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Society of Professional Engineering Employees In Aerospace v. Boeing Co.

United States District Court, Tenth Circuit

June 19, 2013

SOCIETY OF PROFESSIONAL ENGINEERING EMPLOYEES IN AEROSPACE, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
BOEING CO., et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Monti L. Belot, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

This case comes before the court on plaintiffs and Spirit defendants’ motion of voluntary dismissal of all claims against Spirit defendants with prejudice. (Doc. 575).

I. Facts and Procedural History[1]

Plaintiffs, which consist of unions and past Boeing employees, brought claims against various Boeing and Spirit organizations. The individual plaintiffs in this case include 1999 Harkness class members and the McCartney/Boone plaintiffs who are not members of the class. All parties have been engaged in extensive discovery for several years. The pretrial order was entered on October 3, 2011, and the dispositive motion deadline was December 9, 2011. (Doc. 548). The claims against the Spirit defendants consist of breach of contract and ERISA violations. Essentially, plaintiffs assert that Spirit agreed to assume the liabilities of plaintiffs’ pension and health care benefits which accrued under the BCERP.

In preparing for the filing of dispositive motions, plaintiffs’ counsel met to discuss the merits of their claims against the Spirit defendants. After reviewing the voluminous documents and more than 40 depositions, plaintiffs’ counsel determined that they did not have a factual basis to support their contentions. Plaintiffs’ counsel met with Spirit’s counsel to determine a solution. In order to save litigation costs, plaintiffs’ and Spirit’s counsel agreed to a settlement in which plaintiffs would dismiss all claims against the Spirit defendants with prejudice and the parties would bear their own costs.

Plaintiffs and Spirit defendants presented the court with a joint motion to dismiss with prejudice on September 25, 2012. (Doc. 575). On November 27, 2012, the court entered an order preliminarily approving the voluntary dismissal. (Doc. 579). The order required written notice to class members and afforded class members the opportunity to submit objections to the dismissal.

On December 11, 2012, the court denied Boeing’s motion for summary judgment on the majority of plaintiffs’ claims against Boeing. (Doc. 581). The parties are currently engaging in damages discovery. The case is scheduled for mediation in Fall 2013.

In mid-January, counsel sent out the notices to all members of the Harkness class detailing the proposed dismissal, the procedure for filing objections and the date and location of the fairness hearing. (Doc. 587). On February 27, counsel re-sent the notices to the class members for whom the initial notice was returned as undeliverable. (Doc. 591). Ultimately, only five notices were returned as undeliverable after the second mailing. On March 13, 2013, Joan Heffington filed an objection with the court. (Doc. 592). Additionally, two class members sent emails to plaintiffs’ counsel regarding the notice. (Doc. 598).

The court held a fairness hearing on June 17, 2013. Counsel for all parties discussed how they reached an agreement on plaintiffs’ claims against Spirit. Joan Heffington was the only class member who presented objections at the hearing.

II. Analysis

A. Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(e)

Under Rule 23(e), claims of a certified class may be settled, compromised or dismissed only with court approval. Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(e). The Court may approve a settlement upon finding that it is fair, reasonable and adequate. See Rule 23(e)(2). In determining whether the settlement is fair, reasonable and adequate, the court should consider the following factors:

(1) whether the proposed settlement was fairly and honestly negotiated;
(2) whether serious questions of law and fact exist, placing the ultimate outcome of ...

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