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Lassen v. Hoty Livery, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

March 16, 2018

ROGER LASSEN, JR., individually and on behalf of all other similarly situated individuals, Plaintiff,
v.
HOTY LIVERY, INC. SANTO SILVESTRO, and LYNDA SILVESTRO, Defendants.

          ORDER ON FINAL APPROVAL OF SETTLEMENT AND RELEASE AND AMENDMENT TO SETTLEMENT AND RELEASE

          VICTOR A. BOLDEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Roger Lassen, Jr. (“Plaintiff”), on behalf of himself and others similarly situated, brought this action against Hoyt Livery, Inc. (“Hoyt Livery”), Santo Silvestro, and Lynda Silvestro (collectively “Defendants”), asserting claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. (“FLSA”) and the Connecticut Minimum Wage Act, Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 31 to 58 et seq. (“CMWA”).

         For nearly three years, Mr. Lassen worked as a limousine driver for Hoyt Livery, a Connecticut company owned by Mr. Silvestro and Ms. Silvestro. All drivers employed by Hoyt Livery, including Mr. Lassen, were paid in accordance with a commission-based system. Under the system, a dispatcher assigned drivers to work trips requested by customers, and the assigned driver earned forty percent (40%) of whatever fee was charged to the customer for the requested trip. The 40% figure included two components: twenty-five percent (25%) was designated as a “commission, ” while fifteen percent (15%) was designated as a “built-in gratuity.” Hoyt Livery required full-time drivers to be available six days a week.

         Until July 2013, Hoyt Livery did not maintain hourly time records for its drivers. During the period relevant to this lawsuit, Hoyt Livery drivers also did not receive additional compensation if they worked more than forty hours in a week. Regardless of how many hours a driver worked in a week or how many trips a driver took, all drivers earned the same 40% commission per trip. Hoyt Livery has since changed their policy, and now pays drivers one and a half times their weekly commission, if and when the driver works more than forty hours during that workweek. This case involves whether the previous payment structure complied with the FLSA, and the CMWA.

         On September 17, 2014, the Court (Meyer, J.) granted Plaintiff's motion to certify conditionally a FLSA collective action and to certify a Rule 23 class action as to the CMWA claims, with a class consisting of “all persons who have worked for Defendant . . . as full time limousine drivers between October 18, 2011 and the date of final judgment in this matter” (the “CMWA Class”). See Certification Order at 1-2, 13, ECF No. 43. In addition to Mr. Lassen, nine other plaintiffs opted in to the FLSA collective action (collectively, the “Opt-In Plaintiffs”), while the CMWA Class consists of thirty-five total members. See Approval Br. at 3- 4, ECF No. 193-1.

         On March 22, 2017, Mr. Lassen filed an unopposed motion for preliminary approval of the class action settlement, ECF No. 193, which the Court granted in part and denied in part. ECF No. 201. The Court permitted the parties to submit the proposed notice to CMWA Class members, using the notice procedures outlined in the settlement agreement. The Court, however, rejected two provisions of the settlement agreement related to the FLSA collective action and the Opt-In Plaintiffs, namely the (a) general release provision and (b) the confidentiality provision. The Court directed the parties to modify those provisions of the settlement agreement, as further explained in the Court's June 5, 2017, Order.

         On December 5, 2017, on consent, Plaintiffs' moved the Court to order the unconditional preliminary approval of the proposed class action settlement, as amended. ECF No. 238. Satisfied with the general release provision, as amended, and the confidentiality provision, as amended, the Court granted this motion on December 6, 2017. ECF No. 204.

         On February 15, 2018, the Court held a Final Approval Hearing. ECF No. 255.

         The Court hereby APPROVES the settlement as set forth in the Settlement Agreement and Release, attached herein as Exhibit A, and the Amended Settlement and Release, attached herein as Exhibit B.

         NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED, upon consideration of the Settlement Agreement and Release and the Amendment to the Settlement Agreement and Release, the evidence and oral argument presented at the fairness hearing, and the complete record and proceedings in this case to date, and for good cause shown:

         1. The Court, for purposes of this order, adopts all defined terms in the Settlement Agreement and Release and the Amendment to the Settlement Agreement and Release.

         2. This Court has jurisdiction over the subject matter of this action and the Parties.

         3. This Court hereby APPROVES the settlement set forth in the Settlement Agreement and Release and the Amendment to the Settlement Agreement and Release. The Court finds that the settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate in all respects and that it is binding on the Parties. The Court specifically finds that the settlement is reasonably related to the strength of the claims in this case given the risk, expense, complexity, and duration of further litigation. This Court also finds that the Settlement Agreement and Release and the Amendment to the Settlement Agreement and Release are the result of arms-length negotiations between experienced counsel representing the interests of Plaintiffs and Defendants, after thorough and extensive factual and legal investigation, including mediation with a Magistrate Judge.

         4. The Notice of Settlement, as authorized by the June 5, 2017, Preliminary Approval Order and re-affirmed in the Order of Unconditional Preliminary Approval, adequately explained the background of the case, summarized the amount of the Settlement Fund, and explained ...


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