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Rosas v. Sarbanand Farms, LLC

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

December 31, 2019

BARBARO ROSAS and GUADALUPE TAPIA, as individuals and on behalf of all other similarly situated persons, Plaintiffs,
v.
SARBANAND FARMS, LLC et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          JOHN C. COUGHENOUR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiffs' unopposed motion for preliminary approval of a class action settlement pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(e) (Dkt. No. 158). Having thoroughly considered the motion and the relevant record, the Court finds oral argument unnecessary and hereby ORDERS as follows:

         Before the Court is Plaintiffs' unopposed motion for preliminary approval of class settlement and the proposed settlement agreement itself. Because the parties have proposed a settlement that was produced through non-collusive negotiations, lacks deficiencies, is reasonable, and treats all members of the class, the subclass, and the class representatives fairly, the Court GRANTS preliminary approval.

         PRELIMINARY APPROVAL OF SETTLEMENT

         1. To protect the interests of all class members, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(e) requires the Court to review the parties' proposed settlement agreement and approve it. “The Court considers the settlement as a whole, rather than its components, and lacks the authority to delete, modify or substitute certain provisions.” Hanlon v. Chrysler Corp., 150 F.3d 1011, 1026 (9th Cir. 1998). Rather, “[t]he settlement must stand or fall in its entirety.” Id.

         2. At this stage of the proceedings, the Court must initially consider whether to grant preliminary approval of the settlement as a first step toward final approval. See In re Syncor ERISA Litig., 516 F.3d 1095, 1100 (9th Cir. 2008).

         3. In granting preliminary approval, the Court considers whether the settlement agreement appears to be the product of serious, informed, non-collusive negotiations; has no obvious deficiencies; does not grant preferential treatment to class representatives; and falls within the range of possible approval. See Harris v. Vector Mktg. Corp., 2011 WL 1627973, slip op. at 7 (N.D. Cal. 2011).

         4. The Court finds that the settlement agreement was the result of informed, non-collusive, protracted, and arm's-length negotiations between competent counsel and assisted by Judge Paris K. Kallas. The parties engaged in two separate and lengthy negotiation sessions with Judge Kallas, and the Court concludes that the parties engaged in good faith efforts to resolve the case in the best interest of their clients. See Satchell v. Fed. Exp. Corp., 2007 WL 1114010, slip op. at 4 (N.D. Cal. 2007) (“The assistance of an experienced mediator in the settlement process confirms that the settlement is non-collusive.”). Further, the extensive briefing on substantive and procedural issues, as well as the Court's orders, helped insure that the parties' decisions were well-informed and based on a solid legal framework. Thus, the parties were capable of arriving at a fair settlement agreement.

         5. The parties have proposed creating a total fund of $3, 750, 000 with $2, 962, 500 set aside to compensate class members for all claims. Class members are eligible for a minimum payment of over $4, 300 if all eligible 519 class members file claims, and subclass members would receive another minimum payment of over $10, 384 if all eligible 65 subclass members file claims. If all class and subclass members do not file claims, their shares will be divided equally amongst those who do file claims.

         6. Given that the total settlement fund is well within the range of estimated damages the Plaintiffs would have sought at trial (between $2 million and $6 million), these financial amounts strike the Court as within the range of reasonableness. Thus, class members are treated fairly within this settlement, with subclass members receiving an additional sum in compensation for additional alleged harm. There is no obvious deficiency in this proposed payment system.

         7. Named Plaintiffs and class representatives Barbaro Rosas and Guadalupe Tapia would be paid $10, 000 each for their services as class representatives. Service awards to named plaintiffs do not render a settlement unfair or unreasonable. See Stanton v. Boeing Co., 327 F.3d 938, 977 (9th Cir. 2003). So long as named Plaintiffs are otherwise compensated in a manner identical to other class members, this consideration passes muster.

         8. Defendant CSI Visa Processing S.C. has also agreed to injunctive relief to ensure transparency in the recruitment and hiring process for class members seeking employment in the United States in 2020. That injunctive relief contains an alternative dispute resolution process to quickly address problems as well as a mechanism to mediate disputes through this Court that includes the possibility of additional relief, including, but not limited to, statutory damages.

         9. The Strength of Plaintiffs' Case: Plaintiffs' case was sufficiently strong to justify a valuable settlement. Rulings on class certification and partial summary judgment, in part, on three of the five FLCA claims indicate that Plaintiffs' claims were plausibly meritorious.

         10. The Risk, Expense, Complexity, and Likely Duration of Further Litigation: A multi-week jury trial representing the interests of over 500 class members epitomizes the risk and complexity of litigation. Given the many motions filed, including Plaintiffs' motion for reconsideration, the ...


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