United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
MELISSA WILSON, et al., individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
WENDY LONG, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
WILLIAM L. CAMPBELL, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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
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).
September 2, 2014, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a) and
23(b)(2), the Court certified the following class of
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).
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.).
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.”).
“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.
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 ...