Chambers et al v. Groome Transportation of Alabama, Inc. et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER: ORDERED that the 55 Amended Joint Motion for Preliminary Approval of Settlement Agreement, including certification of a settlement class, approval of a notice plan, and setting of a fairness hearing is granted as furth er set out in order; A fairness hearing, pursuant to FED.R.CIV.P. 23(e), is scheduled to be held before the court on November 17, 2015 at 10:00 a.m. in Courtroom 4-B at the Frank M. Johnson, Jr. United States Courthouse Complex, One Church Street, Mo ntgomery, Alabama 36104; It is further ORDERED that the parties' 41 joint motion for preliminary approval of settlement agreement be and is hereby DENIED as moot. Signed by Honorable Judge Charles S. Coody on 9/1/2015. (furn: WS, Calendar)(kh, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
NETTIE CHAMBERS, et al.,
GROOME TRANSPORTATION OF
ALABAMA, INC., et al.,
) CIVIL ACT. NO. 3:14cv237-CSC
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Before the court is the parties’ Amended Joint Motion for Preliminary Approval of
Amended Settlement Agreement and Certification of Settlement Class (doc. # 55) that includes
a request for approval of the Settlement Agreement, certification of a “settlement class,”
approval of a notice plan, and setting of a fairness hearing. In this putative class action, named
plaintiffs Nettie Chambers and Cassandra Young asserted claims for damages under the
Worker’s Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, 29 U.S.C. § 2102 and 29 C.F.R. § 639
(the WARN Act). The terms of the settlement are set out in an Amended Settlement Agreement
(doc. # 55, Ex. 1) executed on June 10, 2015, which has been properly executed by or on behalf
of the named parties. Pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 1132, the court has jurisdiction over the subject
matter of this action and over all parties to this action, including all members of the settlement
class. It is
ORDERED that the Amended Joint Motion for Preliminary Approval of Settlement
Agreement (doc. # 55), including certification of a settlement class, approval of a notice plan,
and setting of a fairness hearing is granted as follows:
I. CLASS FINDINGS AND CERTIFICATION
The court preliminarily finds, for purposes of the settlement only, that the requirements
of the FEDERAL RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE, the UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION, the Rules of
the Court and any other applicable law have been met as to the settlement class, in that:
The settlement class is ascertainable from records kept by Groome Transportation
of Alabama, Inc., and the members of the settlement class are so numerous that
their joinder before the court would be impracticable.
Based on allegations in the plaintiffs' complaint, and examination of the legal
claims and facts necessary to prove them, the court preliminarily finds that there
are one or more questions of fact and/or law common to the settlement class.
Based on allegations in the plaintiffs' complaint and otherwise supported in the
record, the court preliminarily finds that the defendants engaged in uniform
conduct affecting members of the settlement class. The court further finds that the
plaintiffs' claims and their alleged legal injuries are typical of the claims and
injuries of the settlement class.
The plaintiffs will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the settlement
class in that: (i) the interests of the plaintiffs and the nature of their alleged claims
are consistent with those of the members of the settlement class; (ii) there are no
significant conflicts between or among the plaintiffs and the settlement class; and
(iii) the plaintiffs are represented by qualified and reputable counsel who are
experienced in preparing and prosecuting class actions of this type.
The prosecution of separate actions by individual members of the settlement class
would create a risk of (i) inconsistent or varying adjudications as to individual
class members, that would establish incompatible standards of conduct for the
parties opposing the claims asserted in the action; or (ii) adjudications as to
individual class members that would, as a practical matter, be dispositive of the
interests of the other members not parties to the adjudications, or substantially
impair or impede those persons' ability to protect their interests.
Based on these findings, therefore, the court preliminarily certifies the following
settlement class under FED.R.CIV.P. 23(b)(3):
“All former employees of Groome Transportation of Alabama who were
employed as of May 31, 2013 including employees who signed an arbitration
agreement as a condition to employment, and who were laid off from employment
at Groome on July 31, 2013, and who were not subsequently re-hired by Groome
The court finds that the settlement class is sufficiently well-defined and cohesive to
warrant certification as a class under FED.R.CIV.P. 23(a) and 23(b)(3) for settlement purposes
As required by FED.R.CIV.P. 23(g), the court has considered: (i) the work class counsel
has done in identifying or investigating potential claims in this action; (ii) class counsel's
experience in handling class actions, other complex litigation, and claims of the type asserted
in this action; (iii) class counsel's knowledge of the applicable law; and (iv) the time and
resources class counsel have committed to representing the class. Based on these factors, the
court finds that class counsel have and will continue to represent fairly and adequately the
interests of the settlement class.
Accordingly, pursuant to FED.R.CIV.P. 23(g)(2) the court designates Mike Segrest of The
Segrest Law Firm and David Hughes of Hardin and Hughes LLP as class counsel with respect
to the settlement class in this action.
As mentioned, the court finds that the named plaintiffs Nettie Chambers and Cassandra
Young are adequate and typical class representatives for the settlement class and, therefore,
appoints these plaintiffs as the representatives of the settlement class.
The court having determined preliminarily that this action may proceed as a class action
for settlement purposes only under FED.R.CIV.P. 23(a) and 23(b)(3), members of the settlement
class that do not opt out shall be bound by any judgment concerning the settlement in this
action, subject to the court’s final determination as to whether this action may so proceed.
II. PRELIMINARY APPROVAL OF SETTLEMENT
The settlement documented in the Amended Settlement Agreement (doc # 55) is
preliminarily approved, as the court preliminarily finds that: (a) the proposed settlement resulted
from arm's-length negotiations and was mediated by Phillip E. Adams, Esq.; (b) the Settlement
Agreement was executed only after class counsel had researched and investigated multiple legal
and factual issues pertaining to the plaintiffs' claims; (c) there is a genuine controversy between
the parties involving the defendants' compliance with the law; (d) the settlement appears on its
face to be fair, reasonable, and adequate; and (e) the settlement evidenced by the Settlement
Agreement is sufficiently fair, reasonable, and adequate to warrant sending notice of the action,
and its settlement, to the settlement class.
A. Fairness Hearing
A fairness hearing, pursuant to FED.R.CIV.P. 23(e), is scheduled to be held before the
court on November 17, 2015 at 10:00 a.m. in Courtroom 4-B at the Frank M. Johnson, Jr.
United States Courthouse Complex, One Church Street, Montgomery, Alabama 36104, to
determine finally, among other things:
Whether the settlement should be approved as fair, reasonable, and adequate;
Whether the settlement class satisfies the requirements of FED.R.CIV.P. 23 and
should be finally certified as preliminarily found by the court;
Whether the litigation should be dismissed with prejudice pursuant to the terms
of the Agreement of Settlement;
Whether the notice and notice methodology implemented pursuant to the
Agreement (i) were reasonably calculated, under the circumstances, to apprise
members of the settlement class of, the pendency of the litigation, their right to
object to the settlement, and their right to appear at the fairness hearing; (ii) were
reasonable and constituted due, adequate, and sufficient notice to all persons
entitled to notice; and (iii) met all applicable requirements of the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure and any other applicable law;
Whether class counsel adequately represents the settlement class for purposes of
entering into and implementing the Agreement as required by FED.R.CIV.P. 23(g)
and as preliminarily found by the court;
Whether the proposed method of allocation of the settlement is fair, reasonable,
and adequate and should be approved by the court;
Whether the settlement has been negotiated at arm's length by class counsel on
behalf of the settlement class, whether the plaintiffs have acted independently,
whether the plaintiffs' interests are identical to the interests of the settlement
Whether the application for attorneys' fees and expenses to be filed by class
counsel should be approved;
Whether enhancement awards should be awarded to the named plaintiffs; and
Any other issues necessary for approval of the settlement.
B. Class Notice
The parties have presented to the court a proposed Class Notice consisting of a mailed
notice which is appended as Exhibit B to Exhibit 1 of Doc. # 55. The court approves the form
and content of the Class Notice, finding that it fairly and adequately: (1) describes the terms and
effect of the Agreement and of the settlement; (2) gives notice to the settlement class of the time
and place of the fairness hearing; and (3) describes how the recipients of the class notice may
object to approval of the settlement.
The parties have proposed the following manner of communicating the notice to
members of the settlement class, and the court finds that such proposed manner is adequate and
directs that the plaintiffs shall, no later than September 11, 2015, cause the mailed notice to be
disseminated pursuant to the Agreement, to the last known address of each member of the
settlement class who can be identified by reasonable effort. No later than November 10, 2015,
class counsel shall file with the court a proof of timely compliance with the foregoing mailing
The defendants shall file with the court proof of compliance with the Class Action
Fairness Act of 2005, as specified in 28 U.S.C. § 1715 and Paragraph 11 of the Settlement
Agreement no later than September 8, 2015.
Reasonable expenses of effecting class notice shall be paid out of the settlement fund.
C. Objections to Settlement
“Objector” shall mean any member of the settlement class who wishes to object to the
fairness, reasonableness, or adequacy of the settlement; to the plan of allocation; to any term of
the Settlement Agreement; to the proposed enhancement awards; or to the proposed award of
attorney’s fees and expenses. Any objector must complete, sign and return the Class Notice
Option form to the Third Party Administrator in the self- addressed stamped envelope that is to
be sent out with the Class Notice. The objectors will be required to state the reason for objecting
on the Class Notice Option Form. Also, if any objector wishes to appear at the hearing on final
approval, it must be indicated on the required form. The Claim Notice Option Form must be
post marked no later than October 26, 2015. The Third Party Administrator, First Class, Inc.,
will receive the objection notices and will notify the Court, Class Counsel, and Defense Counsel
via Affidavit with all objections, if any, attached as exhibits no later than November 3, 2015.
If there are no objectors, the affidavit from the Third Party Administrator will state there are no
objectors. Any objectors will be notified of any continuances by Class Counsel.
III. OTHER FEES AND EXPENSES
Any application by class counsel for attorneys’ fees and reimbursement of expenses; for
enhancement awards to the named plaintiffs, and all papers in support thereof, shall be filed
with the court and served on all counsel of record no later than October 20, 2015.
IV. FINALIZATION OF SETTLEMENT
Class counsel shall file with the court a motion for entry of the final approval order and
approval of the plan of allocation no later than October 20, 2015.
Pending final determination of whether the settlement should be approved, all members
of the settlement class who do not opt out are each BARRED AND ENJOINED from instituting
or prosecuting any action that asserts any released claim against Defendants including but not
limited to their agents, officers, directors, employees (past and current), affiliates and related
If the settlement is terminated in accordance with the Agreement of Settlement or does
not become final under the terms of the Agreement of Settlement for any other reason, this order
and all class findings shall become null and void, and shall be without prejudice to the rights
of the parties, all of whom shall be restored to their respective positions existing immediately
before the court entered this order.
In the event this order becomes of no force or effect, no part of it shall be construed or
used as an admission, concession, or declaration by or against the defendants of any fault,
wrongdoing, breach, or liability, nor shall the order be construed or used as an admission,
concession, or declaration by or against the plaintiffs or the settlement class that their claims
lack merit or that the relief requested in the action is inappropriate, improper, or unavailable,
or as a waiver by any party of any defenses or claims he, she, or it may have. The court reserves
the right to continue the fairness hearing without further written notice.
It is further
ORDERED that the parties’ joint motion for preliminary approval of settlement
agreement (doc. # 41) be and is hereby DENIED as moot.
Done this 1st day of September, 2015.
/s/Charles S. Coody
CHARLES S. COODY
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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