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In re Chinese-Manufactured Drywall Products Liability Litigation

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

January 10, 2020

IN RE CHINESE-MANUFACTURED DRYWALL PRODUCTS LIABILITY LITIGATION
v.
Knauf Gips KG, et al., Civil Action No. 09-4115 E.D. La. THIS DOCUMENT RELATES TO ALL CASES Except The Mitchell Co., Inc.

         SECTION “L” (5)

          ORDER AND REASONS

          ELDON E. FALLON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is Settlement Class Counsel's Motion for Entry of an Order and Judgment (1) Granting Final Approval of the Class Settlement with Taishan and (2) Certifying the Settlement Class. R. Doc. 22397. Defendants have filed a supplemental memorandum in support thereof. R. Doc. 22393. Settlement Class Counsel has also filed a Motion for an Award of Attorney Fees and Costs. R. Doc. 22380. Because the award of attorney fees is relevant to the fairness, reasonableness, and adequacy of the Settlement, the Court will address both issues in this Order and Reasons. The Court heard oral argument from counsel at a Final Fairness Hearing on December 11, 2019, and, having considered the arguments of counsel and the objectors, as well as the parties' submissions, now rules as follows.

         Table of Contents

         I. BACKGROUND 3

         II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY 4

         A. The Knauf Defendants 4 B. The Chinese Defendants 5 C. The Taishan Settlement Agreement 12

         III. MOTION FOR FINAL APPROVAL 16

         A. Objections to the Motion 17

         B. Law & Discussion 26

         1. Class Action Settlement Prior to Class Certification 26

         2. Rule 23 Criteria 28

         a. Numerosity 28 b. Commonality 29

         c. Typicality 29 d. Adequacy of Representation 30

         e. Predominance of Common Questions of Law & Fact 31

         3. Fairness, Reasonableness, and Adequacy 32

         a. Adequacy of Representation 34

         b. Arm's Length Negotiation 35

         c. Adequacy of Relief 36

         i. The Complexity, Expense, and Likely Duration of the Litigation 37

         ii. The Stage of the Proceedings 38 iii. Plaintiffs' Probability of Success on the Merits 39

         iv. Range of Possible Recovery 40

         v. Opinion of Class Counsel, Class Representatives, and Absent Class Members 42

         d. Equitable Treatment of Class Members 43

         e. The Objections 44

         i. The Size of the Settlement and Adequacy of the Funds 46

         ii. Disparate Treatment of Amorin and Brooke Plaintiffs 47

         iii. Effect of Product Identification 48 iv. Inclusion of Attorney Fees 49

         v. Notice 50

         f. The Settlement Agreement is Fair, Reasonable, and Adequate 52

         IV. MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS' FEES AND COSTS 52

         A. Law and Analysis 52

         1. Methodology for Determining Common Benefit Fees 55

         a. Lodestar Method 55

         b. Percentage Method 56

         c. Blended Method 57

         i. Valuation of Benefit Obtained and Determination of a Benchmark Percentage 58

         ii. Johnson Factors 61

         a. The time and labor required 61

         b. The novelty and difficulty of the questions 62

         c. The skill required to properly perform the necessary legal services 62

         d. The preclusion of other employment by the attorneys due to acceptance of this case 63

         e. The customary fee 63 f. Whether the fee is fixed or contingent 63

         g. Time limitations imposed by circumstance 63

         h. The amount involved and the result achieved 64

         i. Experience, reputation and ability of common benefit counsel 65

         j. The “undesirability” of the case 65

         k. The nature and length of the professional relationship with the client 65

         l. Fee awards in similar cases 65

         iii. Lodestar Analysis 66

         2. Costs 68

         3. Incentive Awards 69

         V. CONCLUSION 70

         I. BACKGROUND

         From 2004 through 2006, the housing boom in Florida and rebuilding efforts necessitated by Hurricanes Rita and Katrina led to a shortage of construction materials, including drywall. As a result, drywall manufactured in China was brought into the United States and used to construct and refurbish homes in coastal areas of the country, notably the Gulf Coast and East Coast. Sometime after the installation of the Chinese drywall, homeowners began to complain of emissions of foul-smelling gas, the corrosion and blackening of metal wiring, surfaces, and objects, and the breaking down of appliances and electrical devices in their homes. See In re Chinese-Manufactured Drywall Prods. Liab. Litig., 894 F.Supp.2d 819, 829-30 (E.D. La. 2012), aff'd, 742 F.3d 576 (5th Cir. 2014).

         In an attempt to recoup their damages, these homeowners began to file suit in various state and federal courts against homebuilders, developers, installers, realtors, brokers, suppliers, importers, exporters, distributors, and manufacturers who were involved with the Chinese drywall. Because of the commonality of facts in the various cases, this litigation was designated as a multidistrict litigation in accordance with 28 U.S.C § 1407. Pursuant to a Transfer Order from the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation on June 15, 2009, all federal cases involving Chinese drywall were transferred and consolidated for pretrial proceedings in MDL 09-2047 before this Court.

         The Chinese drywall at issue was largely manufactured by two groups of defendants: (1) the Knauf Entities and (2) the Taishan Entities. The litigation has focused upon these two entities and their downstream associates and has proceeded on strikingly different tracks for the claims against each group.

         II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         A. The Knauf Defendants

         The Knauf Entities are German-based, international manufacturers of building products, including drywall, whose Chinese subsidiary, Knauf Plasterboard (Tianjin) Co., Ltd. (“KPT”), advertised and sold its Chinese drywall in the United States. The Knauf Entities are named defendants in numerous cases consolidated with the MDL litigation and litigation in state courts.

         The Knauf Entities first entered their appearance in the MDL litigation on July 2, 2009 and discovery quickly ensued. Thereafter, the Court presided over a bellwether trial in Hernandez v. Knauf Gips KG, No. 09-6050, involving a homeowner's claims against KPT for defective drywall. The Court found in favor of the plaintiff family in Hernandez, issued a detailed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, and entered a Judgment in the amount of $164, 049.64, including remediation damages in the amount of $136, 940.46-which represented a remediation cost of $81.13 per square foot based on the footprint square footage of the house.

         Subsequently, the Knauf Entities agreed to institute a pilot remediation program utilizing the remediation protocol formulated by the Court from the evidence in Hernandez. The pilot program included about fifty homes. At the Court's urging, the parties began working together to monetize this program and make it available to a broader class of plaintiffs.

         On December 20, 2011, the Knauf Entities and the PSC entered into a global, class Settlement Agreement (“Knauf Settlement Agreement”), which was designed to resolve all Knauf-related, Chinese drywall claims. Under the terms of the Knauf Settlement, homeowners had the choice of a sum certain or having the house totally remediated in addition to receiving reasonable costs and attorney fees. Furthermore, after a jury trial in a bellwether case, numerous defendants in the chain-of-commerce with the Knauf Entities entered into class settlement agreements, the effect of which settles almost all of the Knauf Entities' chain-of-commerce litigation. The total amount of the Knauf Settlement is estimated at $1.1 billion.

         Although the Court occasionally has to deal with settlement administration and enforcement issues, the Knauf portion of this litigation is now resolved.

         B. The Chinese Defendants

         The litigation against the Chinese entities has taken a different course. The Chinese Defendants in the litigation include the principal Chinese-based Defendant, Taishan, namely, Taishan Gypsum Co. Ltd. (“TG”) and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Taian Taishan Plasterboard Co., Ltd. (“TTP”) (collectively “Taishan” or “Taishan Entities”). Other Chinese-based Defendants include the CNBM and BNBM Entities.

         The Court's initial inquiry regarding Taishan involved four cases in this MDL: (1) Germano v. Taishan Gypsum Co. (No. 09-6687); (2) The Mitchell Co. v. Knauf Gips KG (No. 09-4115); (3) Gross v. Knauf Gips KG (No. 09-6690); and (4) Wiltz v. Beijing New Building Materials Public Ltd. (No. 10-361).

         The first issues involving Taishan arose when Taishan failed to timely answer or otherwise enter an appearance in Mitchell and Germano, despite the fact that it had been properly served in each case. Thus, after an extended period of time, the Court entered preliminary defaults against Taishan in both of these cases.

         Thereafter, the Court moved forward with an evidentiary hearing in furtherance of the preliminary default in Germano on the Plaintiffs' claimed damages. At this hearing, the Plaintiffs presented evidence specific to seven individual properties, which served as bellwether cases. Following this hearing on February 19 and 20, 2010, the Court issued detailed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law. On May 10, 2010, the Court issued a Default Judgment against Taishan in Germano and in favor of the Plaintiffs in the amount of $2, 609, 129.99. R. Doc. 2380, 3013. On June 10, 2010, the last day to timely appeal, Taishan filed a Notice of Appeal of the Default Judgment in Germano and entered its appearance in Germano and Mitchell. Taishan challenged this Court's jurisdiction over the Defendants. As a result, because this was the first instance where Defendants raised jurisdictional issues, the Fifth Circuit remanded the case to this Court to determine whether the Court indeed has jurisdiction over Taishan.

         After Taishan entered its appearance in the MDL, it quickly sought to have the Default Judgment in Germano and the Preliminary Default in Mitchell vacated for lack of personal jurisdiction. In the fall of 2010, the Court directed the parties to commence the personal jurisdiction discovery necessary to resolve Taishan's motions to vacate. Sometime after the initial discovery, the parties agreed to expand the discovery beyond the Germano and Mitchell cases to other cases in which Taishan had been served, including Gross and Wiltz.

         Formal personal jurisdiction discovery of Taishan began in October 2010. Discovery included the production of both written and electronic documents, as well as depositions of Taishan's corporate representatives, with each type of discovery proceeding in a parallel fashion. This discovery has often been contentious, requiring close supervision by the Court. The Court has presided over regularly-scheduled status conferences to keep the parties on track and conducted hearings and issued rulings to resolve numerous discovery-related disputes.

         The first Taishan depositions were held in Hong Kong on April 4-8, 2011. Thirteen attorneys traveled to Hong Kong and deposed several Taishan witnesses. However, upon return to the United States, several motions were filed seeking to schedule a second round of Taishan depositions as a result of problems during the depositions and seeking discovery sanctions against Taishan. The Court, after reviewing the transcripts from the depositions, concluded that the depositions were ineffective because of disagreement among interpreters, counsel and witnesses, translation difficulties, speaking objections, colloquy among counsel and interpreters, and in general, ensuing chaos.

         In view of the foregoing, the Court scheduled the second round of Taishan depositions for the week of January 9, 2012 in Hong Kong. Due to the problems experienced during the first depositions, the Court appointed a Federal Rule of Evidence 706 expert to operate as the sole interpreter at the depositions, and the Court decided to travel to Hong Kong to preside over the depositions. Counsel for the interested parties and the Court traveled to Hong Kong for these depositions. Because the Court was present at the depositions, objections were ruled upon immediately and the majority of problems that plagued the first round of depositions were absent. Also, the Court was able to observe the comments, intonation, and body language of the deponents. Upon return from Hong Kong, the parties informed the Court that minimal further discovery was necessary before briefing could be submitted on Taishan's personal jurisdiction challenges.

         In April 2012, Taishan filed various motions, including its motions to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. On June 29, 2012, over three years since the creation of this MDL, and after a year-and-a-half of personal jurisdiction discovery on Taishan, the Court presided over a hearing on Taishan's motions. The Court coordinated its hearing with the Honorable Joseph Farina of the Florida state court, who had a similar motion involving Taishan's challenge to personal jurisdiction.

         On September 4, 2012, this Court issued a 142-page Order regarding Taishan's motions in Germano, Mitchell, Gross, and Wiltz, in which the Court denied the motions to dismiss and held that it maintained personal jurisdiction over Taishan. In re Chinese-Manufactured Drywall Prods. Liab. Litig., 894 F.Supp.2d 819 (E.D. La. 2012). The Court also ruled that Taishan was operating as the alter ego of TG and TPP. The Court certified an interlocutory appeal, and the Fifth Circuit granted permission to appeal.

         In January and May of 2014, two different panels of the Fifth Circuit affirmed this Court's ruling and held that this Court maintained personal jurisdiction over Taishan, TG and TPP. In re Chinese-Manufactured Drywall Prods. Liab. Litig., 753 F.3d 521 (5th Cir. 2014); In re Chinese-Manufactured Drywall Prods. Liab. Litig., 742 F.3d 576 (5th Cir. 2014). The time for writ of certiorari passed, and the issue of personal jurisdiction over Taishan became firmly and finally settled. Nevertheless, Taishan refused to pay the Germano judgment or voluntarily participate in this litigation.

         On June 20, 2014, the Court ordered Taishan to appear in open court on July 17, 2014 to be examined as a judgment debtor. Taishan failed to appear for the July 17, 2014 Judgment Debtor Examination, and the Court held Taishan in contempt and ordered that Taishan pay $15, 000.00 in attorney's fees to Plaintiffs' counsel; that Taishan pay $40, 000.00 as a penalty for contempt; that Taishan and any of its affiliates or subsidiaries be enjoined from conducting any business in the United States until or unless it participated in this judicial process; and that if Taishan violated the injunction, it would be obligated to pay a further penalty of 25-percent of the profits earned by the Company or its affiliate who violate the Order for the year of the violation.

         On July 23, 2014, Plaintiffs filed their Omnibus Motion for Class Certification pursuant to Rule 23(b)(3). Taishan did not appear and, on September 26, 2014, this Court certified a class of all owners of real properties in the United States, who are named Plaintiffs on the complaints in Amorin, Germano, Gross, and/or Wiltz (i.e., not an absent class member), asserting claims for remediated damages arising from, or otherwise related to Chinese Drywall manufactured, sold, distributed, supplied, marketed, inspected, imported or delivered by the Taishan Defendants.

         Taishan finally entered an appearance with the Court in February 2015, and, to satisfy the contempt, Taishan paid the judgment and both the sum of $15, 000.00 in attorney's fees to Plaintiffs' counsel and the contempt penalty of $40, 000.00 in March 2015. On March 17, 2015, the Court ordered Taishan and the BNBM and CNBM Entities to participate in expedited discovery related to “the relationship between Taishan and BNBM/CNBM, including whether affiliate and/or alter ego status exists.”

         In March 2016, this Court granted CNBM Group's motion to dismiss, finding it was an “agent or instrumentality of a foreign state” within the meaning of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (“FSIA”), and therefore outside the jurisdiction of this Court under 28 U.S.C. § 1603(b). The Court determined that the tortious activity exception did not apply because the alleged tortious conduct did not occur within the United States under 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(5). Further, the Court found that the commercial activity exception did not apply in this case, as CNBM Group did not directly manufacture, inspect, sell, or market drywall in the United States. Because Plaintiffs failed to present evidence sufficient to overcome the presumption that CNBM Group was entitled to independent status for purposes of the FSIA, the Court granted the motion and dismissed CNBM Group from the present litigation.

         On April 21, 2017, the Court issued a 100-page opinion related to jurisdictional challenges being raised in four separate motions filed by Defendants. The Court found that Taishan was an agent of BNBM under Florida and Virginia law, such that Taishan's contacts in Florida and Virginia are imputed to BNBM. This Court further found that CNBM, BNBM Group, and BNBM were part of a single business enterprise with Taishan under Louisiana law, such that Taishan's contacts in Louisiana may be imputed to Defendants, and the Court has jurisdiction over Defendants in relation to Plaintiffs' claims based on Louisiana law.

         Also on April 21, 2017, the Court issued its Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law related to the June 9, 2015 damages hearing, and adopted Plaintiffs' damage calculations methodology related to remediation of properties.

         On May 22, 2017, Defendants filed a motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b) to certify interlocutory appeal from this Court's jurisdiction order. Because the Court found that its Order and Reasons involved a controlling question of law as to which there is substantial ground for difference of opinion, and because the Court further found that an interlocutory appeal from that Order and Reasons could materially advance the ultimate termination of this MDL, on August 4, 2017, the Court certified an interlocutory appeal to the Fifth Circuit pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b).

         On August 1, 2017, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction following the recent U.S. Supreme Court case of Bristol-Myers Squibb v. Superior Court of California. Based on Bristol-Myers Squibb, Defendants contested this Court's findings of personal jurisdiction, class certification, and agency relationship. On August 14, 2017, Defendants filed a petition for permission to appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b) in the Fifth Circuit, in which they argued that the Bristol-Myers Squibb opinion impacts questions raised on appeal. On August 24, 2017, this Court vacated its 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b) certification order to avoid piecemeal litigations. The Court noted its duty to address the effect of Bristol-Myers Squibb on the jurisdictional issue before certifying the matter to the Fifth Circuit. Subsequently, on November 30, 2017, the Court denied Defendants' motion to dismiss, holding that Bristol-Myers Squibb does not change this Court's jurisdictional findings and class certification.

         On January 2, 2018, the Court denied Defendants CNBM Company, BNBM Group, and BNBM PLC's motion to vacate the default judgments against them. On March 5, 2018, the Court reinstated its order to certify interlocutory appeal of its April 2017 jurisdiction opinion arising from the Chinese Defendants' agency relationship. The Court, nevertheless, denied Defendants' request to certify the interlocutory appeal of its opinion involving Bristol-Myers Squibb's impact (or lack thereof) on the Court's personal jurisdiction analysis. The Court noted that the Supreme Court's opinion in Bristol-Myers Squibb did not address class actions and therefore was inapplicable to this MDL. Additionally, two separate panels on the Fifth Circuit had already reaffirmed the Court's original personal jurisdiction analysis in 2014. Any further litigation on the issue of personal jurisdiction for the Chinese Defendants would cause needless delay and waste judicial resources. BNBM and CNBM petitioned the Fifth Circuit for permission to appeal this Court's jurisdictional order, and the jurisdictional appeal is currently pending.

         In 2018, the Court suggested to the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation that the Florida and Virginia Amorin actions be remanded to the transferor courts. R. Docs. 21242, 21695. In 2019, the Court issued a suggestion of remand with respect to the Florida and Virginia Brooke actions as well. R. Doc. 22138, 22139.

         A significant development in the Taishan aspect of this litigation occurred in the spring of 2019. On May 22 and 23, 2019, the parties underwent mediation with the goal of resolving the entirety of the Amorin[1] and Brooke[2] matters pending in the Eastern District of Louisiana, the Southern District of Florida, and the Eastern District of Virginia. On May 23, 2019, the parties agreed to a Term Sheet, and negotiations continued in person and by telephone for three months. All matters in the Amorin and Brooke actions were accordingly stayed by the remand courts and this Court, pending the execution of a Settlement Agreement between the parties. The stay was extended several times and preliminary approval of the Settlement Agreement was granted by the Court on August 29, 2019. R. Doc. 22314.

         C. The Taishan Settlement Agreement

         The proposed Taishan Settlement Agreement is the result of over a decade of litigation and a complex negotiation process. Specifically, it obligates Taishan to pay $248, 000, 000 to fully resolve all claims of the Amorin class, the plaintiffs named in the Brooke complaints, and any other property owners with Chinese drywall attributable to Taishan (“Absent Class Members”). The settlement funds are “intended to provide compensation for all property and remediation damages as well as Other Losses.” R. Doc. 22305-2 at 21. The Settlement specifically excludes 498 Florida Amorin Plaintiffs who received a separate settlement from Taishan (the “Parker Waichman Settlement”), the plaintiffs involved in the Mitchell action, [3] and plaintiffs whose claims were previously voluntarily dismissed or dismissed for failure to complete a Supplemental Plaintiff Profile Form. R. Doc. 22305-2 at 5. If the Settlement is approved, Class Members who have not opted out will be deemed to have fully released any and all claims, as defined by the Settlement Agreement, against Taishan and the Additional Released Parties, [4] and will be barred from bringing or continuing suit on a released claim against these entities. R. Doc. 22305-2 at 19-20.

         The amount a plaintiff stands to receive under the Settlement Agreement is determined by a Court-appointed Allocation Neutral. R. Doc. 22305-2 at 20-21. Mr. J. Cal Mayo, Jr., the Allocation Neutral, has developed an allocation model to determine the proper allocation and distribution of settlement funds among all the affected properties and eligible class members. R. Doc. 22304. This model attempts to “strike a balance between property-specific allocation, on the one hand, and efficient and effective allocation, on the other hand.” R. Doc. 22304-1 at 2. To that end, the allocation model considers a No. of “objective allocation criteria, ” including square footage of the Affected Property, whether the claimant was an Amorin plaintiff, a Brooke plaintiff, or an Absent Class Member, product identification, and the prior receipt of settlement funds. R. Doc. 22304-1. The allocation model does not consider the national average construction cost based on zip codes, ownership status, remediation status, or the value of other losses. R. Doc. 22304-1. The Settlement provides for a single allocation for each Affected Property, such that settlement awards may need to be divided among eligible class members with competing claims to the same property. The allocation model does not consider, nor does the Settlement provide compensation for personal injury claims, but such claims shall nevertheless be released pursuant to the Agreement. R. Doc. 22397-1 at 23.

         Following preliminary approval, Class Members were able to access the allocation model on the Settlement website and on the Court's docket. A Master Spreadsheet of Known Class Member Claims was also posted and filed, providing class members who had submitted sufficient proof of covered Chinese drywall with the ability to review the objective criteria used to calculate the value of their claim. Class Members had the opportunity to dispute the information on the Master Spreadsheet by October 3, 2019. One hundred and nine challenges were made, and a Revised Master Spreadsheet was filed with the Court on October 31, 2019. R. Doc. 22355-1. It was also posted on the Settlement Website, and a Challenge Determination Notice was sent to each affected Class Member. Under the terms of the Settlement, the review, determination, and approval of the allocation model by the Court shall be final and binding.

         The parties undertook a significant effort to notify all Class Members, including Absent Class Members, of the proposed Settlement Agreement. A website (ChineseDrywallSettlement.com) was published to provide Class Members with up to date information about the settlement and the litigation. A notice of the proposed settlement was posted in every courthouse in which a Chinese drywall related case was pending. Working with Kinsella Media, the parties implemented a Media Notice Program to publish notice of the Settlement in print and online/mobile ads in relevant markets. Critically, each known Class Member was notified of the Settlement by mail and provided with a gross estimate of their award under the Settlement as calculated by the allocation model.

         The Taishan Settlement Agreement binds all Class Members save those who formally opt-out from its terms. The Settlement involved a ninety-day period during which plaintiffs could opt-out by personally signing and mailing a request to do so to Settlement Class Counsel. Parties who choose not to opt-out but nevertheless were displeased with the Settlement could submit a formal objection within the same ninety-day period. The opt-out and objection period closed on November 27, 2019. The objections were collected by Settlement Class Counsel and submitted to the Court for consideration at the Final Fairness Hearing on December 11, 2019. Settlement Class Counsel received ninety-two opt-out requests, although not all were compliant with the Settlement Agreement's opt-out procedure. Of the compliant requests, seventy-eight were from known Class Members, [5] and twelve were from Absent Class Members. Settlement Class Counsel received twenty-two objections.

         The Taishan Settlement Agreement is a historic achievement. It is, however, critically different from the Settlement Agreement reached in the Knauf aspect of this litigation. While the Knauf Settlement Agreement obligated Knauf to pay a designated amount to cover reasonable costs and attorney fees for both contract counsel and common benefit counsel in addition to completely remediating the affected properties, [6] the Taishan Settlement Agreement provides $248, 000, 000 to resolve all claims and pay all attorney fees and costs. Taishan is not involved in the allocation of funds. Therefore, while the Knauf aspect of the litigation required the Court to fairly allocate designated funds among common benefit counsel and individually retained attorneys, the Court has a much more difficult task here. First, the Court must determine what percentage of the total settlement fund is appropriately allocated to attorney fees and costs. Second, the Court must determine how to allocate that amount between common benefit counsel and individually retained attorneys. Third, the Court must individually allocate a specific portion of those fees to each attorney entitled to such an award. Furthermore, this is a time sensitive inquiry because the allocation of attorney fees and costs necessarily reduces the amount of settlement funds available for distribution to the individual plaintiffs in this matter. Settlement Class Counsel has requested an award of attorney fees for both contract counsel and common benefit counsel totaling 30% of the settlement funds, and a 3% award for expenses. The Court first addresses final approval in Section III of this opinion and turns to the issue of attorney fees in Section IV.

         III. MOTION FOR FINAL APPROVAL

         Settlement Class Counsel seeks certification of the Settlement Class and final approval of the class settlements with Taishan Gypsum Company Ltd. f/k/a Shandong Taihe Dongxin Co., Ltd. and Taian Taishan Plasterboard Co. Ltd. R. Doc. 22397. In support of its motion, Settlement Class Counsel argues that the settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate in light of the specific requirements of Rule 23(e) and the Fifth Circuit's Reed factors. Further, Settlement Class Counsel stresses that notice to the class complied with due process and that the overwhelming majority of class members support the settlement. At the Final Fairness Hearing, Class Counsel stressed that the Settlement will provide significant benefits to almost 4, 000 plaintiffs and that the Settlement is an historic and substantial achievement in light of the procedural posture of the litigation, factual issues, the challenges of service, jurisdiction, and appeals, and the significant uncertainty of collecting on a potential judgment if the case went to trial.

         A. Objections to the Motion

         Class counsel received and filed into the record twenty-seven objections to the settlement. Twenty-two objections were made by Class Members. The Court summarizes the objections below and addresses the arguments in its analysis.

         1. Alisa Roundtree

         Alisa Roundtree objected to the Settlement on November 7, 2019. Ms. Roundtree's primary concerns involve the disparate treatment of Amorin and Brooke plaintiffs and the reduction of claims involving disputed product identification. She contends that an eighty percent reduction of the Brooke plaintiffs' claims is unfair because “it is not [the plaintiffs'] fault that the discovery and litigation necessary to move the Brooke Complaint case to resolution was stayed or halted for several years.” R. Doc. 22389-1 at 4.

         2. Penny Alexander

         Penny Alexander objected to the Settlement on November 20, 2019. Ms. Alexander's primary concern involves the amount of her estimated award, which she does not believe sufficiently compensates her ...


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