MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER APPROVING FINAL SETTLEMENT AND ATTORNEY'S FEES
JOHN G. HEYBURN, II, District Judge.
On June 20, 2013, Plaintiffs, John Coleman, William Cress, Barry Hindman, and George Sanders (collectively, "Plaintiffs"), on behalf of themselves and the Certified Class, and Defendant, FedEx Ground Package System, Inc., and its consolidated subsidiaries, successors, predecessors, assigns, affiliates, parent companies, shareholders, officers, directors, agents, insurers, attorneys, and employees ("FXG") (collectively, the "Parties"), entered into a settlement agreement ("Settlement Agreement" or "Agreement").
The "Certified Class" means the class of persons certified by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana on March 25, 2008, as amended by this Court on July 17, 2013, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(3), defined as:
All persons who: 1) entered or will enter into an FXG Ground or FXG Home Delivery form Operating Agreement; 2) drove or will drive a vehicle on a full-time basis (meaning exclusive of time off for commonly excused employment absences) from September 13, 2000 through the date this Final Approval Order is issued, to provide package pick-up and delivery services pursuant to the Operating Agreement; and 3) were dispatched out of a terminal located in Kentucky or provide(d) pick-up and delivery services within Kentucky.
The Parties have submitted the Settlement Agreement to this Court for preliminary approval (the "Settlement"). On July 24, 2013, this Court entered an Order Granting Preliminary Approval to Class Action Settlement ("Preliminary Approval Order"), and on July 29, 2013, issued a Revised Order Granting Preliminary Approval to Class Action Settlement ("Revised Preliminary Approval Order").
The Parties and the Certified Class have submitted to the jurisdiction of the Court for purposes of the Settlement. The Court has personal jurisdiction over the Parties and the Certified Class Members. Moreover, the Court has jurisdiction to release all claims and causes of action released in the Settlement, and it has jurisdiction to approve the Settlement.
The matter has now come before the Court after a hearing on October 17, 2013, on the Parties' request for the entry of an order granting final approval to the proposed Settlement and for entry of final judgment in this matter. The Court has considered the submissions of the parties and the recently concluded hearing. The Court makes the following findings, which are consistent, for the most part, with the submissions of the parties.
The Preliminary Approval Order approved: (1) the form and content of a mailed notice of the Settlement to be provided to Notified Class Members (the "Mailed Settlement Notice"); (2) the form and content of a mailed notice of the pendency of this class action and the Settlement to be provided to Unnotified Class Members (the "Mailed Class and Settlement Notice"); (3) the form and content of the Identification Form; and (4) the plans specified in the Settlement Agreement for distributing the Mailed Settlement Notice, the Mailed Class and Settlement Notice, and Forms to the Certified Class. The Mailed Settlement Notice, Mailed Class and Settlement Notice, and Identification Form fairly, accurately, and reasonably informed Certified Class members of (1) appropriate information about the nature of this litigation and the essential terms of the Settlement Agreement; (2) appropriate information about, and means for obtaining, additional information regarding this litigation and the Settlement Agreement; (3) appropriate information about, and means for submitting, claims for compensation; (4) appropriate information about the right to object to the terms of the Settlement Agreement and the procedures to do so; and (5) appropriate information about the right of Unnotified Class Members to exclude themselves from the Class and the procedures to do so.
For the following reasons, the Court continues to believe that all these notices fairly and adequately informed members of the Certified Class that failure to complete and submit an Identification Form and W-9 Form in the manner and time specified would constitute a waiver of any right to obtain any compensation under the Settlement. These notices also fairly and adequately informed members of the Certified Class that if they did not comply with the specified procedures and deadline for filing objections, they would lose any opportunity to have this Court consider any objection at the Fairness Hearing or otherwise to contest approval of the Settlement or to appeal from any order or judgment entered by this Court in connection with the Settlement. These notices also fairly and adequately informed members of the Certified Class that they may enter an appearance through an attorney if the member so desires.
The notices also clearly and concisely informed Unnotified Class Members of the nature of this action, the definition of Certified Class, the claims in the matter, and the Court's rulings on the same. In addition, they provided adequate notice that the Court would exclude from the Certified Class any member who requested exclusion, the time and manner for requesting exclusion, and the binding effect of a class judgment on the Class Members.
The plan specified in the Preliminary Approval Order for distributing the Mailed Settlement Notice/Mailed Class and Settlement Notice and Identification Form has been implemented and seems to have provided the best notice practicable under the circumstances of this case. It has provided reasonable actual notice of the Settlement to the Certified Class. It required the Parties to mail, by first-class United States Mail, to all members of the Certified Class a copy of the Mailed Settlement Notice/Mailed Class and Settlement Notice and Identification Form. It required that, before the Settlement Administrator mailed such copies, the Parties had to obtain, or cause to be obtained, address updates utilizing a National Change of Address database. In addition, FXG caused the Settlement Administrator to mail on September 13, 2013 reminder postcards to all members of the Certified Class who had not submitted Forms as of that date.
Based on the foregoing, the Court concludes that members of the Certified Class received the best notice practicable of the Settlement (and, where applicable, their membership in the Certified Class) and that such notice satisfies all requirements of federal law and due process.
The Court is very familiar with the action as remanded from the multidistrict litigation transferee court, having conducted numerous conferences and having resolved several remaining substantive issues.
In the Preliminary Approval Order, the Court found that the Settlement Agreement appeared to be fair, reasonable, and adequate and fell within the appropriate range of possible approval. In essence, the Settlement provides specified compensation to each Eligible Class Member who timely submitted a valid, complete Identification Form and W-9 Form. The Settlement Agreement provides compensation to the Class Members in amounts exceeding the estimated amount of cargo claim deductions taken from their compensation, even though FXG has at all times disputed, and continues to dispute, Plaintiffs' allegations in this lawsuit and ...