UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
February 10, 2011
RUTHANNE RANKIN, ON BEHALF OF HERSELF AND OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED,
AMERICAN GREETINGS, INC., AND DOES 1 THROUGH 100, INCLUSIVE,
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge: United States Magistrate Judge Gregory G. Hollows
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR CONDITIONAL CERTIFICATION OF SETTLEMENT CLASS, PRELIMINARY APPROVAL OF SETTLEMENT, AND APPROVAL OF CLASS NOTICE AND CLAIM FORM, AND OF SETTLEMENT ADMINISTRATOR
Plaintiffs' motion for preliminary approval of the class action settlement came on for hearing before this Court on February 10, 2011, The Honorable Gregory G. Hollows presiding. Having fully considered the papers submitted in support of the motion and having carefully analyzed the Class Action Settlement Agreement and Stipulation, the Notice of Proposed Class Action Settlement and the Claim Form, and in recognition of the Court's duty to make a preliminary determination as to the reasonableness of a proposed class action settlement, the Court HEREBY ORDERS THE FOLLOWING:
1. The Court grants preliminary approval of the Settlement based upon the terms set forth in the Class Action Settlement Agreement and Stipulation ("Settlement Agreement"), attached to the Declaration of Jeffrey D. Fulton as Exhibit 2, as modified at hearing on February 10, 2011, to provide that the attorneys' fees award is equal to 25% of the gross settlement amount, or $470,000. (Capitalized terms which are not defined in this Order shall have the meaning ascribed to them in the Settlement Agreement.)
2. The Settlement appears to be fair, adequate, and reasonable to the Class. The Settlement falls within the range of reasonableness and appears to be presumptively valid, subject only to any objections that may be raised at the Final Fairness Hearing.
3. A Final Fairness Hearing on the separate questions of whether (i) the proposed Settlement, (ii) the proposed award of attorneys' fees and costs to Class Counsel, and (iii) the proposed Class Representative's incentive award should be finally approved as fair, reasonable, and adequate as to the members of the Class is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. on June 30, 2011, which is more than 130 days after the Motion for Preliminary Approval was filed, in the Courtroom of the Honorable Gregory G. Hollows. All briefs and materials in support of an Order granting Final Approval of the Settlement, an Order granting Class Counsel's attorneys' fees and costs, and an Order granting the Class Representative's incentive award shall be filed and served by June 14, 2011.
4. The Court approves, as to form and content, the Notice of Proposed Class Action Settlement ("Notice") attached to the Declaration of Jeffrey D. Fulton as Exhibit 2A and the Claim Form attached thereto as Exhibit 2B. The Court approves the procedure for Class Members to participate in, to opt out of, and to object to the Settlement, as set forth in the Settlement Agreement, Notice, and Claim Form.
5. The Court directs the mailing of the Notice and the Claim Form by first-class mail to the Class Members in accordance with the Implementation Schedule set forth below. The Court finds the dates and process selected for the mailing and distribution of the Notice and Claim Form, as set forth in the Implementation Schedule and the Settlement Agreement, meet the requirements of due process and provide the best notice practicable under the circumstances and shall constitute due and sufficient notice to all persons entitled thereto.
6. The following settlement Class is preliminarily certified for settlement purposes only: "All hourly non-exempt employees of American Greetings who worked during the Class Period in California with any responsibilities related to merchandising of American Greetings' products in the State of California, and specifically including employees who worked as Merchandiser, Support Merchandiser, Merchandiser Coordinator, Account Lead, Territory Lead, Revision Merchandiser, Trainer/Revision Specialist, Installation Coordinator, and Installation Crew Member, except those who have otherwise resolved, released, waived, or recovered monies on, the Released Claims."
7. The Court conditionally appoints as Class Counsel for purposes of settlement only: Perez Law Offices and the Law Office of Jeffrey D. Fulton.
8. The Court conditionally appoints as the Class Representative for purposes of settlement only: Plaintiff Ruthanne Rankin.
9. The Court appoints CPT Group, Inc. as the Claims Administrator.
10. The Court orders the following Implementation Schedule for further proceedings:
A. On or before March 14, 2011 (30 days after Preliminary Approval), Defendant shall provide to the Settlement Administrator in an electronic format reasonably acceptable to the Settlement Administrator a list of Class Members that identifies for each Class Member, his/her Social Security Number, last-known address, dates of employment during the Class Period, and number of Hours Worked during the Class Period.
B. On or before March 24, 2011 (10 days after the Settlement Administrator receives the list of Class Members), the Settlement Administrator shall transmit via regular United States First Class Mail the Notice and Claim Form to each Class Member.
C. On or before May 23, 2011 (60 days after the initial mailing of the Notice and Claim Form), requests for exclusion from the Settlement must be postmarked and returned to the Settlement Administrator, in compliance with the terms of the Settlement Agreement and Notice. Requests for exclusion that do not comply with this paragraph and the requirements set forth in the Settlement Agreement and Notice shall not be effective.
D. On or before May 23, 2011 (60 days after the initial mailing of the Notice and Claim Form), Claim Forms (and, if applicable, challenges or disputes) must be postmarked and returned to the Settlement Administrator and must comply with the terms of the Settlement Agreement and Notice.
E. On or before May 23, 2011 (60 days after the initial mailing of the Notice and Claim Form), objections to the Settlement must be filed with the Court and served on Class Counsel and Defendant's counsel, in compliance with the term of the Settlement Agreement and Notice. Objections must state the specific grounds on which they are being made and include all supporting facts. If an objector intends to appear at the Final Fairness Hearing, either in person or through an attorney, the objector must file and serve with the objection a notice of intention to Appear at the Final Fairness Hearing. Objections that do not comply with this paragraph and the requirements set forth in the Settlement Agreement and Notice shall not be considered.
11. If, for any reason, the Court does not execute and file an Order of Final Approval, or if the Effective Date of the Settlement does not occur for any reason, the Settlement Agreement and the proposed Settlement that is the subject of this Order, and all evidence and proceedings had in conjunction therewith, shall be without prejudice to the status quo ante rights of the Parties to the litigation, as more specifically set forth in the Settlement Agreement.
12. Pending further order of this Court, all proceedings in this matter other than those contemplated herein and in the Settlement Agreement are stayed.
13. This Court reserves the right to adjourn or continue the Final Fairness Hearing from time to time without further notice to Class Members.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
THE HONORABLE GREGORY G. HOLLOWS MAGISTRATE JUDGE OF THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
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