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Monday, June 2, 2014

Litwin v. iRenew: Class Member Objecting to Settlement Need Not Be Present at Final Approval Hearing

In Litwin v. iRenew Bio Energy Solutions, LLC (5/28/14) --- Cal. App. 4th ---, the parties settled a nationwide consumer class action and sent notice to the members of the settlement class. The notice of settlement required any class member who objected to the settlement to appear at the final approval hearing. Slip op. at 3-4.

A class member from outside of California objected that the settlement fund, after deduction of costs and attorney fees, was not sufficient. He also objected that requiring objectors appear at the final approval hearing violated their due process rights. The trial court overruled Chapa's objections. 

The Court of Appeal affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding as follows: 

The requested attorney fees and costs to plaintiffs' counsel were reasonsable. Slip op. at 5-7. First, counsel's lodestar exceeded the amount of the fee request. Second, the fees constituted 31% of the amount claimed by class members, which is close to the average award of one third of the common fund. 

The requirement that objectors attend the final approval hearing violated their due process rights. Slip op. at 7-9. Procedural due process requires that affected parties be provided with “the right to be heard at a meaningful time and in a meaningful manner," and the procedure used here deprived the class members of that right. 

The opinion is available here.

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