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Nangle v. Penske Logistics, LLC

United States District Court, S.D. California

June 16, 2017

SHANNON NANGLE and TIMOTHY MYERS, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
PENSKE LOGISTICS, LLC, a Delaware Corporation, and Does 1 through 100, inclusive, Defendants.

          FINAL APPROVAL OF CLASS SETTLEMENT AND AWARDS OF ATTORNEYS' FEES, COSTS AND CLASS REPRESENTATIVE PAYMENTS [DOC. NO. 91]

          Hon. Cathy Ann Bencivengo United States District Judge.

         This 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. 91.] 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.

         I. Background

         Plaintiffs initiated this putative class action lawsuit in the Superior Court of San Diego County on February 28, 2011, 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 April 18, 2011.

         On November 30, 2016, after nearly six years in which the litigation was pending[1], 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. 88, 90.]

         The agreement provides for settlement of claims for unpaid overtime and non-compliant 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 $500, 000; (2) an average class member award of approximately $500 from the Net Settlement amount; (3) a class representative award of $10, 000 per person; (4) $12, 500 in class administrator fees; and (5) civil penalties of $7, 500 to be paid to the Labor Workforce and Development Agency. Additionally, $125, 000 in attorneys' fees and $13, 292 in costs is being requested. [Doc. No. 90.]

         On January 23, 2017, Plaintiffs filed an unopposed motion for preliminary approval of their settlement. [Doc. No. 88.] The Court granted the motion and preliminarily approved the settlement on February 06, 2017. [Doc. No. 89.] 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, six class members requested exclusion from the settlement.

         II. Final Approval of Settlement

         A. Certification of the Settlement Class

         The settlement here envisions certification of a class of “all persons employed by Penske in California as hourly paid drivers for all delivery accounts, excluding any employees assigned to the California Whirlpool Account, at any time during the period from February 27, 2007 through the date of an Order granting preliminary approval of the Settlement or 90-days from the date of November 22, 2016, whichever is sooner.” [Doc. No. 90 at 4.] As a threshold matter, the Court must “ascertain whether the proposed settlement class satisfies the requirements of Rule 23(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure applicable to all class actions, namely: (1) numerosity, (2) commonality, (3) typicality, and (4) adequacy of representation.” Hanlon v. Chrysler Corp., 150 F.3d 1011, 1019 (9th Cir. 1998). Additionally, the Court must determine whether class counsel is adequate and whether “the action is maintainable under Rule 23(b)(1), (2), or (3).” In re Mego Fin. Corp. Sec. Litig., 213 F.3d 454, 462 (9th Cir. 2000) (quoting Amchen Prod. v. Windsor, 521 U.S. 591, 614 (1997)).

         1. Numerosity

         This requirement is satisfied if the class is “so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a)(1). “A class greater than forty members often satisfies this requirement. . . .” Waller v. Hewlett-Packard Co., 295 F.R.D. 472, 482 (S.D. Cal. 2013) (citing Californians for Disability Rights, Inc. v. Cal. Dep't of Transp., 249 F.R.D. 334, 346 (N.D. Cal. 2008)). Here, notice packets were mailed to 641 potential class members. Joinder of all these potential plaintiffs would be impracticable. Accordingly, this requirement has been met.

         2. Commonality

         This requirement is satisfied if “there are questions of law or fact common to the class.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a)(2). “To satisfy this commonality requirement, plaintiffs need only point to a single issue common to the class.” Vasquez v. Coast Valley Roofing, Inc., 670 F.Supp.2d 1114, 1121 (E.D. Cal. 2009). Here, the commonality requirement is satisfied because all of the class claims concern whether Defendant violated California Labor Code and the UCL by failing to pay overtime, incorrectly deducting off-the-clock work, failing to provide compliant meal periods, and other derivative claims for wage statement and waiting time penalties.

         3. Typicality

         This requirement is satisfied if “the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a)(3). “The test of typicality is whether other members have the same or similar injury, whether the action is based on conduct which is not unique to the named plaintiffs, and whether other class members have been injured by the same course of conduct.” Hanon v. Dataproducts Corp., 976 F.2d 497, 508 (9th Cir. 1992) (internal quotations and citation omitted). Here, the typicality requirement is satisfied because the claims of named Plaintiffs and the class are the same. The wrongful conduct alleged in the complaint is not unique to the class representatives, and the damages to the class members, if any, are similar insofar as they relate to unpaid wages and Labor Code violations.

         4. Adequacy of Class Representative

         The final Rule 23(a) requirement is that “the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a)(4). The requires the Court address two questions: “(a) do the named plaintiffs and their counsel have any conflicts of interest with other class members and (b) will the named plaintiffs and their counsel prosecute the action vigorously on behalf of the class.” In re Mego Fin. Corp. Sec. Litig., 213 F.3d at 462. Here, this requirement is satisfied because there is no obvious conflict between Ms. Nangle and Mr. Myers' interests and those of the class members.

         5. Adequacy of Class Counsel

         A court certifying a class must consider: “(i) the work counsel has done in identifying or investigating potential claims in the action; (ii) counsel's experience in handling class actions, other complex litigation, and the types of claims asserted in the action; (iii) counsel's knowledge of the applicable law; and (iv) the resources that counsel will commit to representing the class.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(g)(1)(A). The Court may also consider “any other matter pertinent to counsel's ability to fairly and adequately represent the interests of the class.” Id. at 23(g)(1)(B). Ultimately, when only one applicant seeks appointment as class counsel, the court must determine that “[c]lass counsel . . . fairly and adequately represent the interests of the class.” Id. at 23(g)(4). Here, Class Counsel has provided evidence of his firm's experience litigating overtime and rest/meal period cases, along with other wage and hour class cases, and there is nothing in the record to suggest that counsel is not able to fairly and adequately represent this Class. Accordingly, the Court finds this element satisfied for the purposes of certification of the settlement class.

         6. Predominance and Superiority

         “In addition to meeting the conditions imposed by Rule 23(a), the parties seeking class certification must show that the action is maintainable under Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(b)(1), (2) or (3).” Hanlon, 150 F.3d at 1022. “Rule 23 (b)(3) permits a party to maintain a class action if . . . the court finds that questions of law or fact common to class members predominate over any questions affecting only individual members, and that a class action is superior to other available methods for fairly and efficiently adjudicating the controversy. Connecticut Ret. Plans & Trust Funds v. Amgen Inc., 660 F.3d 1170, 1173 (9th Cir. 2011), aff'd, 133 S.Ct. 1184 (2013) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(b)(3)). The “predominance inquiry tests whether proposed classes are sufficiently cohesive to warrant adjudication by representation.” Hanlon, 150 F.3d at 1022-23 (quoting Amchen Prods, Inc., 521 U.S. at 623). It requires an examination into whether there are “legal or factual questions that qualify each class member's case as a genuine controversy.” Id.

         Here, all of the class members were allegedly subject to Defendants purported illegal wage deductions and wage forfeitures. The legal and factual questions common to each class member's claim predominate over any questions affecting individual class members, and a class action is superior to other methods for adjudicating this controversy. Accordingly, the Court finds that the predominance and superiority inquiries have been satisfied.

         In light of the foregoing, the Court conditionally certifies the class for the purposes of settlement.

         B. Legal Standard for Final Approval of ...


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