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Bacchi v. Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

November 8, 2017

KAREN L. BACCHI, Plaintiff,
v.
MASSACHUSETTS MUTUAL LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

          ORDER OF FINAL APPROVAL OF CLASS ACTION SETTLEMENT, CERTIFICATION OF THE CLASS FOR SETTLEMENT PURPOSES AND FEE AWARDS

          Denise J. Casper, United States District Judge

         I. Introduction

         After having preliminarily certified the class in this case pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 23 and having preliminarily approved the class action settlement, D. 240, this Court conducted a final fairness hearing on July 27, 2017. D. 301, 302. As noticed, the final hearing was for the purpose of determining whether the Court should grant final approval to the class action settlement and the attorneys' fees and expenses and any incentive award to the named plaintiff, Karen L. Bacchi (“Bacchi”). D. 240 at 3. Before and at the hearing, the Court received objections from certain class members, the majority of which concerned, at base, the proposed award of attorneys' fees to class counsel. For the reasons summarized in D. 240 and further below, the Court GRANTS final certification of the class for settlement purposes under Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(e) and final approval of the settlement, D. 294, and AWARDS attorneys' fees and expenses sought by class counsel and the incentive award sought for Bacchi, D. 264.

         II. Procedural History

         Over five years ago, Bacchi brought this action Defendant Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (“MassMutual”) on behalf of a purported class of similarly situated MassMutual policyholders asserting claims regarding MassMutual's safety fund calculation, alleging that the company retained monies that it should have distributed to policyholders as dividends. D. 1, 35. After several years of hard fought litigation between the parties and a mediation that resulted in the proposed settlement, the Court preliminarily granted approval of that settlement agreement and certification of the class for this purpose, approved the procedure for providing notice to the class of same and scheduling a hearing for consideration of the final approval of the settlement and determination of any fee awards. D. 240.

         III. Class Certification

         For all of the reasons previously stated in the Court's Order of preliminary approval, D. 240, and on the record at the March 29, 2017 hearing regarding same, D. 242 at 8-10, I certify the proposed Settlement Class pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(b)(3) as defined in D. 240, ¶ 3.

         IV. Final Approval of Settlement under Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(e)(2)

         For all of the reasons previously stated in the Court's Order of preliminary approval, D. 240, and on the record at the March 29, 2017 hearing regarding same, D. 242 at 8-10, and further addressed here, I find that the proposed settlement is fair, reasonable and adequate as required under Rule 23(e)(2).

         The Settlement is a Mediated Resolution After Extensive Litigation.

         As the Court has previously noted, D. 242 at 8, this settlement came as the result of the parties' mediation after a significant period of litigation in this case. The course of that litigation involved approximately two years in which the parties completed both fact and expert discovery. D. 296 at 11. Although the Court (Tauro, J.) had previously denied MassMutual's motion to dismiss, D. 35, it had MassMutual's motion for summary judgment under advisement, D. 224, at the time that the parties asked the Court to stay any further action on that matter in light of the fact that parties were in the midst of attempting resolve the matter through mediation, D. 230, 231, which resulted in the proposed class settlement now before the Court, D. 235.

         The Parties Reached This Settlement at Arm's Length Negotiations.

         As the Court has also previously noted, this proposed settlement comes as the result of arm's length negotiations between experienced and competent counsel for both parties. It also comes after a formal mediation before a neutral mediator in December 2016. D. 295 at ¶ 9; D. 265-1 at ¶ 25. Even after this mediation, the parties, on behalf of their respective parties continued to negotiate a settlement that resulted in the settlement that was proposed to the Court initially in March 2017, id.; D. 235, and remained subject to the final approval, after class notice was provided, that the Court now provides.

         This Settlement Avoids the Risk of No Recovery ...


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