Government Employees Insurance Co., et al. v. Linda Bloodworth, et al.
On June 29, 2007, our attorneys won an important victory for its client Government Employees Insurance Company ("GEICO") when the Tennessee Court of Appeals, acting on a writ of mandamus, vacated the trial court's certification of a 24-state class. The court of appeals' decision stresses the need for a rigorous application of the requirements of Rule 23 for class certification. The case involved a putative class of GEICO insureds who alleged that it was impossible to restore vehicles that had incurred body or frame damage to their pre-accident value, no matter how good the repair. The plaintiffs alleged that GEICO had breached its insurance contracts by paying the cost of repair but not compensating them for diminished value. In overturning certification of the class, the Court of Appeals found that the trial court had not undertaken a sufficiently exacting analysis of whether the prerequisites for class certification had been met. The court also held that where expert testimony will be critical to the decision on certification, "the trial court should make a preliminary assessment of whether the reasoning or methodology underlying the proffered expert testimony is scientifically valid." And the court emphasized the need to resolve the choice of law as part of the decision whether to certify a multi-state class. Class certification is a critical juncture in consumer fraud litigation. Certification of a massive class raises the stakes enormously for a defendant. Vacating certification is thus a significant victory, all the more so here, given the demanding standards that must be met to obtain a writ of mandamus.