How to Avoid Returning to Court in the Class Action Settlement Process

Gaining approval for your class action settlement has the potential to be a difficult process. It’s possible the Court may reject sweeping areas of your proposal and send your team back to the drawing board, delaying resolution and driving up costs as parties draft a new plan. But there are a few steps attorneys can take ahead of time to ensure settlement approval.

Consider these steps in avoiding a return to court in the class action settlement process:

Ensure compliance with the most up-to-date requirements and guidelines.

The clearest direction for gaining class action approval comes from the Northern District of California in their November 1, 2018 guidelines. The guidance details extensive requirements for settlement fund allocation plans, the administrator selection process, class notice, opt-outs, attorney fees, incentive awards, cy pres recipients, and data collection. The guidelines are the most comprehensive directives from any court to date, and not only explain what is needed for preliminary approval but also final approval.

Check out our latest resources for class action settlements in the Northern District of California.

The December 1, 2018 Amendments to Rule 23 are another quintessential source of information. The rule details how to allow class members to opt-out, when a class can be certified, what type of notice is required, and what processes must be followed for proper class certification. Class notice is no longer relegated to U.S. mail, but may employ more modern modes of delivery “practicable under the circumstances.” Professional objectors are deterred through a new requirement to openly state whether the objection raised applies to the whole class or is merely self-serving. Meritless objections can be withdrawn at any time, without court approval.

Take the time to define the class accurately.

Defining the class is a critical element of your initial plan. Class definitions can make or break a motion for certification. From a practical standpoint, you’re telling the court what the litigation is all about — who should receive notice and who is expected to participate. The optimal approach is merit-based and applies objective criteria to eligible class members. The class should be broad enough to reach affected claimants, but not so vague that the people receiving notices have no idea what to do with the information given. Expect a granular review of the proposal by the court and be prepared to defend the quality of your class member data.

Make a few inexpensive investments early on.

It only takes a little bit of money and due diligence upfront to prevent a much more expensive headache later down the line. Many of the reasons parties end up back in court are foreseeable and avoidable when working with an experienced class action settlement administrator. A great example of an inexpensive investment is the URL for the settlement website. Purchasing the URL to ensure its availability before drafting it into the settlement agreement is an easy way to avoid a revised agreement.

Resources: Navigating the settlement agreement from start to finish.

Another wise precaution is to include formatted notice documents and the structure of the claim form in your motions for preliminary approval. This extra step provides the court with a visual of the potential class members and serves as an inexpensive way to provide yourself a safeguard against being forced to come back again later.

Still have questions about getting your class action settlement proposal granted the first time? We understand your concerns. Heffler Claims Group is a leading class action settlement administrator with more than 50 years of experience in class action settlements of all sizes and practice areas. No one is more prepared to handle the intricacies necessary to gain first-time court approval and avoid coming back to court. Contact us to learn more about our comprehensive, in-house services and get a free quote.

Heffler Claims Group
Heffler Claims Group is a national leader in class action settlement administration, specializing in the notice and administration of complex legal matters. Together with Prime Clerk, the leading bankruptcy claims and noticing agent and another Duff & Phelps company, we offer the most comprehensive administrative services in the industry.

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