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Woo v. Home Loan Group

August 25, 2008

ALIA LOH WOO, ON BEHALF OF HERSELF AND ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THE HOME LOAN GROUP, L.P. CHASE VENTURES HOLDINGS, INC., A NEW JERSEY CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Marilyn L. Huff, District Judge United States District Court

ORDER FINALLY APPROVING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR AWARD OF ATTORNEYS' FEES AND OTHER EXPENSES SETTLEMENT AND GRANTING IN PART

On May 14, 2007, named plaintiff Alia Loh Woo filed a first amended complaint against The Home Loan Group, L.P. and Chase Ventures Holdings, Inc. (Doc. No. 10.) Plaintiff's complaint alleged violations of the California Labor Code and Business & Professions Code, as well as a claim for conversion. (Id.) The first amended complaint arose out of Defendants' alleged failure to reimburse certain business related expenses.

On July 27, 2007, the Court issued an order granting in part and denying in part Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint. (Doc. No. 22.) Defendants filed an answer to Plaintiff's complaint on August 10, 2007. (Doc. No. 23.)

In November of 2007, the parties engaged in arms-length negotiations before a respected and experienced wage and hour mediator. (Decl. of Isam C. Khoury ISO Motion for Final Approval of Class Action Settlement ("Khoury Decl.") ¶ 9.) Following those negotiations, the parties entered into a settlement agreement. The parties' agreement calls for a total settlement of up to $500,000, with a net settlement amount of approximately $301,000 after deduction of attorneys' fees, litigation costs, an enhancement award to the named plaintiff, the costs of administering the settlement, and payroll taxes. (See Khoury Decl. ¶¶ 10-12.) The settlement fund will be distributed to class members who submit a valid and timely claim form pursuant to a formula to determine the class member's proportional share of the net settlement amount based upon the number of weeks the individual worked for Defendants during the class period in relation to the number of weeks worked by all members of the class during the class period. (Khoury Decl. ¶ 12.) Based on this formula, participating class members will receive approximately $32.81 for each week worked during the class period. (Id.)

On February 1, 2008, Plaintiff filed a motion for conditional class certification and preliminary approval of the proposed class action settlement. (Doc. No. 31.) On February 29, 2008, the Court granted Plaintiff's motion. (Doc. No. 32.) The Court conditionally certified a class for settlement purposes only, granted preliminary approval to the parties' proposed settlement, and ordered that the Court-approved notice of the proposed settlement, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(c)(2)(B), be directed to class members. (Doc. No. 32.)

On April 14, 2008, the Court-approved notice and claim form was mailed to the 134 members of the class. (See Khoury Decl. ¶ 14.) On June 6, 2008, a reminder postcard was mailed to each member of the class who by that date had not returned a claim form or request for exclusion. (Id. ¶ 15.) As of June 16, 2008, the deadline to submit claim forms, 51 class members had submitted claim forms and no class member requested exclusion from the settlement class or objected to the proposed settlement. (Id. ¶ 17.) Two class members submitted late claim forms, but the parties negotiated for the acceptance of those claims as timely to be paid pursuant to the settlement. (Khoury Decl. ¶ 17.)

On July 16, 2008, Plaintiff filed a motion for final approval of the proposed settlement and a motion for award of attorneys' fees, costs, class representative enhancement and claims administration expenses. (Doc. Nos. 33, 34.) The Court held a hearing on August 18, 2008.

Timothy Cohelan and Diana Khoury appeared for Plaintiff. Michael Aparicio represented Defendant. No individual appeared to object to the proposed settlement. (See Doc. No. 38.) At the conclusion of the hearing, the Court submitted the motions and requested a supplemental brief from Plaintiff regarding the amount of attorneys' fees requested. On August 21, 2008, Plaintiff filed a brief in accordance with the Court's order. (Doc. No. 39.)

After due consideration of the evidence and arguments presented to the Court in the parties' moving papers as well as at the August 18, 2008 hearing, the Court concludes that good cause exists to finally approve the proposed settlement. Additionally, as discussed below, the Court grants Plaintiff's motion for an award of attorneys' fees in the amount of $125,000. The Court grants Plaintiff's motion for costs, a class representative enhancement and claims administration expenses.

Discussion

I. CLASS CERTIFICATION

A. Rule 23(a) -- Prerequisites

The Court's "threshold task is to ascertain whether the proposed settlement class satisfies the requirements of Rule 23(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure applicable to all class actions, namely: (1) numerosity, (2) commonality, (3) typicality, and (4) adequacy of representation." Hanlon v. Chrysler Corp., 150 F.3d 1011, 1019 (9th Cir. 1998). "The prerequisite of numerosity is discharged if the class is so large that joinder of all members is impracticable." Id. Sufficient commonality exists "if there are questions of fact and law which are common to the class." Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a)(2); see Hanlon, 150 F.3d at 1019. "The typicality prerequisite of Rule 23(a) is fulfilled if the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class." Hanlon, 150 F.3d at 1020. The representative's claims "need not be substantially identical" to all class ...


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