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Roberto Ramos, et al v. Simplexgrinnell Lp

July 17, 2012

ROBERTO RAMOS, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
SIMPLEXGRINNELL LP, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gold, S., United States Magistrate Judge:

Memorandum & Order

Plaintiffs, on behalf of themselves and as representatives of a class composed of certain employees of defendant, bring this action seeking to recover unpaid prevailing wages for their work on various public works projects.*fn1 Plaintiffs are fifteen current and former employees of defendant who performed electrical and sprinkler work, including installation, maintenance, inspection, testing, repairs, and replacement of fire alarms and security systems, on various public works projects throughout the state. Am. Compl. ¶ 18, Docket Entry 56. Plaintiffs contend that defendant failed to pay the named plaintiffs and the members of the class all the prevailing wages due to them for their work on public works projects.

On June 21, 2011, I certified a class composed of

[A]ll laborers, workmen and mechanics who furnished labor to SimplexGrinnell on non-federal public works projects in the State of New York at any time from February 6, 2001[, or from July 14, 2001 for sprinkler work] until the final judgment in this matter, and who . . . have not been paid prevailing wages and benefits as required by law.

Memorandum & Order ("M&O") 3-4, 18, Docket Entry 154. At the same time, I denied, in part, defendant's motion for summary judgment and denied plaintiffs' cross-motion for summary judgment in its entirety.*fn2 M&O.

After extensive negotiations conducted with the assistance of a private mediator, the parties have agreed to the terms of a Joint Stipulation and Agreement ("Stipulation"), Docket Entry 228-3, that settles plaintiffs' claims. The parties now move for preliminary approval of the settlement and approval of notice to the class. Docket Entry 228. For the reasons stated below, the motions are granted.

STIPULATION AND AGREEMENT OF SETTLEMENT

Pursuant to the Stipulation, defendant agrees to pay $5,525,000, plus certain employer payroll taxes. Stipulation ¶¶ 17, 42. Before distributing the settlement to the class, attorney's fees, expenses, class representative enhancement payments, and settlement administration costs are to be deducted. Id. ¶¶ 43(a), 43(b), 43(e), 43(f). Assuming the maximum amounts permitted under the Stipulation are deducted, the minimum net settlement amount available for distribution to class members will be $3,235,833. Dr. David Crawford, plaintiffs' damages expert, has calculated the total damages owed to the class to be $12,512,308.*fn3 Docket Entry 164 at 74. Thus, pursuant to the settlement, plaintiffs will receive approximately 26% of the damages calculated by their expert.

The proposed Stipulation provides that each class member, excluding the eighteen individuals who previously opted out of the class, shall receive a share of the settlement proceeds to the extent Dr. Crawford calculated he is owed any wages.*fn4 Stipulation ¶ 43(g). More specifically, each class member will receive a percentage of the net settlement amount equal to the percentage of his share of damages as previously calculated by Dr. Crawford, Docket Entry 164 at 58-74. For example, Dr. Crawford calculated class member Mark Accardi's damages, plus interest, to be $35,964. Accardi's percentage share of Dr. Crawford's total damages is .287% (35,964/12,512,308). Pursuant to the settlement, Accardi would receive approximately $9,286.84.*fn5

DISCUSSION

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(e) requires notice to class members and judicial approval of any class settlement. The court may approve a class action settlement only upon a finding that the settlement is both procedurally and substantively fair, reasonable, and adequate. FED. R. CIV. P. 23(e)(2); see also McReynolds v. Richards-Cantave, 588 F.3d 790, 804 (2d Cir. 2009); City of Detroit v. Grinnell Corp., 495 F.2d 448, 463 (2d Cir. 1974) (outlining factors for courts to consider in determining the substantive fairness of proposed settlements).

There is "a presumption of fairness, reasonableness, and adequacy as to the settlement where a class settlement [is] reached in arm's-length negotiations between experienced, capable counsel after meaningful discovery." McReynolds, 588 F.3d at 803 (internal quotation marks omitted). Moreover, there is a "strong judicial policy" and public policy in favor of class settlements. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Visa U.S.A., Inc., 396 F.3d 96, 116-17 (2d Cir. 2005).

Here, the parties engaged in extensive discovery, and plaintiffs retained an expert who prepared detailed reports about the amounts due and owing to members of the class. After I issued my Memorandum & Order granting class certification and granting, in part, defendant's motion for summary judgment, the parties engaged in lengthy settlement negotiations guided by a mediator. I am satisfied that the parties engaged in arm's-length negotiations that resulted in a proposed settlement that is procedurally fair and reasonable and not the result of any collusion. See Pl. Mem. 4, Docket Entry 228.

A court determines whether a proposed settlement is substantively fair by considering the ...


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