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Fritzinger v. Angie's List, Inc.

United States District Court, Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division

September 22, 2014

Marie Fritzinger, Plaintiff,
v.
Angie’s List, Inc., Defendant.

ORDER

HON. JANE MAGNUS-STINSON, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

Plaintiff Marie Fritzinger and Defendant Angie’s List, Inc. (“Angie’s List”) entered into a Settlement Agreement to fully and finally resolve all claims pending against Defendant. On April 17, 2014, the Court granted preliminary approval of the proposed Settlement between the Plaintiff and Defendant (“Preliminary Approval Order”). [Filing No. 129.] The Court authorized dissemination of notice of the Settlement and the Final Settlement Hearing to the Settlement Class. [Filing No. 129.] Notice was disseminated to the Settlement Class in accordance with the Preliminary Approval Order, and a Final Settlement Hearing was held on September 17, 2014. One objection was made to the settlement. [Filing No. 130.]

Having now considered the Plaintiff’s and all others’ written submissions, including the parties’ response to the areas of inquiry noticed by the Court, [Filing No. 137], oral argument and counsel’s responses to the Court’s questions at the Final Settlement Hearing, and all evidence and records filed in this matter in connection with the proposed settlement, and having already held, for the reasons set out in detail in the Court’s Order Granting Preliminary Approval of Settlement that: (i) the Court has jurisdiction over this action; (ii) the Settlement satisfies Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(e)(2)’s requirement that it be “fair, adequate, and reasonable”; (iii) the Settlement Class satisfies the requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a)-(b); and (iv) the notice provided to the Settlement Class satisfied the requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(c)(2)(B), (e)(1), and the due process requirements of the Constitution IT IS HEREBY ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED:

1. This Court has jurisdiction over this Litigation.

2. The terms capitalized in this Order and Final Judgment have the same meanings as those used in the Settlement Agreement.

3. The Court hereby certifies, for settlement purposes only, the following Settlement Class pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 23 and reaffirms its appointment of Settlement Class Counsel on behalf of this class:

All monthly and annual Angie’s List members who, from January 1, 2009 to January 31, 2014: 1) paid a renewal fee that exceeded the lowest prevailing new member fee in the their market, and/or 2) were members in a market prior to that market’s conversion to “paid health” status and who were automatically renewed into a Bundle membership in the renewal immediately following that market’s conversion to “paid health” status, at a fee which allegedly resulted in damages.
Excluded from the Settlement Class Members are: officers, directors, employees, or agents of Angie’s List (or its predecessors, successors, assigns, and/or any affiliated entities); members of Brownstone Publishing, LLC; any member of the Settlement Class who timely and validly requests exclusion; Angie’s List’s counsel; Settlement Class Counsel; any judge in this Lawsuit; and any immediate family member of any such person(s).

4. Certification of the Settlement Class is done for settlement purposes only. As part of the Settlement, Defendant has not objected to certification of the Settlement Class. In the event any portion of the Settlement or this Order or the Final Judgment issued on this date is ultimately reversed, vacated, or modified in any material respect on appeal, and any portion of the Litigation continues, the Settlement Agreement shall have no force or effect; the Parties shall be restored, without waiver, to their respective positions prior to January 31, 2014; certification of the Settlement Class shall be vacated; the Lawsuit shall proceed as though the Settlement Class had never been certified and the Motion for Preliminary Approval of Settlement and supporting memorandum had not been filed; and Angie’s List shall have the right to oppose the certification of any plaintiff class.[1]

5. Notice to Class Members has been provided in accordance with the notice requirements specified by the Court in the Preliminary Approval Order. Such notice: (i) constituted the best notice to Class Members that was practicable under the circumstances; (ii) constituted notice that was reasonably calculated, under the circumstances, to apprise Class Members of their right to object and to appear at the Final Settlement Hearing and the binding effect of a class judgment; (iii) was reasonable and constituted due, adequate and sufficient notice to Persons entitled to be provided with notice; and (iv) fully complied with the requirements of due process and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

6. The Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1715 (“CAFA”), requires that certain federal and state governmental officials be given notice of a proposed class action settlement. Defendant gave CAFA notice to the United States Attorney General and to the Attorneys General of all fifty states, as well as the Attorneys General of the District of Columbia, Gram, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Court finds that the Defendant’s notice obligations under CAFA, and specifically 28 U.S.C. § 1715(b), have been satisfied and any notice required thereunder has been provided.

7. For the reasons that follow, the Settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(e)(2) and is approved in its entirety.

First, the Court received one objection to the reasonableness of the Settlement. [Filing No. 130.] This objection is OVERRULED. First, the objection aptly describes the disconnect between Angie’s List's mission and the objector’s view of the alleged misconduct in this case, i.e. a company that touts a mission of arming consumers with information but who imposed increased membership fees that at best resulted from entirely legal provisions contained in the fine print of its membership agreement and at worst were the product of fraud. However, the objection directs the Court to California consumer protection laws, which are inapplicable in this case (Indiana law governs). Further, the objection reveals a misunderstanding of the underlying facts of the case. In addition, it presumes liability and recovery without regard to the serious risks of litigation and potentially valid defenses facing the class as discussed in more detail below.

Second, as explained by Angie’s List at the hearing, the alleged conduct in this case involved a failure to notify the class that it could unbundle services rather than “upbundling” them, which the Court finds significant in evaluating the alleged conduct in the case. Moreover, the Settlement requires Angie’s List to make clear to their customers precisely what ...


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