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Neff v. Old Republic Title, Ltd.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

March 13, 2014

PEGGY A. NEFF and GEOFFREY E. NEFF, on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
OLD REPUBLIC TITLE, LTD., a foreign corporation, Defendant.

ORDER, JUDGMENT AND DECREE GRANTING FINAL APPROVAL TO CLASS ACTION SETTLEMENT, APPROVING APPROVING REPRESENTATIVE ATTORNEY FEE AWARD, PLAINTIFFS' AWARD AND DISMISSING CLAIMS WITH PREJUDICE

ROBERT S. LASNIK, District Judge.

I. FINDINGS OF FACT

1. Plaintiffs filed this putative class action lawsuit (the "Action") against Old Republic in King County Superior Court on October 16, 2012. Old Republic removed the Action to the United States District Court for the District of Western Washington on November 16, 2012, pursuant to the Class Action Fairness Act.

2. Plaintiffs allege Old Republic collected and retained excess recording charges from Plaintiffs and other customers in certain Washington State real estate transactions in which Old Republic provided escrow services. Old Republic denies Plaintiffs' allegations, denies any wrong-doing, and denies that a class should be certified in this Action.

3. The parties have estimated Old Republic collected and retained some amount of excess recording charges from Settlement Class Members in approximately 12, 700 transactions between October 16, 2006 and October 18, 2013.[1]

4. The parties have engaged in contested litigation and have exchanged substantial information about the facts underlying Plaintiffs' claims and the claims of the Settlement Class Members. They have conducted extensive, arm's-length settlement discussions over the terms of resolution and the Settlement Agreement.

5. Based upon extensive analysis of the facts and law applicable to Plaintiffs' claims, and taking into account the extensive burdens and expense of litigation, including the risks and uncertainties associated with protracted trials and appeals and the fair, cost-effective and assured method of resolving the claims of the Settlement Class, Plaintiffs and Class Counsel have concluded the Settlement Agreement provides substantial benefits to the Settlement Class and is fair, reasonable, adequate and in the best interests of the Settlement Class.

6. Although Old Republic denies Plaintiffs' assertions in the Action and denies any wrongdoing or liability to Plaintiffs or the putative class of any kind, Old Republic has concluded the Settlement Agreement is in its best interests to avoid the time, expense and business distraction of defending potentially protracted and expensive litigation.

7. This Court previously considered Plaintiffs' Unopposed Motion for Certification of Settlement Class and Preliminary Approval of Class Action Settlement, together with supporting materials, including the Settlement Agreement, the Notice Plan and the proposed Class Notice. On November 18, 2013, this Court entered its Order Preliminarily Approving Class Action Settlement, Striking Case Deadlines, Authorizing Distribution of Class Notice and Setting Final Approval Hearing (the "Preliminary Approval Order"). Among other things, the Preliminary Approval Order approved and directed the distribution of the Class Notice regarding the Settlement Agreement, set deadlines for filing Requests for Exclusion and objections, and set the date for the Final Approval Hearing.

8. The parties and the Settlement Administrator have submitted declarations and exhibits demonstrating they have complied with all of the requirements of the Preliminary Approval Order concerning the distribution of the Class Notice to Potential Class Members.

9. On December 19, 2013, Class Counsel filed, served, and posted to a website accessible by Settlement Class Members an application seeking an Attorney Fee Award and a Representative Plaintiffs' Award. On February 14, 2014, Class Counsel filed a motion seeking final approval of the Settlement Agreement.

10. On March 13, 2014, this Court held the Final Approval Hearing to consider, among other things, whether to grant final approval to: (a) the Settlement Agreement, (b) Class Counsel's application for an Attorney Fee Award and a Representative Plaintiffs' Award, and (c) the entry of this Final Approval Order.

11. Having read, reviewed and considered the papers filed with this Court, the oral arguments of counsel, and the written and oral objections and comments of all those who appeared at the Final Approval Hearing, if any, and based on the entire record in the Action, the Court finds the Settlement Agreement is fair, reasonable, ...


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