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Vila v. Inter-American Investment

January 26, 2009

JORGE VILA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
INTER-AMERICAN INVESTMENT, CORPORATION, DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reggie B. Walton, United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

On February 22, 2008, this Court issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order (the "Order") dismissing all of the plaintiff's claims except for his claim of unjust enrichment. See Vila v. Inter-American Inv. Corp., 536 F. Supp. 2d. 41 (D.D.C. 2008). Contending that there is a substantial basis to dispute this Court's rejection of its statute of limitations defense in support of the dismissal of the plaintiff's unjust enrichment claim and that the resolution of that issue would materially advance the completion of this litigation, the defendant now asks the Court to certify the Order for an immediate appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b) (2006). Defendant's Motion for Certification ("Def.'s Mot."). The plaintiff opposes the motion, Plaintiff's Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Certification Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b) ("Pl.'s Opp'n"), and the defendant has filed a reply, Defendant's Reply to Plaintiff's Opposition to Motion for Certification Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1292(b) ("Reply").

After careful consideration of the filings submitted by the parties, the Court concludes that although the Order from which the defendant seeks to appeal involves a controlling question of law and an immediate appeal may materially advance the ultimate resolution of this litigation, there is no substantial ground for a difference of opinion as to the controlling question of law. The Court will therefore deny the defendant's motion for certification of the Order to permit an immediate appeal.

I. Background

The plaintiff, Jorge Vila, initiated this action against the defendant, Inter-American Investment Corporation ("IIC"), an international organization that "enjoy[s]...immunity from suit and every form of judicial process" under the International Organizations Immunities Act ("Immunities Act") , 22 U.S.C. § 288a(b) (2006). The plaintiff alleged that the defendant failed to compensate him for services performed between January and August, 2003, Compl. ¶4, and has filed this action asserting four causes of action, including a claim for unjust enrichment. Id. ¶1.

The defendant moved to dismiss all four claims based on its immunity provided by the Immunities Act, and also asserted a statute of limitations bar to the unjust enrichment claim. In partially denying the defendant's motion to dismiss, the Court first determined that the defendant had waived its statutory immunity as to the plaintiff's unjust enrichment claim, and that the unjust enrichment claim was timely filed because the applicable three-year limitations period did not begin to run until November 4, 2003, when the defendant unequivocally refused to compensate the plaintiff for his services. Order at 10, 15-16. The defendant then filed its notice of appeal of the Order on March 21, 2008, Docket ("Dkt.") #15 (Notice of Appeal), and on April 28, 2008, filed its motion seeking certification of the Order for an interlocutory appeal to challenge this Court's rejection of its statute of limitations defense.

II. Legal Analysis

A district court may in its discretion certify an order for interlocutory appeal when: (1) the order involves a controlling question of law, (2) as to which a substantial ground for difference of opinion concerning the ruling exists, and (3) an immediate appeal would materially advance the disposition of the litigation. See 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b); see also APCC Servs., Inc. v. Sprint Commc'ns Co., 297 F. Supp. 2d 90, 95 (D.D.C. 2003) (citing Walsh v. Ford Motor Co., 807 F.2d 1000, 1002 n.2 (D.C. Cir. 1986)) (additional citation omitted). The party seeking interlocutory review has the burden of establishing all three elements to merit "departure from the basic policy of postponing appellate review until after the entry of a final judgment." APCC Servs., 297 F. Supp. 2d at 95 (citation and internal quotations omitted).

A.

There is no dispute that a statute of limitations challenge raises a controlling question of law in the sense that a ruling on the challenge "would terminate an action if the district court's order were reversed." APPC Servs., 297 F. Supp. 2d at 96; see Pl.'s Opp'n at 1. Therefore the two remaining conditions of § 1292(b) certification must also be addressed.

B.

The plaintiff disputes the defendant's position that there will be any material advancement of the resolution of this litigation through certification, Pl.'s Opp'n at 1, but fails to provide any argument supporting this view. The defendant, on the other hand, opines that efficiency and judicial economy will be advanced by certifying the statute of limitations issue for an interlocutory appeal. Def.'s Mot. at 13. Undoubtedly, the salutary objective of "avoid[ing] piecemeal review" would be aided by allowing an immediate appeal of this Court's statute of limitations ruling, as the Court's rulings on the defendant's immunity defense is currently before the District of Columbia Circuit. See Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Nat'l Energy Policy Dev. Group, 233 F. Supp. 2d 16, 20 (D.D.C. 2002) (noting high §1292(b) standard necessary to overcome "strong congressional policy against piecemeal review" (quoting U.S. v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683, 690 (1974))). Moreover, there would be no danger of "obstructing or impeding this judicial proceeding," id. (citation and internal quotations omitted), by granting certification as the defendant's appeal on immunity grounds divests this Court of jurisdiction over the plaintiff's unjust enrichment claim resulting from the defendant's appeal of the Court's ruling on the immunity defense to this claim. See Princz v. Fed. Republic of Germany, 998 F.2d 1 (D.C. Cir. 1993) (per curiam).

More importantly, allowing the defendant to make an immediate appeal could assist in the resolution of this case. See Rendall-Speranza v. Nassim, 107 F.3d 913, 916 (D.C. Cir. 1997) (exercising pendant jurisdiction because "if the appellants have a valid defense in the statute of limitations, then the court can both economize on judicial resources and avoid resolving their claims of immunity"). Unlike cases where the posture of a case post-appeal would be nearly identical regardless of the outcome, see, e.g., U.S. ex rel. Pogue v. Diabetes Treatment Centers of America, 576 F. Supp. 2d 128, 133 (D.D.C. 2008) (denying certification where trial still necessary regardless of the outcome on appeal); U.S. v. 803 Capitol St., No. 06-1710(GK), 2007 WL 1232188, at *1 (D.D.C. Apr. 26, 2007) (denying certification where reversal of stay order would merely restart discovery), here, if New World Commc'ns, Inc. v. Thompsen, 878 A.2d 1218 (D.C. 2005) were construed on appeal as adopting an "as soon as services rendered" test as the determination for the start of the running of the statute of limitations for an unjust enrichment claim, then the defendant would be afforded a valid ...


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