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Nakamura v. Wells Fargo Bank, National Association

United States District Court, D. Kansas

February 5, 2019

JIN NAKAMURA, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,



         This matter comes before the court on plaintiff Jin Nakamura's Unopposed Motion for Certification of Settlement Class and Preliminary Approval of Class Settlement (Doc. 126). For reasons explained below, the court grants plaintiff's Motion.

         Plaintiff, individually and on behalf of the proposed Settlement Class, and defendant Wells Fargo Bank National Association d/b/a Wells Fargo Dealer Services (“Wells Fargo”), have agreed, subject to court approval, to settle this case under the terms set forth in the September 25, 2018, Settlement Agreement (“Settlement Agreement”). Plaintiff has moved for an order granting preliminary approval of the Settlement Agreement.

         The court has reviewed the parties' Settlement Agreement and attached exhibits, the record in this case, counsel's briefs and arguments, and supporting exhibits. The court preliminarily finds, for purposes of settlement only, that this action meets all the prerequisites of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. All the defined terms contained in this Order have the same meanings as the definitions provided in the Settlement Agreement.


         1. The court has jurisdiction over the subject matter of this lawsuit and the settling parties.

         2. The court preliminarily approves the Settlement Agreement, subject to further consideration at the final Fairness Hearing, described below. The court directs the parties to perform and satisfy the terms and conditions of the Settlement Agreement, for which entry of this Order is a condition. When making this determination, the court has considered: (1) whether the proposed settlement was negotiated fairly and honestly; (2) whether serious questions of law and fact exist; (3) whether the value of immediate recovery outweighs the mere possibility of future relief after protracted litigation; and (4) the parties' judgment about the fairness and reasonableness of the proposed settlement. See Rutter & Willbanks Corp. v. Shell Oil Co., 314 F.3d 1180, 1188 (10th Cir. 2002).

         3. The court will hold a final approval hearing (“Fairness Hearing”) on Wednesday, May 15, 2019, at 9:00 a.m., at the Robert J. Dole United States Courthouse, 500 State Avenue, Kansas City, Kansas, in Courtroom 476, to determine: (1) whether the proposed settlement on the terms and conditions that the Settlement Agreement provides is fair, reasonable, and adequate to the Settlement Class and should be approved by the court; (2) whether final judgment should be entered; (3) the amount of fees, costs, and expenses that the court should award plaintiff's counsel; and (4) the amount of any incentive award the court should award the class representative. Attendance at the hearing is not mandatory, and Settlement Class members need not appear or take any other action to indicate their approval of the proposed Settlement Agreement. If the court changes the date, time, or location of the hearing, Class Counsel and the Settlement Administrator promptly must post notice of that change to the settlement website.

         4. For settlement purposes only, the court preliminarily certifies this action as a class action under Rule 23 on behalf of the Settlement Class, defined below:

All servicemembers who, before the servicemember entered military service, paid a deposit or installment on a motor vehicle loan originated, acquired, and/or serviced by Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., its predecessors, successors, subsidiaries, and assigns (“Wells Fargo”), and whose motor vehicle subject to the loan was repossessed by Wells Fargo while the servicemember was in active military service without a court order authorizing the repossession between January 1, 2006, and December 31, 2017, and have not already released their claims.

         This definition adequately identifies the people who are: (1) entitled to relief; (2) subject to being bound by a final judgment; and (3) entitled to the best notice practicable under Rule 23(c)(2). In re Motor Fuel Temperature Sales Practices Litig., No. 07-MD-1840-KHV, 2014 WL 5431133, at *13 (D. Kan. Oct. 27, 2014). The court is mindful that “[c]lass action settlements are premised upon the validity of the underlying class certification.” In re Integra Realty Res., Inc., 354 F.3d 1246, 1261 (10th Cir. 2004). Class certification is appropriate if the district court finds, after conducting a “rigorous analysis, ” that the proposed class satisfies the requirements of Rule 23. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 564 U.S. 338, 351 (2011). “Confronted with a request for settlement-only class certification, a district court need not inquire whether the case, if tried, would present intractable management problems, see [Fed. R. Civ. P.] 23(b)(3)(D), for the proposal is that there be no trial.” Amchem Prods., Inc. v. Windsor, 521 U.S. 591, 620 (1997). “But other specifications of the Rule-those designed to protect absentees by blocking unwarranted or overbroad class definitions-demand undiluted, even heightened, attention in the settlement context.” Id.

         5. The court finds that, in the context of this proposed settlement only, the prerequisites to class certification under Rule 23(a) are satisfied:

a. The Settlement Class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable.
b. There are numerous questions of law and fact common to all members of the Settlement Class, and the claims of the named plaintiff in this action are typical of the ...

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