Last month, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the final approval of a class settlement that provided both consumer and personal injury remedies. The objector raised a host of issues and the full opinion is worth reading. But two points in particular are likely to be informative for future consumer class settlements.
First, the court rejected the argument that variations among state law meant that certification was improper under Rule 23(b)(3). The court began by reviewing Bridgestone/Firestone and Pella, and explained that it deemed this case to be more like Pella, where the court had found nationwide certification to be appropriate despite such variations. The court continued:
but there is a stronger reason for supporting the district court’s decision here: the settlement agreement contained a choice‐of‐law clause, which specified the law of Illinois. Martin seems to have overlooked this point, when she asks in her brief, “will variations in claimants’ respective state laws be considered in determining the award?” The short answer is that those variations will not make a difference, because of the choice of a single law.
Second, the court also dealt with the fact that the settlement provided more money, and imposed greater claims burdens, for class members who alleged they had been injured:
As for the general claim that the procedures are too burdensome, we have no reason to disagree with the district court’s assessment to the contrary. Anyone can get $10 just by signing an affidavit to the effect that she or he purchased the kit and providing any “available” documentation they might have. Claimants can also be reimbursed up to $40 for haircuts if those were necessary. The fact that better documentation is needed for those with significant injuries is hardly a surprise. In the absence of any evidence that the Special Master has been imposing unrealistic requirements on claimants, we see nothing wrong with this aspect of the settlement.
The case is Martin v. Reid, No. 14-3009, 2016 WL 1169134 (7th Cir. Mar. 25, 2016).