016, Allstate removed the action to federal
court. (See Docs. 1 & 16.) On August 26, 2016,
Allstate filed a Motion to Dismiss Sayles's Complaint in
its entirety. (Doc. 10.) On May 10, 2017, the Court denied
Allstate's Motion as to Counts I and II, and granted the
remainder of Allstate's Motion. (Docs. 35 & 36.) On
May 24, 2017, Allstate filed the instant Motion for
Certification for Interlocutory Appeal of the Court's May
10, 2017 Order, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b). (Doc.
37.) Sayles filed her Brief in Opposition on June 7, 2017.
(Doc. 40.) Allstate filed its Reply Brief on June 21, 2017.
(Doc. 41.) The Motion is now ripe for disposition.
to 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b), a district judge may certify an
order for immediate appeal if it the judge finds that the
order "involves a controlling question of law as to
which there is substantial ground for difference of opinion
and that an immediate appeal from the order may materially
advance the ultimate termination of the litigation." 28
U.S.C. § 1292(b). The decision to certify an order for
immediate appeal lies within the sound discretion of the
district court. Orson, Inc. v. Miramax Film Corp.,
867 F.Supp. 319, 320 (E.D. Pa. 1994) (citing Del. Valley
Toxics Coal. v. Kurz-Hastings, Inc., 813 F.Supp. 1132,
1142 (E.D. Pa. 1993)). However, the district court should
exercise its discretion mindful of the strong policy against
piecemeal appeals. Link v. Mercedes-Benz of N. Am.,
550 F.2d 860, 863 (3d Cir. 1977), cert. denied, 431
U.S. 933 (1977). The burden is on the movant to demonstrate
that such an appeal is warranted. Orson, Inc., 867
F.Supp. at 320 (citing Rottmund v. Cont'l Assur.
Co., 813 F.Supp. 1104, 1112 (E.D. Pa. 1992)).
1292(b) “imposes three criteria for the district
court's exercise of discretion to grant a § 1292(b)
certificate.” Katz v. Carte Blanche Corp., 496
F.2d 747, 754 (3d Cir. 1974). “The order must (1)
involve a ‘controlling question of law, ' (2) offer
‘substantial ground for difference of opinion' as
to its correctness, and (3) if appealed immediately
‘materially advance the ultimate termination of the
litigation.'” Id. (quoting §
1292(b)). A “district court should certify an order for
immediate appeal only if all three requirements are
met.” Orson, Inc., 867 F.Supp. at 321 (citing
Piazza v. Major League Baseball, 836 F.Supp. 269,
271 (E.D. Pa. 1993)).
explained below, the Court finds that the requirements set
forth in § 1292(b) have been satisfied, and that an
interlocutory appeal is warranted in this case. Accordingly,
Allstate's Motion will be granted.
the Court concludes that its prior Order involves a
“controlling question of law, ” thereby
satisfying the first statutory criterion. A question of law
is controlling if: (1) an incorrect disposition would
constitute reversible error; or (2) it is serious to the
conduct of the litigation, either practically or legally.
Nationwide Life Ins. Co. v. Commonwealth Land Title Ins.
Co., No. 05-281, 2011 WL 1044864, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Mar.
23, 2011) (citing Katz, 496 F.2d at 755).
“[O]n the practical level, saving of time of the
district court and of expense to the litigants was deemed by
the sponsors [of 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b)] to be a highly
relevant factor.” Katz, 496 F.2d at 755
(citation omitted). Here, there is no doubt that the present
matter involves a controlling question of law: If the
Court's prediction concerning whether the Pennsylvania
Supreme Court would find the Policy's examination
requirement violative of Pennsylvania public policy is later
deemed to be incorrect, the Court's disposition of
Allstate's Motion to Dismiss with respect to Counts I and
II would almost certainly constitute reversible error.
Moreover, considering that this case involves a putative
class action which will likely demand significant resources
from both the parties and the Court, and considering that the
only claims remaining are contained in Counts I and II, there
are substantial practical reasons f or granting this
interlocutory appeal as well.
and relatedly, the Court finds that an immediate appeal will
also “materially advance the ultimate termination of
the litigation.” “Several factors are pertinent
in determining whether an immediate appeal would materially
advance the ultimate termination of the litigation,
including: (1) whether the need for trial would be
eliminated; (2) whether the trial would be simplified by the
elimination of complex issues; and (3) whether discovery
could be conducted more expeditiously and at less expense to
the parties.” Patrick v. Dell Fin. Servs., 366
B.R. 378, 387 (M.D. Pa. 2007) (citing Interwave Tech.,
Inc. v. Rockwell Automation, Inc., No. Civ.A. 05-398,
2006 WL 401843, at *6 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 16, 2006)). Of course,
if this Court's prior opinion with respect to the
Policy's examination requirement were to be reversed, the
need for trial would be eliminated entirely, as only Counts I
and II remain. Additionally, as this case is still in the
early stages of litigation, the need for discovery could also
be eliminated pending the outcome of the appeal.
the Court concludes that there is a “substantial ground
for difference of opinion” as to the correctness of the
Court's Order with respect to the denial of
Allstate's Motion to Dismiss as to Counts I and II. A
substantial ground for difference of opinion about a
particular issue exists “when the matter involves
‘one or more difficult and pivotal questions of law not
settled by controlling authority.'” Nationwide
Life Ins. Co., 2011 WL 1044864, at *2 (quoting
McGillicuddy v. Clements, 746 F.2d 76, 76 n.1 (1st
Cir. 1984)); see also Cuttic v. Crozer-Chester Med.
Ctr., 806 F.Supp.2d 796, 804-05 (E.D. Pa. 2011)
(“[S]ubstantial grounds for difference of opinion exist
where there is general doubt or conflicting precedent as to
the correct legal standard.”) (citations omitted).
“The clearest evidence of ‘substantial grounds
for difference of opinion' is where ‘there are
conflicting interpretations from numerous courts.'”
Knopick v. Downey, 963 F.Supp.2d 378, 398 (M.D. Pa.
2013) (quoting Beazer E., Inc. v. The Mead Corp.,
No. Civ.A. 91-0408, 2006 WL 2927627, *2 (W.D. Pa. Oct. 12,
2006)). Moreover, the absence of controlling law on a
particular issue can constitute “substantial
grounds.” See Chase Manhattan Bank v. Iridium Afr.
Corp., 324 F.Supp.2d 540, 545 (D. Del. 2004). Here, as
the Court recognized previously, the Pennsylvania Supreme
Court has not directly weighed in on this specific issue, and
therefore there is an absence of controlling law.
Additionally, as noted in the Court's prior Memorandum,
the opinion of the district court in Williams v. Allstate
Insurance Co., 595 F.Supp.2d 532 (E.D. Pa. 2009),
directly conflicts with the portion of this Court's May
10, 2017 Memorandum and accompanying Order which Allstate now
seeks to certify for interlocutory appeal. Furthermore,
although this Court does not find the holding of the
Pennsylvania Superior Court in Fleming v. CNA Insurance
Cos., 597 A.2d 1206 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1991), to be on
point or particularly persuasive, the Court recognizes that
the Superior Court's decision to affirm the lower
court's order compelling an IME was based on the
existence of a policy provision similar to that of
Allstate's examination requirement. The Court further
recognizes that some Pennsylvania state courts have cited to
Fleming as approving of policy provisions akin to
Allstate's examination requirement, while others have
found Fleming to be inapposite. See Sayles,
2017 WL 1928408, at *10-*11 & n.11. Consequently, not
only is there an absence of controlling law on this
particular issue, but there are also conflicting
interpretations from multiple courts.
the Court finds that Allstate has satisfied the statutory
criteria set forth in § 1292(b). Considering the
potential scope of this lawsuit and the unsettled nature of
this legal question, the Court believes this is the type of
“exceptional case” warranting an interlocutory
appeal. See Nationwide Life Ins. Co., 2011 WL
1044864, at *2. Furthermore, the Court concludes that a stay