United States District Court, N.D. California
ALEXIS BRONSON and CRYSTAL HARDIN, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS AMERICA, INC. et al., Defendants.
ORDER RE (1) MOTION FOR CLASS CERTIFICATION; AND (2)
MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY APPROVAL OF CLASS SETTLEMENT
WILLIAM ALSUP UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
putative class action under the Song-Beverly Act and Section
17200 of the California Business and Professions Code,
plaintiff Crystal Hardin moves for conditional certification
of a settlement class and for preliminary approval of a class
settlement. To the extent below stated, both motions are
order detailed the lengthy history of this action (Dkt. No.
209). In brief, plaintiffs Crystal Hardin and Alexis Bronson
each bought Samsung plasma televisions in 2013. Both
television sets had been manufactured in 2013 and later
developed colored-lines on the screen. In 2018, each
plaintiff was separately told by two different
Samsung-authorized service and repair facilities that a spare
part was not available to fix their televisions. Defendants
Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. and Samsung Electronics
America, Inc. manufactured plaintiffs' plasma
Bronson (but not plaintiff Hardin) had commenced this
putative class action in April 2018. He then twice amended
his complaint. By January 2019, the operative complaint
contained only two surviving claims: a claim under Section
1793.03(b) of the California Civil Code and a derivative
claim under Section 17200 of the California Business and
Professions Code. More specifically, Section 1793.03(b)
required “[e]very manufacturer making an express
warranty with respect to an electronic or appliance
product” to “make available to service and repair
facilities sufficient service literature and functional parts
to effect the repair of a product for at least seven years
after the date a product model or type was manufactured,
regardless of whether the seven-year period exceeds the
warranty period for the product.” An order also then
permitted plaintiff Hardin to intervene.
April 2019, Samsung moved for summary judgment. In May 2019,
plaintiff Bronson (but not plaintiff Hardin) moved for
partial summary judgment. An order denied Samsung's
summary judgment motion. An order granted plaintiff
Bronson's partial summary judgment motion. Samsung had
not made functional parts available to service and repair
facilities for plaintiff Bronson's television as required
by Section 1793.03(b).
order also permitted the scope of discovery to extend to
television models other than those owned by the plaintiffs.
More specifically, the order permitted discovery for
“plasma television models purchased in 2013 and 2014
which contain[ed] the identical [faulty] part as
plaintiffs' specific plasma televisions” (Dkt. No.
155 at 3) (emphasis in original). Thus, as relevant for the
instant motion, since the television model plaintiff Hardin
owned contained the identical faulty part (part number
BN96-25240A), as two other models of television (models
PN51F5300 and PN51F5350) - discovery extended as to those
models as well. Plaintiff Hardin's model was numbered
May 2019, the parties have engaged in multiple settlement
discussions. In June 2019, plaintiff Hardin (but not
plaintiff Bronson) moved for class certification. In August
2019, after the motion was fully briefed, the parties struck
an agreement on a settlement “injunctive” class.
An order held the motion for class certification in abeyance.
September 2019, plaintiff moved for certification of the
settlement class and for preliminary approval of class
settlement (Dkt. No. 203). Samsung did not oppose.
brief, the details of this September proposed settlement
agreement are as follows. Counsel abandon certification of a
damages class under Rule 23(b)(3), in favor of an
injunctive-only class under Rule 23(b)(2). That is, although
the operative complaint sought class damages, the class would
receive zero dollars under the deal. In contrast, plaintiff
Bronson and plaintiff Hardin would each receive $6, 000 - and
plaintiffs' counsel would seek $487, 000 in fees, subject
to Court approval.
September settlement also drastically narrows the scope of
the class. The class for settlement purposes became (Dkt. No.
204 ¶ I.A.):
Any person in the State of California who owned as of July 1,
2019, a Samsung plasma television model PN51F5500, PN51F5300,
or PN51F5350 manufactured since January 1, 2013
(“Affected Models”), that exhibits a
“line” issue that requires a replacement plasma
display panel assembly (“PDP”) as confirmed
through diagnostic testing by [a Samsung]-authorized service
other words, compared to the class alleged in the amended
complaint, this new class definition excludes both putative
class members who owned televisions from 2009 until 2013 and
putative class members who no longer own televisions as of
July 2019. In addition, the new class limits the type of
television to three models (the prior class had included
every plasma television model). The new class definition also
imposes a brand new requirement: all televisions must have
undergone diagnostic testing by an authorized repair center.
September settlement, moreover, did not expressly release
absent class members' claims for damages, but those
damages claims were not expressly reserved. Instead, the
agreement merely noted that it was an injunctive-only class
and “requires no release of any monetary remedies by
any member of the [s]ettlement [c]lass” (id.
the September agreement explicitly prohibits any
form of notice to the class. That is, “Samsung
considers the absence of notice to the [s]ettlement [c]lass a
non-severable material term” (id. ¶
hearing, an order denied the September settlement as unfair,
unreasonable, and inadequate (Dkt. No. 209). Primarily, the
studied refusal to give notice killed the settlement. Even
though damages claims would theoretically survive, absent
class members would not be advised notice that they needed to
bring their own claims for damages (either on an individual
basis or a new class basis). During the pendency of the
litigation, all statute of limitations were tolled. But the
tolling would only be of value if the class members learned
that class counsel had left them to fend for themselves.
deal-breaker was the procedure imposed on objectors. The
procedure was unreasonable, an unreasonableness compounded by
the lack of notice to the objectors to even notify them of
the onerous requirements.
parties try again with a new settlement, referred to herein
as the October settlement. It purports to have fixed the