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Larey v. Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division

September 25, 2017

MICHAEL H. LAREY, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated PLAINTIFF
v.
ALLSTATE PROPERTY AND CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY DEFENDANT

          ORDER

          SUSAN O. HICKEY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Plaintiffs Agreed Motion for Preliminary Approval of Class Settlement, Class Certification for Settlement Purposes, Appointment of Class Representatives, Appointment of Class Counsel. (ECF No. 65). Plaintiff and Defendant Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance Company ("Allstate") have agreed-subject to Court approval-to settle this litigation pursuant to the terms and conditions stated in the Stipulation of Settlement (the "Stipulation") filed with the Court on June 2, 2017. (ECF No. 65-1). On August 28, 2017, the Court held a hearing regarding the motion. The Court finds this matter ripe for consideration.

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(e), the Court must approve this class action settlement before it becomes effective. Review of a proposed class action settlement typically proceeds in two stages. "At the first stage, the parties submit the proposed settlement to the Court, which must make 'a preliminary fairness evaluation.'" Martin v. Cargill, Inc., 295 F.R.D. 380, 383 (D. Minn. 2013) (quoting Fed. Judicial Ctr., Manual for Complex Litigation, Fourth ("MCL"), § 21.632). "If the proposed settlement is preliminarily acceptable, the Court then directs that notice be provided to absent class members, in order to afford them an opportunity to be heard on, object to, and opt out of the settlement." Id. (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(c)(3), (e)(1), (e)(5)).

         When making a preliminary fairness evaluation, the "fair, reasonable, and adequate" standard imposed by Rule 23(e)(2) is lowered, and the Court's focus is on whether the settlement is "within the range of possible approval due to an absence of any glaring substantive or procedural deficiencies." Schoenbaum v. E.I. Dupont De Nemours and Co., No. 4:05-cv-1108 ERW, 2009 WL 4782082, at *3 (E.D. Mo. 2009). Although proposed settlements are presumptively reasonable at the preliminary-approval stage, the Court must nonetheless "consider issues such as whether the settlement carries the hallmarks of collusive negotiation or uninformed decision-making, is unduly favorable to class representatives or certain class members, or excessively compensates attorneys." Id. "Because there is typically no client with the motivation, knowledge, and resources to protect its own interests, the judge must adopt the role of a skeptical client and critically examine the class certification elements, the proposed settlement terms, and procedures for implementation." MCL at § 21.61.

         IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT:

         1. The Stipulation is incorporated by reference in this Order, and all terms defined in the Stipulation shall have the same meanings in this Order.

         2. The Stipulation and Proposed Settlement are preliminarily approved as fair, adequate, and reasonable, and Plaintiffs' motion for preliminary approval of the Proposed Settlement is hereby GRANTED in all material respects, subject to further consideration at the Final Approval Hearing. However, the Court does find that the Stipulation must be amended in certain non-material respects, as specifically noted below. Provisions of this Order that deviate from the terms of the Stipulation will be underlined.

         3. Contingent upon final approval of the Proposed Settlement, and pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23, Plaintiffs motion for preliminary class certification is hereby GRANTED. The following Class is conditionally certified for settlement purposes only:

All Persons in Arkansas who had a Covered Loss, where estimated labor depreciation was initially deducted from the claim payment, and where the claim was paid at less than the limit of liability (accounting for deductible) as set forth on the declarations page of the applicable Policy.
Excluded from the Class are:
(1) Persons who received indemnification payment(s) for full replacement cost with no initial deduction of any estimated labor depreciation;
(2) Persons who received indemnification payment(s) in the full amount of limit of liability shown on the declarations page of their Policy;
(3) Allstate and its affiliates, officers, and directors;
(4) Members of the judiciary and their staff to whom this action is assigned; and
(5) Class Counsel.
"Covered Loss" means a first party insurance claim for physical damage, with a date of loss from December 7, 2010 to November 22, 2013 on an Arkansas homeowners insurance policy issued by Allstate Insurance Company, Allstate Indemnity Company, Allstate Property & Casualty Insurance Company, Allstate Vehicle and Property Insurance Company, or North Light Specialty Insurance Company that resulted in an indemnity payment by any of those companies under Coverages A orB.

         4. Michael H. Larey is preliminary appointed as the representative of the Class (the "Representative Plaintiff), and the Court preliminarily finds that the following attorneys for Plaintiff satisfy the adequacy requirement of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23, and appoints such as counsel for the Class ("Class Counsel"):

D. Matt Keil John C. Goodson KEIL & GOODSON P.A. 406 Walnut Street Texarkana, AR 71854
William B. Putman TAYLOR LAW PARTNERS 303 E. Millsap Road P.O. Box 8310 Fayetteville, AR 72703
R. Martin Weber, Jr. Richard E. Norman CROWLEY NORMAN LLP Three Riverway Suite 1775 Houston, TX 77056
A.F. “Tom” Thompson, III Kenneth P. Castleberry MURPHY, THOMPSON, ARNOLD, SKINNER & CASTLEBERRY P.O. Box 2595 555 East Main ...

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