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Jarell v. Amerigas Propane, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California

April 5, 2018

JIMMIE JARRELL, Plaintiff,
v.
AMERIGAS PROPANE, INC., Defendant.

          APPROVAL AND GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS' FEES RE: ECF NOS. 44, 45

          JON S. TIGAR United States District Judge.

         Before the Court are Plaintiff Jimmie Jarrell's unopposed motions for final approval of the class action settlement, ECF No. 44, and for attorneys' fees, costs, and an incentive award to the named plaintiff, ECF No. 45. The Court granted preliminary approval of the settlement on August 4, 2017, and held a fairness hearing on January 11, 2018. ECF Nos. 43, 48. As ordered by the Court, counsel and the settlement administrator filed supplemental declarations in support of Jarrell's motion for attorneys' fees and costs on January 25 and February 6, 2018. ECF Nos. 51, 52, 54. The Court will grant the motion for final approval and grant in part and deny in part the motion for attorneys' fees, costs, and incentive award.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Jimmie Jarrell brings this wage and hour class action against Defendant AmeriGas Propane, Inc., on behalf of himself and other individuals who are or have been employed by AmeriGas as service technicians. The alleged violations concern meal and rest periods, payment for on-call time and travel time, vacation pay, and accuracy of wage statements.

         On August 4, 2017, the Court conditionally certified a settlement class and granted preliminary approval of the class action settlement agreement. ECF No. 43. The settlement class consists of “[A]ll persons employed by AmeriGas as a Service Technician (a non-exempt or hourly position) in California from February 16, 2012, through the date of preliminary approval.” Id. at 4 (citation omitted) (alteration in original).

         The settlement provides for a common fund of $800, 000, including: (1) payouts to class members; (2) attorneys' fees of not more than $266, 640 (33.33% of the common fund); (3) litigation costs and expenses not to exceed $35, 000; (4) settlement administration costs, estimated to be $20, 000; (5) an incentive award to Jarrell, not to exceed $10, 000; (6) a $30, 000 payment to the California Labor Workforce Development Agency; and (7) payroll taxes. ECF No. 37-1 at 30. Class member payouts will vary based on the number of weeks each class member worked during the class period. Id. at 33. Current employees who do not opt out will automatically receive a payout, whereas former employees must submit a claim form. Id. at 68, 86.

         At the time of preliminary approval, counsel estimated that there were 231 class members. ECF No. 37-1 at 3. However, the final class list included 283 members. ECF No. 47 at 5.

         The required notice to federal and state attorneys general under the Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1715(b), was sent on May 5, 2017. ECF No. 39 at 2. This notice occurred more than 90 days before the date of this order, as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1715(d).

         II. FINAL APPROVAL OF CLASS ACTION SETTLEMENT

         “The claims, issues, or defenses of a certified class may be settled . . . only with the court's approval.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 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). In addition, Rule 23(e) “requires the district court to determine whether a proposed settlement is fundamentally fair, adequate, and reasonable.” Id. at 1026. To assess a settlement proposal, the district court must balance a number of factors:

(1) the strength of the plaintiffs' 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.

Churchill Vill., LLC v. Gen. Elec., 361 F.3d 566, 575 (9th Cir. 2004). There is no governmental participant in this case, so the Court need not consider that factor.

         A. Adequacy of Notice

         A court must “direct notice [of a proposed class settlement] in a reasonable manner to all class members who would be bound by the proposal.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(e)(1). “The class must be notified of a proposed settlement in a manner that does not systematically leave any group without notice.” Officers for Justice v. Civil Serv. Comm'n of City & Cty. ...


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