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Lace v. Fortis Plastics LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

March 24, 2015

HENRY LACE, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
FORTIS PLASTICS LLC and MONOMOY CAPITAL PARTNERS, L.P., Defendants. JIM YOUNG, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
FORTIS PLASTICS LLC and MONOMOY CAPITAL PARTNERS, L.P., Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

JON E. DeGUILIO, District Judge.

Now before the Court are joint motions for preliminary approval of the proposed settlement of these two class action suits. [DE 78 in 363; DE 76 in '364.][1] The Court has reviewed the motions and briefs in support in both cases; the filings appear to be identical in both cases. Accordingly, all of the pending motions are addressed in a single order. The parties seek certification of a settlement class, as well as the Court's preliminary approval of the class settlement as set forth in the Settlement Agreement. [DE 78-1 in 363; DE 76-1 in 364.] In addition, the parties want the Court to approve the Notice of Class Action Settlement. [DE 78-2 in 363; DE 76-2 in 364.]

I. Background

On September 24, 2014, the Court ordered that class certification was warranted in each case under Rule 23(a) and (b)(3) for a class that was seeking damages under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification ("WARN") Act, 29 U.S.C. ยง 2101.[2] The Plaintiffs alleged that workers at both Fortis Plastics facilities were terminated without the advance notice required by the WARN Act. In the 363 action, the Court certified the following class:

Any and all persons who worked at or reported to the facility located at 3615 Voorde Drive, South Bend, Indiana, on the date sixty days prior to the closing of that facility.

[DE 62 at 22 in 363.] In the 364 action, the Court certified the following class:

Any and all persons who worked at or reported to the facility located at 428 South U Street, Fort Smith, Arkansas, on the date sixty days prior to the closing of that facility.

[DE 60 at 19 in 364.] Harwood Feffer, LLP, was appointed as class counsel and Anderson, Agostino & Keller, P.C., was appointed as liaison counsel in each case. Mr. Lace was appointed as class representative in the 363 action and Mr. Young was appointed as class representative in the 364 action. After the parties conducted additional discovery, they reached a settlement. As a result, the parties are requesting that the Court preliminarily approve the settlement, as well as grant related relief.

II. Consolidation

As an initial matter, based on the proposed settlement-which includes a joint settlement fund from which the claims of both classes would be paid-as well as the substantially identical issues raised by these two cases, the Court proposes to consolidate the two cases for the purposes of settlement approval. The parties are ORDERED to file, within 10 days of this order, a filing indicating their position with respect to consolidation.

III. Class Certification

As noted above, the Court previously certified a class in each of the cases at issue in this order. In their joint motion, the parties propose a slightly modified class definition, which would be applicable to both cases. They ask the Court to certify the following class:

(a) all persons who worked at the Fortis facility located at 3615 Voorde Drive, South Bend, Indiana up to 60 days prior to its closing (the "Indiana Class"), and (b) all persons who worked at the Fortis facility located at 428 South U Street, Fort Smith, Arkansas up to 60 days prior to its closing (the "Arkansas Class").

[DE 81 at 4-5 in 363; DE 77 at 4-5 in 364.]

The Court finds the proposed class meets the requirements for certification under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) and (b)(3) and incorporates the reasoning contained in the initial opinions certifying the respective classes in each case. [DE 62 in 363; DE 60 in 364.] Accordingly, the Court MODIFIES the definition of the previously certified class to the definition jointly proposed by the parties and stated above.

Rule 23 requires that a court certifying a class also appoint class counsel. Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(c)(1)(B), (g). Class counsel must fairly and adequately represent the interests of the class. Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a)(4). Here, Harwood Feffer, LLP, and Anderson, Agostino & Keller, P.C., have been representing the respective classes since the initial certification was made. For the same reasons previously stated, Harwood Feffer, LLP, is appointed as class counsel and Anderson, Agostino & Keller, P.C., is appointed as liaison counsel for the revised class. Mr. Lace is appointed representative of the Indiana Class and Mr. Young is appointed representative of the Arkansas Class.

IV. Class Notice and Settlement

For classes certified under Rule 23(b)(3), the following notice must be given to the class members concerning the class certification:

[T]he best notice that is practicable under the circumstances, including individual notice to all members who can be identified through reasonable effort. The notice must clearly and ...

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