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Jankowski v. Castaldi

March 12, 2010

ANTONI JANKOWSKI, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ROBERT CASTALDI, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Matsumoto, United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Defendants Robert Castaldi and Castle Restoration and Construction, Inc., (the "defendants"), object to the Report and Determination of Eugene Chmura, Esq., the duly appointed Claims Administrator, filed November 20, 2009, arguing that the Claims Administrator erred in determining that each class member (with one exception) is entitled to recover for the years 1999 and 2000. For the following reasons, the court denies defendants' motion to set aside the Report and Determination, and adopts the Report and Determination, and the calculations contained therein, in their entirety.

BACKGROUND

More than nine years ago, on January 11, 2001, plaintiff Antoni Jankowski, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, (collectively, the "plaintiffs"), brought the instant class action suit for the recovery of unpaid wages, including unpaid overtime, for the period between January 11, 1995 and June 30, 2000.*fn1 (Doc. No. 1, Compl.) On December 23, 2004, the parties entered into a Stipulation and Order ("12/23/04 Stipulation and Order"), in which, inter alia, defendants acknowledged that they did not maintain individual employee timesheets for "longer than a couple of weeks," and that it was "therefore extremely unlikely that a review of [defendants'] records would reveal any such individual timesheets." (Doc. No. 63, 12/23/04 Stipulation and Order at ¶ 6.) The court endorsed the 12/23/04 Stipulation and Order on December 28, 2004. (Doc. No. 67.)

On June 1, 2008, the parties entered into a Stipulation of Class Action Settlement (the "Settlement Agreement") and moved for preliminary approval of the Settlement Agreement on June 6, 2008. (Doc. No. 151.) By Order dated August 6, 2008, the court appointed Eugene Chmura, Esq. ("Claims Administrator") to act as the Claims Administrator for the class, without objection from defendants. (8/6/08 Order; Doc. No. 157.) The parties filed a modified Settlement Agreement on September 12, 2008 (Doc. No. 166), and this court preliminarily approved the Settlement Agreement, as modified, on September 16, 2008 (Doc. No. 167), along with the accompanying exhibits, as modified (Doc. No. 169), on October 24, 2008. (Doc. No. 170.) All exhibits were incorporated by reference into the Settlement Agreement. (See Doc. No. 166, Settlement Agreement at ¶ 8.5.) Included among these exhibits was a modified Notice of Proposed Settlement of Class Action, which set forth the parties' agreement regarding the allocation of the net settlement fund among unnamed, authorized class members and how each class member's claim would be calculated. (Doc. No. 169, Ex. 1, Notice of Proposed Settlement of Class Action.) On March 31, 2009, this court entered a Final Order and Judgment of Dismissal, find that the Settlement Agreement was "fair, reasonable, and adequate to the Class." (Doc. No. 184, Final Order and Judgment of Dismissal at ¶ 6.)

In July and September 2009, after the court approved the Settlement Agreement and the Notice of Proposed Settlement of Class Action, and well after discovery had closed, the defendants, without any explanation as to the circumstances, discovered paystubs for some employees for portions of the years 1999 and 2000, and argued that these paystubs should control the damages for class members.*fn2 On August 26, 2009, the court ordered each party to submit to the Claims Administrator their proposed claims calculations using the method that party argued is appropriate and to set forth the reasoning for their calculations. (8/26/09 Order.) The court further ordered the Claims Administrator to make a decision regarding the claims calculations and to set forth the basis for his determination in writing. (Id.)

On November 20, 2009, the Claims Administrator filed a Report and Determination on behalf of class members who timely filed their claims on or before the Settlement Notice Date. (Doc. No. 198, Report and Determination.) In the Report and Determination, the Claims Administrator determined that, pursuant to the Notice of Proposed Settlement of Class Action and the 12/23/04 Stipulation and Order, the defendants' electronic payroll data, as provided to plaintiffs as of September 2008, should be afforded presumptive weight in determining the number of weeks each class member worked and, multiplying the number of weeks worked by $16.35 per week, how much of the settlement amount each claimant would receive. (Id. at 1-5.) The Claims Administrator refused to consider defendants' newly produced paystubs for the years 1999 and 2000 in his calculation, reasoning that he and the parties were bound by the 12/23/04 Stipulation and Order and the Notice of Proposed Settlement of Class Action, approved as modified on October 24, 2008. (Id. at 2-4.)

The Claims Administrator set forth the relevant court orders, stipulations and agreements upon which he based this determination. (Id. at 2-3.) Specifically, the Claims Administrator relied on the 12/23/04 Stipulation and Order, which states as follows:

Defendants hereby certify as follows: (a) prior to mid-2000, it was not Castle's practice to keep individual employee timesheets for longer than a couple of weeks; (b) it is therefore extremely unlikely that a review of Castle's records would reveal any such timesheets; and (c) Castle will not seek to rely at trial on any such individual timesheets for the period prior to mid-2000. (Doc. No. 63, 12/23/04 Stipulation and Order at ¶ 6.) The parties accordingly stipulated that, for claims prior to mid-2000, plaintiffs' burden of proof at trial would be in accordance with the standard set forth in Anderson v. Mt. Clemens Pottery Co., 328 U.S. 680 (1946) and Reich v. Southern New England Telecom Corp., 121 F. 3d 58 (2d Cir. 1997). (Id.) The Claims Administrator also relied on the Notice of Proposed Settlement of Class Action, incorporated by reference into the Settlement Agreement, which sets forth how a class member's settlement payment would be calculated:

13(b)(i) Each claimant will receive a payment from the Settlement Fund of Sixteen Dollar and Thirty-Five Cents ($16.35) for each week of actual service, as reflected in the electronic payroll records provided by Castle Restoration & Construction, Inc. for the period January 11, 1995 to June 30, 2000, and for the period July 1, 2000 to June 6, 2008 as reflected by documents and information provided by both the claimants and Defendants. Each claimant's recognized claim shall be calculated individually based upon the length of employment as reflected in the electronic payroll data of Castle Renovation & Construction, Inc. provided by the Defendants for the period January 11, 1995 to June 30, 2000, and for the period July 1, 2000 to June 6, 2008 as reflected by documents and information provided by both the Claimants and Defendants.

13(b)(ii) . . . The electronic payroll data of Castle Renovation & Construction, Inc. for the period January 11, 1995 to June 30, 2000, provided by the Defendants, in respect to a Class Member's weeks of employment, shall be given presumptive weight, but Class Members may be awarded amounts based upon greater weeks of employment, if they prove their claims by a preponderance of the evidence to the Claims Administrator . . . provided, that the Claimant, if his identity is established, shall receive, in full, the amount reflected by such electronic payroll records irrespective of whatever other proof may be presented in support of or in opposition to his claim. (Doc. No. 169, Ex. 1, Notice of Proposed Settlement of Class Action at ¶¶ 13(b)(i) and (ii)) (emphasis added.)

In its objections to the Report and Determination, defendants argue that the Claims Administrator erred in: 1) according presumptive weight to plaintiffs' expert's declaration; and 2) failing to decrease claimants' recovery by the amounts allegedly paid and reflected in paystubs from the years 1999 and 2000. (Doc. No. 199, Defs.' Motion to Set Aside the Claims Administrator's Report and Determination ("Defs.' Objections") at 1-9.)

DISCUSSION

A. The Claim's Administrator's Reliance on the ...


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