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Judge Illston of Northern District Approves $3.5 Million Non-Reversionary Settlement of Meal and Rest Break Class Action, With Award of 25% of Fund in Attorneys Fees, and Incentive Award of $20,000 to Each Class Representative

In Attorney's Fees, Class Actions, Incentive Award, Meal and Rest Breaks, Settlement on October 6, 2010 at 9:25 am
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The Northern District of California granted final approval of a settlement in a meal and rest break class action in Ross v. US Bank National Association, No. C 07-02951 SI, 2010 WL 3833922 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 29, 2010).  The complaint was filed on behalf of all hourly employees who worked at a California U.S. Bank in-store branch.  See Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Plaintiff’s Motion for Preliminary Approval of Class Action Settlement (“MPA”) at 1.  Plaintiffs alleged that they and other hourly paid employees have not been provided a legally compliant meal and rest period on Sundays and worked off the clock pre and post shift and during their meal breaks. Id. The parties settled the case, and the settlement agreement provides for the payment of compensation to each Participating Class Member based on his or her total workweeks in a Class position during a certain period.  Ross, 2010 WL 3833922, *1.   The court approved a non-reversionary settlement of $3,500,000 for approximately 3,300 settlement class members.  MPA at 2.

Attorneys’ Fees and Costs

Plaintiffs’ counsel sought an award of 30% of the settlement fund,  $1,050,000.00, as attorneys’ fees.  Ross, 2010 WL 3833922, *1.   Plaintiffs estimate that the total time spent litigating this case, including time overseeing claims administration, will be approximately 2647.7 hours.  Id. Plaintiffs’ counsel listed hourly rates ranging from $185 an hour to $650 an hour.  MPA at 14.  The court reduced the award to 25%:

In this case, the Court recognizes that the ultimate result, achieved through a settlement negotiated by the current plaintiffs’ counsel, is very good. The Court also recognizes the not-insignificant risk involved in litigating the claims at issue. However, the Court does not find that this case presents factors that would justify an award in excess of the 25% benchmark. The case was not especially complex, after it had been narrowed through motion practice and stipulations. As such, and considering all of the relevant factors, the Court finds that an award of 25% of the settlement agreement ($875,000.00) is an appropriate award of attorneys’ fees in this case.

Ross, 2010 WL 3833922, *2.

The court granted the cost request:

Plaintiffs’ counsel also seeks an award of costs of $101,793.34 The Court finds that the costs award requested is reasonable and supported by the record. See Declaration of Kevin T. Barnes, Ex. 2 & Declaration of James D. Pinney, Ex. 1.

Id.

Class Representative Enhancement Awards

Plaintiffs requested a class representative enhancement award of $20,000.00 for each of the four class representatives.  Id. The court granted the request:

Having considered the declarations submitted by the class representatives–which attest to the contributions made by the class representatives in this litigation, and their willingness to serve as representatives despite the potential stigma that might attach to them in the banking industry from taking on those roles–the Court finds that these payments are warranted. Each of the class representatives made substantial contributions to the case, including reviewing document productions, having their depositions taken, and traveling to San Francisco to attend and actively participate in the mediation that led to the settlement of this case. The Court also appreciates that three of the class representatives attended the final approval hearing in order to answer any questions the Court may have had about their contributions to the case.

Judge

District Judge Susan Illston.

By CHARLES JUNG

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