United States District Court, District of Columbia
FREDDIE BELOTE, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
RIVET SOFTWARE, INC., Defendant.
WILEY Y. DANIEL, Senior District Judge.
THIS MATTER is before the Court on the parties' request for final approval of the settlement reached in this class action, which is reflected in the Settlement Agreement attached as Exhibit A to the Parties' Joint Motion for Approval of Class Settlement. A hearing was held pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(e)(2) as to the fairness of the settlement on Wednesday, August 6, 2014. For the reasons stated below, the settlement in this case is approved as fair, adequate and reasonable.
II. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Plaintiff filed a class action against Defendant Rivet Software, Inc. ["Rivet"] asserting a claim under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, 29 U.S.C. § 2101 et seq. ["WARN Act"], and seeking damages on behalf of himself and other similarly situated former employees. Specifically, Plaintiff alleged that Rivet did not provide employees affected by a May 2012 layoff with the sixty-day notice required under the WARN Act. In Rivet's Answer, it generally denied Plaintiff's allegations and asserted a number of affirmative defenses which could reduce or eliminate its liability to Plaintiff and members of the class. Among these defenses, Rivet asserted that it acted in good faith with regard to carrying out the layoff and that the shortened WARN Act notice was necessitated by unforeseeable business circumstances.
On March 1, 2013, Plaintiff filed an unopposed Motion for Class Certification and Related Relief. The motion sought certification of a class pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 23 comprised of Plaintiff and the other persons similarly situated who were allegedly terminated without cause in connection with the mass layoff and/or plant closing on or about June 1, 2012 at Defendant's facility; the appointment of Outten & Golden LLP as Class Counsel; the appointment of Plaintiff as the Class Representative; approval of the form and manner of Notice of Class Action; and such other relief as this Court may deem proper.
On May 28, 2013, an Order was issued granting class certification (certifying a class of 123 employees) and appointing Outten & Golden LLP as Class Counsel. On June 17, 2013, a Notice of Class Action was mailed to each Class Member. A Declaration of Opt-Outs was executed and filed by Class Counsel on July 29, 2013, affirming that seven putative class members opted out of the class.
On June 5, 2014, the Parties filed a Joint Motion for Approval of Settlement. The motion asserted that after several months of good faith negotiations and consideration regarding the uncertainty of the outcome of further costly litigation, and following formal mediation, the parties agreed upon the settlement terms and conditions set forth in the Settlement Agreement attached to the motion as Exhibit A. Under the proposed settlement, Defendants will pay to the Class Members a total of $200, 000 ("Settlement Amount"), of which $2, 000.00 will be deducted for the Class Representative award, and 33 1/3% will be deducted for attorneys' fees, plus expenses, leaving a balance of $128, 000 to be divided on a pro rata basis and made payable to each of the Class Members, including the Plaintiff. The Joint Motion requested that the court: (a) preliminarily approve the Settlement Agreement as fair, reasonable, and adequate; (b) schedule a Fairness Hearing on the Settlement a agreement; and (c) approve the Notice of Proposed Settlement of Class Action and Fairness Hearing attached as Exhibit B.
By Order of June 12, 2014, I granted the Joint Motion for Approval of Settlement, preliminarily approving the Settlement Agreement attached as Exhibit A. The Order stated that the Settlement Agreement would be subject to final approval by the Court following the fairness hearing at issue in this Order. It was ordered therein that the Notice of Proposed Settlement of Class Action and Fairness Hearing in the form of Exhibit B to the Motion be mailed to class members as more particularly set forth in the Settlement Agreement, advising them of their right to request exclusion from the class or to file objections to the Settlement Agreement.
On July 2, 2014, an Affidavit of Mailing of Notice of Proposed Settlement of Class Action and Fairness Hearing was filed, stating that the Notice had been mailed to the putative class members. The Notice was attached to the Affidavit, and advised the class members that objections to the settlement were due by July 30, 2014. The Notice also advised the class members that objections could be made to the attorneys' fees and expenses to be awarded to Class Counsel under the settlement. The objections were to include the objector's name, address, and telephone number and the basis for the objection. It also advised persons objecting that they may also appear at the fairness hearing.
On August 1, 2014, an Affidavit was filed stating that no Objections to the proposed settlement were filed.
On August 6, 2014, I held a fairness hearing to determine whether the Parties' proposed settlement was fair, reasonable, and adequate. Counsel were present at the hearing, either in person or by telephone. No class members were present.
A. The Fairness of the ...