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Robert L. Johnson, Sr., et al v. Allstate Insurance Company

August 9, 2011

ROBERT L. JOHNSON, SR., ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ALLSTATE INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reagan, District Judge:

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

In this putative class action, Plaintiffs claim Defendant Allstate calculated premium rates for certain insurance policy holders in contravention of the consumer fraud laws of Illinois and other states. Class certification was denied on September 29, 2010 (Doc. 238). On January 10, 2010, all parties consented to have this action decided by a Magistrate Judge, in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) (Doc. 248). The undersigned District Judge referred this case to United States Magistrate Judge Stephen C. Williams for all further proceedings (Doc. 249), although the parties and Judge Williams all agreed that the undersigned District Judge would rule on Plaintiffs' impending motion to clarify its prior rulings.

Plaintiffs' Motion for Clarification (Doc. 251) is now before the Court, as well as Defendant Allstate Insurance Company's Memorandum in Opposition (Doc. 255), and Plaintiffs' Reply (Doc. 257). Plaintiffs seek "clarification" of the Court's rulings regarding the timing of discovery and production of opinion testimony, and the ruling denying class certification. From Plaintiffs' perspective, the rulings are inconsistent.

1.Relevant Procedural History

Discovery has been contentious and lengthy, Allstate having disclosed approximately 3,000,000 documents, and Plaintiffs having had the unenviable task of combing through this large amount of technical information. As a result, the Court has attempted to accommodate the parties by amending the pretrial schedule.

Plaintiff's initiated this action on November 5, 2007. On March 18, 2008, an initial scheduling order was entered, setting a September 8, 2008, deadline for Plaintiffs to disclose their experts regarding class certification; Plaintiffs' motion for class certification was due September 15, 2008; and trial was set for September 28, 2009 (Doc. 18). Discovery was bifurcated, with a second round of discovery slated after the class certification issue was decided.

During 2008 and 2009, Allstate sent Plaintiffs around 2,000,000 documents in response to Plaintiffs' first round of interrogatories and document requests. Discovery was so voluminous and technical that on December 15, 2008, the Court granted the parties a seven month continuance (Doc. 58). Under that revised schedule, Plaintiffs' motion for class certification was due by May 8, 2009; and trial was moved to April 26, 2010. Nonetheless, Plaintiffs later complained of difficulty deciphering the documents relating to the algorithm scores. In particular, Plaintiffs had trouble determining the time periods that the various insurance-scoring algorithms and rating manuals were used for the different plaintiffs (see Doc. 89-12).

Due to the volume and the technical complexity of the information discovered, on May 5, 2009, the parties jointly filed a Motion for Extension of Class Certification Deadlines (Doc. 73). The Court granted the motion on May 11, 2009 (Doc. 75), extending the deadline for Plaintiffs' motion for class certification by 60 days, to July 7, 2009, and setting the date for Plaintiffs' expert disclosure at June 15, 2009, with no rebuttal experts without leave of the court. Trial remained set for April 26, 2010.

Despite this 60-day extension, on July 2, 2009, the parties jointly moved for a third extension, again citing the volume and complexity of the discovery (Doc. 82). The Court granted the parties' joint motion on July 8, 2009 (Doc. 83), extending Plaintiffs' class certification motion deadline to July 28, 2009. In an effort to afford Plaintiffs additional time, they were given until July 28, 2009, to make their expert disclosure, and until September 4, 2009, to get their expert(s) deposed. Defendant's memorandum in opposition to class certification was not due until September 29, 2009. Trial remained set for April 26, 2010.

Even after multiple extensions were granted, Plaintiffs still had difficulty digesting the information related to algorithms and rating manuals contained in Allstate's documents. As a result, on July 21 and 23, 2009, Plaintiffs deposed Erin English, corporate representative for Allstate, on 12 separate topics. English's deposition was protracted due to incomplete documentation (see Doc. 86, p. 2 ¶ 4; see also Doc. 89-21 and 89-22). On July 26, 2009, with the July 28 deadline for Plaintiffs' motion for class certification fast approaching, and not having finished the deposition, the parties jointly filed a fourth motion for an extension of time (Doc. 86). The parties specified that there was a need for further production of documents, the corporate representative's deposition still needed to be completed, and these matters still needed to be reviewed by Plaintiffs' expert (Doc. 86, p. 2 ¶ 4). An extension of the expert disclosure deadlines was also sought (Doc. 86, p. 3 ¶ 5).

On July 27, 2009, the court denied this joint motion for extension of time, noting that "[c]counsel practicing before this Court know from personal experience, as well as the Court's website, that the Court sets specific, not presumptive trial dates" (Doc. 87). As the Order makes clear, the Court's calendar simply could not accommodate another extension.

On August 3, 2009, having missed the July 28 deadline to disclose their experts and to file their motion for class certification, Plaintiffs quickly moved for sanctions or, alternatively, for this Court to reconsider its decision to deny a further extension of time (Doc.

89). Plaintiffs based this motion on the fact that Allstate had sent them an additional 850,000 documents on July 28. Plaintiffs argued:

It is simply impossible for Plaintiffs and their experts to (a) review this mountain of information; (b) determine the effect that the information has on class certification; and (c) make appropriate adjustments to both the motion for class certification and any expert reports before the August 4 deadline. Under these circumstances, the Court should enter an order conditionally certifying this case as a class action.

Alternatively, Plaintiffs request that the Court reconsider, in part, its Order denying the Parties Joint Motion for Extension of Time (Doc. 87), and extend Plaintiffs' deadline to file their motion for class certification and to submit expert reports for 30 days. Plaintiffs understand the Court's desire to hold the current trial setting, and they are not asking the Court for a continuance. However, Plaintiffs reasonably believe that they need 30 days to review the substantial volume of documents and supplemental discovery response produced last week and incorporate that information into their class certification motion and expert reports.

(Doc. 89, pp. 8-9).

In response, Allstate asserted that the 850,000 documents were in response to Plaintiffs' relatively recent second round of interrogatories and document requests concerning new class definitions and named plaintiffs*fn1 , whereas the first 2,000,000 documents disclosed were in response to the first round of interrogatories and document requests concerning the original class definitions and named plaintiffs (see Doc. 94). On August 4, 2009, Plaintiffs submitted their Motion to Certify the Class (Doc. 91), although their motion for sanctions and for reconsideration of the denial of an expanded schedule (Doc. 89) was still pending.

On September 3, 2009, the day before Allstate's response to the motion for class certification was due, Plaintiffs moved for leave to amend the complaint in order to add claims under the laws of four groups of states (Doc. 106). This was, admittedly, a peremptory move by Plaintiffs, should the Court ...


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