Adams v. Robertson
520 U.S. 83 (1997)

Annotate this Case

OCTOBER TERM, 1996

Syllabus

ADAMS ET AL. v. ROBERTSON ET AL.

CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF ALABAMA No. 95-1873. Argued January 14, 1997-Decided March 3,1997

Respondent Robertson filed a class action in Alabama, alleging that respondent Liberty National Life Insurance Company had fraudulently encouraged its customers to exchange existing health insurance policies for new ones with less coverage. The trial court made him class representative and certified the class under the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure, which do not give class members the right to opt out of a class. It then approved a settlement that precluded class members from individually suing Liberty National for fraud based on its exchange program. Petitioners, who had objected to the settlement in the trial court, appealed, and the State Supreme Court affirmed in an opinion addressing only state-law issues. Certiorari was granted on the question whether the certification and settlement violated the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause because class members could not opt out of the class or settlement.

Held: Since petitioners have failed to establish that they properly presented the due process issue to the Alabama Supreme Court, this Court will not reach the question presented, and the writ is dismissed as improvidently granted. With rare exceptions, Yee v. Escondido, 503 U. S. 519, 533, this Court will not consider a petitioner's federal claim that was not addressed by, or properly presented to, the state court rendering the decision. The Alabama Supreme Court did not expressly address the claim raised here, and petitioners have not shown that it was properly presented to that court. When the highest state court is silent on the federal question before this Court, it is assumed that the issue was not properly presented; the aggrieved party bears the burden of defeating this assumption, Board of Directors of Rotary Int'l v. Rotary Club of Duarte, 481 U. S. 537,550, by demonstrating that the state court had a fair opportunity to address the issue, Webb v. Webb, 451 U. S. 493, 501. Petitioners have not met this burden. They have not demonstrated that they complied with the applicable state rules for raising their federal claim before the State Supreme Court, see, e. g., Bankers Life & Casualty Co. v. Crenshaw, 486 U. S. 71, 77-78, explained why the failure to comply with those rules would not be an adequate and independent ground for the state court to disregard that claim, see, e. g., Hathorn v. Lovorn, 457 U. S. 255, 262-265, or shown that their claim was presented with fair precision and in due time, see, e. g., New York


84

Syllabus

ex rel. Bryant v. Zimmerman, 278 U. S. 63, 67. Even assuming that the rule that a claim be addressed or properly presented in state court is purely prudential, the circumstances here justify no exception. An interest in penalizing respondents for failing to raise a timely objection to petitioners' failure to comply with the rule does not outweigh the interest of comity the rule serves or the value to this Court of a fully developed record upon which to base its decisions.

Certiorari dismissed as improvidently granted. Reported below: 676 So. 2d 1265.

Norman E. Waldrop, Jr., argued the cause for petitioners.

With him on the briefs were Stephen C. Olen, George M. Walker, M. Kathleen Miller, J. Gusty Yearout, M. Clay Ragsdale IV, John D. Richardson, David F. Daniell, and Roderick P. Stout.

John G. Roberts, Jr., argued the cause and filed a brief for respondent Liberty National Life Insurance Company. With him on the brief were David G. Leitch, Gregory G. Garre, Michael R. Pennington, James W Gewin, and Edgar M. Elliott III. Paul M. Smith, Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., Jere L. Beasley, Frank M. Wilson, James A. Main, and Walter R. Byars filed a brief for respondent Charlie Frank Robertson. *

*Briefs of amici curiae urging reversal were filed for the Association of Trial Lawyers of America by Jeffrey Robert White and Howard F. Twiggs; and for Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, P. C., by Leslie A. Brueckner and Arthur H. Bryant.

Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed for the State of Alabama by Jeff Sessions, Attorney General, and William H. Pryor, Jr., Deputy Attorney General; for the American Council of Life Insurance by Evan M. Tager and Phillip E. Stano; for Continental Casualty Company et al. by Herbert M. Wachtell, Meir Feder, Paul J. Bschorr, Stephen M. Snyder, Kelly C. Wooster, Elihu Inselbuch, Peter Van N Lockwood, Joseph F. Rice, Joseph B. Cox, Jr., Rodney L. Eshelman, Donald T. Ramsey, Stuart Philip Ross, Sean M. Hanifan, Merril Hirsh, Steven Kazan, and Harry F. Wartnick; for Exxon Corporation by Charles W Bender and John F. Daum; and for the National Association of Manufacturers et al. by Alfred W Cortese, Jr., Kathleen L. Blaner, James C. Wilson, Jan

A brief of amici curiae was filed for the State of New York et al. by Dennis C. Vacco, Attorney General of New York, Barbara Gott Billet,


85
Full Text of Opinion

Official Supreme Court caselaw is only found in the print version of the United States Reports. Justia caselaw is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or information linked to from this site. Please check official sources.