CALIFORNIA CLASS ACTION LAW

Tag: Limited liability partnership

Northern District Holds That Failing to Receive Opt-Out Notice Insufficient to Support Excusable Neglect Finding to Allow Late Class Member Opt-Out

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The Northern District of California denied a motion by a member of a federal securities class action to opt out after the deadline.  In re Charles Schwab Corporation Securities Litigation, No. C 08-01510 WHA, 2010 WL 4509718 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 1, 2010) (slip op.).   The standard for determining whether a class member should be allowed to opt out of a class action after the applicable exclusion deadline has passed is whether the class member’s failure to meet the deadline is the result of “excusable neglect.”  Id. *1 (citing Silber v. Mabon, 18 F.3d 1449, 1455 (9th Cir. 1994)).

The court found that the excuse provided by the class member—not receiving the opt-out notice—was insufficient to support a finding of excusable neglect:

Having considered the factors set forth above, this order finds that the facts and circumstances underlying the request of Gary Benson do not support a finding of excusable neglect under Ninth Circuit law. The only excuse provided by Mr. Benson is that he did not receive the opt-out notice sent to federal securities class members on October 12, 2009. While it may be true that he did not learn of his involvement in the instant case until recently, the class action notice was properly sent via first-class mail to the address associated with his Schwab account(s) and was not returned to the claims administrator as “undeliverable” (see Dkt. No. 751-1, listing all class members for whom notices were returned “undeliverable” and where new addresses could not be found). In other words, the notice provided to Mr. Benson was reasonably calculated to give him actual notice of this class action and was constitutionally sufficient. This weighs against a finding of excusable neglect.

Id.

The court noted that “if such excuses were deemed sufficient to warrant exclusion at this time, defendants would be prejudiced, given their commitment to a settlement amount that was negotiated with a stable class membership in mind.” Id. Read the rest of this entry »

Second District Finds Actual Controversy in Declaratory Judgment Action Between Two Former Co-Counsel Relating to Distribution of Attorneys Fees

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In a dispute over the distribution of attorneys fees between two former co-counsel in a class action lawsuit, the Court of Appeal for the Second District reversed a trial court’s denial of relief in a declaratory action.  Leonard Carder, LLP v. Patten, Faith & Sandford, No. B221940, — Cal.Rptr.3d —-, 2010 WL 3961275 (Cal. Ct. App. 2d Dist. Oct. 12, 2010).

Plaintiff and appellant Leonard Carder, LLP filed a declaratory relief action against his former co-counsel Patten, Faith & Sandford (Patten) regarding the distribution of attorney fees awarded in a stipulated judgment in a class action lawsuit.  Id. *1.  The trial court entered a judgment denying all relief to Leonard Carder on the basis the complaint did not present a case or controversy and that jurisdiction had been reserved with the judge who approved the class action settlement.  Id. The Second District reversed, holding that the complaint did articulate a justiciable case or controversy, and the class action court specifically declined to retain exclusive jurisdiction over the distribution of attorney fees.  Id.

Background

Leonard Carder and Patten were appointed class counsel in an action tried in 2004 before the Honorable Howard J. Schwab, with the bulk of the work on behalf of the plaintiff class performed by Leonard Carder.  Id. The plaintiff class was determined to be entitled to an award of approximately $14.4 million.  A loadstar chart in support of the motion for attorneys fees  showed 11,414 hours worked by Leonard Carder and 673 by Patten.  Id. The loadstar chart justified total fees of $10,879,272 for Leonard Carder and $373,040 for Patten.  Id. Judge Highberger signed the parties’ stipulation to reasonable attorney fees and costs in the total amount of $12,475,000 to be paid within 45 days to Leonard Carder “as trustees for distribution to all counsel in accordance with the approved stipulation.” Id. The final provision in the stipulated judgment was that “[t]his court shall retain jurisdiction over the parties to enforce the terms of this Stipulated Judgment.”  Id. *2. Judge Highberger orally stated that if there were unresolved issues regarding distribution of the fees, “you’ll find some other forum to resolve them. They don’t automatically come to me as a matter of exclusive jurisdiction.”  Id. All counsel expressed agreement with the court’s statement regarding exclusive jurisdiction.  Id. Read the rest of this entry »