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Linehan v. Allianceone Receivables Management, Inc.

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

October 24, 2017

TIMOTHY LINEHAN, on behalf of Plaintiff and a class, Plaintiff,
v.
ALLIANCEONE RECEIVABLES MANAGEMENT, INC. Defendant.

         ORDER, JUDGMENT AND DECREE GRANTING FINAL APPROVAL TO CLASS ACTION SETTLEMENT, APPROVING ATTORNEY FEE AWARD, APPROVING CLASS REPRESENTATIVE PLAINTIFF AWARD AND DISMISSING CLAIMS WITH PREJUDICE AS TO DEFENDANTS PHYSICIANS & DENTISTS CREDIT BUREAU, INC. AND JASON WOEHLER

         I. FINDINGS OF FACT

         1. On January 7, 2016, Plaintiff Joshua R. Auxier ("Auxier") filed a putative class action Complaint in United States District Court, Western District of Washington at Seattle, Case No. 2:16-cv-25 (the "Action") against Defendants Physicians & Dentists Credit Bureau and Jason Woehler (collectively, "Defendants"), on behalf of himself and a class of persons who had allegedly been sued in a debt collection action by the Defendants in a division of the King County District Court in which he and the putative class members did not reside, which allegedly constituted a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692i.

         2. On April 8, 2016, the Court consolidated Case No. 2:16-cv-25 with this action (Dkt. #38).

         3. On October 26, 2016, Auxier filed his First Amended Complaint (Dkt. #245), which added James Duncan and Dixie Duncan (the "Duncans"), and Gennell Cordova ("Cordova") as additional Plaintiffs (with Auxier, collectively, the "Plaintiffs"), and added King County as a nominal defendant. All Plaintiffs, on behalf of themselves and a class of persons, alleged that they had been sued in a debt collection action by the Defendants in a division of the King County District Court in which they and the putative class members did not reside, which allegedly constituted a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 16921. The Plaintiffs also alleged that the Defendants had violated the Washington Consumer Protection Act, RCW 19.86.090, by suing them in a division of the King County District Court in which they and the putative class members did not reside.

         4. Defendants deny Plaintiffs' allegations in the Action and contend, among other things, that (1) King County District Court constituted a unified district court, which authorized them to file their debt collection actions in any division of the district court, and (2) it would prevail in the Action if it proceeded.

         5. On November 22, 2016, this Court denied Plaintiffs' Motion for Class Certification (Dkt. #257). On December 6, 2016, Plaintiffs filed with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals a Petition for Permission to Appeal this Court's denial of their Motion for Class Certification. The Petition for Permission to Appeal was denied on March 21, 2017.

         6. The Defendants have identified approximately 2359 persons who were sued by them in a debt collection action in a division of the King County District Court where the defendants did not reside, from and after January 7, 2012.

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

         8. Based upon extensive analysis of the facts and the 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 Classes, Plaintiffs and Plaintiffs' Counsel have concluded that the Settlement Agreement provides substantial benefits to the Settlement Classes and is fair, reasonable, adequate and in the best interests of the Settlement Classes.

         9. Although Defendants deny the assertions by the Plaintiffs in the Action, and deny any wrongdoing or liability to Plaintiffs or the putative class of any kind, Defendants have concluded that the Settlement Agreement is in their best interests to avoid the time, expense and management distraction of defending potentially protracted litigation.

         10. This Court previously considered Plaintiffs' motion for preliminary approval of the Settlement Agreement, together with supporting materials, including the Settlement Agreement, the Notice Plan, and the proposed Class Notice. On June 1, 2017, this Court entered its Order Preliminarily Approving Class Action Settlement, Authorizing Distribution of Class Notice and Setting Final Approval Hearing (the "Preliminary Approval Order") (Dkt. #392), Among other things, the Preliminary Approval Order approved and directed the distribution of the Class Notice regarding the Settlement Agreement, set deadlines for the filing of requests for exclusion and objections, and set the date for the Final Approval Hearing.

         11. The Settlement Administrator has submitted a declaration establishing that the Class Notice to the Settlement Class was distributed as required by the Preliminary Approval Order.

         12. On July 14, 2017, Plaintiffs' Counsel filed a motion seeking approval of an Attorney Fee Award and Class Representatives' Incentive Fees (Dkt. #393). On October 16, 2017, Plaintiffs' Counsel ...


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