United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Augusta Division
VANESSA ANDERSON, Individually and on Behalf of a Class of Similarly Situated Persons, Plaintiff,
WILCO LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.
RANDAL HALL, CHIEF JUDGE.
the Court is Defendant Wilco Life Insurance Company's
("Wilco") unopposed motion to stay pending appeal.
(Doc. 34.) Wilco seeks a stay of the Court's Order
remanding this case to state court until the Eleventh Circuit
Court of Appeals decides Wilco's petition for review. For
the reasons set forth below, Wilco's motion to stay
pending appeal is GRANTED.
Vanessa Anderson originally filed this putative class action
in the Superior Court of Columbia County, Georgia.
(See Compl., Doc. 1-1.) At issue are Wilco's
"cost of insurance" ("COI") charges on
certain life insurance policies held by Georgia residents.
(See id. ¶¶ 1, 45.) On January 11, 2019,
Wilco removed the case to this Court alleging jurisdiction
existed under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. (Notice of Removal, Doc.
1, ¶ 5.) Wilco invoked both ordinary diversity
jurisdiction and jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness
Act of 2005 ("CAFA"). (Id.)
removal, Plaintiff filed a motion to remand the case to state
court contending Wilco could not prove the requisite amount
in controversy for either jurisdictional basis. (Doc. 21.) On
June 20, 2019, the Court granted Plaintiff's motion and
remanded this action back to the Superior Court of Columbia
County, Georgia. (Order of June 20, 2019, Doc. 32.) The Court
held Plaintiff and the class's request for reinstatement
of their life insurance policies did not put the face value
of those policies in the amount in controversy because it was
too speculative to assume Wilco will be required to pay the
face value on those policies. (See id. at 16.)
1st, Wilco petitioned the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals
for permission to appeal the Court's June 20th Remand
Order. (See Petition, Doc. 34-1.) Now, Wilco moves
this Court to stay the Remand Order pending the Eleventh
Circuit's ruling on its appeal. (Doc. 34.) Wilco's
motion states Plaintiff has no objection to granting a stay
initial matter, the Court must determine whether it has
jurisdiction to stay the June 20th Remand Order when it
previously held that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction in
this case. Ordinarily, a district court's decision to
remand a case is not appealable. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 1447(d); see also Things Remembered, Inc. v.
Petrarca, 516 U.S. 124, 127-28 (1995). However, under
CAFA, federal appeals courts are expressly authorized to
exercise their discretion to hear an appeal from a remand
order "notwithstanding section 1447(d)." 28 U.S.C.
§ 1453(c). A party appealing a CAFA remand order must
file an appeal within "10 days after entry of the
Wilco timely filed its petition for permission to appeal on
July 1, 2019. Although this filing occurred eleven days after
the Court's June 20th Remand Order, the ten-day deadline
fell on a Sunday and Wilco filed its petition the next day.
Therefore, under Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure
26(a)(1)(C), the petition was timely. Moreover, Wilco
complied with Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 5, which
requires a party to file a permission to appeal. See
Evans v. Walter Indus., Inc., 449 F.3d 1159, 1162-63
(11th Cir. 2006) ("[A] request for appeal under CAFA is
subject to Fed. R. App. P. 5" and "[a] notice of
appeal need not be filed").
district courts have found that limited jurisdiction exists
to address a motion to stay pending appeal of a CAFA remand
order. See, e.g., Manier v. Medtech
Prods., Inc., 2 9 F.Supp.3d 1284, 1287 (S.D. Cal. 2014);
Citibank, N.A. v. Jackson, 2017 WL 4511348, at *2
(W.D. N.C. Oct. 10, 2017); Dalton v. Walgreen Co.,
2013 WL 2367837, at *1 (E.D. Mo. May 29, 2013) ("To hold
that a district court lacks the limited jurisdiction to stay
its remand order in a CAFA case would render the statutory
right to appeal a CAFA remand order hollow." (citation
omitted)). Because CAFA expressly authorizes a party to file
an appeal of a CAFA remand order, the Court necessarily has
limited jurisdiction to consider a motion to stay pending
deciding whether to stay pending appellate review, the
Supreme Court has laid out four factors to consider:
"(1) whether the stay applicant has made a strong
showing that he is likely to succeed on the merits; (2)
whether the applicant will be irreparably injured absent a
stay; (3) whether issuance of the stay will substantially
injure the other parties interested in the proceeding; and
(4) where the public interest lies." Nken v.
Holder, 556 U.S. 418, 426 (2009) (quoting Hilton v.
Braunskill, 418 U.S. 770, 776 (1987)). The first two
factors are the "most critical," but courts must
balance all four factors, considering the relative strength
of each. See id. at 434.
the four factors here, the Court concludes that a stay of the
June 20th Remand Order is warranted. First, Wilco has shown a
sufficient likelihood of success on the merits of the appeal
because of the not insignificant caselaw, most notably
Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am. v. Muniz, 101 F.3d 93
(11th Cir. 1996), supporting its argument that the
class's request for reinstatement of their policies puts
the face value of those policies at issue. In fact, the Court
conceded in its June 20th Remand Order that "it is at
least plausible that Muniz could be interpreted as
lending some support to Wilco's position." (Order of
June 20, 2019, at 15-16.) Second, Wilco is at risk of being
irreparably harmed absent a stay by having to simultaneously
litigate this case in state court and on appeal in the
Eleventh Circuit. There is also a risk of inconsistent
outcomes if the state court rules on any motions while the
appeal is pending. Accordingly, the first two
"critical" factors favor entering a stay pending
Plaintiff will not suffer substantial injury from the
issuance of a stay. Plaintiff shares the same interests as
Wilco in avoiding inconsistent outcomes and duplicative
proceedings. Also, as Wilco recognizes, Plaintiff and the
class's policies have lapsed, so they will not be forced
to continue paying the allegedly improper COI charges during
a stay serves the public interest because it will conserve
finite judicial resources by preventing duplicative
litigation. While there is a strong public interest in the
speedy resolution of class action suits, the resolution of
the claims in this case could be further delayed by having to
re-litigate issues decided in the state court should the
Eleventh Circuit overturn this Court's Remand ...