Civil Procedure: Amending Away Federal Class Action Subject Matter Jurisdiction

A Connecticut lawyer and his firm were the plaintiffs in a class action in United States District Court against several title insurance companies, alleging that the title insurance companies’ use of so-called “national agents” to perform title agent functions was barred by a Connecticut statute stating that such work could only be performed by Connecticut attorneys. Verrill represented one of the title insurers. Federal jurisdiction was premised on the Class Action Fairness Act. After the class was certified and then de-certified without prejudice, the plaintiffs dropped their class action allegations in an amended complaint that premised federal subject matter jurisdiction solely on the former CAFA allegations. We developed an argument that the amendment to the complaint eliminated the sole basis for federal jurisdiction. The trial court dismissed the case and the United States Court of Appeal for the Second Circuit affirmed. Gale v. Chicago Title Ins. Co., 929 F.3d 74 (2d Cir. 2019).

Tort Liability: Fiduciary Duty Law

In an action by a product manufacturer against its Distributing Agent in the United Kingdom, the Connecticut Superior Court granted summary judgment to the defendant on the plaintiff’s claim for breach of fiduciary duty, holding that the defendant was not a fiduciary. We successfully represented the plaintiff manufacturer on an appeal to the Connecticut Appellate Court, which held that, because the trial court had found the defendant to be an agent, it was necessarily a fiduciary as well. The appellate court remanded the case, which was settled on terms favorable to our client shortly before the scheduled trial date. Jolen, Inc. v. Brodie & Stone, PLC, 186 Conn. App. 516 (2018), cert. denied, 330 Conn. 972 (2019).