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Stransky v. Healthone of Denver, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

November 10, 2015

LISA STRANSKY, NATALIE FIORE, ERIN PEREZ, HELEN GEIST, ANGELA VANLENGEN, BROOKE THOMPSON, MILDRED HAMILTON, and NICOLE WAGNER, individually and on behalf of others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
HEALTHONE OF DENVER, INC. Defendant. MILDRED BROOKS, HAYKE CAPERTON, JASON CAPERTON, JENNIFER CAYLOR, ANGELA ELLIOTT, CATHY GORDON, MICHELLE LUGO, and SALLY ANN WARDLE, Plaintiffs,
v.
HEALTHONE OF DENVER, INC., Defendant.

AMENDED ORDER GRANTING JOINT MOTION FOR APPROVAL OF SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT AND GRANTING PLAINTIFFS' UNOPPOSED PETITION FOR REASONABLE ATTORNEYS' FEES AND COSTS

WILLIAM J. MART├ŹNEZ, District Judge.

On May 27, 2015, the Court entered an Order preliminarily approving the proposed Settlement of this action, approving and directing notice to the class members, and setting a final fairness hearing on the settlement. (ECF No. 315.) The Court held a fairness hearing on October 6, 2015. (ECF No. 323.) Having considered the arguments raised in the briefs and at the hearing, and for the reasons set forth below, the Court grants the Joint Motion for Approval of Settlement Agreement (ECF No. 310) and Plaintiffs' Petition for Reasonable Attorneys' Fees and Costs (ECF No. 312).

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

This case was filed on November 7, 2011 as a putative Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") collective action brought by Lisa Stransky and Natalie Fiore on behalf of themselves and all other non-exempt employees of HealthONE of Denver, Inc., who were allegedly not paid for required donning and doffing and meal periods during the relevant time period. (ECF No. 1.) Plaintiffs amended their complaint on February 23, 2012, adding additional named plaintiffs. (ECF No. 23.) The Court conditionally certified the class on December 6, 2012. (ECF No. 68.)

On February 22, 2013, Plaintiffs filed an Emergency Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order based on improper communications between Defendant and the class. (ECF No. 97.) On February 27, 2013, the Court held a hearing and denied the Emergency Motion, but subsequently granted Plaintiffs' oral request for injunctive relief and ordered remedial measures. (ECF No. 120.) The Court also directed the issuance of Notice to the Conditional Class. ( Id. )

On October 20, 2013, Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Join Potential Opt-In Plaintiffs, belatedly seeking to add eleven additional Opt-In Plaintiffs to the class. (ECF No. 165.) On January 7, 2014, while the Motion to Join was pending, Plaintiffs filed eleven separate and substantively identical complaints in this action, one for each of the Potential Opt-In Plaintiffs who were subjects of the Motion to Join. (ECF Nos. 173-83.) Due to the procedural impropriety of these filings, the eleven new complaints were stricken and Plaintiffs subsequently re-filed each of them as a separate action. (Case Nos. 14-cv-42, 14-cv-44, 14-cv-45, 14-cv-46, 14-cv-47, 14-cv-48, 14-cv-49, 14-cv-50, 14-cv-51, 14-cv-53, 14-cv-55.) Plaintiffs then moved to consolidate these cases with the instant case. (ECF No. 186.)

At a Status Conference on January 22, 2014, the Court directed Plaintiffs to join all eleven of their proposed new plaintiffs in one action (Case No. 14-cv-42, "the Brooks action"), and to dismiss the remaining new actions. (ECF No. 191.) On April 3, 2014, the Court denied Plaintiffs' Motion to Join Potential Opt-In Plaintiffs based on untimeliness, and granted Plaintiffs' Motion to Consolidate the Brooks action with the instant case. (ECF No. 201.) Subsequently, Plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed numerous Opt-In Plaintiffs, and others were dismissed for failure to prosecute and failure to appear on recommendation by U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael J. Watanabe (ECF Nos. 243 & 300).[1] There now remain 213 class members, including the named Plaintiffs, the Opt-In Plaintiffs, and the consolidated plaintiffs from the Brooks action.

On January 27, 2015, the parties filed a Joint Motion to Stay Pending Deadlines and Notice of Settlement in Principle. (ECF No. 301.) On April 29, 2015, pursuant to the terms of the Settlement, Defendant filed a Motion to Decertify (ECF No. 307), with contemporaneous Motion to Stay Briefing on the Motion to Decertify (ECF No. 308).

On April 29, 2015, Plaintiffs filed their Joint Motion for Approval of Settlement Agreement (ECF No. 310), the Settlement Agreement itself (ECF No. 311), and Plaintiffs' Petition for Reasonable Attorneys' Fees and Costs (ECF No. 312), which are the subject of this order. The Court preliminarily approved the Settlement on May 27, 2015. (ECF No. 315.)

The Court held a fairness hearing on October 6, 2015. (ECF No. 323.) No objectors appeared at the hearing, and to date, neither the Court nor Plaintiffs' class administrator have received any objection to the Settlement from any class member. ( Id.; ECF No. 322.) At the hearing, the Court issued an oral ruling granting the Joint Motion for Approval, granting in part Plaintiffs' Petition as to attorneys' fees, and taking under advisement Plaintiffs' Petition as to costs. (ECF No. 323.) Plaintiffs were directed to submit to the Court itemized invoices of their expert witness expenses in support of their Petition as to costs; these invoices were timely submitted for the Court's in camera review. ( See id. ) The Court noted at the conclusion of the hearing that this written order would issue in order to fully state the reasons for the Court's decisions and to rule on the Petition as to costs. ( Id. )

II. JOINT MOTION FOR FINAL APPROVAL OF SETTLEMENT

In deciding whether to approve a settlement in a collective action, a court must determine whether the settlement is "fair, reasonable and adequate, " which includes consideration of four factors:

(1) whether the settlement was fairly and honestly negotiated; (2) whether serious questions of law and fact exist, placing the ultimate outcome of the litigation in doubt; (3) whether the value of an immediate recovery outweighs the mere possibility of future relief after protracted and expensive litigation; and (4) the judgment of the parties that the settlement is fair and reasonable.

Rutter & Wilbanks Corp. v. Shell Corp., 314 F.3d 1180, 1188 (10th Cir. 2002) (citing factors applicable to class actions under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23); Whittington v. Taco Bell of Am., Inc., 2013 WL 6022972, at *4 (D. Colo. Nov. 13, 2013) (applying these four factors to FLSA collective actions). The Court may also consider the fact that no objections were filed by any class members. In re Dun & Bradstreet Credit Servs. Customer Litig., 130 F.R.D. 366, 372 (S.D. Ohio 1990) ("No timely objection was raised by any Class Member to the proposed settlement, and less than 5% of all Class Members have ...


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