The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joseph L. Tauro United States District Judge
This matter came before the court on March 11, 2011 for a Final Fairness Hearing considering the approval of a proposed settlement of these consolidated class action cases, all pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(e) (the "Fairness Hearing").
On September 24, 2010, this court issued an Order [#166]*fn1
accepting the Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and
Recommendations of the Special Master Relating to the Conditional
Approval of Class Settlement, Direct Notice to the Settlement Class
and to Schedule a Final Fairness Hearing [#164]. The proposed
settlement among the Parties was thereby conditionally approved;
certification of a class, for settlement purposes only, was
conditionally approved; Peter
J. McNulty of the McNulty Law Firm, Kirk D. Tresemer of Irwin & Boesen, P.C., and Russell D. Henkin of Berger & Montague, P.C., were appointed Class Counsel; and the proposed form, manner and mailing of notice was approved.
Thereafter, Notice of the conditional approval of the settlement and the date of the Fairness hearing was twice served by publication in the National Edition of USA Today, on December 27, 2010 and on January 25, 2011, as well as by first class mail to 1,603,031 Settlement Class Members. The Fairness Hearing was held on March 11, 2011.
It is notable that at the Fairness Hearing no person appeared to speak in opposition to the settlement, and both Class Counsel and counsel for Defendants urged its approval.
FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
The terms and conditions of the Agreement of Settlement ("Agreement"), dated September 2, 2010, including all Exhibits thereto, are hereby approved. Unless otherwise provided herein, the terms defined in the Agreement shall have the same meanings herein.
This court finds that the class settlement specified in the Agreement (the "Class Settlement") at the time of the conditional approval was sufficiently within the range of reasonableness that the Notice of the Class Settlement given as described below and in Section VI.B of the Agreement was appropriate.
In making these determinations approving the settlement, this court considered the current posture of this litigation and the risks and benefits to the Parties, in both settlement of these claims and continuation of the litigation. Moreover, this court has determined that the Agreement was entered into only after extensive arm's-length negotiation by experienced counsel. The Class Settlement is not the result of collusion, but rather is reasonable in light of the claims alleged by Plaintiffs and the litigation risks of Plaintiffs and Defendants.
This Settlement Class consists of all current and former owners and lessees of model years 1997--2004 Audi A4 vehicles or model years 1998--2004 Volkswagen Passat vehicles equipped with a 1.8 liter turbo engine imported or distributed for sale or lease in the United States by Volkswagen Group of America ("VWGoA") (collectively the "Settlement Class Vehicles"). The Settlement Class Vehicles include a total of 479,768 vehicles imported or distributed for sale or lease in the United States by VWGoA. The Settlement Class Vehicles do not include, however, vehicles for which motor oil meeting VW specification 502 00 was required as part of scheduled maintenance (model year 2004 Audi A4 vehicles with VIN numbers of or above WAULC 68E44A152304 and model year 2004 Audi A4 Cabriolet vehicles with VIN numbers of or above WAUAC48H04K014467). Also excluded from the Settlement Class are (a) all federal court judges who ...