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George v. CNH Health & Welfare Benefit Plan

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

September 20, 2017

BRENTEN GEORGE and DENISE VALENTE-MCGEE, Plaintiffs,
v.
CNH HEALTH & WELFARE BENEFIT PLAN, CNH EMPLOYEE GROUP INSURANCE PLAN, NEW HOLLAND, INC., and BLUE CROSS BLUE SHIELD OF WISCONSIN, Defendants.

          ORDER

          J.P. Stadtmueller U.S. District Judge

         On September 1, 2017, Plaintiffs filed an unopposed motion for preliminary approval of their class action settlement with Defendants. (Docket #30). In accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(e), such settlements require the Court's approval. The Court's task is to determine whether the settlement is “fair, adequate, and reasonable, and not a product of collusion.” Reynolds v. Beneficial Nat. Bank, 288 F.3d 277, 279 (7th Cir. 2002) (quotation omitted). At this stage, all of these factors weigh in favor of finding a fair settlement. Plaintiffs have reached a settlement for a substantial sum to compensate the approximately 2, 000 anticipated class members. (Docket #31 at 2-4). The litigation has been vigorous, proceeding through discovery to the dispositive motion stage, and requiring the Court's ruling on a prior dispositive motion by Defendants. (Docket #28). Finally, the settlement was reached in arm's length negotiations and has not be objected to by anyone (as of now). The Court thus finds no barrier to preliminary approval of the parties' settlement.

         The Court will therefore grant Plaintiffs' motion and incorporate their proposed order which will manage the settlement process and ultimately conclude this litigation in the spring of next year. See (Docket #31-2). The Court will also vacate the remaining dates and deadlines of the trial scheduling order. (Docket #20).

         Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED that Plaintiffs' motion for preliminary approval of their class action settlement (Docket #30) be and the same is hereby GRANTED;

         IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that all remaining dates and deadlines of the Court's trial scheduling order (Docket #20), including the December 12, 2017 final pretrial conference and the December 18, 2017 bench trial, be and the same are hereby VACATED; and

          IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that:

         1. This order (the “Preliminary Approval Order”) incorporates herein, and makes a part hereof, the Settlement Agreement, its definitions, and its Exhibits thereto (Docket #31-1). Unless otherwise provided herein, the terms defined in the Settlement Agreement shall have the same meanings herein.

         2. The terms of the Settlement Agreement are hereby preliminarily approved, subject to further consideration at the Settlement Hearing provided for below. The Court preliminarily finds that the Settlement is fair, reasonable and adequate, warranting conditional certification of the Settlement Class, the scheduling of the Settlement Hearing and the circulation of notice to potential Settlement Class Members, each as provided for in this Order.

         3. All other proceedings in the Litigation are hereby stayed until such time as the Court renders a final decision regarding approval of the proposed Settlement or other order of the Court. No discovery with regard to the Litigation, or with respect to this Settlement, shall be permitted other than as may be directed by the Court upon a proper showing by the party seeking such discovery by motion properly noticed and served in accordance with this Court's Local Rules. In addition, pending a determination on final approval of the Settlement, and in further aid of the Court's jurisdiction to implement and enforce the Settlement, Plaintiffs and all potential Settlement Class Members are hereby preliminarily barred and enjoined under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65 from commencing or prosecuting any action or proceeding asserting any of the Released Claims in any court. All deadlines, hearings and other proceedings in this Litigation, except the Settlement Hearing, are hereby taken off the calendar.

         Conditional Certification of the Settlement Class

         4. For purposes of settlement only, the Court preliminarily finds that the proposed Settlement Class satisfies the applicable requirements of Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, namely that the proposed Settlement Class is so numerous that joinder of all Settlement Class Members is impracticable; Settling Plaintiffs' claims are typical of the Settlement Class's claims; there are questions of law and fact common to the Settlement Class, which predominate over any questions affecting only individual Settlement Class Members; and class certification is superior to other available methods for the fair and efficient adjudication of the controversy.

         5. For purposes of settlement only, the following class (“Settlement Class”) is conditionally certified pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) and (b)(3):

Persons who are or were Plan Members[1] who, at any time from August 1, 2010 through the Date of Preliminary Approval, received Covered Professional Services from an Out-of-Network Provider that were Partially Allowed and: (i) whose claims for reimbursement under the Plan for such services were submitted on or before the Preliminary Approval Date, or (ii) who have received notice of this Agreement before the Settlement Hearing Date.

         The Settlement Class will exclude those potential members who have properly excluded themselves (i.e., Opt-Out) of the Settlement Class in accordance with the procedures approved by the Court. Also excluded from the Settlement Class are: (1) Defendants and any current and former Subsidiaries, divisions, Affiliates, predecessors, insurers, assignees, and successors-in- interest; (2) any judge who presides or has presided over the Litigation, together with his/her immediate family members and any other individual residing in the judge's household; and (3) the United States and/or State governments and their agencies and departments.

         6. Pursuant to Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and for purposes of Settlement only, Settling Plaintiffs, Brenten George and Denise Valente-McGee, are preliminarily appointed as representatives of the Settlement Class (“Class Representatives”).

         7. Pursuant to Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and for purposes of Settlement only, Douglas P. Dehler and Christa Wittenberg of O'Neil Cannon Hollman DeJong & Laing, SC and John B. Tuffnell of Tuffnell Law S.C are appointed and designated as counsel for the Settlement Class (“Settlement Class Counsel”). Settlement Class Counsel is authorized to act on behalf of the Class Representatives and the Settlement ...


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