United States District Court, N.D. California
DOMENICA LEWIS, JEROLD LEWIS, DOMENICA LEWIS as guardian ad-litem for her minor children, and PROJECT SENTINEL, Plaintiffs,
SILVERTREE MOHAVE HOMEOWNERS' ASSOCIATION, INC., CAROL LEE ADAMS, MARILYN BLACK, ANAND BHASKARAN, and TAMELA DURANT, individually and as members of the Board of Directors, and DONALD MURPHY individually and d/b/a/ MANAGEMENT SOLUTIONS, Defendants. Name Title Graduation Year (JD) Hourly Rate Law Foundation of Silicon Valley
ORDER RE MOTION FOR FINAL SETTLEMENT APPROVAL AND
WILLIAM ALSUP UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
fair housing class action, plaintiffs move for final approval
of a proposed settlement agreement and for attorneys'
fees. The motion for final approval is
Granted. The motion for attorneys' fees
is Granted in Part.
in 2000 and continuing in substantially the same form until
2015, defendant Silvertree Mohave Homeowners' Association
adopted a “no sports play” rule, which prohibited
any children under the age of 14 from being in the
complex's common areas without adult supervision, and
from engaging in any “sports activities” in the
common areas. The homeowners' association board of
directors enforced this rule, including by posting notice of
the rule in the HOA's monthly newsletters and fining
parents of children in breach of the rule. Though the
“no sports play” rule was suspended for some time
in 2015, the board voted to approve an emergency rule
prohibiting bike and scooter riding, which was applied
notwithstanding the suspension of the remainder of the rule
(Dkt. No. 73 at 3-4; Dkt. No. 74 ¶¶ 9-12, 14-16).
2016, plaintiffs filed suit against the HOA, its board
members, and the complex manager, Donald Murphy (d/b/a/
Management Solutions). The complaint alleged seven claims for
violations of federal and state fair housing and
anti-discrimination laws, and sought monetary and injunctive
relief on behalf of a putative class of residents of the
complex who had minor children living with them in the
complex during the class period.
February 2017, plaintiffs filed an unopposed motion for
appointment of interim class counsel in order to engage in
settlement discussions. That motion observed that the
plaintiffs had identified, through discovery, the scope and
enforcement of the rule at issue, the likely size of the
class, and the strength of class claims. Plaintiffs expressed
their belief that this was the type of case in which early
settlement discussions could lead to a resolution and
conserve resources available to defendants for the benefit of
the class (Dkt. No. 49 at 2-4).
concerns that plaintiffs' counsel may discount a recovery
based upon the risk that class certification would be denied,
an order directed plaintiffs to make a preliminary showing
that they were likely to succeed in certifying a Rule 23
class, and to indicate any circumstances that required
settlement discussions other than concerns over wasting the
defendants' insurance policy (Dkt. No. 50). After
considering plaintiffs' response and declarations (Dkt.
Nos. 53-55) an order appointed interim counsel and permitted
plaintiffs to proceed to mediation before Magistrate Judge
Jacqueline Corley (Dkt. No. 56).
plaintiffs' motion for class certification proceeded, the
parties reached a settlement agreement during a conference
with Judge Corley (Dkt. No. 81). On June 15, 2017, an order
preliminarily approved the proposed settlement and set a
final approval hearing (Dkt. No. 84). A July 14 order
conditionally approved class notice, which notice was mailed
on July 21, 2017 (Dkt. No. 90).
now move for final approval of the settlement on behalf of a
class defined as (Dkt. No. 83-1 ¶ 1(e)):
All persons who currently live or have lived at the
Silvertree-Mohave Condominium Complex in Fremont, California,
at any time from January 1, 2011, through the present, and
lived there with children under the age of 14, or who were
themselves minor children under the age of 14.
settlement provides for injunctive relief including, among
other things, that defendants will permanently rescind all
no-sports-play rules and will not enact any rule that
prohibits children from playing in common areas in the
future, that defendants will post signs in common areas
making the new child-friendly policy known to residents, that
defendants Carol Adams and Marilyn Black will resign from the
board, that the board will receive fair housing training, and
that the HOA will undertake a plan to evaluate the need for
and provide play areas for children in the common areas of
the complex (Dkt. No. 83 at 2-3). The settlement further
provides that the class will receive $800, 000 to be divided
equally among the approximately 334 class members.
Additionally, lead plaintiffs the Lewis family will receive
$35, 000, and lead plaintiff Project Sentinel will receive
$19, 000 (id. at 4). The settlement does not provide
for any award of attorneys' fees, which the parties
agreed will be determined separately by the Court
(id. at 5).
exchange, class members have agreed to release the first,
second, third, fourth and seventh claims set forth in the
complaint. To date, no putative class members have objected
to the settlement, and the deadline for written objections
has passed. Four class members have opted out (Dkt. No. 94-1
counsel also moves for attorneys' fees in the amount of
$468, 888, and costs in the amount of $3, 461.02 (Dkt. No. 95
do not oppose the settlement, or the costs sought. They do
oppose the amount of attorneys' fees. This order follows
full briefing and oral argument.
Final Approval of Class Settlement.
approval of a proposed class settlement is appropriate upon a
finding that the settlement is “fair, reasonable and
adequate” taking into account: “(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 view of counsel; (7) the presence of a
governmental participant; and (8) the reaction of the class
members to the proposed settlement.” FRCP 23(e); In
re Online DVD-Rental Antitrust Litig., 779 F.3d 934, 944
(9th Cir. 2015).
approval that takes place prior to formal class certification
requires a higher standard of fairness.” Hanlon v.
Chrysler Corp., 150 F.3d 1011, 1026 (9th Cir. 1998). As
a result, district courts are “particularly vigilant
not only for explicit collusion, but also for more subtle
signs that class counsel have allowed pursuit of their own
self-interests and that of certain class members to infect
the negotiations.” In re Bluetooth Headset Prods.
Liab. Litig., 654 F.3d 935, 947 (9th Cir. 2011).
there is no intimation of collusion or self-interest on the
part of class counsel. Indeed, to guard against this concern,
class counsel has agreed that it will not receive any fees as
part of the settlement, and instead were required to make a
separate fee application, which in no way bears upon the
class members' recovery.
settlement came after nearly a year of litigation during
which time the parties had ample opportunity to take
discovery and assess the merits of this action, and
settlement talks were conducted under the supervision of
Judge Corley. Ultimately, plaintiffs secured substantial
relief for the class, including all of the injunctive relief
sought as well as a monetary award of approximately $2, 335
per plaintiff (under which scheme a family ...