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Hospital Authority of Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County v. Momenta Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

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

October 21, 2019




         Pending before the Court is Momenta Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (“Momenta”) and Sandoz Inc.'s (“Sandoz”) (collectively “Defendants”) Motion to Stay Proceedings or in the Alternative to Stay Class Notice (Doc. No. 441). Nashville General Hospital (“NGH”) and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees District Council 37 Health & Security Plan (“DC 37”) (collectively “Plaintiffs”) have responded in opposition (Doc. No. 459), and Defendants have replied (Doc. No. 461). For the reasons stated below, the Court will deny Defendants' motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case is currently scheduled for trial on January 7, 2020. On September 20, 2019, the Court entered a Memorandum Opinion granting Plaintiffs' Renewed Motion for Class Certification and Appointment of Class Counsel.[1] (Doc. Nos. 426, 427.) After carefully considering “no fewer than seven briefs regarding class certification, one aborted evidentiary hearing, amendment of the class definition, and one full evidentiary hearing” on July 12, 2019, the Court concluded that “Plaintiffs have carried their burden in establishing that their proposed class should be certified under Rule 23(a)(1) and (b)(3) under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.” (Doc. No. 426 at 1-2, 36.)

         On October 2, 2019, Defendants petitioned the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit for permission to appeal the Court's class certification order pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(f). (Doc. No. 442-1.) Concurrently with their Rule 23(f) petition, Defendants also filed in this Court a Motion to Stay Proceedings or in the Alternative to Stay Class Notice until the Sixth Circuit rules on their Rule 23(f) petition or, if granted, resolves their appeal. (Doc. No. 441.)


         “A stay is an intrusion into the ordinary processes of administration and judicial review.” Dodds v. United States Dep't of Educ., 845 F.3d 217, 220 (6th Cir. 2016) (quoting Nken v. Holder, 556 U.S. 418, 435 (2009)). “A stay is not a matter of right, even if irreparable injury might otherwise result. It is instead an exercise of judicial discretion, and the propriety of its issue is dependent upon the circumstances of the particular case. The party requesting a stay bears the burden of showing that the circumstances justify an exercise of that discretion.” Nken, 556 U.S. at 433-34 (internal citations, quotation marks, and brackets omitted). “A motion to a court's discretion is a motion, not to its inclination, but to its judgment; and its judgment is to be guided by sound legal principles.” Martin v. Franklin Capital Corp., 546 U.S. 132, 139 (2005) (citation and brackets omitted).

         In deciding whether to grant a stay, the Court must consider four factors: “(1) whether the stay applicant has made a strong showing that he is likely to succeed on the merits; (2) whether the applicant will be irreparably injured absent a stay; (3) whether issuance of the stay will substantially injure the other parties interested in the proceeding; and (4) where the public interest lies.” Nken, 556 U.S. at 434 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Although these four factors are “interrelated considerations that must be balanced together, ” Serv. Emp. Int'l Union Local 1 v. Husted, 698 F.3d 341, 343 (6th Cir. 2012) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted), “[t]he first two factors of the traditional standard are the most critical.” Nken at 434.


         Defendants have moved to stay all proceedings, or in the alternative to stay issuance of class notice pending the resolution of their Rule 23(f) petition. Because both of Defendants' requests require the Court to balance the four traditional stay factors, the Court will discuss both requests in tandem, noting any differences in the analysis where appropriate. In any event, Defendants have not shown that the four factors weigh in favor of staying all proceedings or class notice in this case.

         First, Defendants have not demonstrated a strong likelihood of success on the merits. If the Sixth Circuit even hears Defendants' appeal, “an order granting class certification ‘is subject to a very limited review and will be reversed only upon a strong showing that the district court's decision was a clear abuse of discretion.'” Lyngaas v. Curaden AG, No. 17-cv-10910, 2019 WL 2635966, at *2 (E.D. Mich. June 27, 2019) (quoting Olden v. LaFarge Corp., 383 F.3d 495, 507 (6th Cir. 2004)); see also In re Delta Air Lines, 310 F.3d 953, 960 (6th Cir. 2002) (“Rule 23(f) appeals will be the exception, not the norm.”). To find abuse of discretion requires a “definite and firm conviction that the district court committed a clear error of judgment.” In re Whirlpool Corp. Front-Loading Washer Prods. Liability Litig., 722 F.3d 838, 850 (6th Cir. 2013) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

         Contrary to Defendants' arguments on this prong, the Court properly undertook a “rigorous analysis” to ensure Rule 23's requirements were satisfied in this case. The Court reviewed and applied controlling precedent and weighed the evidence before it, discussing the parties' arguments, the nature and credibility of their conflicting expert reports and testimony, and their documents and materials in support, and concluded that Plaintiffs carried their burden in establishing that their proposed class should be certified under Rule 23. Defendants' motion merely reflects their disagreement with the Court's conclusion and their attempt to relitigate issues the Court already exhaustively considered. Compare (Doc. No. 442 at 3) (claiming that the Court wrongly accepted “Dr. Lamb's untested hypotheses” and certified a class “includ[ing] uninjured class members”), with (Doc. No. 361 at 21) (arguing that “the proposed class includes insurers who, according to Dr. Lamb's untested assumption, are uninjured in hospital transactions”). Because Defendants have not established a strong likelihood of success on the merits of their appeal, this factor weighs against a stay.

         Second, Defendants have not established irreparable injury absent a stay. Defendants argue that, without a stay of all proceedings, they will have to “spend significant time and resources preparing for the trial of a class that is likely to be decertified, ” and without a stay of class notice, they will have to “expend substantial time and resources re-negotiating an agreed-upon form of notice and reaching agreement on the logistics of disseminating notice.” (Doc. No. 442 at 4, 8.) In response, Plaintiffs cite numerous opinions from this Circuit holding that “[m]ere injuries, however substantial, in terms of money, time and energy necessarily expended in the absence of a stay, are not enough.” E.g., ProCraft Cabinetry, Inc. v. Sweet Home Kitchen and Bath, Inc., 343 F.Supp.3d 734, 739 (M.D. Tenn. 2018) (quoting Sampson v. Murray, 415 U.S. 61, 90 (1974)).

         As the parties suggest, (Doc. No. 442 at 4-5; Doc. No. 459 at 5-8), courts appear split over whether litigation costs alone establish irreparable harm in this procedural posture. Compare e.g., Tipton v. CSX Transp., Inc., No. 3:15-cv-311-TAV-CCS, 2017 WL 4583248, at *6 (E.D. Tenn. Oct. 13, 2017) (“[a] showing of irreparable harm requires more than a reference to litigation costs associated with continued district court proceedings, [because] . . . the same factors are present in most (if not all) cases concerning class certification”) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted), with Wilcox v. Lloyds TSB Bank, PLC, No. 13-00508 ACK-RLP, 2016 WL 917893, at *6 (D. Haw. Mar. 7, 2016) (“In the Rule 23(f) context, courts have found irreparable injury where failure to issue a stay would result in substantial time and resources being spent on the litigation.”) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). “In almost any case with a pending interlocutory appeal, denying a stay and continuing with district court proceedings will present a risk of additional unrecoverable litigation costs; nevertheless, courts do not grant stays as a matter of course in the Rule 23(f) context.” Huffman v. Prudential ...

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