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Reynolds v. ARL Credit Services, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

March 30, 2016

KENNETH REYNOLDS, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated; Plaintiff,
v.
ARL CREDIT SERVICES, INC., DONETTE JABLONSKI, AND RICHARD JABLONSKI, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Laurie Smith Camp Chief United States District Judge

This matter is before the Court on the Plaintiffs’ Motion for Attorney’s Fees and Costs (Filing No. 38) and the parties’ Joint Motion for Final Approval of Class Action Settlement (Filing No. 46). The Parties appeared before United States Magistrate Judge F.A. Gossett for a hearing on these matters on January 1, 2016. Judge Gossett filed a Findings and Recommendation (Filing No. 54) on February 24, 2016. No party objected to Judge Gossett’s Findings and Recommendation.

BACKGROUND

On January 15, 2015, Plaintiff Kenneth Reynolds (“Plaintiff or Class Representative”) filed the above-captioned class action lawsuit (“Lawsuit”), against Defendants. Plaintiff asserted class claims under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (hereinafter referred to as the “FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1692, et seq., and the Nebraska Consumer Protection Act (hereinafter referred to as the “NCPA”), Neb. Rev. Stat. §59-1601, et seq. Defendants deny any and all liability alleged in the Lawsuit. On or about September 10, 2015, after extensive arms-length negotiations, Plaintiff and Defendants (or, when referred to jointly with Plaintiff, the “Parties”) entered into a Class Action Settlement Agreement (hereinafter referred to as the “Agreement”), which is subject to review under Fed.R.Civ.P. 23.

On September 11, 2015, the Parties filed the Agreement, along with their Motion for Preliminary Approval of Class Action Settlement (hereinafter referred to as the “Preliminary Approval Motion”). In compliance with the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005, Pub. L. No. 109-2, 119 Stat. 4, more than 90 days prior to the Fairness Hearing, counsel for the Defendants served written notice of the proposed class settlement on the appropriate federal and state officials.

On October 20, 2015, upon consideration of the Parties' Preliminary Approval Motion and the record, the Court entered an Order of Preliminary Approval of Class Action Settlement (Filing No. 33) (hereinafter referred to as the “Preliminary Approval Order”). Pursuant to the Preliminary Approval Order, the Court, among other things, (i) preliminarily certified (for settlement purposes only) a class of plaintiffs (hereinafter referred to as the “Class Members”) with respect to the claims asserted in the Lawsuit; (ii) preliminarily approved the proposed settlement; (iii) appointed Plaintiff Kenneth Reynolds as the Class Representative; (iv) appointed William L. Reinbrecht and Pamela A. Car of the law firm CAR & REINBRECHT and O. Randolph Bragg of the law firm HORWITZ, HORWITZ & ASSOCIATES, as Class Counsel; and (v) set the date and time of the Fairness Hearing.

On November 3, 2015, the Court entered an Order approving an amended class notice (Filing No. 35). On January 14, 2016, the Parties filed their Motion for Final Approval of Class Action Settlement (hereinafter referred to as the “Final Approval Motion”).

On January 26, 2016, a Fairness Hearing was held pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 23 to determine whether the Lawsuit satisfies the applicable prerequisites for class action treatment and whether the proposed settlement is fundamentally fair, reasonable, adequate, and in the best interest of the Class Members and should be approved by the Court. Judge Gossett received evidence and reviewed the Parties’ Proposed Settlement Agreement. Considering the law and the record before the Court, Judge Gossett recommended that the proposed settlement was fundamentally fair, reasonable, and adequate. Judge Gossett also reviewed the Plaintiffs’ Motion for Attorney’s Fees and Costs, and recommended that the Motion be granted, in part, with an award of fees and costs in the amount of $40, 000.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The Court reviews a magistrate judge’s findings and recommendation according to the statutory standard stated in 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1):

A judge of the court shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made. A judge of the court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge. The judge may also receive further evidence or recommit the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions.

28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); see Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b) (stating identical requirements). If a party files an objection to the magistrate judge's findings and recommendation, the district court must “make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). In the absence of an objection, the district court is not required “to give any more consideration to the magistrate's report than the court considers appropriate.” Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 150 (1985).

DISCUSSION

I. Settlement Agreement


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