Goodner et al v. Shelter Mutual Insurance Company
FINAL ORDER AND JUDGMENT granting 69 Motion For Final Approval of Class Action Settlement, Class Certification for Settlement Purposes, Appointment of Class Representatives and Appointment of Class Counsel; granting 71 Motion for Attorney Fees. Signed by Honorable Susan O. Hickey on June 6, 2017. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit 1) (mll)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
MICHAEL GOODNER and
ROBBIE GOODNER, individually and
on behalf of all others similarly situated
Case No. 4:14-cv-4013
SHELTER MUTUAL INSURANCE
FINAL ORDER AND JUDGMENT
Before the Court is Plaintiffs’ Agreed Motion for Final Approval of Class Action
Settlement, Class Certification for Settlement Purposes, Appointment of Class Representatives
and Appointment of Class Cousnel (“Motion for Final Approval”). (ECF No. 69). Also before
the Court is Class Counsel’s Motion for Attorneys’ Fees and Costs Related to the Stipulation of
Settlement and Request for Fee Award to Class Representatives (“Class Counsel’s Application
for Fees”). (ECF No. 71). Plaintiffs and Defendant have agreed—subject to Court approval—to
settle this litigation pursuant to the terms and conditions stated in the Amended Stipulation of
Settlement filed with the Court on March 3, 2017. (ECF No. 67). On May 25, 2017, the Court
held a final approval hearing on the motions. The Court finds the matter ripe for consideration.
Plaintiffs filed a Complaint in this Action alleging that Defendant Shelter Mutual
Insurance Company (“Shelter”) violated applicable law and breached its contracts with insureds
by wrongfully depreciating the cost of labor when resolving structural claims in the State of
Arkansas. Shelter has maintained throughout this Litigation that it has at all times paid claims
when reasonable and appropriate to do so and has consistently acted in accordance with the
governing laws and regulations of Arkansas and each State in which it does business.
After litigation between the parties and arms-length negotiations between Class
Counsel and counsel for Shelter, the parties have reached a settlement that provides substantial
benefits to a Settlement Class, in return for a release and dismissal of claims against Shelter.
Plaintiffs and Shelter executed and filed a Stipulation of Settlement and exhibits
thereto, dated January 17, 2017 (the “Stipulation”). In accordance with the Court’s order entered
on February 23, 2017, the parties executed and filed an Amended Stipulation of Settlement on
March 3, 2017 (the “Amended Stipulation”).
The Amended Stipulation is hereby incorporated by reference in this Final
Judgment, and definitions and terms set forth in the Stipulation are hereby adopted and
incorporated into this Final Judgment.
On January 17, 2017, Plaintiffs filed with the Court the Stipulation and exhibits
thereto along with a motion for preliminary approval of the Proposed Settlement.
On February 23, 2017, the Court entered an order (“Preliminary Approval
Order”), preliminarily approving class settlement, preliminarily approving the Stipulation,
preliminarily certifying the Settlement Class for settlement purposes only as a class action, and
scheduling a hearing for May 25, 2017 at 9:00 a.m., to consider final approval of the Proposed
Settlement and other actions described in the Preliminary Approval Order and the Stipulation
(“Final Approval Hearing”).
As part of its Preliminary Approval Order, the Court preliminarily certified for
settlement purposes only a Settlement Class defined as follows:
Persons who had a Covered Loss where the claim was paid at less than the limit
of liability (accounting for deductible), and where Shelter or its Affiliate made an
indemnification payment that included a deduction for estimated depreciation of
Excluded from the Class are:
Persons who received indemnification payment(s) for full
Persons who received indemnification payment(s) in the
full amount of limit of liability shown on the declarations
Shelter and its Affiliate, officers, and directors;
Members of the judiciary and their staff to whom this
action is assigned; and
“Covered Loss” means a first party insurance claim for physical damage that
occurred during the Class Period on Arkansas property insurance policy forms
HO-3 (03 04); HO-3 (01 07); HO-5 (B-826); HO-6 (03 04); HO-6 (01 07); B450.3; MHO (I-31.4) issued by Shelter or its Affiliate, that resulted in an
indemnity payment by Shelter or its Affiliate under Coverage A or B.
“Affiliate” means Shelter General Insurance Company.
“Class Period” means the period of December 11, 2008 through December 15,
As part of the Preliminary Approval Order, this Court approved a proposed
Individual Notice, which provided Class Members with notice of the Proposed Settlement and
In accordance with the Stipulation, the Individual Notice also explained the
opportunity for Class Members to file objections to the Proposed Settlement and the process by
which Class Members could exclude themselves from the Settlement Class. The Court also
approved published notice of the Settlement in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (the “Publication
Notice”), and required that an automated toll-free phone number and settlement website to be set
up, all of which further provided Class Members with information about the Proposed
The Court ordered the Individual Notice and Claim Form, in the forms attached to
the Stipulation of Settlement as Exhibits “2” and “3”, be mailed by the independent third-party
settlement administrator for the Proposed Settlement, Kurtzman Carson Consultants LLC
(“KCC”), by First Class United States mail, postage prepaid, on or before March 31, 2017, 55
days before the Final Approval Hearing, to all potential Class Members whose names and last
known addresses were ascertained by Shelter through a reasonable search and inquiry of their
records of claims by Class Members during the Class Period, with supplementation of those
addresses as described in the Stipulation.
On May 15, 2017, Plaintiffs moved for final approval of the terms of the Proposed
Settlement and for the entry of this Final Judgment. In support, Plaintiffs submitted, among
other things, evidence concerning the dissemination and adequacy of Class Notice, evidence
regarding the names of potential Class Members who timely submitted requests for exclusion
from the Settlement Class, evidence regarding the negotiation of the Stipulation, evidence
regarding the fairness, reasonableness, and adequacy of the terms of the Stipulation, and
evidence regarding the fairness, reasonableness and adequacy of Class Counsel’s Application for
Fees. In further support of the Motion for Final Approval, Plaintiffs submitted a Brief in Support
of Motion for Final Approval, setting forth extensive argument and authority, along with various
exhibits attached thereto. Class Counsel’s Application for Fees likewise contained extensive
argument and supporting authority.
In accordance with the Preliminary Approval Order, the Court held the Final
Approval Hearing on May 25, 2017.
Plaintiffs offered at the Final Approval Hearing the following evidence in support
of the Motion for Final Approval and Class Counsel’s Application for Fees:
DECLARATION OF MATT KEIL
DECLARATION OF MICHAEL GOODNER
DECLARATION OF ROBBIE GOODNER
DECLARATION OF KAREN ROGAN
Class Counsel filed with the Court the declaration of Karen Rogan, KCC’s senior
project manager. Ms. Rogan declared that the mailing of the Court-approved Individual Notice
was completed on March 31, 2017. The Individual Notice, along with a Claim Form, was mailed
via First Class United States mail to 27,867 Class Members. KCC received a return of 4,681
Individual Notices as undeliverable and without forwarding addresses. KCC then conducted
address searches using credit and other public source databases to attempt to locate new
addresses for all of these Class Members. As of May 17, 2017, these searches resulted in 3,466
updated addresses. KCC then re-mailed Individual Notices and Claim Forms to each of the
updated addresses. The Court finds that the percentage of Individual Notices that were returned
without forwarding addresses is reasonable. As of May 22, 2017, KCC had received ten valid
and timely Requests for Exclusion, and the Court had received zero objections. No objections
were made at the Final Approval Hearing.
The parties and KCC have satisfactorily demonstrated that Individual Notice and
a Claim Form were mailed and that the Publication Notice was published, in accordance with the
Stipulation and Preliminary Approval Order.
The Court further finds that all notices concerning the Settlement required by the
Class Action Fairness Act of 2005, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1715, et seq., have been sent and that Shelter
has fully complied with the notice requirements under that Act.
The Settlement provides substantial monetary benefits to Eligible Class Members
who timely submit completed and signed Claim Forms. The monetary liability of Shelter for
settlement payments to Class Members; attorneys’ fees, costs, and expenses of the Litigation;
and Court-approved participation awards to the Class Representatives meets or exceeds
$24,529,071. In addition to the $24,529,071, Shelter has agreed to fund the costs of claims
notice and administration. The claims procedure established under the Stipulation is uniform and
fair, and provides Class Members with the opportunity to receive settlement payments as
described in the Stipulation.
All Persons who wished to be excluded from the Settlement Class were provided
an opportunity to request exclusion as described in the Individual Notice and Publication Notice.
The Court finds that the individual interests of the ten Class Members who sought exclusion
from the Settlement Class are preserved and that no Class Member was precluded from being
excluded from the Settlement Class if he or she so desired. Those ten Class Members who
timely and properly excluded themselves from the Settlement Class are identified in the attached
Class Members who did not timely file and serve an objection in writing to the
Stipulation, to the entry of this Final Judgment, or to Class Counsel’s Application for Fees, in
accordance with the procedure set forth in the Individual Notice and mandated in the Preliminary
Approval Order, are deemed to have waived any such objection through any appeal, collateral
attack, or otherwise.
At the Final Approval Hearing, the Court considered, among other matters
described herein, (a) whether certification of the Settlement Class for settlement purposes only
was appropriate under Rule 23; (b) the fairness, reasonableness, and the adequacy of the
Stipulation; and (c) the fairness and reasonableness of Class Counsel’s Application for Fees
under applicable law. The Court independently evaluated not only the pleadings, evidence, and
arguments of Plaintiffs, Class Counsel and Shelter, but also rigorously and independently
evaluated the Stipulation and Class Counsel’s Application for Fees on behalf of Class Members,
and as such, the Court considered arguments that could reasonably be made against approval of
the Stipulation and Class Counsel’s Application for Attorneys’ Fees, even though such
arguments were not actually presented to the Court by pleading or oral argument.
In light of the matters presented in this Action and the provisions of the
Stipulation, the Court finds that the Proposed Settlement is a fair, reasonable, and adequate
compromise of the claims against Shelter, pursuant to Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. In considering a number of factors, the Court finds that:
The liability issues in this Action and the suitability of this Action for
certification of a litigation class have been vigorously contested, particularly with respect
to litigation manageability requirements;
This Proposed Settlement has the benefit of providing substantial benefits
to Class Members now, without further litigation, under circumstances where the liability
issues are still vigorously contested among the Parties;
The Proposed Settlement is clearly a byproduct of adversary litigation
between the Parties, and not a result of any collusion on the part of Class Counsel or
Class Counsel’s request for an award of reasonable fees and
reimbursement of expenses is reasonable, fair, and in all respects consistent with the
terms of the Stipulation.
II. CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
This Court has jurisdiction over the Plaintiffs, Shelter, and members of the
The Court concludes that, for settlement purposes only, the Settlement Class
meets all the requirements of Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, due process and
all other applicable rules and law and can therefore be certified as a settlement class action.
Class Members are ascertainable by an objective standard and are too numerous to be joined, and
questions of law and fact are common to all Settlement Class Members, as required by Rule
23(a)(1) and (2). Moreover, the common questions of law and fact predominate over any
questions affecting only individual members, and a class action is the superior method to fairly
and efficiently adjudicate the controversy, as required by Rule 23(b)(3).
Representatives’ claims are typical of those of the Settlement Class, as required by Rule 23(a)(3).
The Class Representatives and Class Counsel have fairly and adequately represented and
protected the interests of the Settlement Class for the purposes of entering into and implementing
the Proposed Settlement, as required by Rule 23(a)(4), and Class Counsel meets the standard for
appointment set forth in Rule 23(g)(1) and (4).
The Stipulation provides for the settlement of this Action with Shelter by the
representative Plaintiffs on behalf of the members of the Settlement Class. The Stipulation
provides that, in exchange for the releases described in the Stipulation and this Final Judgment,
Shelter will provide substantial consideration consisting of settlement payments to all members
of the Settlement Class who submit claims, as described in the Stipulation.
The parties have provided evidence that the Individual Notices were disseminated
and Publication Notice published in accordance with the Preliminary Approval Order and
Stipulation, all of which informed members of the Settlement Class of the terms of the Proposed
Settlement, of their opportunity to request exclusion from the Settlement Class, and of their
opportunity to object to the terms of the Stipulation.
Based on the Court’s review of the evidence admitted and arguments of counsel,
the Court finds and concludes the Individual Notice and Claim Form were mailed to members of
the Settlement Class in accordance with provisions of the Preliminary Approval Order, and
together with the Publication Notice:
(i) constituted the best notice practicable; (ii) were
reasonably calculated to apprise potential members of the Settlement Class of the pendency of
the Action, their right to object or exclude themselves from the Proposed Settlement and to
appear at the Final Approval Hearing, and their right to seek monetary relief; (iii) were
reasonable and constitute due, adequate, and sufficient notice to all Persons entitled to receive
notice; and (iv) met all requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the
requirements of due process under the Arkansas and United States Constitutions, and
requirements of any other applicable rules or law. The Court further finds that the notice
campaign undertaken concisely and clearly states in plain, easily understood language:
the nature of the action;
the definition of the class certified;
the class claims, issues or defenses;
that a Class Member may object to the settlement;
that a Class Member may enter an appearance and be heard at the Final
Approval Hearing in person or through counsel;
that the Court will exclude from the Settlement Class any member who
timely requests exclusion, stating when and how members may elect to be
the date and time of the Final Approval Hearing; and
the binding effect of a Final Judgment on Class Members.
Having admitted and reviewed the evidence at the Final Approval Hearing
concerning the success of the notice campaign, the Court finds that it is unnecessary to afford a
new opportunity to request exclusion to Class Members who had an earlier opportunity to
request exclusion, but did not do so.
The Court finds that the Final Approval Hearing and the evidence before the
Court clearly support a finding that the Stipulation was entered into in good faith, after armslength negotiations between the Plaintiffs and Shelter.
The Court finds that approval of the Stipulation and the Proposed Settlement
embodied therein will result in substantial savings in time and resources to the Court and the
litigants and will further the interests of justice. Further, the Court finds that the Stipulation is
fair, reasonable, and adequate to members of the Settlement Class, based on discovery, due
diligence, and the absence of material objections sufficient to deny approval.
The settlement of the Action on the terms, conditions, and limitations set forth in
the Stipulation is approved and confirmed in all respects as fair, reasonable, and adequate and in
the best interest of the Settlement Class and Class Members, especially in light of the benefits
made available to the Settlement Class and the costs and risks associated with the continued
prosecution, trial and possible appeal of this complex litigation.
A review of the following factors supports a finding that the Settlement is fair,
reasonable and adequate:
The strength of the case for the plaintiffs on the merits, balanced against
the amount offered in the settlement;
The defendant’s overall financial condition and ability to pay;
The complexity, length and expense of further litigation; and
The amount of opposition to the settlement.
Van Horn v. Trickey, 840 F.2d 604, 607 (8th Cir. 1988) (citing Grunin v. Int’l House of
Pancakes, 513 F.2d 114, 124 (8th Cir. 1975)).
Although the notice campaign was highly successful and resulted in notice being
mailed to over 26,584 Class Members, only ten Class Members requested exclusion from the
Settlement Class, and no Class Members filed objections to the Stipulation of Settlement. The
minimal number of exclusion requests and no opposition by a well-noticed Settlement Class
strongly supports the fairness, reasonableness, and adequacy of the Settlement.
The Court, in evaluating the fairness, reasonableness, and adequacy of the
Settlement, considered all objections that could have been raised by any Class Member. After
considering all possible objections, the Court finds that the Stipulation and Proposed Settlement
are fair, reasonable, and adequate under federal law and the Van Horn factors.
The claim process as set forth in the Stipulation is fair, reasonable, and adequate
to both Class Members and Shelter. Any Class Member who does not submit a Claim Form in
compliance with the claims process set forth in the Stipulation or, alternatively, who does not
request exclusion from the Settlement Class in accordance with the Stipulation, is forever barred
from asserting a Released Claim against a Released Person in any other action or proceeding.
Class Counsel’s requests for $6,086,160.63 in attorneys’ fees and expenses and
Class Representatives’ enhancement award of $5,000.00 to each Class Representative, to be paid
by Shelter, are fair, reasonable and adequate, based on a review of the following factors:
The time and labor required;
The novelty and difficulty of the questions;
The skill requisite to perform the legal service properly;
The preclusion of other employment by the attorney due to acceptance of
The customary fee for similar work in the community;
Whether the fee is fixed or contingent;
Time limitations imposed by the client or the circumstances;
The amount involved and the results obtained;
The experience, reputation, and ability of the attorneys;
The undesirability of the case;
The nature and length of the professional relationship with the client; and
Awards in similar cases.
See In re Xcel Energy, Inc., Sec., Derivative & “ERISA” Litig., 364 F. Supp. 2d 980, 993 (D.
Minn. 2005) (citing Johnson v. Ga. Highway Express, 488 F.2d 714, 719-20 (5th Cir. 1974)); see
also Chrisco v. Sun Indus., Inc., 304 Ark. 227, 229, 800 S.W.2d 717, 718-19 (1990) (utilizing a
similar multi-factor test in considering whether to award attorneys’ fees).
IT IS ORDERED, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED THAT:
Pursuant to Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, certification of the
Settlement Class is confirmed for the purpose of the Settlement, in accordance with the
Timely requests for exclusion were submitted by ten potential members of the
Settlement Class and those potential Class Members (identified in Exhibit “1” hereto) are
excluded from the Settlement Class. All other members of the Settlement Class are adjudged to
be members of the Settlement Class and are bound by this Final Judgment and by the Stipulation
and the Proposed Settlement embodied therein, including the releases provided for in the
Stipulation and this Final Judgment.
Plaintiffs’ Motion for Final Approval (ECF No. 69) is hereby GRANTED and all
provisions and terms of the Stipulation are hereby finally approved in all respects. The Parties to
the Stipulation are directed to consummate the terms of the Stipulation.
This Final Judgment shall be immediately entered as to all claims in the Action
between Plaintiffs and Shelter. The Court expressly determines that there is no just reason for
delay in entering this Final Judgment.
Pursuant to Rule 23(a) and (g), Plaintiffs Michael Goodner and Robbie Goodner
are appointed as the representatives of the Settlement Class, and the following Class Counsel are
appointed as counsel for the Settlement Class:
John C. Goodson
KEIL & GOODSON P.A.
406 Walnut St.
Texarkana, Arkansas 71854
Steven E. Vowell
William B. Putman
TAYLOR LAW PARTNERS
303 E. Millsap Road
P.O. Box 8310
Fayetteville, Arkansas 72703
Richard E. Norman
R. Martin Weber, Jr.
CROWLEY NORMAN LLP
Three Riverway, Ste. 1775
Houston, Texas 77056
A.F. “Tom” Thompson, III
MURPHY, THOMPSON, ARNOLD,
SKINNER & CASTLEBERRY
P.O. Box 2595
Batesville, Arkansas 72503
JAMES M. PRATT, JR. P.A.
144 Washington St. NW
Camden, Arkansas 71701
Jason E. Roselius
MATTINGLY & ROSELIUS, PLLC
13182 N. MacArthur Blvd.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73142
Matthew L. Mustokoff
Richard A. Russo, Jr.
KESSLER TOPAZ MELTZER &
280 King of Prussia Road
Radnor, Pennsylvania 19087
James A. Streett
STREETT LAW FIRM, P.A.
107 West Main Street
Russellville, Arkansas 72801
Upon the entry of this Final Judgment, each Class Member shall be conclusively
deemed to have fully released and discharged, to the fullest extent permitted by law, any and all
of the Released Persons from all of the Released Claims, all as defined in the Stipulation, and
shall be conclusively bound by this Final Judgment under the doctrines of res judicata, collateral
estoppel, and claim and issue preclusion.
“Released Claims” means and includes any and all known and Unknown Claims,
rights, demands, actions, causes of action, allegations, or suits of whatever kind or nature,
whether ex contractu or ex delicto, debts, liens, contracts, liabilities, agreements, attorneys’ fees,
costs, penalties, interest, expenses, or losses (including actual, consequential, statutory, extracontractual and/or punitive or exemplary damages) arising from or in any way related to
depreciation of labor (including, but not limited to, calculation, deduction, determination,
inclusion, modification, omission, and/or withholding of depreciation of labor) in the adjustment
and/or payment of any Covered Loss, which have been alleged or which could have been alleged
by Plaintiffs in the Litigation, on behalf of themselves and/or on behalf of the Settlement Class,
to the full extent of res judicata protections but only as related to depreciation of labor, and
whether arising under or based on contract, extra-contractual or tort theories, common law or
equity, or federal, state or local law, statute, ordinance, rule or regulation. Released Claims do
not include any claim for enforcement of the contemplated Stipulation of Settlement and/or Final
“Released Persons” means Shelter and its Affiliate, and their past or present
subsidiaries, parents, and/or affiliates, their successors and predecessors in interest, their assigns,
acquirers, divisions, representatives, heirs, officers, directors, shareholders, agents, managing
agents, employees, attorneys, auditors, accountants, brokers, surplus lines brokers, underwriters,
advisers, insurers, co-insurers, re-insurers, and/or consultants. “Affiliate” means Shelter General
In order to protect the continuing jurisdiction of the Court and to protect and
effectuate this Final Judgment, the Court permanently and forever bars and enjoins Plaintiffs, all
Class Members, and anyone acting on their behalf, from filing, commencing, prosecuting,
intervening in, or participating in (as parties or class members) any action in any federal or state
court or before any other tribunal or forum of any kind, asserting any Released Claims against
Shelter or any of the Released Parties (except as necessary before the Court to enforce the terms
of the Stipulation). Any person who knowingly violates this injunction will be liable for the
costs and attorneys’ fees incurred by Shelter or any of the Released Parties as a result of such
Proprietary Information of Shelter shall be protected from disclosure and handled
in accordance with the terms of the Stipulation, and Class Counsel and other attorneys for
Plaintiffs in this Action shall destroy or return all Proprietary Information in their possession,
custody, or control as set forth in the Stipulation.
Class Counsel’s Application for Fees (ECF No. 71) is hereby GRANTED.
Pursuant to Rule 23(h), the Court awards Class Counsel the total sum of $6,086,160.63 in
attorneys’ fees and costs. In addition, the Court awards each Class Representative a participation
fee of $5,000.00. The Court hereby finds that these amounts are fair and reasonable. Shelter
shall pay such fees to Class Counsel pursuant to the terms of the Stipulation.
Payments to Eligible Class Members shall be made in the amounts, within the
time periods, and in the manner described in the Stipulation.
The Court appoints B.J. Joplin of Gibson & Associates as the Neutral Evaluator to
carry out the duties and responsibilities set forth in the Stipulation. Neither Plaintiffs, nor
Shelter, nor the parties’ counsel shall be liable for any act or omission of the Neutral Evaluator.
The Action is hereby DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE in its entirety on the
merits, and without leave to amend.
Without in any way affecting the finality of this Final Judgment, this Court shall
retain exclusive continuing jurisdiction over this Action for purposes of:
Enforcing the Stipulation and the Settlement;
Hearing and determining any application by any party to the Stipulation
for a settlement bar order; and
Any other matters related or ancillary to any of the foregoing.
IT IS SO ORDERED, this 6th day of June, 2017.
/s/ Susan O. Hickey
Susan O. Hickey
United States District Judge
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