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Federal judge decertifies class in hail-damage suit

June 15, 2011

On order from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, an Indiana judge has decertified the class in a lawsuit against State Farm following a 2006 hail storm in central Indiana.

Policyholders with three different State Farm insurance companies brought a proposed class-action lawsuit in 2007 alleging breach of contract, bad-faith denial of insurance benefits, and unjust enrichment. The homeowners sought damages and an injunction requiring State Farm to re-inspect all the class members’ roofs pursuant to a “uniform, reasonable and objective” standard for evaluating hail damage.

In 2009, Judge William Lawrence of the U.S. District Court’s Southern District of Indiana, granted the plaintiffs’ motion for class certification in part, defining the class seeking injunctive relief as all State Farm insured homeowners who submitted roof damage claims under their policies who didn't receive an entirely new roof at the insurer's expense, minus any applicable deduction or depreciation.

In February 2011, the 7th Circuit reversed, finding the case isn’t appropriate for class certification under Rule 23(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. It ordered the District Court decertify the class, which Judge Lawrence did Tuesday. The named plaintiffs in the suit may proceed on their claims individually.

In addition, those plaintiffs sought a stay of the proceedings on their individual cases because they are planning on filing a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court of the United States. Judge Lawrence denied that motion.

“The Court believes it is in everyone’s best interests for the individual Plaintiffs’ cases to proceed, especially in light of the substantial time that already has passed since the events that led to this case occurred,” he wrote in the order in Cynthia Kartman v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., et al., No. 1:07-cv-474. “While the Plaintiffs apparently disagree, they make only a vague assertion regarding the ‘case management difficulties that will be presented’ in the event that the United States Supreme Court grants the Plaintiffs’ petition for certiorari and ultimately reverses the ruling of the Seventh Circuit. Whatever hypothetical difficulties those might be, the Court believes they are outweighed by the very real fact that this case was filed over four years ago and arises out of events that took place over five years ago.”

Judge Lawrence also ordered a notice to be published in the Indianapolis Star no more than seven days from June 14 alerting those who may have been a part of the class that the class no longer exists and the time to file an individual suit is limited.

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