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Shelby County Health Care Corp. v. Southern Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Jonesboro Division

October 9, 2018

SHELBY COUNTY HEALTH CARE CORPORATION PLAINTIFF
v.
SOUTHERN FARM BUREAU CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, ET AL. DEFENDANTS

          ORDER

          BILLY ROY WILSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending is the Southern Farm Bureau Defendants' Motion to Certify Question of Law to the Arkansas Supreme Court (Doc. No. 116). Plaintiff has responded, and the Southern Farm Bureau Defendants have replied.[1] For the reasons set out below, the Motion to Certify is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On appeal, the Eighth Circuit concluded that an Arkansas choice-of-law analysis would favor the application of Tennessee law to the lien impairment claim and remanded for further proceedings in light of its determination.[2] Now, Farm Bureau Defendants ask that the choice-of-law question be certified to the Supreme Court of Arkansas.[3]

         II. DISCUSSION

         The issue of whether a question of law will be certified to a state court falls within the sound discretion of the federal district court.[4] In general, the district court has a duty to address aspects of state law even though that area of the law is still unsettled.[5] A district court should not avoid its duty of determining the issues before it unless it is a close question and there are few state sources to enable a nonconjectural determination.[6] Furthermore, “[o]nce a question is submitted for decision in the district court, the parties should be bound by the outcome unless other grounds for reversal are present.”[7] Once a case has been decided, certification can be granted only in limited circumstances.[8]

         As Plaintiff has pointed out, [9] the choice-of-law question was addressed both by this Court and the Eighth Circuit before Southern Farm Bureau Defendants sought certification. To grant certification of the question after the Eighth Circuit's determination would be like a “second chance at victory.”[10] Though in limited circumstances certification can be granted after an adverse judgment, the choice-of-law question itself was not a particularly close one for the Eighth Circuit. The Farm Bureau Defendants rely on the Eighth Circuit expressing some uncertainty in how the Arkansas Supreme Court would apply one of the Leflar factors in its choice-of-law analysis, [11] but the Eighth Circuit already considered that this particular factor could favor the application of Arkansas law and decided that the other Leflar factors would favor the application of Tennessee law regardless.[12] Certifying this question then would not likely change the outcome of the choice-of-law analysis.

         CONCLUSION

         For the reasons set out above, the Motion to Certify is DENIED.

         IT IS ORDERED.

---------

Notes:

[1] Doc. Nos. 119, 120.

[2] Shelby Cty. Health Care Corp. v. S. Farm Bureau Cas. Ins. Co., 855 F.3d 836, 844 (8th ...


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