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Federal Court Grants Class Certification Against Travel Insurer

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Last week, a federal judge in California granted a plaintiff’s motion for class certification in an action against a travel insurance administrator and its underwriter. The plaintiff alleged that he purchased a travel insurance policy that provided both pre- and post-departure coverage. When the plaintiff’s travel plans were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the plaintiff sought reimbursement of the portion of the premium attributable to post-departure coverage, arguing that the premium was unearned; in response, the insurer offered a voucher for future travel insurance, which the plaintiff argued was valueless because the pandemic made travel impossible.

The plaintiff filed a suit against the Defendants, bringing claims for violation of the California Unfair Competition Law and for unjust enrichment, and moved to certify a subclass of California residents who purchased a single-trip insurance plan from the Defendants that provided both pre-and post-departure benefits, whose covered trips were canceled prior to departure, but did not receive any refund for the amount paid for the plan. The Court found the Rule 23 requirements satisfied, over the defendants’ many objections, which included attacks on the plaintiff’s damage calculation methodology and also the ascertainability of the class. With respect to damages, the Court noted that “damage calculations alone cannot defeat certification,” and distinguished the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Comcast Corp. v. Behrend, 569 U.S. 27 (2013), noting that the damages model proposed by the Behrend plaintiffs “did not ‘even attempt to’ measure only damages attributable to the legal theory,” while the present case “present[ed] no issue similar to the one in Comcast,” as the plaintiff proposed “measuring damages that are directly attributable to [the plaintiff’s] legal theory of the harm.” As for ascertainability, the court noted that the 9th Circuit has declined to adopt an administrative feasibility requirement.

The case is Edelson v. Travel Insured International, Inc., et al., No. 3:21-cv-00323 (S.D. Cal.)

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