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Newton v. American Debt Services, Inc

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Francisco Division

July 1, 2016

HEATHER L. NEWTON, individually and on behalf of others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
AMERICAN DEBT SERVICES, INC., et al, Defendants.

          TAVY A. DUMONT, WILLIAM E. KENNEDY ATTORNEYS FOR PLAINTIFF HEATHER L. NEWTON AND THE CLASS

          [PROPOSED] ORDER GRANTING FINAL APPROVAL OF CLASS ACTION SETTLEMENT, AND JUDGMENT

          EDWARD M. CHEN JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Before the Court is Plaintiff Heather L. Newton’s unopposed Motion for Final Approval of Class Action Settlement. Docket No. 344.

         On June 9, 2015, on a contested motion for class certification, the Court certified a class in this matter. Docket No. 313. On September 9, 2015, Plaintiff and Defendants Global Client Solutions, LLC (“Global”) and Rocky Mountain Bank & Trust (“RMBT”) (all, “the Parties”) reached a settlement in private mediation with the Honorable Rebecca Westerfield. See Docket No. 322, p. 6, ll. 26.27. On November 12, 2015, Plaintiff filed her Motion for Preliminary Approval of Class Action Settlement, along with the Settlement Agreement and Release between Plaintiff Heather L. Newton and Defendants Global Client Solutions, LLC and Rocky Mountain Bank & Trust (“Settlement Agreement”). Docket Nos. 322, 323-1. On November 30, 2015, the Court ordered supplemental briefing as to certain issues relating to the settlement, ordered certain changes to the parties’ proposed Notice of Settlement, and ordered Plaintiff to file under seal her attorneys’ time records to support a lodestar calculation. See Docket No. 330. In response, the Parties filed a joint supplemental brief and revised proposed Notice of Settlement. Docket No. 331. Plaintiff also submitted a declaration attaching her attorneys’ time records, with an Administrative Motion to File under Seal. Docket No. 332. The Court held a hearing on preliminary approval on December 17, 2015, and on January 15, 2016 granted Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Approval of the Settlement; approved the form, content and manner of Notice of Settlement; and approved CPT Group as Administrator for all aspects of the settlement. Docket No. 336.

         In determining that the settlement merited preliminary approval, the Court previewed the factors that ultimately will determine final approval, as set out in Churchill Village, L.L.C. v. Gen. Elec., 361 F.3d 566, 575 (9th Cir. 2004): (1) the strength of the 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; and (8) the reaction of class members to the proposed settlement. The Court found that the first, second, fourth, fifth and sixth factors weigh in favor of approval, the third factor is neutral, the seventh factor is inapplicable and, because notice of settlement had not yet been given at that time, it was too early to evaluate the eighth factor, the reaction of class members to the proposed settlement. Docket No. 336, pp. 7-9.

         CPT Group disseminated the approved Notice of Settlement on February 15, 2016. Docket No. 345, Skey Declaration, at ¶ 7. The deadline for objection was 90 days later, Docket No. 336, p. 12, ll. 6-7, and thus has passed. CPT Group received no written objections to the settlement. Docket No. 345, Skey Declaration, at ¶ 11. The Court received no objections to the settlement.

         Now, having carefully considered Plaintiff’s Motion for Final Approval of Class Action Settlement, and the Settlement Agreement, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT:

         1. Pursuant to this Court's class certification order of June 9, 2015 (Docket No. 313), the Class has been defined as:

All consumers in California who paid QSS directly, or indirectly through ADS, for debt settlement services during the four years preceding filing of the complaint, who opened a Special Purpose Account with RMBT to be administered by Global, and did not receive a full refund of all fees and charges paid to all Defendants.

         2. For the reasons stated above and in the Court’s Order of January 15, 2016 preliminarily approving the settlement, the Court finally approves the Settlement Agreement set forth in the November 12, 2015 Motion for Preliminary Approval of Class Action Settlement, Docket No. 322. The Court finds the settlement negotiations were conducted at arms-length and in good faith among counsel for the Parties, and that the terms of the Settlement Agreement are in all respects fair, reasonable, and adequate as to each of the Parties and the Class Members, and are consistent and in compliance with all requirements of Due Process and California law, as to, and in the best interests of, each of the Parties and the Class Members.

         3. No Class Members have filed timely requests for exclusion. The Class Members who did not timely request exclusion are bound by this Final Order and Judgment and by the Settlement Agreement, including the releases provided for in this Final Order and Judgment and in the Settlement Agreement.

         4. The Notice of Settlement and the notice methodology that was implemented pursuant to the Settlement Agreement and this Court’s January 15, 2016 Order constituted the best practicable notice under the circumstances. The notice provided due, adequate and sufficient notice of the settlement approval proceedings and of the matters set forth in the proposed settlement, to all persons entitled to receive notice, and constituted notice reasonably calculated to apprise Class Members of their right to object to the proposed settlement and to appear at the Final Approval Hearing. The notice fully satisfied the requirements of the Rule 23(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, all applicable requirements of due process and California law, and the January 15, 2016 Order of this Court.

         5. The Court finds that Plaintiff’s Counsel and Plaintiff adequately represented ...


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