Bobbitt v. Milberg LLP

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Procedure
  • Date Filed: 09-10-2015
  • Case #: 13-15812
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Owens for the Court; Chief Judge Thomas and District Judge Battaglia
  • Full Text Opinion

When deciding what forum absent class member’s claims should be held using the Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws § 145, domicile of the plaintiffs should carry little weight compared to other § 145 factors if the plaintiffs are from all 50 states.

Milberg LLP (“Milberg”), a national law firm, missed several mandatory deadlines and did not notify absent class members, who reside in all 50 states, of decertification of the class, or dismissal of the action in their class action suit against Variable Annuity Life Insurance Company, Inc. (“VALIC”). The class action members sued Milberg for malpractice and moved for class certification, but the district court held that the members failed to meet their burden to show that conflicts between the state laws did not defeat the predominance requirement. As a result, the district court denied class certification and granted the opposing’s motion for voluntary dismissal. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit determined that the district court applied the appropriate choice-of-law, Arizona, which uses Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws § 145 to determine controlling law. The panel found that the district court placed too much weight on where the parties domiciled. The panel concluded that to be an error because there is no single state where the parties are grouped, and thus the factor of where the parties are domiciled should carry little weight. The panel found that place of injury, the center of the relationship of the parties, and where the conduct causing the injury occurred were factors that should have been weighed more heavily. Because these factors weighed heavily for Arizona law, the panel held that Arizona had the most significant relationship to the class members’ claims of attorney malpractice that Arizona law should apply to each individual class member’s claim. VACATED and REMANDED.

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