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Gonzalez v. Examination Management Services, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. California

August 27, 2019

MARIA T. GONZALEZ, on Behalf of Herself and All Others Similarly Situated, Plaintiff,
EXAMINATION MANAGEMENT SERVICES, INC., a Nevada Corporation; LABORATORY CORPORATION OF AMERICA HOLDINGS, a Delaware Corporation; SOKO UNITED CORP., a California Corporation; and DOES 1-10, inclusive, Defendants. EXAMINATION MANAGEMENT SERVICES, INC., a Nevada Corporation, Third-Party Plaintiff,
SOKO UNITED CORP., a California Corporation, Third-Party Defendant.


          Hon. Janis L. Sammartino, United States District Judge.

         Presently before the Court are Plaintiff Maria T. Gonzalez's unopposed Motions for (1) Final Approval of Class Action Settlement (“Final Approval Mot., ” ECF No. 74); and (2) Attorneys' Fees, Costs, and Incentive Award (“Att'y Fee Mot., ” ECF No. 75). The Court conducted a hearing on August 22, 2019. See ECF No. 80. Because the settlement is fundamentally fair, reasonable, and adequate, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's unopposed Final Approval Motion. Further, because the requested attorneys' fees, costs, and incentive award are reasonable, the Court GRANTS Plaintiffs' Attorney Fee Motion.


         This case began when Plaintiff Maria T. Gonzalez filed an action against Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings (“LabCorp”) and Examination Management Services, Inc. (“EMSI”) on May 24, 2017. See generally ECF No. 1 (“Compl.”). Plaintiff alleged Defendants improperly classified her and other phlebotomists as independent contractors. Id. ¶ 1. Plaintiff further alleged that this misclassification caused damages under several provisions of both federal and state law, including damages for failure to pay minimum wage, failure to provide accurate wage statements, and failure to provide timely payment of all wages upon discharge. Id. ¶ 3.

         On November 10, 2017, EMSI added Soko United Corporation (“Soko”) as a third-party defendant, alleging indemnity-based claims. See generally ECF No. 27. Plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint that added Soko as a defendant and alleged that Soko was the joint employer of Plaintiff and the proposed class along with EMSI and LapCorp. See generally ECF No. 29 (“SAC”).

         On March 7, 2018, the Parties attended a telephonic Early Neutral Evaluation with the Honorable Jill L. Burkhardt; however, the Parties did not agree to settlement terms at that time. See generally ECF No. 52. The Parties attended a mediation conducted by Jeffrey Krivis of First Mediation Corporation on July 5, 2018. Declaration of Aaron M. Olsen in Support of Final Approval Mot. (“Olsen Approval Decl., ” ECF No. 74-2) ¶ 7. Through that mediation, “the Parties were able to reach an outstanding settlement agreement on behalf of Plaintiff and the proposed Class.” Id.

         On September 21, 2018, the Parties sought preliminary approval from the Court, see generally ECF No. 66, which the Court granted. See generally ECF No. 73. Notice was then provided to all 118 Class Members. Declaration of Elizabeth Kruckenberg (“Kruckenberg Decl., ” ECF No. 74-7) ¶ 5. Three Class Members have opted out of the Settlement, leaving 115 Class Members. Id. ¶ 8. No Class Members have objected to the Settlement. Id. ¶ 9.

         The Parties are now before the Court to seek the Court's final approval of their Settlement. See generally ECF No. 74.


         The Parties have submitted a comprehensive settlement agreement with approximately forty pages of substantive terms. ECF No. 66-2 at 2-46 (“Proposed Settlement Agreement”).[1]

         I. Proposed Settlement Class

         The Proposed Settlement Class is defined to include “all Persons, regardless of specific title, who currently work for, or previously worked for, Soko as a phlebotomist, examiner, and/or PST Specialist who also worked at a LapCorp location pursuant to the Independent Contractor Agreement between Soko and EMSI, and/or the Provider Agreement between EMSI and LapCorp, at any time during the period of May 24, 2013 through the date of the Preliminary Approval Order.” Proposed Settlement Agreement ¶ 2.6. According to the Parties' investigation and available data, this constitutes “one hundred eighteen (118) Class Members.” See id.

         Three Class Members have excluded themselves from the Settlement, leaving 115 Settlement Class Members. Kruckenberg Decl. ¶ 8. None of the remaining 115 Settlement Class Members has objected to the Settlement. See Id. ¶ 9.

         II. Proposed Monetary Relief

         The Proposed Settlement Agreement provides for $700, 000 in Gross Settlement Proceeds, Proposed Settlement Agreement ¶ 5.1(a), “used to pay: (1) $175, 000 in attorneys' fees; (2) $5, 000 in litigation expenses; (3) $6, 500 in administrative expenses; (4) $5, 000 for the Class Representative Service Award; (5) $10, 000 for payment to the [California Labor and Workforce Development Agency (“LWDA”)] pursuant to [the Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”)]; and (6) the remainder $498, 500 used to pay the Settlement Class Members (“Net Settlement Proceeds”).” Final Approval Mot. at 6.

         Each of the 115 Settlement Class Members will receive a portion of the Settlement Fund “based on weeks worked” during the class period. Proposed Settlement Agreement ¶ 5.1(b). Should the Court approve the Proposed Settlement Agreement, each of the 115 Settlement Class Members will receive a payout as calculated in the Individual Work Weeks Form with Assumed Payout, attached as Exhibit B to the Decl. of Aaron M. Olsen. See Olsen Approval Decl. Ex. B, ECF No. 74-4. “[I]f a straight average allocation ...

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