Cases & Deals

First American Title wins Seventh Circuit appeal affirming denial of Illinois statewide RESPA class certification

Clients First American Title Insurance Company

On behalf of First American Title Insurance Company, Jones Day persuaded the Seventh Circuit to affirm the denial of class certification in a putative Illinois statewide class action alleging violations of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) and other laws. The plaintiffs, seeking to represent vast swaths of homeowners in Illinois who purchased title insurance from First American, alleged that First American paid kickbacks to its attorney agents for referral of business. In the Northern District of Illinois, First American successfully contested multiple attempts at class certification, convincing the court that liability could be determined only by considering each individual claim and examining whether the real work that the attorney agent performed for First American was sufficient to earn the payment he or she received.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in one of the first significant class certification decisions after Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 131 S. Ct. 2541 (2011), affirmed the lower court's denials of class certification. An unanimous panel agreed that allegations made by plaintiffs in an attempt to streamline their liability theories could not save their class certification efforts, as nothing could avoid the necessary and individualized inquiry into the work performed by each attorney agent.

Howland v. First American Title Insurance Co., Case Nos. 11-1816 and 11-1817 (7th Cir.)