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O'Connor v. Oakhurst Dairy

United States District Court, D. Maine

June 19, 2018

CHRISTOPHER O'CONNOR, et al. Plaintiffs,
v.
OAKHURST DAIRY, et al. Defendants.

          ORDER ON FINAL SETTLEMENT APPROVAL AND ATTORNEYS' FEES AND EXPENSES

          Nancy Torresen United States Chief District Judge

         Before me are a request for final approval of the settlement of all claims in this suit, (ECF No. 215), and a motion for attorneys' fees and costs (ECF No. 214). For the reasons stated below, I will approve the settlement and grant the motion for attorneys' fees.

         BACKGROUND

         This case concerns claims by Oakhurst Dairy (“Oakhurst”) Route Sales Drivers who pursued their claims for unpaid wages, other damages, costs, and attorneys' fees, on their own behalf and on behalf of other Route Sales Drivers assigned to an Oakhurst location in Maine between May 5, 2008 and August 29, 2012.[1] In May 2014, the Plaintiffs filed suit against Oakhurst and Dairy Farmers of America, Inc. Summary judgment was granted for the Defendants on the Plaintiffs' state law claims based on the statutory interpretation of a Maine law exemption to overtime. That judgment was reversed on appeal, and the parties conducted substantial discovery including depositions of all five Named Plaintiffs. The Plaintiffs filed a motion for class certification, and the Defendants filed a motion to decline supplemental jurisdiction. The parties mediated the Plaintiffs' claims and separately participated in a judicial settlement conference, and they agreed to settle their dispute in advance of trial. In March 2018, I authorized the Plaintiffs to circulate notices of the proposed settlement to potential class members. Order Authorizing Notice to Class and Establishing Schedule for Further Action (ECF No. 212).[2]

         After conducting a fairness hearing on June 13, 2018, as Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(e) requires, I conclude that: (1) the settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate; (2) that the attorney fees and expenses requested by Class Counsel are reasonable; and (3) the service awards to the five Named Plaintiffs are warranted and reasonable.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Settlement

         A. Legal Standard

         1. Rule 23

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(e) requires the following for approval of a class action settlement:

(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). The following factors are relevant for determining whether a settlement is “fair, reasonable, and adequate” under Rule 23(e)(2):

(1) comparison of the proposed settlement with the likely result of litigation;
(2) stage of the litigation and the amount of discovery completed;
(3) reaction of the class to the settlement;
(4) quality of counsel;
(5) conduct of negotiations;
(6) prospects of the case, including risk, complexity, expense and duration.

Scovil v. FedEx Ground Package Sys., Inc., No. 1:10-cv-515-DBH, 2014 WL 1057079, at *2 (D. Me. Mar. 14, 2014).

         B. ...


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