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Sateriale v. RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co.

United States District Court, C.D. California

June 17, 2015

AMANDA SATERIALE ET AL
v.
RJ REYNOLDS TOBACCO CO

CIVIL MINUTES - GENERAL

CHRISTINA A. SNYDER, District Judge.

Proceedings: (IN CHAMBERS): DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO CERTIFY FOR INTERLOCUTORY APPEAL THE COURT'S ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (dkt. 161, filed April 23, 2015)

The Court finds this motion appropriate for decision without oral argument. Fed.R.Civ.P. 78; Local Rule 7-15. Accordingly, the hearing currently scheduled for June 22, 2015, is hereby vacated, and the matter is taken under submission.

I. INTRODUCTION & BACKGROUND

The facts of this case are known to the parties and are set forth in this Court's prior orders on defendant R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company's ("RJR") motion for summary judgment, dkt. 136, and plaintiffs Amanda Sateriale, Jeffrey Feinman, Pamela Burns, Patrick Griffiths, Jackie Warren, and Donald Wilson's motion for class certification, dkt. 135. The facts and procedural history most relevant to the present motion are as follows. Plaintiffs filed this action in 2009, asserting claims for, inter alia, breach of bilateral contract and promissory estoppel. The Court dismissed the entire action with prejudice in December 2010, and plaintiffs subsequently appealed the Court's decision to the Ninth Circuit. The Ninth Circuit vacated dismissal of the breach of contract and promissory estoppel claims, reasoning that plaintiffs had "adequately alleged the existence of an offer to enter into a unilateral contract, whereby RJR promised to provide rewards to customers who purchased Camel cigarettes, saved Camel Cash certificates and redeemed their certificates in accordance with the catalogs' terms." Sateriale v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 697 F.3d 777, 787 (9th Cir. 2012) (emphasis added).

Following remand and discovery, RJR moved for summary judgment. The Court denied RJR's motion by order dated December 19, 2014 ("Summary Judgment Order"). In so doing, the Court concluded that the representations on C-Notes constituted an offer by RJR to make "goods" and "stuff" available for redemption for the life of the Camel Cash program, and that RJR invited plaintiffs to accept this offer by purchasing Camel cigarettes and saving the C-Notes included therein.

As is relevant here, RJR vigorously argued that, in order to accept its offer, plaintiffs were also required to redeem or attempt to redeem their C-Notes during the final six months of the Camel Cash program. The Court rejected this argument, reasoning that "[c]onstruing RJR's offer to require such performance by plaintiffs... would render the contract non-existent." Summ. J. Order at 12. As the Court explained, the Ninth Circuit found that plaintiffs alleged a contract, "the essence of which was their general right to redeem their Camel Cash certificates, during the life of the program, for whatever rewards merchandise RJR made available, with RJR's discretion limited only by the implied duty of good faith performance." Summ. J. Order at 13 (quoting Sateriale, 697 F.3d at 788 (emphasis added)). The Court reasoned that construing RJR's offer to require acceptance through redemption would be "incongruous with such a right to redeem, '" id. at 13, since plaintiffs' theory of the case was that RJR breached the contract by acting in bad faith to deny them the opportunity to redeem their C-Notes for non-tobacco merchandise.

On April 23, 2015, RJR filed a motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b), seeking to certify for interlocutory appeal the Court's Summary Judgment Order. Dkt. 161. Plaintiffs filed an opposition on June 1, 2015, dkt. 174, and RJR replied on June 8, 2015, dkt. 181. Having carefully considered the parties' arguments, the Court finds and concludes as follows.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Certification of an interlocutory appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b) provides a means for litigants to bring an immediate appeal of a non-dispositive order with the consent of both the district court and the court of appeals. 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b); In re Cement Antitrust Litig., 673 F.2d 1020, 1026 (9th Cir.1982). The district court may certify an order for interlocutory appellate review under Section 1292(b) if each of the following three requirements are met: "(1) there is a controlling question of law, (2) there are substantial grounds for difference of opinion, and (3) an immediate appeal may materially advance the ultimate termination of the litigation." Id. at 1026; 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b). The requirements of section 1292(b) are jurisdictional. Couch v. Telescope Inc., 611 F.3d 629, 633 (9th Cir.2010).

"[T]he legislative history of 1292(b) indicates that this section was to be used only in exceptional situations in which allowing an interlocutory appeal would avoid protracted and expensive litigation." In re Cement Antitrust Litig., 673 F.2d at 1026 (citing United States Rubber Co. v. Wright, 359 F.2d 784, 785 (9th Cir.1966)). Indeed, section 1292(b) embodies a "narrow exception to the final judgment rule." Couch, 611 F.3d at 633. "The party seeking certification has the burden of showing that exceptional circumstances justify a departure from the basic policy of postponing appellate review until after the entry of a final judgment.'" Fukuda v. County of Los Angeles, 630 F.Supp. 228, 299 (C.D. Cal. 1986) (citing Coopers & Lybrand v. Livesay, 437 U.S. 463, 475 (1978)).

III. ANALYSIS

A. Whether There Is a Controlling Question of Law

In its moving papers, RJR asserts that the controlling question of law in this case is "whether the Ninth Circuit, in construing the claims pleaded in the operative complaint in this very case, required the specific act of redeeming C-Notes for rewards to accept [RJR's] offer to enter into a unilateral contract[.]" Mot. Cert. Appeal at 1. In its reply briefing, RJR refashions the controlling question as "whether a unilateral contract can be formed ...


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