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Grimes v. Evergreen Recreational Vehicles, LLC

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

September 4, 2019

MATTHEW GRIMES, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
EVERGREEN RECREATIONAL VEHICLES, LLC, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Jon E. Deguilio Judge United States District Court

         Now before the Court is a joint motion [DE 73] for orders (1) preliminarily approving the settlement agreement [DE 73-1 at 1-59], (2) approving the form and manner of the class settlement notice [DE 73-1 at 43-59], (3) scheduling a final fairness hearing, and (4) finally approving the settlement agreement. While the Court DENIES as premature any request to finally approve the settlement agreement (because this issue will be considered after the final fairness hearing), the Court GRANTS the remaining requests as indicated below.

         I. Background

         On March 12, 2018, the Court ordered that class certification was warranted under Rule 23(a) and (b)(3) for a class that was seeking damages against Defendants Evergreen Recreational Vehicles, LLC (“Evergreen RV”), KR Enterprises, Inc. (“KR Enterprises”), and JMA, LLC (“JMA”) (collectively, “Defendants”), under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (“WARN”) Act, 29 U.S.C. § 2101. Plaintiff Matthew Grimes (“Grimes”) alleged that workers at Defendants' two Middlebury, Indiana facilities (located at 10758 County Road 2 and 51700 Lovejoy Drive) were terminated without the advance notice required by the WARN Act. The Court certified the following class:

Any and all persons who worked at or reported to a facility located at 10758 County Road 2, Middlebury, Indiana 46540 or 51700 Lovejoy Drive, Middlebury, Indiana 46540, within sixty days prior to the closing of those facilities.

         Outten & Golden, LLP, was appointed as class counsel and Cohen & Malad LLP, was appointed as liaison counsel. Mr. Matthew Grimes was appointed as class representative. After the parties conducted additional discovery and twice engaged in mediation, 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. Class Notice and Settlement

         For classes certified under Rule 23(b)(3), the notice that must be given to the class members concerning the class certification is dictated by subsection (c)(2)(B), which requires the best notice that is practicable under the circumstances and contains the enumerated details of the action. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(c)(2)(B)(i)-(vii); Smith v. Shawnee Library System, 60 F.3d 317, 321 (7th Cir. 1995) (noting that class members of a Rule 23(b)(3) class must receive reasonable notice and an opportunity to opt out, which is an absolute requirement for a court to exercise jurisdiction over those class members) (citations omitted). In this case, all 315 employees potentially affected by the closing of the Defendants' facilities have been identified by the Defendants. Individual notice of the class certification was successfully sent by mail to all potential class members, save for 5 members whose current addresses could not be located. Only 5 members have requested exclusion.

         Relative to the settlement or compromise of class action claims, as presented by the parties' proposed settlement agreement, Rule 23(e) indicates that the claims, issues, or defenses of a certified class may be settled only with the court's approval. The parties must provide the court with “information sufficient to enable [the court] to determine whether to give notice of the proposal to the class.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(e)(1)(A). The court “must direct notice in a reasonable manner to all class members who would be bound by the proposal if giving notice is justified by the parties' showing that the court will likely be able to . . . approve the proposal under Rule 23(e)(2).” Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(e)(1)(B); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 23 advisory committee's note to 2018 amendment (“The decision to give notice of a proposed settlement to the class is an important event. It should be based on a solid record supporting the conclusion that the proposed settlement will likely earn final approval after notice and an opportunity to object.”). In turn, subsection (e)(2) of Rule 23 indicates that the court may approve the proposal only after a hearing and only on finding that it is fair, reasonable, and adequate after considering whether:

(A) the class representatives and class counsel have adequately represented the class;
(B) the proposal was negotiated at arm's length;
(C) the relief provided for the class is adequate, taking into account:
(i) the costs, risks, and delay of trial and appeal;
(ii) the effectiveness of any proposed method of distributing relief to the class, including the method of ...

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