The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Michael M. Anello United States District Judge
ORDER GRANTING FINAL APPROVAL OF SETTLEMENT, AWARD OF ATTORNEYS FEES, AND LITIGATION EXPENSES [Doc. Nos. 22, 23]
Pending before the Court are Plaintiff Matthew Wietzke and Defendant CoStar Realty Information, Inc.'s joint motion for final approval of class settlement [Doc. No. 22], and Plaintiff's unopposed motion for attorneys' fees, litigation expense award, and an enhancement award for the named plaintiff [Doc. No. 23].
Having considered the parties' arguments and submissions, including the Stipulation Re: Settlement of Class and Collective Actions, the Court issues the following memorandum order.
Defendant CoStar Realty Information, Inc. ("Defendant" or "CoStar") provides information, marketing and analytical services to commercial real estate professionals. CoStar employs Research Associates to research and evaluate the commercial real estate market. Plaintiff Matthew Wietzke ("Plaintiff"), a Research Associate, brought this putative class and collective action against his employer CoStar, alleging that he and other employees were misclassified as "exempt" employees, and thus are entitled to unpaid overtime wages and other remedies.
On December 8, 2009, Plaintiff filed this putative class and collective action. On February 15, 2010, Plaintiff filed the operative First Amended Complaint. Specifically, Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint alleges CoStar violated state and federal employment laws, including: (1) unfair competition in violation of Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200 et seq.; (2) failure to pay overtime compensation in violation of Cal. Lab. Code §§ 510, 515.5, 551, 552, 1194 and 1198, et seq.; (3) failure to provide meal and rest periods in violation of Cal. Lab. Code § 226.7 and 512; (4) failure to provide accurate itemized statements in violation of Cal. Lab. Code § 226; (5) failure to pay overtime compensation in violation of 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq.; and (6) Private Attorney General Act claim under Labor Code § 2698, et seq. CoStar denies any wrongdoing or liability and maintains that it compensated its employees fairly and in accordance with its legal obligations.
On May 10, 2010, the parties attended a mediation session with David Rotman, Esq., who specializes in mediating wage and hour class actions. The parties reached a settlement agreement. On September 24, 2010, the Court granted preliminary approval for the settlement, authorized the notice process, and scheduled a hearing on final approval. On February 22, 2011, the Court held the final approval of settlement fairness hearing.
The settlement calls for a California settlement class consisting of all individuals who were employed by CoStar as Research Associates in California at any point during the California class period, December 8, 2005 through and including August 10, 2010. (Blumenthal Decl. ¶ 3, citing Stipulation at 1.3.) The proposed National collective action settlement class consists of individuals who were employed by CoStar as Research Associates in the United States of America (including the District of Columbia) in locations other than California at any point during the National class period. (Id.) Under the Settlement Agreement, the parties stipulated the maximum settlement amount is $800,000. The specific components of the maximum settlement amount are as follows:
(a) the maximum gross amounts for settlement payments to California participating claimants, which is $273,750;
(b) the maximum gross amount for settlement payments to National participating claimants, which is $273,750;
(c) the maximum gross amount for class counsel's attorneys' fees, which is twenty-five percent (25%) of the maximum settlement amount (or $200,000);
(d) the maximum gross amount for counsel and the class representative's allowable litigation costs and associated expenses, which is $15,000;
(e) the anticipated gross amount for claims administration costs, which is $25,000;
(f) the maximum gross amount for the enhancement payment to be made by CoStar to Plaintiff Wietzke, which is $5,000; and
(g) the maximum gross amount for payment to the California Labor Workforce Development Agency pursuant to the California Labor Code Private Attorney Generals Act of 2004, which is $7,500.
(Blumenthal Decl., ¶ 6, citing Stipulation at 1.22.)
I. Final Settlement Approval
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(e) requires that a court approve a class action settlement. "[I]n the context of a case in which the parties reach a settlement agreement prior to class certification, courts must peruse the proposed compromise to ratify both the propriety of the certification and the fairness of the settlement." Staton v. Boeing Co., 327 F.3d 938, 952 (9th Cir. 2003). Thus, a court must confirm the propriety of certification by assessing the following prerequisites: "(1) numerosity of plaintiffs; (2) common questions of law or fact predominate; (3) the named plaintiff's claims and defenses are typical; and (4) the named plaintiff can adequately protect the interests of the class." Hanlon v. Dataproducts Corp., 976 F.2d 497, 508 (9th Cir.1992) (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a)). Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ...