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Maloy v. Stucky, Lauer & Young, LLP

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

October 25, 2018

SAMUEL MALOY on behalf of Himself and others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
STUCKY, LAUER & YOUNG, LLP, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          THERESA L. SPRINGMANN CHIEF JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the parties' Joint Motion for Final Approval [ECF No. 27], resolving the Plaintiff's claims under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq. The parties move for a final order approving the proposed Class Settlement Agreement (Settlement Agreement). For the reasons stated herein, the Court finds, in part, that the Settlement Agreement is fair, reasonable, and adequate. The Court, however, reserves its judgment on the disbursement of attorney's fees.

         BACKGROUND

         The Plaintiff, on behalf of himself and others similarly situated, filed suit against Stucky, Lauer & Young, LLP on August 9, 2017. The Plaintiff stated that the Defendant sent a letter in connection with an alleged debt owed, which violated the FDCPA because it failed to disclose the Plaintiff's rights under § 1692g(a)(4). (Pl.'s Compl. at ¶¶19-20, 23-30, ECF No. 1.)

         On March 30, 2018, the Plaintiff filed a Motion to Certify Class and for Preliminary Approval of Class Action Settlement. [ECF No. 19]. The proposed class was defined as follows:

All natural persons with an Indiana address to whom Defendant sent a letter based on the Template[1] in connection with the collection of a consumer debt on or after August 9, 2016 through August 9, 2017. (Class Action Settlement Agreement § 3.1, ECF No. 19-1.)

         On May 29, 2018, the Court granted the Plaintiff's motion. [ECF No. 22]. After the Court granted the Plaintiff's Motion, the parties reached a proposed settlement that would resolve all claims in this case. On October 4, 2018, the parties filed a Joint Motion to Certify Class and Final Approval of Class Settlement. [ECF No. 26]. The Settlement Agreement requires the Defendant to pay $1, 000 to the named Plaintiff for his service as class representative and $5, 000 to be distributed among the 889 class members for whom the parties possess valid addresses. The anticipated recovery for the 889 class members is $5.62 each. (Joint Mot. to Certify Class and Final Approval of Class Settlement at 5.) Pursuant to the Settlement Agreement, the Defendant agrees not to contest an award of attorneys' fees up to $30, 000, and reasonable costs and expenses up to $3, 000 to Class Counsel. Id., at 4-5. Regarding the award of attorney's fees and expenses, the parties note that “[t]he Settlement, however, is not conditioned upon such an award, and the amount ultimately awarded will be let [sic] to the Court's discretion.” Id., at 5.

         The Court granted preliminary approval [ECF No. 22] on May 29, 2018. In connection with the preliminary approval, the Court ordered that class members be sent a notice of the proposed settlement. The Court also confirmed Joseph Panvini of Thompson Consumer Law Group, PLLC, as Class Counsel for the Class Representative and the Class. (Order ¶ 5.)

         The Court conducted a Fairness Hearing on October 5, 2018 [ECF No. 29], to consider: (i) the fairness, reasonableness, and adequacy of the settlement; (ii) the contents of the Final Order of Approval of Settlement; and (iii) the application of Class Counsel for attorney's fees and costs.

         DISCUSSION

         Pursuant to Rule 23, the Court will evaluate the notice provided to the class members, the adequacy of the settlement agreement, the additional payment to the Named Plaintiff, and the propriety of the attorney's fees.

         A. Notice

         Rule 23 requires that the Class Members receive “the best notice that is practicable under the circumstances, including individual notice to all members who can be identified through reasonable effort.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(c)(2)(B). Reasonable notice is required to all class members who would be bound by a proposed settlement. Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(e)(1).

         As directed by the Court (Order ¶ 7-8, ECF No. 22), the Plaintiff attests that a Class and Settlement Notice [ECF No. 19-2] was mailed to all class members. (Decl. of Class Counsel ¶¶ 9-11, ECF No. 28.) Of the 925 notices sent, 879 were successfully delivered in the first instance, 10 were forwarded to a new address, and 36 were returned to Class Counsel without any known forwarding address. Id., at ¶¶ 9-11. Class Counsel states that “all reasonable efforts were made to locate current ...


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