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B.E. v. Teeter

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

April 10, 2017

B. E. and A.R., on their own behalf and on behalf of all similarly situated individuals, Plaintiffs,
v.
DOROTHY F. TEETER, in her official capacity as Director of the Washington State Health Care Authority, Defendant.

          ORDER FINALLY APPROVING CLASS SETTLEMENT

          John C. Coughenour UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. BACKGROUND

         On January 5, 2017, the Court preliminarily approved a proposed Settlement Agreement, attached at Dkt. No. 59-1 (Agreement), between the class and Defendant Dorothy F. Teeter, in her official capacity as the Director of the Washington State Health Care Authority (WHCA). (Dkt. No. 63.) In conjunction with that order, the Court directed notice to be provided by direct mail to all class members by January 26, 2017. The Court approved a form of notice.

         The order further provided that class members who wished to comment on or object to the proposed Agreement were required to do so by March 21, 2017. Class members were informed of their rights, and of this deadline, in the notices that were mailed to them.

         The order further scheduled a final settlement hearing, which was held on April 4, 2017, to consider objections and comments by class members and to determine whether the proposed Agreement is fair, reasonable, adequate, and should be approved by the Court.

         II. FINDINGS

         1. The parties have reached a Settlement Agreement providing coverage for direct acting antiviral medications for the treatment of class members diagnosed with Hepatitis C, the exact terms of which are set out in the Agreement.

         2. The Agreement codifies this Court's May 27, 2016, preliminary injunction order, (Dkt. No. 40), for a period of three years and restricts WHCA's ability to enforce its February 25, 2015 treatment policy that restricted access to treatment based on fibrosis score. The Agreement provides substantial prospective relief to the class members; i.e., class members will be entitled to seek coverage for direct-acting antivirals to treat Hepatitis C without regard to their fibrosis score, subject only to narrow and reasonable exceptions.

         3. The Court's order required WHCA to mail court-approved notices to class members by direct mail. The notices informed class members that they had an opportunity to object or submit comments to the Court regarding the proposed Agreement and that they must do so in writing by March 21, 2017. Counsel for WHCA confirmed, by declaration, that the notices were timely mailed. (Dkt. No. 66.)

         4. The Court and the Parties received 21 letters concerning the Settlement Agreement. The majority of the letters were supportive of the Agreement, while others were written by class members seeking information on how to obtain treatment. Significantly, no class members objected to the Settlement Agreement or any of its terms or conditions.

         III. CONCLUSIONS

         5. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(e) provides that “[t]he claims, issues, or defenses of a certified class may be settled, voluntarily dismissed, or compromised only with the court's approval.” Compromise and arbitration of complex litigation is encouraged and favored by public policy. See Simula, Inc. v. Autoliv, Inc., 175 F.3d 716, 719 (9th Cir. 1999).

         6. A presumption of fairness and adequacy attaches to a class action settlement reached in arm's-length negotiations by experienced class counsel after meaningful discovery. See, e.g., Officers for Justice v. Civil Service Com., 688 F.2d 615, 625 (9th Cir. 1982); Pickett v. Holland Am. Line-Westours, Inc., 145 Wn. 2d 178, 209, 35 P.3d 351 (2001).

         7. The following factors are generally considered when determining whether a settlement is fair, adequate, and reasonable: the likelihood of success by plaintiffs; the amount of discovery or evidence; the settlement terms and conditions; recommendation and experience of counsel; future expense and likely duration of litigation; recommendation of neutral parties, if any; number of objectors and nature ...


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