August 19, 2019

August 19, 2019

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Applied Underwriters Defeats Class Certification in Long-Running Worker’s Compensation Reinsurance Dispute

Applied Underwriters beat back an attempt by plaintiffs to certify a class in their lawsuit related to Applied Underwriters’ “EquityComp” and “SolutionOne” workers’ compensation programs. We previously reported on this case, which involves a disputed Reinsurance Participation Agreement used to control worker’s compensation rates, on July 21, 2016December 1, 2016November 15, 2017January 31, 2018, and August 30, 2018. The court has now determined that plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that a class action would be “superior” to individual actions, as required by four factors under Federal Rule 23(b)(3), and denied class certification.

In determining that the first factor of the class members’ interest in individually controlling the litigation, weighed against certification, the court noted that the individual damages alleged by claimants in this action were large and there was no evidence that any class member would be unable to bring an action absent class certification. The second factor of the extent and nature of any litigation concerning the controversy already begun by class members, weighed “strongly” against certification, as more than “100 separate arbitrations, lawsuits, and California Department Insurance appeals involving 67 California participants in the program” were already pending. On that basis, the court determined that a substantial number of putative class members had an interest in controlling their own litigation and that “realistic alternatives” to a class action exist.

The third factor of the desirability of concentrating the litigation in the particular forum, weighed “slightly” against certification, where the remaining claims were all brought under California law (which weighed in favor of certification), but the many potential claimants were “located throughout the state,” including some that were “far from this court.” Additionally, certifying the class would automatically select federal court as the preferred forum for all class members even though the previously filed actions discussed above had demonstrated otherwise.

Finally, the court determined the “manageability” factor of the likely difficulties in managing a class action, also weighed against certification, where the court would have to determine the extent of overlap between the class action and the many previously filed actions, as well as how to properly formulate a class notice that accounts for the potentially overlapping and differing claims brought in the various actions and the class action. “These difficulties would only be magnified where many similar actions have already concluded and others have progressed substantially.” Shasta Linen Supply, Inc. v. Applied Underwriters, Inc., Case No. 2:16-cv-1222-WBS-AC (USDC E.D. Cal. Jan. 28, 2019).

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About this Author

 Benjamin E. Stearns, Regulatory attorney, Carlton Fields
Associate

Benjamin Stearns’s practice focuses on regulated industries, primarily medical marijuana and property and casualty insurance. Benjamin works with state regulators to resolve compliance matters and negotiate enforcement actions. He also lobbies the Florida Legislature, and has testified before legislative committees.

In addition, Benjamin litigates insurance coverage matters and contests of government contract awards. He represented the state of Florida in an original action against Georgia in the United States Supreme Court over the apportionment of the waters in the Chattahoochee-...

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