Eyes glaze over at the U.S. Supreme Court
Not all U.S. Supreme Court cases involve blockbuster rulings on contentious issues like abortion, capital punishment and religious disputes about church-state separation — and on Wednesday even one of the justices admitted that one of their latest decisions might cause eyes to glaze over.
The issue was whether a federal court may dismiss a class-action lawsuit that is barred by state law of whether a federal rule of civil procedure prevailed allowing the case to go forward.
Justice Antonin Scalia, the author of the court’s main opinion in the case, recounted the factual background of the dispute.
Shady Grove Orthopedic Associates had provided medical care to a Maryland woman, Sonia Galvez, who was injured in a car accident. Her automobile was registered in New York.
As partial payment for her care, Galvez assigned to Shady Grove her rights to insurance benefits under a policy issued in New York by Allstate Insurance.
Allstate eventually paid, but not within 30 days as required by New York law and it refused to pay interest that accrued on the overdue benefits, Scalia said.
Shady Grove sued in federal court in New York, seeking relief for itself and a class of all others to whom Allstate allegedly owed interest on overdue benefits. A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit for lack of jurisdiction.
At this point, Scalia said, “Eyes have glazed over already.”
Then, about halfway through his ten-minute summary of the ruling, Scalia asked the courtroom spectators, including tourists visiting on spring break, “Are you with me?”
The ruling’s bottom line — the lawsuit can go forward.
- Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young (Scalia)