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Marcoux v. Szwed

United States District Court, D. Maine

February 21, 2017

ALFRED MARCOUX and CHARLENE JONES, Plaintiffs,
v.
SUSAN J. SZWED, P.A., Defendant.

          DECISION AND ORDER ON CLASS ACTION SETTLEMENT AND ATTORNEY FEES

          Nancy Torresen United States Chief District Judge

         Before me is the Plaintiffs' unopposed motion for final approval of class action settlement and the Plaintiffs' unopposed motion for attorney fees and reimbursement of litigation expenses. This action involves a standardized initial debt collection letter sent to consumers by Susan J. Szwed, P.A. The Plaintiffs, Alfred Marcoux and Charlene Jones, allege those letters violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692 et seq., by failing to properly notify Maine consumers of how they could dispute the validity of the debts they were alleged to owe and how they could obtain from the Defendant verification of the legitimacy of those debts. The parties have come to an agreement to settle the case.

         Notice of the settlement has been successful, reaching 88 of the 89 consumers in the class. As part of the settlement, the Defendant has agreed to no longer use the form initial debt collection letter that was sent to class members. Class members will receive a modest recovery under the settlement. The proposed incentive payments for the two named Plaintiffs, the costs of notice and administration of the class settlement, and attorney fees and expenses will be paid separately from the class settlement fund.

         After conducting a fairness hearing on January 27, 2017, as Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(e) requires, I conclude that the settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate and that the incentive awards and attorney fees and expenses are reasonable.

         CLASS ACTION SETTLEMENT

         I. Settlement Class Certification

         The analysis of these factors in my October 3, 2016, Order of Preliminary Certification applies here equally. Marcoux v. Szwed, No. 2:15-CV-093-NT, 2016 WL 5720713 (D. Me. Oct. 3, 2016). No more need be said. I conclude, therefore, that certification of the proposed class is appropriate.

         II. Settlement and Plan of Distribution

         A proposed settlement is subject to the following procedure:

(1) The court must direct notice in a reasonable manner to all class members who would be bound by the proposal.
(2) If the proposal would bind class members, the court may approve it only after a hearing and on finding that it is fair reasonable, and adequate.
(3) The parties seeking approval must file a statement identifying any agreement made in connection with the proposal.
(4) If the class action was previously certified under rule 23(b)(3), the court may refuse to approve a settlement unless it affords a new opportunity to request exclusion to individual class members who had an earlier opportunity to request exclusion but did not do so.
(5) Any class member may object to the proposal if it requires court approval under this subdivision (e); the objection may be withdrawn only with the court's approval.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(e). Here, class members have received individual notice of the settlement; there has been a hearing; there are no side agreements; no class members filed written objections; no class members appeared at the hearing. What remains, then, is for me to determine ...


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