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Vogt v. State Farm Life Insurance Co.

In a case filed on behalf of a class of 24,000 Missouri policyholders, plaintiff Michael Vogt alleged that State Farm charged more than the policyholders’ universal life insurance policies permitted. Although State Farm had permission to determine the cost of insurance based on several factors set forth in the policy, it considered additional, undisclosed factors, which had a substantial impact on the amounts charged to policyholders. The district court certified the class and concluded that the policy did not authorize State Farm to include undisclosed factors in setting cost of insurance rates.

The jury awarded damages of over $34 million to the class, all but 29 of whom were found to have suffered damages included in the award. However, because the jury found that a tiny handful of class members did not suffer compensable damages, and because the trial court entered a post-trial order clarifying that another 487 policyholders who had never been injured were not members of the class, State Farm and an amicus curiae supporting State Farm argue that the class should be decertified.

Public Citizen filed an amicus brief responding to these arguments. The brief explains that, first, the class did not encompass any uninjured members. The 29 class members found not to be entitled to damages did not lack standing: They, like the rest of the class, suffered an injury from overcharges, but their injury resulted in no net compensable damages because it was offset by lower charges at other times. As for the 487 uninjured policyholders, they were identified before the class was certified and excluded from it at the time of certification. That they were never part of the class negates any suggestion that their lack of injury affects the class’s standing, and the district court’s post-trial order did not transform the class into a “fail-safe” class.

On June 26, 2020, the court ruled in favor of the class on all major issues in the case, adopting our brief’s analysis of the standing and fail-safe class issues. The company then petitioned for certiorari, which the Supreme Court denied.