United States District Court, N.D. New York
GORDON CASEY and DUANE SKINNER, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
CITIBANK, N.A.; CITIMORTGAGE, INC.; MIDFIRST BANK, N.A. d/b/a MIDLAND MORTGAGE; and FIRSTINSURE, INC., Defendants. CELESTE COONAN, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
CITIBANK, N.A.; CITIMORTGAGE, INC.; ASSURANT, INC.; AMERICAN SECURITY INSURANCE COMPANY; and STANDARD GUARANTY INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendants.
ORDER: (1) PRELIMINARILY APPROVING PROPOSED CLASS ACTION SETTLEMENT; (2) APPROVING PROPOSED NOTICES OF SETTLEMENT AND AUTHORIZING DISTRIBUTION OF NOTICES VIA FIRST CLASS MAIL AND PUBLICATION; (3) CERTIFYING SETTLEMENT CLASSES; (4) APPOINTING PLAINTIFFS' COUNSEL AS COUNSEL FOR THE SETTLEMENT CLASSES; (5) DESIGNATING PLAINTIFFS AS CLASS REPRESENTATIVES; AND (6) SETTING FINAL APPROVAL HEARING
DAVID N. HURD, District Judge.
This matter came before the Court on Plaintiffs' unopposed Motion for Preliminary Approval of Class Action Settlement with Defendants Citibank, N.A. ("Citibank") and CitiMortgage, Inc. ("CitiMortgage") (collectively, "Citi" or "Defendants"). The Court has considered the Motion, the proposed Class Action Settlement Agreement ("Settlement Agreement" or "Settlement"), the Notices of Proposed Class Action Settlement ("Settlement Notices"), the other papers submitted in connection with the Motion, and all files, records, and proceedings in the above-captioned actions (the "Actions"). Finding good cause to approve the Motion, the Court now finds and ORDERS as follows:
1. All defined terms contained herein shall have the same meaning as set forth in the Settlement Agreement executed by the Parties and filed with the Court.
2. The Court preliminarily approves the Settlement Agreement and the terms set forth therein, subject to further consideration at the Final Approval Hearing after members of the Settlement Classes have had an opportunity to opt-out of the Settlement or object to the Settlement.
3. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23, the Court certifies, solely for purpose of effectuating this Settlement, two Settlement Classes. The "Flood Settlement Class" is defined as follows:
All persons who were charged by Citi for lender placed flood insurance (unless such charge was flat cancelled and refunded in full) in connection with a mortgage loan, home equity loan, or home equity line of credit secured by property in the United States during the time period from May 17, 2006 through the date of the preliminary approval of the Settlement Agreement [the "Flood Class Period"].
The "Hazard Settlement Class" is defined as follows:
All persons who were charged by Citi for lender placed hazard insurance (unless such charge was flat cancelled and refunded in full) in connection with a mortgage loan, home equity loan, or home equity line of credit secured by property in the United States during the time period from January 1, 2007 through the date of the preliminary approval of the Settlement Agreement [the "Hazard Class Period"].
4. The Court finds that the Settlement Classes meet the criteria for certification under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a). The number of class members in each class is sufficiently numerous that joinder of all members is impractical. There are questions of law and fact common to the classes with respect to both the challenged "commission" practice and Citi's flood insurance coverage requirements. Plaintiffs' claims are typical of the claims of the Settlement Classes. Finally, Plaintiffs and their counsel have fairly and adequately represented the interests of the Settlement Classes, and will do so in connection with the Settlement Agreement.
5. The Court further finds that the Settlement Classes meet the criteria for certification under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(3). The aforementioned common issues predominate over any individualized issues, and resolution of this action as a class action is superior to alternative methods of adjudicating the claims of the members of the Settlement Classes.
6. The Court hereby appoints Plaintiffs' counsel, Nichols Kaster, PLLP, Berger & Montague, P.C., and Gilman Law, LLP, as co-lead Class Counsel for the Settlement Classes (consistent with its earlier order appointing the same firms as interim co-lead class counsel), and appoints Taus Cebulash & Landau, LLP as additional Class Counsel.
7. The Court also appoints Plaintiffs Gordon Casey and Duane Skinner as Class Representatives for the Flood Settlement Class, and Celeste Coonan as the Class Representative for the Hazard Settlement Class.
8. The Court finds on a preliminary basis that the terms of the Settlement Agreement (including the monetary relief, injunctive relief, and release of claims) are fair, reasonable, and adequate. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(e). The Court further finds that the Settlement Agreement is the result of arms-length negotiations conducted after Class Counsel had adequately investigated the claims in the Actions and became familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of those claims. The assistance of an experienced mediator in the settlement process supports the Court's conclusion that the Settlement is non-collusive. The Court therefore grants preliminary approval of the Settlement.
9. The Court finds and concludes that the Settlement Notices and the procedure set forth in the Settlement Agreement for providing notice to the Settlement Classes will provide the best notice practicable, satisfies the notice requirements of Rules 23(c)(2)(B) and 23(e), adequately advises members of the Settlement Classes of their rights under the Settlement, and meets the requirements of due process. The Settlement Notices fairly, plainly, accurately, and reasonably provide Settlement Class members with all required information, including (among other things): (1) a summary of the lawsuit and the claims asserted; (2) a clear definition of the Settlement Classes; (3) a description of the material terms of the Settlement; (4) instructions as to how Settlement Class members may make a claim; (5) a disclosure of the release of claims should they choose to remain in the class; (6) an explanation of Settlement Class members' opt-out rights, a date by which Settlement Class members must opt out, and information regarding how to do so; (7) instructions as to how to object to the Settlement and a date by which Settlement Class members must object; (8) the date, time, and location of the final approval hearing; (9) the internet address for the settlement website and the toll-free number from which Settlement Class members may obtain additional information about the Settlement; and (10) the names of the law firms representing the Settlement Classes, contact information for the lead firms, and information regarding how Class Counsel and the named Class Representatives will be compensated. The proposed plan for mailing the Settlement Notices by first class mail to the last known addresses of the members of the Settlement Classes is an appropriate method, reasonably designed to reach all ...