Eight years ago, the Supreme Court’s tripartite split in Shady Grove Orthopedic Associates, P.A. v. Allstate Insurance Co. highlighted a troublesome lacuna in the Court’s Erie jurisprudence. That case revealed that where it is ambiguous whether a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure and a state law conflict, the Court has no standard doctrinal method for resolving that ambiguity. This gap matters for our federal-state balance. Under the approach developed in Sibbach v. Wilson & Co. and affirmed in Hanna v. Plumer, once a valid Federal Rule is deemed to conflict with a state law, it displaces that state law in federal court. Thus, the operative question for whether state laws, even those with substantive purposes, will apply in federal court is whether a court believes there is a conflict. Recently, federal courts have struggled to reach consistent results in the face of this doctrinal gap. Divergent approaches to such Erie conflicts have opened circuit splits on a number of issues, ranging from the applicability of certain provisions of anti-SLAPP statutes to state pleading requirements.
Joshua P. Zoffer,
An Avoidance Canon for Erie: Using Federalism to Resolve Shady Grove's Conflicts Analysis Problem,
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/ylj/vol128/iss2/4