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Moyle v. Liberty Mutual Retirement Benefit Plan

United States District Court, S.D. California

November 15, 2017

GEOFFREY MOYLE, an individual, PAULINE ARWOOD, an individual, THOMAS ROLLASON, an individual, and, JEANNIE SANDERS, an individual, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, and ROES 1 through 500, inclusive, Plaintiffs,
v.
LIBERTY MUTUAL RETIREMENT BENEFIT PLAN; LIBERTY MUTUAL RETIREMENT PLAN RETIREMENT BOARD; LIBERTY MUTUAL GROUP INC., a Massachusetts company; LIBERTY MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, a Massachusetts company; and, DOES 1 through 50, inclusive, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING UNOPPOSED MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY APPROVAL OF CLASS ACTION SETTLEMENT; DIRECTING ISSUANCE OF NOTICE; AND SETTING FINAL APPROVAL HEARING [Dkt. No. 332.]

          Hon. Gonzalo P. Curiel United States District Judge.

         Plaintiffs Geoffrey Moyle, Pauline Arwood, Thomas Rollason, and Jeannie Sanders (“Plaintiffs”) filed an unopposed Motion for Preliminary Approval of Class Action Settlement. Based on the findings and reasoning below, the Court GRANTS Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Approval.

         Discussion

         I. Preliminary Approval

         Rule 23(e) requires the Court to determine whether a proposed settlement is “fundamentally fair, adequate, and reasonable.” Staton v. Boeing Co., 327 F.3d 938, 959 (9th Cir. 2003) (internal quotations omitted). In making this determination, a court may consider: (1) the strength of the plaintiff's case; (2) “the risk, expense, complexity, and likely duration of further litigation;” (3) “the risk of maintaining class action status throughout the trial;” (4) “the amount offered in settlement;” (5) “the extent of discovery completed and the stage of the proceedings;” (6) “the experience and views of counsel;” (7) “the presence of a governmental participant;” and (8) “the reaction of the class members to the proposed settlement.” Id. (internal quotations omitted). Moreover, the settlement may not be the product of collusion among the negotiating parties. In re Mego Fin. Corp. Sec. Litig., 213 F.3d 454, 458 (9th Cir. 2000); see also Barani v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 2014 WL 1389329, at *4 (S.D. Cal. Apr. 9, 2014).

         In considering whether to preliminarily approve a class settlement, the Court should consider whether the deal is both procedurally and substantively fair. In re Tableware Antitrust Litig., 484 F.Supp.2d 1078, 1080 (N.D. Cal. 2007) (“preliminary approval of a settlement has both a procedural and a substantive component”). Specifically, the Court should confirm that “(1) the proposed settlement appears to be the product of serious, informed, non-collusive negotiations, (2) has no obvious deficiencies, (3) does not improperly grant preferential treatment to class representatives or segments of the class, and (4) falls with[in] the range of possible approval.” Dilts v. Penske Logistics, LLC, No. 08cv318-CAB(BLM), 2014 WL 12515159, *2 (S.D. Cal. July 11, 2014) (citations omitted).

         A. The Settlement Is the Product of Serious, Informed, Non-Collusive Negotiations

         A settlement agreement is presumed to be fair if it is reached in arm's length negotiations after relevant discovery has taken place. Cohorst v. BRE Prop., Inc., No. 3:10cv2666-JM(BGS), 2011 WL 7061923, *12 (S.D. Cal. Nov. 14, 2011) (stating that voluntary mediation before a retired judge in which the parties reached an agreement-in-principle are factors “highly indicative of fairness”) (citations omitted).

         In this case, the proposed Settlement is the product of over seven years of litigation. The Parties reached a settlement after completion of fact and expert discovery, an order certifying a class, a ruling in favor of Defendants on their motion for summary judgment, a cross-appeal to the Ninth Circuit, supplemental briefing and argument on Defendants' supplemental motion for summary judgment and a pending motion for reconsideration.

         The parties engaged an experienced class action and ERISA mediator and attended two separate full-day mediations, which was followed by several weeks of follow up over the telephone when the parties finally accepted the mediator's proposal on August 8, 2017.

         Thus, the posture of the litigation and the process of negotiating the Settlement indicate that the deal is informed and non-collusive. Further, the Settlement's terms demonstrate procedural fairness and lack of collusion.

         B. The Settlement Treats All Class Members Fairly

         Next, the Court should consider whether the proposed Settlement improperly grants preferential treatment to the Class Representatives or any segment of the Class. In re Tableware Antitrust Litig., 484 F.Supp.2d at 1079. Here, the proposed Settlement affords all Class members relief based on the accrual of past service credit at a rate of 50% of their time at GEIC. The class members will receive different amounts under the Settlement but that is based on the differences in the past service credit earned while at GEIC. The Settlement compensates each Class member in proportion to the harm he or she suffered.

         C. The Settlement Has No Obvious Deficiencies and Falls Well Within ...


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