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Daniel v. Ford Motor Co.

United States District Court, E.D. California

February 10, 2017

MARGIE DANIEL, individually and on behalf of a class of similarly situated individuals, Plaintiff,
v.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY, a Delaware corporation, Defendant.

          ORDER RE: MOTION FOR APPROVAL OF CLASS NOTICE AND NOTICE PLAN

          WILLIAM B. SHUBB UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Margie Daniel brought this class action against defendant Ford Motor Company (“Ford”), alleging that Ford sold her and other customers vehicles that were built with defective rear suspensions. (Compl. (Docket No. 42).) The court granted plaintiff's motion for class certification on September 23, 2016. (Sept. 23, 2016 Order (Docket No. 123).) The class certified in this action is presently defined as: “[I]ndividuals who (1) purchased or leased any new 2005 through 2011 Ford Focus vehicle in California, (2) currently own such a vehicle, and (3) currently reside in the United States.” (Nov. 1, 2016 Order (Docket No. 131).)

         Having been granted class certification, plaintiff now moves for approval of her proposed class notice and notice plan. (Pl.'s Mot. (Docket No. 138).) Defendant supports plaintiff's Motion. (Id. at 3.)

         Where the court certifies a class under Rule 23(b)(3), as it did here, it “must direct to class members the best notice that is practicable under the circumstances, including individual notice to all members who can be identified through reasonable effort.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(c)(2)(B). Although notice must be “reasonably calculated . . . to apprise interested parties of the pendency of the action, ” actual notice is not required. Silber v. Mabon, 18 F.3d 1449, 1454 (9th Cir. 1994) (citation omitted). Rule 23(c)(2) governs both the form and content of a proposed notice. See Ravens v. Iftikar, 174 F.R.D. 651, 658 (N.D. Cal. 1997) (citing Eisen v. Carlisle & Jacquelin, 417 U.S. 156, 172-77 (1974)).

         Plaintiff's proposed notice plan entails “[m]ailing individual, postcard notice . . . to the members of the Class for which current mailing addresses are available.” (Pl.'s Mot. at 4.) Plaintiff will obtain members' mailing addresses by reviewing “data provided by Ford” and “DMV information . . . collected and held by . . . IHS Markit, ” a third-party data collector that has agreed to release DMV information to plaintiff upon court order. (Joint Status Report at 2 (Docket No. 141); Pl.'s Mot. at 6.) The parties represent, based on an estimate provided by their claims administrator, that the combination of information provided by Ford and IHS Markit “will yield contact information for very close to 100% of Class Members.” (Joint Status Report at 2.)

         In light of the parties' representation that “individual mailing should indeed reach very close to 100% of Class Members, ” (id.), the court is satisfied that plaintiff's notice plan is “reasonably calculated . . . to apprise interested parties of the pendency of [this] action” and is “the best notice that is practicable under the circumstances.”

         With respect to the content of plaintiff's proposed notice, Rule 23(c)(2)(B) requires that the notice “clearly and concisely state” the following: “(i) the nature of the action; (ii) the definition of the class certified; (iii) the class claims, issues, or defenses; (iv) that a class member may enter an appearance through an attorney if the class member so desires; (v) that the court will exclude from the class any member who requests exclusion; (vi) the time and manner for requesting exclusion; and (vii) the binding effect of class judgment on members.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(c)(2)(B). Additionally, “notice must be neutral and must avoid endorsing the merits of the claim[s].” Adoma v. Univ. of Phoenix, Inc., No. CIV. S-10-0059 LKK/G, 2010 WL 4054109, at *2 (E.D. Cal. Oct. 15, 2010).

         Plaintiff's postcard notice provides a brief explanation of the nature of this action, the definition of the class, and instructions for remaining in or opting out of the class. (See Joint Status Report Ex. A, Revised Postcard Notice.) It directs class members to “a website specifically designated for this case” on which a “long-form notice” containing more detailed information about this case can be viewed. (Id.) Class members may also call a toll-free number and request that the long-form notice be mailed to them. (Id.)

         The long-form notice states: (1) the nature of this action, (Pl.'s Mot. Ex. B, Long-Form Notice ¶ 3 (Docket No. 138-1)); (2) the class certified, (id. ¶ 1); (3) the claims, issues, and defenses in this action, (id. ¶ 3); (4) that class members may appear through an attorney, (id. ¶ 6); (5) that class members may request exclusion, (id. ¶ 5); (6) how to request exclusion, (id.); and (7) the binding effect of remaining in the class, (id. ¶ 1). Both the long-form notice and postcard notice are neutral with respect to the parties' positions and the current posture of this case. Accordingly, the court finds that the content of plaintiff's postcard and long-form notices satisfy the requirements of Rule 23(c)(2)(B).

         Because plaintiff's proposed notice and notice plan satisfy the requirements of Rule 23(c)(2)(B), the court will grant plaintiff's Motion.

         IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that plaintiff's Motion for approval of class notice and notice plan be, and the same hereby is, GRANTED as follows:

         (1) The proposed notice plan described in plaintiff's Motion (Docket No. 138) and clarified in the parties' February 8, 2017 Joint Status Report (Docket No. 141) is hereby approved.

         (2) The proposed postcard notice attached to the parties' February 8, 2017 Joint Status Report (Docket No. 141 Ex. A) and the proposed long-form notice attached to plaintiff's Motion (Docket No. 138-1 Ex. B) are hereby approved.

         (3) The parties are hereby authorized and directed to obtain class members' contact information from IHS Markit ...


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