United States District Court, E.D. California
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY
APPROVAL OF CLASS ACTION SETTLEMENT AND DISMISSAL OF CLASS
CLAIMS (Doc. No. 225)
matter is before the court on April 18, 2017, for hearing of
plaintiff's unopposed motion for preliminary approval of
class action settlement and dismissal of class claims. (Doc.
No. 225.) Attorney Matthew Galin appeared telephonically on
behalf of plaintiff Robin Brewer, and attorney Malcolm Segal
appeared telephonically on behalf of defendant Scott Salyer.
Oral argument was heard and the motion was taken under
submission. For the reasons stated below, plaintiff's
motion will be granted.
September 21, 2006, plaintiff Robin Brewer filed a class
action complaint against defendant, president of a non-party
company, SK Foods. (Doc. No. 1.) Plaintiffs complaint is
based on allegations that defendant knowingly hired
undocumented immigrants at SK Foods for the purpose of
depressing wage rates.
filed a first amended complaint (“FAC”) on June
1, 2007. (Doc. No. 38.) In the FAC, plaintiff alleged
violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt
Organizations Act (“RICO”), 18 U.S.C. §
1961, based on the predicate offense of violating the
Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”).
(Id.) The specific INA violation plaintiff alleged
involved 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(3), which prohibits
importing undocumented aliens for employment purposes.
18, 2009, the court granted plaintiffs motion for class
certification. (Doc. No. 101.) In granting the plaintiffs
motion, the court certified a class of “All Seasonal
Hourly Wage Earners employed by SK Foods between June 1,
2003, and June 1, 2008.” (Id. at 18.) The
court subsequently granted plaintiffs motion to expand the
class to include all seasonal workers employed by SK Foods
from September 22, 2002, to the date of filing a second
amended complaint.” (Doc. No. 112.) Plaintiffs Second
Amended Complaint (“SAC”) reflecting the expanded
class was filed on July 21, 2009. (Doc. No. 113.)
2009, defendant Salyer was charged by way of indictment in a
federal criminal prosecution. (Doc. No. 173 at 2-3; 185.)
During this same period, SK Foods went into involuntary
bankruptcy, with Bradley Sharp appointed as Trustee.
(Id.) Because of the extensive litigation
surrounding the bankruptcy and the criminal proceedings
brought against Salyer, the court stayed discovery in this
entered a guilty plea in the criminal case in March 2012 and
was incarcerated between April 2013 and November 2016. (Doc.
No. 210 at 3.) On January 20, 2017, the court lifted the
discovery stay in this action, and required the parties to
file a motion for settlement, voluntary dismissal, or
compromise within sixty days of the date of that order. (Doc.
March 14, 2017, plaintiff filed the instant unopposed motion
for preliminary approval of class action settlement and
dismissal of claims. (Doc. No. 225.) Under the proposed
settlement agreement, the class will dismiss all claims
without prejudice, with each side to bear its own costs.
(Doc. No. 226 at 5.) Plaintiff now seeks an order (i)
approving the class settlement agreement; (ii) approving the
form and method of service, and directing that class notice
be sent to proposed class members; and (iii) setting a
hearing date on final settlement approval. (Id. at
have long recognized that settlement class actions present
unique due process concerns for absent class members.”
In re Bluetooth Headset Prods. Liab. Litig., 654
F.3d 935, 946 (9th Cir. 2011) (citation and internal
quotations omitted). To protect the rights of absent class
members, Rule 23(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
requires that the court approve all class action settlements
“only after a hearing and on finding that it is fair,
reasonable, and adequate.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(e)(2);
Bluetooth, 654 F.3d at 946.
of a proposed class action settlement ordinarily involves two
hearings. See Manual for Complex Litigation (4th)
§ 21.632. First, the court conducts a preliminary
fairness evaluation. If the court makes a preliminary
determination on the fairness, reasonableness, and adequacy
of the settlement terms, the parties are directed to prepare
the notice of proposed settlement to the class members.
Id. (noting that if the parties move for both class
certification and preliminary approval, the certification
hearing and preliminary fairness evaluation can usually be
combined). Second, the court holds a final fairness hearing
to determine whether to approve the settlement. Id; see
also Narouz v. Charter Commc'ns, Inc., 591 F.3d
1261, 1266-67 (9th Cir. 2010).
Proposed Settlement Agreement
here seeks approval of their proposed settlement agreement.
(Doc. No. 225.) Under Rule 23(e), a court may approve a class
action settlement only if the settlement is fair, reasonable,
and adequate. Bluetooth, 654 F.3d at 946.
“[Preliminary approval of a settlement has both a
procedural and substantive component.” See, e.g.,
In re Tableware AntitrustLitigation, 484
F.Supp.2d 1078, 1079 (N.D. Cal. 2007) (citing Schwartz v.
Dallas Cowboys Football Club, Ltd.,157 F.Supp.2d 561,
570 n.12 (E.D. Pa. 2001)). In particular, preliminary
approval of a settlement and notice to the proposed class is
appropriate if: (i) the proposed settlement appears to be the
product of serious, informed, non-collusive negotiations; and
(ii) the settlement falls within the range of possible
approval, has no obvious deficiencies, and does not
improperly grant preferential treatment to class
representatives or segments of the class. Id; see also
Ross v. Bar None Enterprises, Inc., No.
2:13-cv-00234-KJM-KJN, 2014 WL 4109592, at *9 (E.D. Cal. Aug.