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Brewer v. Salyer

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 29, 2017

ROBIN BREWER, Plaintiff,
SCOTT SALYER, Defendant.


         This matter is before the court on June 26, 2017, for a hearing concerning final approval of the proposed class action settlement and dismissal of the 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 matter was taken under submission. For the reasons stated below, the court will grant final approval of the proposed class action settlement.


         On September 21, 2006, plaintiff Robin Brewer filed a class action complaint against defendant, president of a non-party company, SK Foods. (Doc. No. 1.) Plaintiff's complaint is based on allegations that defendant knowingly hired undocumented immigrants at SK Foods for the purpose of depressing wage rates.

         Plaintiff 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.

         On May 18, 2009, the court granted plaintiff's motion for class certification. (Doc. No. 101.) In granting the plaintiff's 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 plaintiff's 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.) Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”) reflecting the expanded class was filed on July 21, 2009. (Doc. No. 113.)

         On January 5, 2010, defendant Salyer was charged by way of criminal complaint with multiple counts of mail and wire fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1341, 1343. See United States v. Frederick Scott Salyer, Case No. 2:10-cr-00061 TLN (E.D. Cal.)). On February 18, 2010, the federal grand jury for this district indicted him on charges of engaging in racketeering activity through a pattern of mail and wire fraud as well as bribery in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962 along with other charges. (Id.) 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 against defendant Salyer, the court stayed discovery in this action. (Doc. No. 173.)

         Defendant Salyer entered a guilty plea in his 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 the present case, and required the parties to file a motion for settlement, voluntary dismissal, compromise or such other motion required to move the matter toward disposition within sixty days of the date of the order. (Doc. No. 224.)

         On March 14, 2017, plaintiff filed an 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.) On April 18, 2017, this court granted preliminary approval of the settlement agreement and authorized the proposed form of notice to class members. (Doc. No. 230.)

         After conducting the final fairness hearing and considering the terms of the settlement, the court now addresses whether the proposed settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate. See Mitchinson v. Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores, No. 1:15-cv-01474-DAD-BAM, 2017 WL 2289342, at *2 (E.D. Cal. May 25, 2017).


         “Courts 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.

         Review 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).


         A. Final ...

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