Thursday, November 20, 2014

Laguna v. Coverall North America (9th Cir. - Nov. 20, 2014)

Is that pesky Ninth Circuit perhaps getting in the way of your cushy class action settlement and fee award?  Fear not.  They've got an app for that.

The settlement at issue in this case gives former franchisees $475 in cash and adds some ancillary relief.  The attorneys get nearly a million dollars.

The district court approved the settlement.  The Ninth Circuit panel did so as well, but Judge Chen, sitting by designation from the Northern District, dissented.  He wanted to know more -- much more -- about the settlement.  In particular, about how much it was actually worth in order to justify the nearly million dollars in fees.  Are the attorneys getting rich by negotiating relief that sounds good but that's really just a cover for an actual payout of almost nothing?  At least one inquiring mind wanted to know.

More than one, apparently.  Since a member of the Ninth Circuit sua sponte expressed interest in calling for en banc review.

But the parties weren't interested.  Sure, the objector had initially filed a petition for en banc review.  But then withdrew it.  You figure out why.

But that doesn't stop us, right?  Just like the parties may not be able to settle a class action, surely we can review a decision en banc if we'd like.  Even if the objector elects -- for whatever reason (good or bad) -- to withdraw the petition.

So, in August, the Ninth Circuit orders briefs.

Fear not, parties.  The parties settled.  The objector settled.  Everyone got paid (and/or the relief they wanted).

Today, the Ninth Circuit dismisses the appeal as moot, and vacates all the opinions.

So, crappy, unjust settlement or not, it works.