Thursday, February 16, 2006

Fourth Circuit affirms order denying class certification in insurance case; creates split in the circuits

In Thorn v. Jefferson Pilot, a divided panel of the Fourth Circuit affirmed a district court order to deny class certification. The named plaintiffs filed a class-action complaint against Jefferson-Pilot on behalf of themselves and approximately 1.4 million black policyholders. The complaint alleged that Jefferson-Pilot's corporate predecessors discriminated against the class members in violation of federal law by charging them higher premiums than whites for similar insurance policies. The district court denied certification, finding that because it could not resolve Jefferson-Pilot's statute of limitations defense on a class-wide basis, issues common to the class did not predominate over individual ones.

The divided panel affirmed the district court's order denying certification, with Judge Blane Michael dissenting. This creates a split in the circuits and could earn a grant of cert.

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