Following guidelines and best practices that come down from the court and leaders in the industry is the best way to prepare yourself for the road ahead. Class action settlements are complex and full of stumbling blocks for those caught unaware. Fortunately, there are several trustworthy resources you may consult to direct your strategy.
Northern District of California Procedural Guidance for Class Action Settlements
The Northern District of California is considered a pioneering district, and its guidelines are often adopted in one form or another in other courts across the country. These guidelines are important for class action practitioners to be familiar with, in addition to the standing orders of the court in which your case is heard.
Among their recommendations:
- Make settlement statistics publicly available on the settlement website within 21 days of the distribution of settlement funds. The report should include claim rates, recovery per claimant, attorney fees, and injunctive relief. Find more of what the court requires here: https://www.cand.uscourts.gov/ClassActionSettlementGuidance
- Identify a settlement administrator and their estimated costs early in the process, during preliminary approval. Counsel is required to explain their criteria for selecting an administrator, identify how many proposals they received, and share their history of recent engagements with the selected settlement administrator.
- Disclose information to the court on past comparable class settlements involving similar clients, claims, issues, or magnitude.
- Disclose past relationships along with cy pres award recipients.
Best Practices for Implementing Rule 23 Class Action Settlement Provisions from Duke Law School
The Bolch Judicial Institute at Duke Law School released best practices to address the 2018 amendments to Rule 23. Their best practices were drafted by 38 prominent plaintiff and defense attorneys, class action litigation experts, including HF Media President, Jeanne C. Finegan, APR, as well as judges in six federal and state courts.
Such best practices include guidance in:
- How to provide the court with sufficient evidence that the proposed settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate at both the notice and approval stages
- Which information to provide courts to prove that the class representation and relief are adequate
- Whether courts will award attorney fees included in the settlement or base fees on a percentage
- How courts assess and proceed with treatment disparities among class members or conflicts of interest
- Which objections will be heard and decided upon, and how conflicts of interest will be identified
- Who will manage MDLs, personal injury claims, and economic loss claims
How to determine “effective notice,” particularly in the digital realm, and best methods of communication