United States District Court, S.D. California
MICKEY LEE DILTS, RAY RIOS, and DONNY DUSHAJ, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
PENSKE LOGISTICS, LLC, PENSKE TRUCK LEASING CO., L.P., a Delaware corporation, and DOES 1 through 125, inclusive, Defendants.
FINAL APPROVAL OF CLASS SETTLEMENT AND AWARDS OF
ATTORNEYS' FEES, COSTS AND CLASS REPRESENTATIVE PAYMENTS
[DOC. NO. 376]
Cathy Ann Bencivengo United States District Judge.
matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs' unopposed
motion for final approval of class action settlement and
award of attorneys' fees, costs and class representative
enhancement awards. [Doc. No. 376.] The Court held a hearing
on this motion on May 22, 2017. As discussed below, the
motion for final approval is granted, and the motion for
attorneys' fees, costs and class representative
enhancement awards is granted in part.
initiated this putative class action lawsuit in the Superior
Court of San Diego County on January 17, 2008, alleging
various wage and hour violations of California's Labor
Code and its Unfair Competition Law, Cal. Bus. & Prof.
Code § 17200. Defendants removed the case to this Court
on January 25, 2008.
November 20, 2016, after nearly nine years of litigation,
including an appeal to the Ninth Circuit, the parties
notified the Court that they had reached a settlement of the
remaining certified claims. Plaintiffs filed an unopposed
motion for preliminary approval of the class action
settlement, which is memorialized in a written settlement
agreement dated January 23, 2017. [Doc. Nos. 370, 373.]
agreement provides for settlement of claims for meal periods
under the California Labor Code and Unfair Competition Law
(UCL) and derivative claims for wage statement and waiting
time penalties. It authorizes: (1) a class settlement in the
amount of $750, 000; (2) an average class member award of
approximately $950 from the Net Settlement amount; (3) a
class representative award of $15, 000 per person; and (4)
$12, 500 in class administrator fees. Additionally, $225, 000
in attorneys' fees and $135, 000 in costs is being
requested. The settlement defines the class as “all
persons employed by Penske in California facilities as
driver/installers or helpers/installers assigned to the
Whirlpool Account at any time during the period from January
17, 2004 through December 31, 2009.” [Doc. No. 373 at
January 23, 2017, Plaintiffs filed an unopposed motion for
preliminary approval of their settlement. [Doc. No. 370.] The
Court granted the motion and preliminarily approved the
settlement on February 6, 2017. [Doc. No. 372.] The
preliminary approval order set a final approval hearing for
May 22, 2017. The final approval hearing took place as
scheduled. Counsel for both parties attended. No class
members filed objections to the settlement, and no class
members attended the hearing. However, one class member
requested exclusion from the settlement.
Final Approval of Settlement
Legal Standard for Final Approval of Class
Rule of Civil Procedure 23(3) provides that “[t]he
claims, issues, or defenses of a certified class may be
settled, voluntarily dismissed, or compromised only with the
court's approval.” Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 23(e).
“Adequate notice is critical to court approval of a
class settlement under Rule 23(e).” Hanlon v.
Chrysler Corp., 150 F.3d 1011, 1025 (9th Cir. 1998). The
Rule also “requires the district court to determine
whether a proposed settlement is fundamentally fair,
adequate, and reasonable.” Id. at 1026. In
making this determination the Court is required to
“evaluate the fairness of a settlement as a whole,
rather than assessing its individual components.”
Lane v. Facebook, Inc., 696 F.3d 811, 818-19 (9th
Cir. 2012). Because a “settlement is the offspring of
compromise; the question we address is not whether the final
product could be prettier, smarter or snazzier, but whether
it is fair, adequate and free from collusion.”
Hanlon, 150 F.3d at 1027.
assessing a settlement proposal the district court is
required to balance a number of factors, namely:
the strength of the plaintiff's case; the risk, expense,
complexity, and likely duration of further litigation; the
risk of maintaining class action status throughout the trial;
the amount offered in settlement; the extent of discovery
completed and the stage of the proceedings; the experience
and views of counsel; the presence of a governmental
participant; and the reaction of the class members to the
Id. at 1026.
Adequacy of Notice
Court approved notice of this class action and proposed
settlement in the Preliminary Approval Order. The claims
administrator distributed the Notice to 354 class members.
The Notice advised the Class of the terms of the Settlement,
of their rights (1) to participate and to receive their share
of the Settlement automatically, without submission of a
claim form; (2) to object to the Settlement and to appear at
the Final Approval Hearing, (3) to request exclusion from the
Settlement; (4) the manner and timing for doing any of these
acts; and (5) the date and time set for the final approval
hearing. The Notice packet also included the class
member's individualized information such as the number of
workweeks worked during the Class Period, and the estimated
amount of their Settlement Payment. Adequate periods of time
were provided for each of these procedures. No class members
objected to the settlement or the adequacy of the Notice, and
only one class member requested exclusion from the class.
Accordingly, the Court finds that the Class received adequate
Strength of Plaintiffs' Case; Risk of Further Litigation;
and Risk of Maintaining Class Action Status
result of the preferable nature of Settlement over the
uncertainties, expense and length of litigation “when
assessing the strength of plaintiff's case, the court
does not reach any ultimate conclusions regarding the
contested issues of fact and the law that underlie the merits
of this litigation.” Four in One Co. v. S.K. Foods,
L.P., No. 2:08-CV-3017 KJM EFB, 2014 WL 4078238, at *7
(E.D. Cal. Aug. 14, 2014) (internal quotations omitted).
Similarly, “a proposed settlement is not to be judged
against a speculative measure of what might have been awarded
in a judgment in favor of the class.” Nat'l
Rural Telecomms. Coop. v. DIRECTV, Inc., 221 F.R.D. 523,
526 (C.D. Cal. 2004).
the Settlement has been reached after nearly nine years of
litigation, including an appeal to the Ninth Circuit.
Plaintiffs' claims at issue in the settlement involve
disputed legal issues. The inherent risk of further
litigation in this matter is known to all involved with the
case. Proceeding to trial on the remaining second meal period
claim presents a very real risk of an unfavorable decision on
the merits and/or on resulting appeals. While Plaintiffs
believe in the merits of their case, Defendants have strong
defenses to class liability and damages determinations, and
there is no guarantee that Plaintiffs will prevail.
Furthermore, as evidenced by the somewhat recent
decertification of four of the remaining six subclasses after
remand, the risk of maintaining class certification on the
remaining claim is ongoing. The Court finds these risks weigh
in favor of settlement.
The Amount ...