Judicial Panel Grants Defense Request for Pretrial Coordination of Class Action Lawsuits Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407, Opposed by Plaintiffs in One of the Class Actions, and Transfers Actions to District of New Jersey
Two class actions – one in Connecticut and one in New Jersey – were filed against Aetna and affiliated entities, and other defendants (including Ingenix and its parent UnitedHealth Group), challenging Aetna’s “policies and practices for reimbursing its plan members’ visits to health care providers that are not part of the Aetna network,” that is, to “nonparticipating” or “out-of-network” providers. In re Aetna, Inc., Out-Of-Network “UCR” Rates Litig., ___ F.Supp.2d ___ (Jud.Pan.Mult.Lit. April 8, 2009) [Slip Opn., at 1]. Specifically, the class action complaints, filed by Aetna health plan members, alleged “that (1) the Ingenix database of billing information was flawed leading to lower reimbursement rates; and (2) Aetna improperly calculated the usual, customary and reasonable (‘UCR’) rates of reimbursement for out-of-network services based upon this data.” Id. Defense attorneys for Aetna filed a motion with the Judicial Panel for Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) requesting centralization of the class actions pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407 in Connecticut, New Jersey or New York, but at oral argument limited its request to the district where the two class actions were already pending. Id. Plaintiffs in the New Jersey class action supported the motion and agreed on centralization in that district; plaintiffs in the Connecticut class action opposed centralization or, alternatively, argued for transfer to the District of Connecticut. Id. The Judicial Panel granted the motion to centralize the class action lawsuits, finding that “these two actions involve complex common questions of fact, and that centralization under Section 1407…will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the just and efficient conduct of this litigation.” Id. The Panel transferred the class actions to the District of New Jersey because, while either district court would be appropriate, “(1) Judge Faith S. Hochberg has been presiding over the action before her since July 2007 and she is well-versed with the issues involved in this litigation; and (2) two other related actions with similar claims against Aetna are also pending before her.” Id., at 2.