United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division
TINA M. GREGORY f/k/a Tina Adams Green; individually and as Class Representative for all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
PREFERRED FINANCIAL SOLUTIONS; CREDIT CARD RELIEF; THOMAS P. DAKICH, d/b/a DAKICH & ASSOCIATES; JEFFREY BROOKS; RHONDA ROELL-TAYLOR; LARRY D. WILSON; ROD MILLER; DANIEL YUSKA; STEVE MLYNSKI; JEFF WHITEHEAD; and LAQUETTA PEARSON, Defendants.
FINAL ORDER OF JUDGMENT AND DISMISSAL
T. TREADWELL, JUDGE.
matter coming to be heard on Plaintiff's Unopposed
Request for Final Approval of Class Action Settlement
(“Request”), due and adequate notice having been
given to the Settlement Class,  and the Court having considered
all papers filed and proceedings in this matter, it is HEREBY
ORDERED, ADJUDGED and DECREED as follows:
Court has jurisdiction over the subject matter of the Action
and personal jurisdiction over all parties to the Action,
including all Class Members.
Court preliminarily approved the Settlement Agreement by
Preliminary Approval Order dated August 24, 2018, Doc. 143,
and notice was given to all members of the Class under the
terms of the Preliminary Approval Order.
Court has read and considered the papers filed in support of
the Request, including the Settlement Agreement and the
exhibits thereto, memoranda and arguments submitted on behalf
of the Class and the defendants, and supporting declarations.
The Court has been informed by the Class Settlement
Administrator that no members of the class sought exclusion
from the class or have objected to the Settlement of this
action. The Court held a hearing on March 5, 2019, at which
time the Parties and all other interested persons were
afforded the opportunity to be heard in support of and in
opposition to the Settlement. The Court has received no
objections from any person regarding this Settlement.
Based on the papers filed with the Court and the
presentations made to the Court by the Parties and other
interested persons at the hearing, the Court now gives final
approval to the Settlement and finds that the Settlement is
fair, adequate, reasonable, and in the best interests of the
weighing final approval of a class settlement, the
Court's role is to determine whether the settlement,
taken as a whole, is “fair, adequate and reasonable and
. . . not the product of collusion between the
parties.” Bennett v. Behring Corp., 737 F.2d
982, 986 (11th Cir. 1984) (internal quotation marks and
citations omitted); Leverso v. SouthTrust Bank of Ala.,
N.A., 18 F.3d 1527, 1530 (11th Cir. 1994). To aid in
this determination, courts in this Circuit consider the
following factors: (1) the existence of fraud or collusion
behind the settlement; (2) the complexity, expense, and
duration of litigation; (3) the stage of the proceedings at
which the settlement was achieved and the amount of discovery
completed; (4) the probability of the plaintiff's success
on the merits; (5) the range of possible recoveries; and (6)
the opinions of class counsel, class representatives, and the
substance and amount of opposition to the settlement. See
Leverso, 18 F.3d at 1530 n.6; Bennett, 737 F.2d
at 986. “In assessing these factors, the Court
‘should be hesitant to substitute . . . [its] own
judgment for that of counsel.'” Lipuma v. Am.
Express Co., 406 F.Supp.2d 1298, 1315 (S.D. Fla. 2005)
(quoting In re Smith, 926 F.2d 1027, 1028 (11th Cir.
1991)); In re Motorsports Merchandise Antitrust
Litig., 112 F.Supp.2d 1329, 1333 (N.D.Ga. 2000) (same).
Application of these factors in this case supports final
approval of the Settlement:
Court must consider whether a proposed settlement is
“the product of collusion between the parties.”
Bennett, 737 F.2d at 986 (quoting Cotton v.
Hinton, 559 F.2d 1326, 1330 (5th Cir. 1977)).
“There is a presumption of good faith in the
negotiation process. . . . Where the parties have negotiated
at arm's length, the Court should find that the
settlement is not the product of collusion. . . . Further,
where the case proceeds adversarially, this counsels against
a finding of collusion.” Saccoccio v. JP Morgan
Chase Bank, N.A., 297 F.R.D. 683, 692 (S.D. Fla. 2014)
(citations omitted); Ingram v. Coca-Cola Co., 200
F.R.D. 685, 693 (N.D.Ga. 2001). Here, there is no claim of
fraud or collusion. The fact that the Settlement is the
result of arms' length negotiations supports this
finding. Also, the parties conducted extensive discovery.
See Doc. 81 (representing that “the parties
have exchanged written discovery and conducted numerous
depositions”); In re Corrugated Container Antitrust
Litig., 643 F.2d 195, 211 (5th Cir. 1981) (“[T]he
trial court may legitimately presume that counsel's
judgment ‘that they had achieved the desired quantum of
information necessary to achieve a settlement,' . . . is
reliable.”) (citations omitted). Accordingly, this
factor weighs in favor of final approval of the Settlement.
most situations, unless the settlement is clearly inadequate,
its acceptance and approval are preferable to lengthy and
expensive litigation with uncertain results.” 4 Newberg
on Class Actions § 11:50 at 155 (4th ed. 2002). In this
case, recovery by any means other than settlement would
requires additional litigation. The case has been pending
since 2011, and several Defendants have filed for bankruptcy,
which limits the range of possible recovery. Doc. 136 at 2.
Furthermore, the action has been pending since 2011 and is
factually and legally complex, which supports the findings
that continued litigation would be expensive and that
settlement is in the best interests of the class.
in considering a proposed class settlement, the Court
“may rely upon the judgment of experienced counsel for
the parties. . . . Absent fraud, collusion, or the like, the
district court ‘should be hesitant to substitute its
own judgment for that of counsel.'” Nelson v.
Mead Johnson & Johnson Co., 484 Fed.Appx. 429, 434
(11th Cir. 2012) (quoting Cotton, 559 F.2d at 1330);
Greco v. Ginn Dev. Co., LLC, 635 Fed.Appx. 628, 632
(11th Cir. 2015) (same); In re Domestic Air, 148
F.R.D. at 312-13 (same). In addition, “the reaction of
the class is an important factor.” Lipuma, 406
F.Supp.2d at 1324; see Saccoccio, 297 F.R.D. at 694
(“[A] low number of objections suggests that the
settlement is reasonable”); In re Motorsports
Merchandise Antitrust Litig., 112 F.Supp.2d at 1338
(“The lack of objection . . . suggests the terms are
satisfactory. . . .”). Here, no class members have
objected or opted out. The Court thus finds that the positive
response from the Class Members here evidences the fairness,
reasonableness, and adequacy of the Settlement.
August 24, 2018, Doc. 143, the Court approved the following
class definition for settlement purposes:
All persons who, while residing in the State of Georgia,
received Debt Settlement and/or Debt Adjusting services from
the Defendants from July 1, 2003 through and including March
7, 2014, and from whom the Defendants accepted, either
directly or indirectly, any charge, fee, contribution, or
Court is informed that there are 796 unique persons described
above during this period.
Plaintiff Tina Gregory has been appointed Class
Representative and James W. Hurt, Jr. of Hurt Stolz, P.C. and
Richard G. DiGiorgio of Cory ...