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Wilson v. Long

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

June 6, 2018

MELISSA WILSON, et al., individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
WENDY LONG, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          WILLIAM L. CAMPBELL, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Decertify the Class and Dismiss the Case. (Doc. No. 164). Defendants' motion has been briefed extensively by both parties, and the Magistrate Judge held a hearing on the motion on April 27, 2017. For the reasons discussed below, Defendants' motion is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against Defendants, alleging: (1) Defendants unreasonably delayed adjudication of their applications for medical assistance through Medicaid (TennCare); and (2) failed to provide fair hearings on the delayed adjudications. (Doc. No. 4). In conjunction with their Complaint, Plaintiffs asked the Court to preliminarily enjoin Defendants from (1) continuing to deny their obligations under federal law to provide an adjudication of TennCare claims with “reasonable promptness, ” pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1396a(a)(8); and (2) refusing to provide fair hearings on the delayed adjudications, as required by 42 U.S.C. § 1396a(a)(3). (Doc. No. 4).

         On September 2, 2014, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a) and 23(b)(2), the Court certified the following class of individuals:

All individuals who have applied for Medicaid (TennCare) on or after October 1, 2013, who have not received a final eligibility determination in 45 days (or in the case of disability applicants, 90 days), and who have not been given the opportunity for a “fair hearing” by the State Defendants after these time periods have run.

(Doc. No. 90). Additionally, the Court entered a preliminary injunction, requiring Defendants to provide class members with a fair hearing on any delayed applications. (Doc. No. 91). Defendants appealed the preliminary injunction order, and the Sixth Circuit affirmed. See Wilson v. Gordon, 822 F.3d 934 (6th Cir. 2016).

         Defendants filed the instant Motion to Decertify the Class and Dismiss the Case on September 16, 2016. Defendants argue the process employed by Defendants and the Federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) for adjudicating TennCare applications has changed dramatically since the Court certified the class in September 2014. (Doc. No. 165). Because of these changes, Defendants argue, Plaintiffs' class no longer has any members, and any claim TennCare applicants may have today bears no resemblance to the claims asserted by the named Plaintiffs in September 2014. (Id.). Accordingly, Defendants argue the class must be decertified because it no longer satisfies the numerosity requirement of Rule 23(a)(1) or the typicality requirement of Rule 23(a)(3). (Id.).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 provides that an order granting or denying class certification may be altered or amended before final judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(c)(1). A district court has the discretion, and the obligation, to reevaluate a class ruling as the case develops, and remains free to modify the class at any time prior to final judgment. In re Polyurethane Foam Antitrust Litigation, 2015 WL 4459636, at *1 (N.D. Ohio July 21, 2015). See General Tel. Co. of SW v. Falcon, 457 U.S. 147, 160 (1982) (“Even after a [class] certification order is entered, the judge remains free to modify it in light of subsequent developments in the litigation.”); McNamara v. Felderhof, 410 F.3d 277, 280 n.8 (5th Cir. 2005) (“[A] trial court overseeing a class action retains the ability to monitor the appropriateness of class certification throughout the proceedings and to modify or decertify a class at any time before final judgment.”).

         Still, “decertification is a ‘drastic step, ' not to be taken lightly.” In re Whirlpool Corp. Front-Loading Washer Prod. Liab. Litig., 302 F.R.D. 448, 459 (N.D. Ohio 2014). Thus, prior to decertification, a district court “must consider all options available to render the case manageable.” Id. (quoting Chisolm v. TranSouth Fin. Corp., 194 F.R.D. 538, 554 (E.D.Va.2000)). “Once a class is certified, the parties can be expected to rely on it and conduct discovery, prepare for trial, and engage in settlement discussions on the assumption that in the normal course of events it will not be altered except for good cause.” In re Polyurethane Foam Antitrust Litigation, 2015 WL 4459636, at *2 (quoting Cook v. Rockwell Int'l Corp., 181 F.R.D. 473, 477 (D. Colo. 1998)). “Sometimes, however, developments in the litigation, such as the discovery of new facts or changes in parties or in the substantive or procedural law, will necessitate reconsideration of the earlier order and the granting or denial of certification or redefinition of the class.” Id.

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Numerosity

         A plaintiff's class satisfies the numerosity requirement if the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable, though there is no specific number below which class action relief is automatically precluded. Staley v. Wilson County, 2006 WL 2401083 at *5 (M.D. Tenn. Aug. 18, 2006). Apart from class size, other factors courts consider include judicial economy, the geographical dispersion of class members, the ease of identifying putative class members, and the ...


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