United States District Court, S.D. California
DONOVAN LONG, DAVID HORN, and LLOYD CONARD, individuals, individually and on behalf of all similarly situated aggrieved employees, Plaintiffs,
STANLEY BLACK & DECKER, INC.; STANLEY ACCESS, INC.; STANLEY SECURITY SOLUTIONS, INC.; STANLEY CONVERGENT SECURITY SOLUTIONS, INC.; AEROSCOUT, INC.; BLACK & DECKER (U.S.) INC.; CRC-EVANS PIPELINE INTERNATIONAL, INC.; EMHART TECHNOLOGIES LLC; FASTENER INNOVATION TECHNOLOGY, INC.; LISTA INTERNATIONAL CORPORATION; POWERS FASTENERS, INC.; SPIRALOCK CORPORATION; STANLEY FASTENING SYSTEMS LP; STANLEY SUPPLY & SERVICES, INC.; STANLEY ACCESS TECHNOLOGIES LLC; and DOES 16 through 50, inclusive, Defendants.
ORDER: (1) GRANTING MOTION FOR FINAL APPROVAL OF CLASS SETTLEMENT; AND (2) GRANTING MOTION FOR AN ORDER GRANTING AN AWARD OF ATTORNEYS' FEES, LITIGATION COSTS, AND ENHANCEMENT FEES FOR THE CLASS REPRESENTATIVES (ECF Nos. 21, 22, 23)
JANIS L. SAMMARTINO, District Judge.
Presently before the Court is Plaintiffs Donovan Long and Lloyd Conrad's ("Plaintiffs") unopposed Motion for Final Approval of Class Settlement. (ECF No. 21.) There have been no objections made to the settlement. Also before the Court is Plaintiffs' unopposed Motion for an Order Granting an Award of Attorneys' Fees, Litigation Costs, and Enhancement Fees for the Class Representatives. (ECF No. 22.) A final approval hearing was held on April 8, 2015. Having considered the motions and the law, the Court GRANTS the Motion for Final Approval of Class Settlement and the Motion for an Order Granting an Award of Attorneys' Fees, Litigation Costs, and Enhancement Fees for the Class Representatives.
This case arises out of Defendants' purported failure to: (1) provide compensable drive time, (2) pay overtime wages, (3) pay minimum wages, (4) provide meal periods, (5) provide rest periods, (6) make payments within the required time, (7) provide compliant itemized wage statements, (8) maintain required records in violation of California Labor Code § 1174, and (9) pay prevailing wages. (Mot. for Final Approval 4-5,  ECF No. 21-1.) Plaintiffs also seek remedies under the Private Attorney General Act ("PAGA") and related to unfair business practices. (Id. at 5.) The Court preliminarily approved the settlement on December 5, 2014. (ECF No. 20.)
TERMS OF THE PROPOSED SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT
The proposed settlement class ("the Settlement Class, " or "the Class") comprises two subclasses. ( See Mot. for Final Approval 9-10, ECF No. 21-1.) Subclass I, the Field Technician Class, consists of "any individual who was employed by any of the Defendants in the state of California at any time from June 27, 2009 to [October 30, 2014, the scheduled hearing date for the Mot. Prelim. Approval] as a non-exempt Field Technician, Service Technician and/or Installation Technician and/or Installation Technician Helper and/or who holds or held a similar position and worked in the field doing construction, service, repair, technical and/or maintenance work." (Decl. of Thomas Rutledge in Supp. of Mot. for Final Approval of Class Settlement Ex. 1 ("Settlement Agreement") ¶ 15 at 24, ECF No. 21-2.) Subclass II, the Wage Statement Class, consists of "any individual who was employed by any of the Defendants in the [s]tate of California at any time from June 27, 2012 to [October 30, 2014, the scheduled hearing date for the Mot. Prelim. Approval] who received at least one paystub from any of the Defendants." (Id. at ¶ 36 at 28-29.)
Defendants, without admitting wrongdoing, have agreed to settle the class claims with Plaintiffs for $4, 970, 000. (Mot. for Final Approval 11, ECF No. 21-1.) This amount includes: "(1) individual settlement payments to each Participating Class Member who submits a Claim Form; (2) Class Representative Enhancement Payments to class representatives Long and Conrad for up to $5, 000 each, for their services on behalf of the Class; (3) a $37, 500 payment to the Labor and Workforce Development Agency ("LWDA") regarding Plaintiff's PAGA claim; (4) reasonable claims administrator's fees and expenses not to exceed $25, 000; and (5) Class Counsel's fees and costs in the amount of $1, 491, 000." (Id. ) The Class will receive at least 70% of the Net Settlement Amount, which is about $3.4 million. (Id. ) About $2.4 million of the Net Settlement Amount will go to the construction workers for unpaid wages (Subclass I) and about $1, 025, 000 will go to the paystub class (Subclass II). (Id. ) Each member of Subclass I that submitted a timely claim will receive, on average, $7, 965, assuming he or she was employed for the entire class period. (Id. at 22.) Each member of Subclass II that submitted a timely claim will receive, on average, $1, 280, assuming he or she was employed for the entire class period. (Id. ) These amounts will increase or decrease depending on how many claims have been filed and the length of employment of each class member. (Id. ) To date, the number of claims submitted is 80.90% of the Net Settlement Amount, which exceeds the 70% guaranteed payout. (Id. at 12; Supplemental Decl. of Abel Morales in Supp. of Mot. for Final Approval of Class Settlement ("Morales Supp. Decl."), ECF No. 23.)
MOTION FOR FINAL APPROVAL OF CLASS SETTLEMENT
A threshold requirement for final approval of the settlement of a class action is the assessment of whether the Class satisfies the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) and the requirements of one of the types of class actions enumerated in subsection (b). Hanlon v. Chrysler Corp., 150 F.3d 1011, 1019, 1022 (9th Cir. 1998). No facts that would affect these various requirements have changed since this Court preliminarily approved the Class on December 5, 2014. Accordingly, this order incorporates by reference the analysis under Rules 23(a) and (b) set out in the Preliminary Approval Order. ( See Prelim. Approval Order 3-9, ECF No. 20.)
Moreover, before granting final approval of a class-action settlement, the Court determines whether notice to the Class was adequate. Hanlon, 150 F.3d at 1025. "Adequate notice is critical to court approval of a class settlement under Rule 23(e)." Id. This Court preliminarily approved the parties' proposed notice plan ("the Notice Plan"). ( See Prelim. Approval Order 14-15, ECF No. 20.) In conjunction with the Motion for Final Approval, Abel Morales, a case manager at CPT Group, Inc., the Independent Claims Administrator selected by the parties, submitted a declaration detailing the actions CPT Group, Inc. has taken with regard to this class action, including providing notice to the class members. ( See generally Decl. of Abel Morales in Supp. of Mot. for Final Approval of Class Settlement ("Morales Decl."), ECF No. 21-3.) A review of Morales' declaration and the attached exhibits reveals that CPT Group, Inc. provided notice in accordance with the approved Notice Plan. Accordingly, the Court finds that adequate notice of the Settlement was provided to the Class.
Finally, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(e)(2), where the proposed settlement would bind class members, the court may approve it only after a hearing and based on a finding that it is fair, reasonable, and adequate. The Ninth Circuit has enumerated various factors that the court should consider in determining whether a proposed settlement meets the fair, reasonable, and adequate standard, including, inter alia : (1) the strength of plaintiffs' case; (2) the risk, expense, complexity, and likely duration of further litigation; (3) the risk of maintaining class action status throughout the trial; (4) the amount offered in settlement; (5) the extent of discovery completed, and the stage of the proceedings; (6) the experience and views of counsel; (7) the presence of a governmental participant; (8) and the reaction of the class members to the proposed settlement. Hanlon, 150 F.3d at 1026. This determination is committed to the sound discretion of the trial judge. Id
The parties engaged in extensive settlement discussions after 11 months of discovery and multiple telephonic meetings. (Mot. for Final Approval 14, ECF No. 21-1.) The parties ultimately reached settlement in this matter with the help of a mediator, Mark Rudy, Esquire. (Id. at 15.) Plaintiffs and Class Counsel concluded that Mr. Rudy's proposal was fair and reasonable, and settling on the terms he proposed was in the best interest of the Plaintiffs and the Class. (Id. at 16.) Defendants similarly concluded that settling according to Mr. Rudy's terms was in their best interest, and that his proposal was fair and reasonable. (Id. ) The Settlement Agreement reached by the parties "is the result of extensive, arms' length negotiations." (Id. ) The Court addresses the relevant Hanlon factors in turn.
I. Strength of Plaintiffs' Case and Risk, Expense, Complexity and Likely Duration of Further Litigation
The instant case involves complex wage and hour claims, and the Class consists of hundreds of current and former employees. (Mot. for Final Approval 16, ECF No. 21-1.) Furthermore, Defendant' business model has increased the complexity of the issues involved in this case. ( See id. at 17-18.) Class Counsel believes Plaintiffs could prevail on the claims alleged in this case; however, Defendants have asserted, and continue to assert, various defenses such that continued litigation could take months, if not years, to complete. (Id. at 18, 19.) Settlement eliminates the risk that Plaintiffs may not prevail. Here, full litigation of the issues would be a timely and costly endeavor, and would not necessarily yield any benefits to the Class. Accordingly, the Court finds that these factors weigh in favor of approving the settlement.
II. Risk of Maintaining Class Action Status Throughout Trial
Plaintiffs explain that notwithstanding their arguments for class certification, Defendants would have opposed class certification in regard to their commute claim, their Labor Code § 203 claim, and their Labor Code § 226 claim. (Id. at 19-20.) Defendants also would have filed motions for decertification and summary judgment in regard to the meal and rest period clams, and the prevailing wage claims. (Id. at 20.) Defendants' non-objection to certification for the purposes of settlement leads the Court to find that this factor favors settlement.
III. Amount Offered in Settlement
The Settlement Agreement provides "monetary benefits to the Class Members that are superior to those recovered in many similar wage and hour class actions." (Id. at 21.) On average, members of Subclass I will receive $7, 965 and members of Subclass II will receive $1, 280. (Id. at 22.) The entire Class is receiving its monetary relief relatively quickly as a result of the settlement reached by the parties. (Id. at 21.) Moreover, the Class is receiving equitable relief because the Settlement Agreement requires Defendants to fix the problems with their paystubs. (Id. ) In light of the benefits the Class is set to receive, the Court finds that this factor weighs in favor of settlement.
IV. Extent of Discovery Completed and Stage of Proceedings
The parties have engaged in discovery, "including the production and review of over 10, 000 pages of documents." (Id. at 14, 18.) The parties held various telephonic meetings and "voluntarily exchanged voluminous and detailed information relating to the Class." (Id. at 14.) Additionally, Class Counsel has conducted telephonic surveys of and met with class members. (Id. ) Plaintiffs also employed experts to assist in evaluating damages and liability, and handling the wage claims. (Id. at 18-19.) It appears that the parties had extensive information going into settlement negotiations and, therefore, the Court finds that this factor favors approving the settlement.
V. Experience and Views of Counsel
The parties and their respective counsel have recommended accepting the Settlement Agreement because both find the agreement fair, reasonable, and adequate. (Id. at 22.) Furthermore, Class Counsel is not only familiar with the facts and circumstances of this case, but, more generally, "is experienced in class action litigation and wage and hour matters." ( Id.; see Decl. of Thomas Rutledge in Supp. of Mot. for Final Approval of Class Settlement ("Rutledge Decl") ...