That’s A Wrap: Court Grants Final Approval to Text Message TCPA Class Action Settlement

On June 27, 2019, the Southern District of Florida granted final approval to a class action settlement in Mohamed v. Off Lease Only, Case No. 15-cv-23352-Civ-COOKE/LOUIS, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 107595 (S.D. Fl. June 28, 2019).  Plaintiff claimed that Defendant violated the TCPA by sending unauthorized text messages to Plaintiff and others similarly situated who had listed cars for sale on craigslist.  The case was filed in 2015, and following mediation, the parties reached a class settlement in the fall of 2018.  On February 20, 2019, the Court granted preliminary approval to the class action settlement, provisionally certifying a settlement class and approving the procedure for giving class notice.  On May 22, 2019, the Court held a final approval hearing, after which it granted final approval to the class settlement.

In its Order granting Final Approval, the Court held that the settlement class satisfied the requirements of Rule 23(a) and 23(b)(3), and certified the following class:  “every subscriber within the United States (i) who received a text message (ii) on his or her cellular telephone (iii) from InstantCarOffer.com, on behalf of Off Lease Only, Inc., (iv) through the use of the Twilio platform (v) after placing an advertisement on craigslist.org in connection with the sale of a vehicle (vi) from September 4, 2011, to July 12, 2017.”  The Court then addressed the program for providing notice to the 29,688 class members and found that the program set forth in the settlement agreement, which included postcard notice and a website, constituted the most effective and practicable means for notifying settlement class members of the settlement.

The Court next approved the settlement as fair, reasonable and adequate.  Under the settlement, Defendant agreed to make available for distribution up to $1,450,750 to the settlement class, with each class member who timely files a claim form receiving a $50 cash distribution.  Notably, there were no objections to the class settlement.     

The Court then approved class counsel’s request for $375,717.50 in fees, costs and expenses – roughly one third of the class settlement.  The Court noted that the request satisfies the following factors identified in Johnson v. Georgia Highway Express, Inc., 488 F.2d 714, 717-19 (5th Cir. 1974):  (a) the time and labor required by class counsel was extensive; (b) the case involved difficult substantive issues, which presented a significant risk of non-payment; (c) class counsel achieved substantial monetary results for the settlement class members and will produce a per person cash benefit that is well within the range of recoveries established by other court approved TCPA class action settlements; (d) many similar TCPA class settlements provide for attorneys’ fees equal to one third of the settlement fund; and (e) class counsel achieved a settlement that confers substantial monetary benefits to the Settlement Class despite hard fought litigation against a sophisticated Defendant represented by top-tier counsel.

Finally, the Court found that upon entry of the Final Approval Order, all members of the settlement class who did not validly and timely submit requests for exclusion in the manner provided in the settlement agreement shall, by operation of the Final Approval Order and Judgment, have fully, finally, and forever released, relinquished, and discharged their released claims against Defendant and the released parties.  Notably, there were no requests for exclusion, so the release applies to all 29,688 class members.  As those of us here at TCPAWorld who follow class settlements know and as the Court noted, this class action settlement is within the range of settlements for similar TCPA cases.  And like most TCPA settlements, no party was likely completely happy, which means it is probably a good settlement for all involved.  Until the next one . . .

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