Chapman et al v. Tristar Products, Inc.
Opinion & Order signed by Judge James S. Gwin on 9/4/18. The Court, for the reasons set forth in this order, denies movants' Arizona Attorney General's Office, State of Arizona motion to intervene and denies movants' request to be deemed formal objectors. (Related Doc. 154 ) (D,MA)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
KENNETH CHAPMAN, et al.,
TRISTAR PRODUCTS, INC.,
Case Nos. 1:16-CV-1114
OPINION & ORDER
[Resolving Doc. 154]
----------------------------------------------------------------------JAMES S. GWIN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE:
In this products liability class action, the Attorney General of Arizona and the State of
Arizona (collectively, “Arizona Movants”) move to intervene under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
24. The Arizona Movants played no role in this long-pending and bitterly contested litigation. The
Arizona Movants seek intervention only to allow the Arizona Movants to appeal the Court’s order
approving the parties’ settlement.1 In the alternative, Arizona Movants request that the Court deem
them a formal objector to the settlement on the basis of their prior filings.
For the reasons stated below, the Court DENIES the motion to intervene and DENIES
Movants’ request to be deemed a formal objector.
In 2016, Plaintiffs sued Defendant manufacturer Tristar Products, Inc. (“Tristar”) alleging that
certain of Defendant’s pressure cookers were defective. Plaintiffs sought class certification.
Plaintiffs alleged Tristar sold a home pressure cooker with a defect that allowed users to release the
pressure cooker’s lid even while the pressure cooker was still pressurized. Plaintiffs claimed this
defect allowed heated food contents to potentially shoot out and injure the user.2
See Doc. 154. Plaintiffs oppose. Doc. 157. Defendant Tristar opposes. Doc. 159. Movant Arizona replies. Doc. 160.
See Doc. 1 at ¶ 4.
Case Nos. 1:16-CV-1114
The Court certified several state classes3 but denied nationwide class certification. After
extensive motion practice that partially ended some of Plaintiffs’ claims, the case went to trial.4
Near the end of the first trial day, and after the parties examined several witnesses,
including the Plaintiffs’ main expert witness, the parties met with Magistrate Judge Greenberg and
renewed settlement discussions. After additional negotiations supervised by Judge Greenberg, the
parties reached a settlement.
Under the settlement, class members can receive a $72.50 credit towards the purchase of
one of three Tristar products.5 Additionally, the settlement gives class members a one-year
warranty extension. To submit a claim, class members must verify that they have watched (or read
a transcript of) a safety video intended to teach users about the safe operation of the pressure
The settlement agreement also allowed class counsel to apply for attorney fees. Under the
settlement agreement, Plaintiff attorneys could not seek fees greater than “Class Counsel’s lodestar
and expenses.”7 Plaintiff attorney would not seek any success addition.
In the settlement agreement, Defendant Tristar agreed that it would not object to Plaintiff
class counsel’s fee application if the fee application was based upon a lodestar calculation and was
less than an agreed amount.8 The settlement agreement acknowledged that this Court, not the
parties, would determine what class fees were recoverable.9
Despite widespread notice of settlement to class members, no class members objected to
the proposed settlement.10
See Doc. 69.
See, e.g., Docs. 81, 97, 99, 117.
5 See Doc. 126-1 at 4-5.
6 Id. at 17.
Id. at 22.
Id. at 23.
10 See Doc. 135-1 at 14.
Case Nos. 1:16-CV-1114
Under section 1715(b) of the Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”),11 the parties gave the
United States Department of Justice and state attorneys general notice of the settlement. The
Department of Justice and eighteen state attorneys general filed an amici brief opposing the
Although styled as objecting to the settlement, the Arizona Movants more truly only
objected to the attorney fee application. Restating, that settlement agreement limited Plaintiff
counsel to seeking no more than a lodestar fee and the settlement agreement recognized that the
Court, not the parties, would determine any fee award. As described by Tristar’s attorney:
“[W]e didn't agree to a fee. The Court accepts the fee for a class action settlement.
And we agree to not object through a certain claim amount of fees, but that's
different than agreeing to a fee. And that's what the settlement agreement says, and
that's how these are handled. So this allocation issue, I mean the Court's going to
decide what the fee is and that's the Court's discretion.”13
The Court conducted a July 12, 2018, fairness hearing.14 No class member had filed
objection to the settlement agreement and no class member appeared at the July 12, 2018, hearing
to give oral objection to the settlement.
At the July 12, 2018, hearing, the United States Department of Justice and the Arizona
attorney general’s office argued against settlement approval. They argued that the proposed
settlement disproportionately benefited class counsel and surmised that class members would
receive greater settlement benefits if class counsel received less.15 The Arizona Movants made this
argument even though Tristar’s attorney represented: “[W]e were very careful in this case not to
28 U.S.C. § 1715.
See Doc. 136-2.
Doc. 153 at 25.
14 See Id..
The Arizona Movants thus argued:
“[W]e are not arguing that there needs to be more added to this settlement. The key is what -- how the
millions of dollars that are already on the table are being allocated between the absent class members,
and the attorneys in this case.”
See Doc. Id. at 8.
Case Nos. 1:16-CV-1114
discuss attorney's fees until we already had the deal in place.”16 And the Arizona Movants made
this argument even though Tristar’s attorney represented that Tristar believed it had a significant
defense to all plaintiff claims and represented: “that [Tristar] [was not] going to run back and redo
this settlement, that's not going to happen.”17
After considering these arguments, the Court approved the settlement and certified a
nationwide class, finding that the settlement was “fair, reasonable, and adequate.”18 The court also
approved a reduced fee award of $1,980,382.59 in attorney’s fees.19
A. Movants’ Standing to Intervene of Right
The Arizona Movants ask to intervene “of right,” under Civil Rule 24(a). The Plaintiffs and
Defendant respond that the Arizona Movants have no standing to intervene as a matter of right.
In Town of Chester, N.Y. v. Laroe Estates, 20 the Supreme Court held that an intervenor of
right must have Article III standing to pursue relief that is beyond or different from the relief
requested by an existing party with standing.
Because Arizona Movants did not include a pleading with their motion to intervene setting
forth the claim for which intervention is sought, as required by Rule 24(c),21 it is difficult to discern
the exact nature of the relief they seek.
Movants state that their litigation interest stems from the allegedly unfair release of Arizonan
Id. at 10.
Id.. at 55.
18 See Doc. 156 at 10 (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(e)(2)).
19 Id. at 16. The Plaintiff class counsel had sought lodestar-determined attorney fees of $2,043,079.45. The Court found
the lodestar application was supported but reduced the amount to reflect restricted case success.
20 137 S. Ct. 1645, 1651 (2017).
21 See Fed. R. Civ. P. 24(c). Defendant Tristar urges the Court to deny Arizona’s motion because it failed to attach a
pleading. However, the Sixth Circuit has adopted a lenient approach to this requirement, and has not treated failure to
comply with Rule 24(c) as grounds to deny intervention absent surprise or prejudice to the parties. See Providence
Baptist Church v. Hillandale Comm., Ltd., 425 F.3d 309, 314 (6th Cir. 2005) (court abused its discretion by denying
motion to intervene on grounds that movant had not attached a pleading, where its claim or defense was apparent from
motion to intervene). Arizona’s motion provides sufficient information to put the parties on notice of the arguments it
would pursue on appeal were its motion granted, and so there is no reason to believe that the parties would be
prejudiced by its failure to comply with Rule 24(c)’s requirement.
Case Nos. 1:16-CV-1114
class members’ claims.22 The Arizona Movants makes no claim that they seek relief from the
underlying potential harms to Arizona consumers caused by the alleged product defect. The
Arizona Movants said they would not represent Arizona class members if the settlement fell apart.
The Arizona Movants seek only appellate vacatur of the Court’s order approving the
settlement. This is a different form of relief from that sought by the Plaintiffs, who sought monetary
damages to compensate for injuries stemming from the allegedly defective pressure cooker.
Because Arizona seeks different relief, the Arizona Movants must establish Article III standing to
intervene of right.
To demonstrate Article III standing, a party must have “(1) suffered an injury in fact, (2) that
is fairly traceable to the challenged conduct of the defendant, and (3) that is likely to be redressed
by a favorable judicial decision.”23
Arizona Movants suggest three potential bases for standing. First, they argue that Arizona
has standing as parens patriae to remedy an injury to its “quasi-sovereign” interest in the economic
wellbeing of its resident class members.
In Alfred Snapp & Son, Inc. v. Puerto Rico,24 the Supreme Court articulated two
requirements for a State asserting standing as parens patriae. The State must 1) articulate “an
interest apart from the interests of particular private parties, i.e., the State must be more than a
nominal party”25 and 2) the interest must be a “quasi-sovereign” interest in the health and welfare of
its citizens. The Supreme Court has explained that “[o]ne helpful indication in determining
whether an alleged injury to the health and welfare of its citizens suffices to give the State standing
to sue as parens patriae is whether the injury is one that the State, if it could, would likely attempt
See, e.g., Doc. 154-1 at 5-6 (“[T]he proposed settlement impairs the economic well-being of Arizona consumer class
members by releasing the class’s claims—including claims for personal injury—in return for less than 1% of class
members obtaining a coupon of highly questionable value and an extended warranty of only nominal value.”) (emphasis
23 Laroe Estates, 137 S. Ct. at 1650 (quoting Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 135 S. Ct. 1540, 1547 (2016)).
24 458 U.S. 592, 607 (1982).
Case Nos. 1:16-CV-1114
to address through its sovereign lawmaking powers.”26
The Court finds that Arizona lacks parens patriae standing because it fails to describe any
separate injury from private parties’ injuries. 27 The allegedly unfair release of Arizona consumer
class members’ claims is an “injury to an identifiable group of individual residents,”28 namely
Arizonan class members. Despite opportunity, none of those Arizona citizens objected to the
settlement. Thus, this interest cannot serve as a basis for parens patriae standing. Any injury to
Arizona is the same as potential class member injury.
Arizona Movants’ second argument is that the Arizona attorney general has standing to
pursue an appeal under section 1715 of CAFA, seemingly on the theory that the statute confers on
state attorneys general a protectable legal interest in a class action settlements that would be
impaired by the settlement’s approval. It is true that injury to statutory rights may serve as a basis
for standing, because “Congress may create a statutory right or entitlement the alleged deprivation
of which can confer standing to sue even where the plaintiff would have suffered no judicially
cognizable injury in the absence of statute.”29
However, there is no textual support for Movants’ argument that section 1715 of CAFA
creates an implied state right to intervene and assure the fairness of class settlements.30 Quite the
opposite: section 1715(f) explicitly states that “[n]othing in this section shall be construed to expand
the authority of . . . State officials.”31
While the employment discrimination at issue in Snapp concerned particular jobs—positions in the apple harvest of
1978—Puerto Rico brought the case on behalf of its residents in general, not on behalf of particular Puerto Rican workers.
Here, in contrast, Arizona seeks to remedy an injury to particular Arizonans.
29 Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 514 (1975). See also Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 578 (1992) (noting that
Congress may “elevat[e] to the status of legally cognizable injuries concrete, de facto injuries that were previously
inadequate in law”).
Tellingly, other provisions of federal law do afford federal and state officials a right to intervene. See, e.g., 28 U.S.C. §
2403 (granting federal and state officials an unconditional right to intervene in suits challenging the constitutionality of
legislation); 42 U.S.C. § 2000h-2 (attorney general has right to intervene in action alleging denial of equal protection of the
laws on basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin).
31 See In re Am. Int'l Grp., Inc. Sec. Litig. , 916 F. Supp. 2d 454, 462 (S.D.N.Y. 2013) (rejecting, on the basis of section
1715(f)’s limiting language, state attorney general’s argument that CAFA creates standing to object to class action
Case Nos. 1:16-CV-1114
Section 1715 sets forth two legal requirements relevant here: subsection (b) provides that
State officials have the right to receive notice of the class action settlement, and subsection (d)
provides that the final settlement approval shall not be issued less than 90 days after State officials
receive this notice. To the extent that these rights are not wholly procedural,32 which the Court
need not decide here, Movants do not allege injury to either of these rights.33
Finally, Arizona Movants argue that they have a “participatory” interest in this case
supporting standing as a “repeat player” in class action settlement proceedings affecting Arizonans.
This argument rests on a misreading of the Sixth Circuit’s decision in Michigan State AFL-CIO v.
Miller,34 in which the Sixth Circuit held that the Michigan Chamber of Commerce had a substantial
interest meriting intervention in a suit challenging the validity of a Michigan Campaign Finance Act
provision regulating unions. There, the Sixth Circuit cited that the Chamber was a “repeat player in
Campaign Finance Act litigation” as evidence that the group had a substantial interest in the validity
of the legislation at issue in the suit.35 It did not hold that being a “repeat player” was itself a
Because Arizona Movants do not allege an injury giving rise to Article III standing, its
motion to intervene of right is denied. For the same reason, the Court also denies Movants’ request
that the Court deem them a formal objector to the settlement.36
See Summers v. Earth Island Inst., 555 U.S. 488, 496 (2009) (“[D]eprivation of a procedural right without some
concrete interest that is affected by the deprivation . . . is insufficient to create Article III standing.”)
See In re Oil Spill by Oil Rig Deepwater Horizon in Gulf of Mexico, on Apr. 20 2010, 910 F. Supp. 2d 891, 943 (E.D.
La. 2012) (“CAFA’s notification provision . . . simply requires notification; it does not create standing that a state official
otherwise lacks.”) aff’d sub nom. In re Deepwater Horizon, 739 F.3d 790 (5th Cir. 2014); In re Budeprion XL Mktg. & Sales
Litig., No. 09-MD-2107, 2012 WL 4322012, at *4 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 21, 2012) (although CAFA requires notice of class action
settlements affecting their citizens to State officials, “[CAFA] says nothing . . . of granting the states a right to be heard on,
or formally appeal, every class action settlement simply because residents of that state are class members”).
34 103 F.3d 1240 (6th Cir. 1997).
35 Id. at 1247. The Chamber of Commerce had also played a significant role in the political process that led to the
adoption of the challenged provisions of the legislation, another factor cited in favor of its having an interest in the
validity of the legislation.
36 Individuals and entities that are not members of the class generally lack standing to formally object to a class action
settlement. See Fidel v. Farley, 534 F.3d 508, 515 n.5 (6th Cir. 2008) (court lacked jurisdiction to consider objections to
class action settlement brought by nonclass member); cf. Tennessee Ass'n of Health Maint. Organizations, Inc. v. Grier,
262 F.3d 559, 566 (6th Cir. 2001) (nonclass members lacked standing to object to alleged noncompliance with Rule
23(e)’s notice provisions).
Case Nos. 1:16-CV-1114
B. Permissive Intervention
Movants also ask the Court’s permission to intervene under Rule 24(b). Rule 24(b)(1)(B)
provides that a court may allow a party to intervene after a timely motion where the “applicant’s
claim or defense and the main action have a question of law or fact in common.” Arizona Movants
submit that their claim shares a question of law in common with the main action because they
present arguments concerning whether the proposed settlement is “fair, reasonable, and adequate”
under Rule 23(e)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. 37
It is unclear whether a permissive intervenor under Rule 24(b) must have Article III
standing, as the Supreme Court did not address this issue in Laroe Estates. On one hand, the
Supreme Court has stated that Rule 24(b) “plainly dispenses with any requirement that the
intervenor shall have a direct personal or pecuniary interest in the subject of the litigation.”38 On
the other, the Supreme Court also expressed “grave doubts” regarding the Article III standing of
permissive intervenors who had intervened for the limited purpose of seeking appellate review,
indicating that they would have had to demonstrate standing had their case not been dismissed as
moot.39 The Sixth Circuit has not ruled on this issue;40 other circuits have reached varying
outcomes, with the majority favoring the view that permissive intervenors must have Article III
The Court finds that Laroe Estates’s reasoning applies with equal force whether a party seeks
intervention as of right or permissively. In either case, the focus of the Article III inquiry is whether
Admittedly, the Arizona Movants’ proposed intervention for the sake of appeal is an awkward fit for Rule 24(b)’s “claim
or defense” language. However, courts have generally interpreted Rule 24 flexibly. See, e.g., E.E.O.C. v. Nat'l Children's
Ctr., Inc., 146 F.3d 1042, 1046 (D.C. Cir. 1998) (collecting cases) (“[W]e have eschewed strict readings of the phrase claim
or defense,’ allowing intervention even in situations where the existence of any nominate ‘claim’ or ‘defense’ is difficult to
find.” (internal quotation marks and citation omitted)). For example, the Sixth Circuit has allowed permissive intervention
for the sake of challenging a protective order. See Meyer Goldberg, Inc., of Lorain v. Fisher Foods, Inc., 823 F.2d 159, 162
(6th Cir. 1987)
Sec. & Exch. Comm'n v. U.S. Realty & Imp. Co., 310 U.S. 434, 459 (1940).
39 Arizonans for Official English v. Arizona , 520 U.S. 43, 66 (1997).
40 The Sixth Circuit’s decision in Davis v. Lifetime Capital, 560 F. App’x 477, 489 (6th Cir. 2014), which held that
intervenors of right under Rule 24(a) are not required to demonstrate Article III standing, has been overruled by Laroe
Estates, at least with respect to intervenors seeking different relief from the that sought by a party with standing.
See Bond v. Utreras, 585 F.3d 1061, 1069 (7th Cir. 2009) (collecting cases).
Case Nos. 1:16-CV-1114
the party has “such a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy as to . . . justify [the]
exercise of the court’s remedial powers on [their] behalf.”42 Although permissive intervention
requires a lesser showing than intervention of right, it implicates the court’s remedial powers in the
same way. As Arizona Movants seek a form of relief that is different from that of a party with
standing, and standing is required for “each form of relief sought[,]”43 their motion to permissively
intervene is denied.
Furthermore, Rule 23(b)(3) also requires the Court consider whether allowing Arizona
Movants to intervene would “unduly delay or prejudice the adjudication of the original parties’
rights.” Here, the parties have reached a settlement which has been approved by the Court.
Eighty-three percent of class members received settlement notice. After receiving notice, over
13,000 claims have been filed. No class members objected to the proposed settlement.
When asked whether Arizona’s Attorney General would take over class representation if
Arizona scuttled the settlement, Arizona’s Attorney General said it would not. In a case where over
thirteen thousand persons have made settlement claims and where warranty extensions have
benefitted more, Arizona’s intervention would delay and prejudice the class members’ rights.
Permitting Movants to intervene for the purposes of appeal would significantly delay the
distribution of relief to class members. For this reason, the Court declines their request to intervene
as a matter of discretion.
Laroe Estates, 137 S. Ct. at 1650 (alteration in original) (quoting Simon v. E. Ky. Welfare Rights Org., 426 U.S. 26, 38
Id. (quoting Davis v. Fed. Election Comm’n, 554 U.S. 724 734 (2008).
Case Nos. 1:16-CV-1114
For the reasons stated above, the Court DENIES the motion to intervene and DENIES
Movants’ request to be deemed formal objectors.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated: September 4, 2018
James S. Gwin
JAMES S. GWIN
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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