United States District Court, D. Connecticut
NED SIMERLEIN, JAMES ECKHOFF, MARICEL LOPEZ, CRAIG KAISER, JOHN F. PRENDERGAST, RAYMOND ALVAREZ, ROSARIO ALVAREZ, KAREN EASON, JENNIFER SOWERS, JENNIFER FRANKLIN, JORDAN AMRANI, CRYSTAL GILLESPIE, MELISSA STALKER, DILLEN STEEBY, PAULA MCMILLIN, JOSEPH C. HARP JR., JAMES TINNEY, AND MELISSA JUGO TINNEY, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
TOYOTA MOTOR CORPORATION, TOYOTA MOTOR NORTH AMERICA INC., TOYOTA MOTOR SALES U.S.A., INC., TOYOTA MOTOR ENGINEERING & MANUFACTURING NORTH AMERICA, INC., and TOYOTA MOTOR MANUFACTURING, INDIANA, INC., Defendants.
RULING AND ORDER ON MOTION FOR FINAL APPROVAL AND
CERTIFICATION OF SETTLEMENT CLASS AND MOTION FOR
ATTORNEY'S FEES, EXPENSES, AND SERVICE AWARDS
A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
parties in this consumer class action, Simerlein v.
Toyota Motor Corp. et al., originally filed in this
District on June 30, 2017, and Combs v. Toyota Motor
Corp. et al., originally filed in the Central District
of California on June 23, 2017, No. 2:17-cv-4633 (VAP)(AFM),
have reached an agreement to resolve the product defect and
consumer protection claims raised by the plaintiffs in both
cases. See Settlement Agreement, filed Dec. 11, 2018
(“Agrmt.”), ECF No. 85.
January 14, 2019, the Court conditionally certified the
proposed Settlement Class in this case, preliminarily
approved the parties' proposed settlement agreement,
approved proposed notices to the proposed Settlement Class,
and appointed Class Representatives, Class Counsel,
Settlement Claims Administrators, and a Settlement Notice
Administrator. See Ruling and Order on Motion for
Preliminary Approval, dated Jan. 14, 2019 (“Ruling and
Order”), ECF No. 107.
Simerlein, James Eckhoff, Maricel Lopez, Craig Kaiser, and
John F. Prendergast (the “Simerlein
Plaintiffs”) and Raymond Alvarez, Rosario Alvarez,
Karen Eason, Jennifer Sowers, Jennifer Franklin, Jordan
Amrani, Crystal Gillespie, Melissa Stalker, Dillen Steeby,
Paula McMillin, Joseph C. Harp Jr., James Tinney, and Melissa
Jugo Tinney (the “Combs Plaintiffs”)
(collectively, “Plaintiffs” or “Class
Representatives”) now move, inter alia, for
final approval of the Settlement Agreement and certification
of the Settlement Class. Unopposed Motion for Final Approval
of Class Settlement and Certification of Settlement Class,
dated May 10, 2019 (“Mot.”), ECF No. 122; see
also Plaintiffs' Memorandum of Law in Support of
Mot., dated May 10, 2019 (“Pls.' Mem.”), ECF
fully support this motion. See Defendants'
Memorandum of Law in Support of Mot., dated May 10, 2019
(“Defs.' Mem.”), ECF No. 126.
also move for awards of $6, 500, 000 in attorney's fees,
$370, 972.29 in litigation costs, and for service awards of
$2, 500 for each Class Representative. Plaintiffs' Motion
for Attorneys' Fees, Expenses, and Service Awards to the
Class Representatives, dated May 10, 2019 (“Fee
Mot.”), ECF No. 125; Plaintiffs' Memorandum of Law
in Support of Fee Mot., dated May 10, 2019 (“Fee
Mem.”), ECF No. 125-1.
reviewing the Settlement Agreement, all the filings submitted
in connection with the motion, and after conducting a
fairness hearing on June 4, 2019, Plaintiffs' motions are
GRANTED, and the Court FINDS,
CONCLUDES, and ORDERS as follows.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
The Simerlein Plaintiffs
Simerlein Plaintiffs are all owners of Toyota Sienna
minivans with power sliding rear passenger
doors. See Amended Complaint, dated Oct.
6, 2017 (“Simerlein Am. Compl.”), ECF
No. 36, ¶¶ 18-51; see also Second Amended
Complaint, dated Dec. 11, 2018 (the “Operative
Complaint” or “Op. Compl.”), ECF No. 80.
The Simerlein Plaintiffs reside in five different
states: Connecticut, New York, Florida, Indiana, and Maine.
See Simerlein Am. Compl. ¶¶ 18, 27, 32,
Simerlein, a resident of Cheshire, Connecticut, owns a
“2013 Toyota Sienna XLE, which he purchased used in or
around September 30, 2016 from a Toyota dealership located in
New Jersey.” Op. Compl. ¶¶ 18-19.
Eckhoff, a resident of North Babylon, New York, owns a 2013
Toyota Sienna XLE, which he purchased new in 2003 in Islip,
New York. Id. ¶¶ 76-77.
Lopez, a resident of Port St. Lucie, Florida, owns a 2011
Toyota Sienna LE, which she purchased new in 2011 at Toyota
of Vero Beach in Vero Beach, Florida. Id.
Kaiser, a resident of Noblesville, Indiana, owns a 2015
Toyota Sienna LE, which he purchased new in January 2015 in
Chicago, Illinois. Id. ¶¶ 50-51.
Prendergast, a resident of Camden, Maine, owns a 2015 Toyota
Sienna XLE, which he purchased in March 2016 in Saco, Maine.
The Combs Plaintiffs
Combs Plaintiffs are all owners of Toyota Sienna
minivans with power sliding rear passenger
doors. See Second Amended Complaint
¶¶ 9-47 Combs v. Toyota Motor Corp. et
al., No. 2:17-cv-4633 (VAP)(AFM) (C.D. Cal. Jan. 16,
2018), ECF No. 51 (hereafter, “Combs Am.
Compl.”); see also Op. Compl. The
Combs Plaintiffs reside in eight different states:
California, Alabama, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Nevada,
Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. See Combs Am.
Compl. ¶¶ 9, 13, 16, 19, 23, 26, 34, 38, 42, 45.
Alvarez and Rosario Alvarez, residents of Rancho Cucamonga,
California, own a 2011 Toyota Sienna, which they purchased
new from Power Toyota Cerritos. Op. Compl. ¶¶
Eason, a resident of Jurupa Valley, California, owns a 2011
Toyota Sienna, which she purchased new from Larry Miller
Toyota in Corona, California. Id. ¶¶
Sowers, a resident of Lodi, California, owns a 2013 Toyota
Sienna, which she purchased new from Geweke Toyota in Lodi,
California. Id. ¶¶ 38-39.
Franklin, a resident of Woodstock, Alabama, owns a 2014
Toyota Sienna XLE, which she purchased used from Moore Nissan
in Bessemer, Alabama. Id. ¶¶ 27-28.
Amrani, a resident of Skokie, Illinois, owns a 2013 Toyota
Sienna, which he purchased new in Schaumburg, Illinois.
Id. ¶¶ 47-48.
Gillespie, a resident of Ulysses, Kentucky, owns a 2013
Toyota Sienna, which she purchased used from Pop's
Chevrolet Buick in Prestonsburg, Kentucky. Id.
Stalker, a resident of Van Lear, Kentucky, owns a 2017 Toyota
Sienna, which she purchased new from Walters Toyota in
Pikeville, Kentucky. Id. ¶¶ 60-61.
Steeby, a resident of Lee's Summit, Missouri, owns a 2015
Toyota Sienna, which he purchased new from Jay Wolfe Toyota
in Kansas City, Missouri. Id. ¶¶ 72-73.
McMillin, a resident of Las Vegas, Nevada, owns a 2013 Toyota
Sienna, which she purchased new from Beaverton Toyota in
Beaverton, Oregon. Id. ¶¶ 59-60.
C. Harp Jr., a resident of Fort Washington, Pennsylvania,
owns a 2015 Toyota Sienna, which he purchased new from
Thompson Toyota in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Id.
Tinney and Melissa Jugo Tinney, residents of Charleston, West
Virginia, own a 2016 Toyota Sienna, which they purchased new
from Bert Wolfe Toyota in Charleston, West Virginia.
Id. ¶¶ 45-46.
Motor Corporation, Toyota Motor North America, Inc., Toyota
Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc., Toyota Motor Engineering &
Manufacturing North America, Inc., and Toyota Motor
Manufacturing, Indiana, Inc. (collectively, the
“Simerlein Defendants”) are the named
defendants in the Simerlein class action, and have
been since its inception. See Complaint, dated June
30, 2017, ECF No. 1. Toyota Motor Corporation, Toyota Motor
Sales U.S.A., Inc., and Toyota Motor Engineering &
Manufacturing North America, Inc. (the “Combs
Defendants”) are also named defendants in the
Combs class action. See Complaint,
Combs v. Toyota Motor Corp. et al., No. 2:17-cv-4633
(VAP)(AFM) (C.D. Cal. Jun. 23, 2017), ECF No. 1.
Motor Corporation is a Japanese corporation with headquarters
at 1 Toyota-Cho, Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture, 471-8571,
Japan. Op. Compl. ¶ 69. Toyota Motor Corporation is the
parent corporation of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.
Id. Toyota Motor Corporation designs, manufactures,
markets, distributes, and sells Toyota automobiles through
its various entities throughout the United States.
Id. ¶ 70.
Motor North America, Inc. (“Toyota Motor North
America”) is a California corporation with headquarters
at 6565 Headquarters Drive, Plano, Texas. Id. ¶
71. Toyota Motor North America is “a holding company
for sales, manufacturing, engineering, and research and
development subsidiaries of Toyota Motor Corporation located
in the United States.” Id. Toyota Technical
Center, a division of Toyota Motor North America, Inc., is
alleged to be the driving force behind Toyota's North
America engineering and research and development activities.
Id. ¶ 72. According to Defendants, Toyota Motor
North America, Inc. is a subsidiary of TMC. Corporate
Disclosure Statement, dated July 28, 2017, ECF No. 1, ¶
Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. (“Toyota Motor Sales”)
is a California corporation with headquarters at 6565
Headquarters Drive, Plano, Texas. Id. ¶ 73. It
is alleged to be the sales and marketing division for Toyota
Motor Corporation in the United States, overseeing sales and
other operations across the United States and distributing
vehicles such as the Sienna minivan through its network of
dealerships. Id. ¶ 74. Toyota Motor Sales also
allegedly issues the express repair warranties for the Sienna
minivan. Id. ¶ 75. According to Defendants,
Toyota Motor Sales is a subsidiary of Toyota Motor North
America, Inc.. Corporate Disclosure Statement, dated July 28,
2017, ECF No. 1, ¶ 2.
Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc.
(“Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North
America”) is a Kentucky corporation with headquarters
at 6565 Headquarters Drive, Plano, Texas. Op. Compl. ¶
76. Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North
America is allegedly responsible for much of Toyota's
engineering design and development, research and development,
and manufacturing activity in North America. Id.
¶ 77. According to Defendants, Toyota Motor Engineering
& Manufacturing North America is a subsidiary of Toyota
Motor North America. Corporate Disclosure Statement, dated
July 28, 2017, ECF No. 1, ¶ 2.
Motor Manufacturing, Indiana, Inc. (“Toyota Motor
Manufacturing, Indiana”) is an Indiana corporation with
headquarters at 4000 Tulip Tree Drive, Princeton, Indiana.
Op. Compl. ¶ 78. Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Indiana is
the manufacturer of the Sienna minivan. Id.
According to Defendants, Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Indiana
is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Toyota Motor Engineering
& Manufacturing North America. Corporate Disclosure
Statement, dated July 28, 2017, ECF No. 1, ¶ 1.
The Sienna Minivan
have allegedly designed, manufactured, marketed, and sold
Toyota Sienna minivans (hereafter the “Sienna” or
“Siennas”) since 1998. Id. ¶ 80.
Since 2003, Siennas have allegedly been manufactured by
Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Indiana. Id. ¶ 81.
Siennas, the subject of this lawsuit, are allegedly the
third-generation of this vehicle, id. ¶ 82, and
allegedly were engineered by the Toyota Technical Center (a
division of Toyota Motor North America) and Toyota Motor
sliding rear passenger doors have allegedly been an optional
feature in all but the most basic model of the Sienna since
1998. Id. ¶ 83. In 2011, however, the power
sliding rear passenger door became a standard feature in
three Sienna models (the LE, XLE, and Limited) and an
optional feature in the most basic models (the
“Sienna” or “Sienna L”). Id.
Plaintiffs allege that the power sliding doors were a key
factor in their decision to purchase the Sienna. See
Id. ¶¶ 20 (Mr. Simerlein), 43 (Ms. Lopez), 52
(Mr. Kaiser), 78 (Mr. Eckhoff).
The Power Sliding Rear Passenger Door Defect
allege that the power sliding rear passenger doors of the
Sienna are unsafe “because they can open independently
while on the road, close independently, freeze in position,
and otherwise malfunction, thereby exposing passengers to the
risk of injury.” Pls.' Mem. at 4; see also
Op. Compl. ¶ 6. Plaintiffs allege that this defect has
been revealed to Toyota through many complaints to the
National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration
(NHTSA) as well as hundreds of direct reports through
warranty claims and field reports. Op. Compl. ¶ 7.
Plaintiffs allege, inter alia, that Defendants were
aware of the defect for many years but “continued to
manufacture, market, sell, lease, and warrant its Siennas in
order to reap profits, without disclosing that the power
sliding doors were inherently defective, dangerous and
created a grave risk of bodily harm and death.”
commissioned an independent automotive engineering
consultant, who allegedly identified numerous flaws in the
design of the power sliding rear passenger doors.
See Op. Compl. ¶¶ 92-125. Plaintiffs
allege that “[t]he overall design defect results in,
among other things: (a) the doors opening independently,
posing risk of passengers falling out while the vehicles are
in motion and risk of accident due to driver distraction; (b)
closing independently, potentially trapping any object in
their path, including the arms and legs of young passengers;
(c) freezing in a partially open position, sometimes
resulting in consumers having to drive the car from the place
at which their door froze to, at a minimum, home or a dealer
with the door partially open; (d) freezing in a partially or
fully closed position, which poses the risk of passengers
being unable to exit or be unloaded from the vehicle in a
dangerous situation; (e) failing to latch/lock, enabling
small children to push open the door easily, thereby
defeating and bypassing the child lock feature of the doors;
(f) failing fuel door assemblies that prevent driver side
door operation; and (g) failing to consistently and reliably
detect objects or people on its path to prevent injury or
door malfunction.” Id. ¶ 95.
December 23, 2016, Defendants issued an interim safety recall
notice for model year 2011 through 2016 Toyota Siennas,
recognizing some issues in the power sliding rear passenger
doors. See Interim Notice of NHTSA Recall No.
16V-858, dated Dec. 23, 2016 (“Interim Notice”),
annexed as Ex. A to Op. Compl., Ex. A. According to that
notice, Defendants found “a possibility that if the
sliding door opening operation is impeded, the sliding door
motor circuit could be overloaded, opening the fuse for the
motor. If this occurs when the door latch is in an unlatched
position, the door could open while driving, increasing the
risk of injury to a vehicle occupant.” Op. Compl.
¶ 1 (quoting Interim Notice). The recall notice did not,
however, identify an immediate remedy. See Interim
12, 2017, Toyota Motor North America issued a Remedy Notice
to Dealer Principals, General Managers, Service Managers, and
Parts Managers. See Remedy Notice of NHTSA Recall
No. 16V-858, dated July 12, 2017 (“Remedy
Notice”), annexed as Ex. B to Op. Compl. That notice
explained that, for most of the 744, 400 vehicles covered by
the recall, Defendants would replace the instrument panel
junction block and install new wire harnesses connecting them
to the power sliding doors. Id.
allege that Defendants' proposed remedy was insufficient,
as the “problem of doors closing, jamming, and freezing
is not addressed at all.” Op. Compl. ¶ 10.
According to Plaintiffs, “this purported fix does not
cure all of the defects in the power sliding doors, because
the root of the problem is not solely the junction box or the
harnesses, but a uniform fundamental design flaw that
pervades the entire power sliding door system, including
other components such as the lock assemblies/latches, hinges
and fuel doors.” Id.
This Class Action Lawsuit
30, 2017, Mr. Simerlein, individually and on behalf of all
others similarly situated, filed a class action Complaint
against the Simerlein Defendants. See
Complaint, dated June 30, 2017 (“Compl.”), ECF
No. 1. Mr. Simerlein asserted claims on behalf of a
nationwide class, a Connecticut class, and a multi-state
consumer protection class under, inter alia, the
Magnusson-Moss Warranty Act, 15 U.S.C. § 2301 et
seq., the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act, Conn.
Gen. Stat. § 42-110a et seq., and other
relevant state consumer protection statutes. Id.
¶¶ 183, 196-251.
2017, Mr. Simerlein served this lawsuit on Toyota Motor
Sales, Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Indiana, Toyota Motor
North America, and Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing
North America. See Affidavits of Service, filed July
21, 2017 and July 24, 2017, ECF Nos. 13-16. On July 28, 2017,
counsel for Toyota Motor Sales, Toyota Motor Engineering and
Manufacturing North America, and Toyota Motor Manufacturing,
Indiana appeared. See Notice of Appearance, dated
July 28, 2017, ECF No. 23.
September 18, 2017, Toyota Motor Corporation and Mr.
Simerlein agreed to forego the formalities of the Hague
Service Convention and for Toyota Motor Corporation to be
deemed served in exchange for additional time for Toyota
Motor Corporation to answer or respond to the Complaint, as
well as additional time to respond to discovery requests and
certain additional conditions for a Rule 30(b)(6) deposition.
See Stipulation Regarding Service on Toyota Motor
Corporation, dated Sept. 18, 2017, ECF No. 35.
October 6, 2017, with the Simerlein Defendants'
consent, Mr. Simerlein filed an Amended Complaint naming Mr.
Eckhoff, Ms. Lopez, Mr. Kaiser, and Mr. Prendergast as
additional Plaintiffs. Amended Compl., dated Oct. 6, 2017
(“Am. Simerlein Compl.”), ECF No. 36.
Amended Complaint, the Simerlein Plaintiffs asserted
claims on behalf of a nationwide class, consisting of
“all persons who purchased or leased, anywhere in the
United States, including the District of Columbia, Puerto
Rico, and all U.S. territories, one or more 2011 through 2017
model year Toyota Sienna vehicles with power sliding
doors.” Id. ¶ 258. The Simerlein
Plaintiffs also asserted claims on behalf of a multi-state
consumer protection class, consisting of “all persons
who purchased or leased in, or purchased or lease while
residing in, one of the following states one or more 2011
through 2017 model year Toyota Sienna vehicles with power
sliding doors: Alaska, Arkansas, California, Connecticut,
Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan,
Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont,
Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of [Columbia], [and]
any additional states which the Court determines to have
sufficiently similar law to Connecticut without creating
manageability issues.” Id. Finally, the
Simerlein Plaintiffs asserted claims on behalf of
five state-specific classes: a Connecticut Class, a New York
Class, a Florida Class, an Indiana Class, and a Maine Class.
Simerlein Plaintiffs asserted the following causes
of action against the Simerlein Defendants: (1)
violations of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act and
materially identical state consumer protection statutes, on
behalf of the Multi-State Consumer Protection Class (Count
One); (2) violations of the Connecticut Unfair Trade
Practices Act, on behalf of the Connecticut Class (Count
Two); (3) breach of express warranty, on behalf of the
Connecticut Class (Count Three); (4) breach of implied
warranty, on behalf of the Connecticut Class (Count Four);
(5) unjust enrichment on behalf of the Connecticut Class
(Count Five); (6) violation of New York General Business Law
Section 349, on behalf of the New York class (Count Six); (7)
breach of express warranty on behalf of the New York Class
(Count Seven); (8) breach of implied warranty on behalf of
the New York Class (Count Eight); (9) unjust enrichment on
behalf of the New York Class (Count Nine); (10) violation of
the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, Fla.
Stat. § 501.201 et seq., on behalf of the
Florida Class (Count Ten); (11) breach of express warranty on
behalf of the Florida Class (Count Eleven); (12) breach of
implied warranty, on behalf of the Florida Class (Count
Twelve); (13) unjust enrichment, on behalf of the Florida
Class (Count Thirteen); (14) violations of the Indiana
Deceptive Consumer Sales Act, Ind. Code § 24-5-0.5
et seq., on behalf of the Indiana Class (Count
Fourteen); (15) breach of express warranty, on behalf of the
Indiana Class (Count Fifteen); (16) breach of implied
warranty, on behalf of the Indiana Class (Count Sixteen);
(17) unjust enrichment, on behalf of the Indiana Class (Count
Seventeen); (18) violations of the Maine Unfair Trade
Practices Act, Maine Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 5, § 205-A
et seq., on behalf of the Maine Class (Count
Eighteen); (19) breach of express warranty, on behalf of the
Maine Class (Count Nineteen); (20) breach of implied
warranty, on behalf of the Maine Class (Count Twenty); (21)
unjust enrichment, on behalf of the Maine Class (Count
Twenty-One); (22) violation of Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, 15
U.S.C. § 2301, et seq., on behalf of the
Nationwide Class (Count Twenty-Two). See Id. at
November 30, 2017, additional counsel appeared on behalf of
Toyota Motor North America, Toyota Motor Corporation, and the
other Simerlein Defendants. See Motions for
Pro Hac Vice Admission, dated Nov. 30, 2017, ECF
December 4, 2017, the Simerlein Defendants moved to
dismiss the action. Motion to Dismiss, dated Dec. 4, 2017,
ECF No. 45. Toyota argued that the out-of-state
Simerlein Plaintiffs' claims failed for lack of
personal jurisdiction. Id. at 5-10. Toyota also
argued that Mr. Simerlein's claims failed to state a
claim for relief under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6). Id. at 10-25.
January 22, 2018, the Simerlein Plaintiffs opposed
the motion to dismiss. Opp. to Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 53.
Several months of additional briefing followed, see
ECF Nos. 55- 64, and the Court scheduled oral argument for
September 26, 2018, see Notice of E-Filed Calendar,
dated Aug. 24, 2018, ECF No. 67.
September 24, 2018, the parties filed a joint status report,
seeking to adjourn the oral argument and re-convene for a
telephonic status conference in November. Joint Status
Report, dated Sept. 24, 2018, ECF No. 69.
September 25, 2018, the Court granted the motion to adjourn
and set a telephonic status conference for November 15, 2018.
Order, dated Sept. 25, 2018, ECF No. 70; Scheduling Order,
dated Sept. 25, 2018, ECF No. 71. The Court also denied the
motion to dismiss without prejudice to refiling it after the
telephonic status conference. Order, dated Sept. 25, 2018,
ECF No. 70.
November 6, 2018, the parties reported substantial progress
in the matter and requested to continue the status conference
to December. Joint Motion, dated Nov. 6, 2018, ECF No. 74.
November 7, 2018, the Court granted the motion and continued
the telephonic status conference to December 12, 2018. Order,
dated Nov. 7, 2018, ECF No. 75.
The Proposed Settlement Agreement
December 11, 2018, the Simerlein Plaintiffs filed a
Second Amended Complaint, with the consent of Defendants but
without leave of the Court. See Op. Compl. The
Second Amended Complaint names the Combs Plaintiffs
as Plaintiffs in the Simerlein action. Id.
It also incorporates the specific state-level causes of
action alleged in the Combs action.
same day, the Simerlein and Combs
Plaintiffs filed a proposed Settlement Agreement, executed on
December 10, 2018 by W. Daniel “Dee” Miles III of
Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, P.C. (who
has represented the Combs Plaintiffs), Adam Levitt
of DiCello Levitt & Casey LLC (who has represented the
Combs Plaintiffs), Demet Basar of Wolf Haldenstein
Adler Freeman & Herz LLP (who has represented the
Simerlein Plaintiffs), John P. Hooper of King &
Spalding LLP (who represents all Defendants), and Toyota
Motor North America Group Vice President, General Counsel and
Chief Legal Officer Sandra Phillips Rogers. See
Agrmt. at 50-51.
proposed settlement sought relief on behalf of the following
proposed nationwide Settlement Class:
All persons, entities or organizations who, at any time as of
the entry of the Initial Notice Date [the date on which the
first notice is disseminated to the Class], own or owned,
purchase(d) or lease(d) Subject Vehicles [2011 through 2018
model year Toyota Sienna vehicles] distributed for sale or
lease in any of the fifty States, the District of Columbia,
Puerto Rico and all other United States territories and/or
Agrmt. ¶ II.J. This proposed Settlement Class excluded:
(a) Toyota [the Simerlein Defendants], its officers,
directors and employees; its affiliates and affiliates'
officers, directors and employees; its distributors and
distributors' officers, directors and employees; and
Toyota Dealers and Toyota Dealers' officers and
directors; (b) Plaintiffs' Counsel; (c) judicial officers
and their immediate family members and associated court staff
assigned to this case; and (d) persons or entities who or
which timely and properly exclude themselves from the Class
as provided in the Settlement Agreement.
Agreement, as written, provides two distinct types of relief
to Class Members.
Defendants will establish a forward-looking Customer
Confidence Program. Agrmt. ¶ III.A.1. Class Members will
be entitled to several forms of prospective relief through
this program. For example, within one year of the Court's
final approval of a settlement, all Class Members with a
Subject Vehicle may take their vehicle to an authorized
Toyota Dealer and receive a free Sienna Sliding Door
Functional Inspection. This is a “use it or lose
will also provide prospective coverage for all Class Members,
who will be able to bring their vehicle into authorized
Toyota Dealers for repairs for up to ten years after the date
the vehicle was originally sold or leased, provided that
their vehicles are not salvaged, inoperable, or flood-damaged
(according to the vehicle title). The Program will cover
repairs to specific sliding door parts that are related to
internal functional concerns of specified parts that impede
the closing and opening operations of the sliding door in
manual and power modes: sliding door cable sub-assembly,
sliding door center hinge assembly, fuel door pin and fuel
door hinge, sliding door front lock assembly, and the sliding
door rear lock assembly. Id. ¶ III.A.1(i)- (v).
repair benefits generally will be available from the date on
which the Court enters a Final Order and Final Judgment
approving the Settlement and run for ten years from the date
of First Use of the Subject Vehicle. See Id. For
certain parts-the sliding door front lock assembly and rear
lock assembly on 2011 through 2015 model year Subject
Vehicles and some 2016 Subject Vehicles-which are already be
covered by Defendants' Warranty Enhancement Programs ZH4
and ZH5, the warranty benefits for those parts will be
extended by an additional year. See Id. ¶
III.A.1(iv)-(v). Finally, Class Members, who have already had
a G04 Recall Remedy performed on their vehicle, will receive
an additional year of warranty coverage for the replacement
parts provided by that Remedy. See Id. ¶
III.A.1(vi). Defendants also will provide eligible Class
Members undergoing repairs under the Program with a Loaner
Vehicle upon request. Id. ¶ III.A.2.
the Agreement will provide retrospective relief by
establishing an out-of-pocket claims process to reimburse
Class Members for previously incurred out-of-pocket expenses
to repair a condition covered by the Customer Confidence
Program, but not otherwise reimbursed and that incurred
before the Initial Notice Date. Id. ¶ III.B.
Those claims may be submitted at any time during the Claim
Period-i.e., beginning on the Initial Notice Date and ending
sixty days after the Court's issuance of a Final Order
and Final Judgment. Id. ¶ II.H. The parties
propose that the Court appoint Patrick A. Juneau and Thomas
Juneau of Juneau David, APLC, at Defendants' expense, to
administer the out-of-pocket claims process. Id.
of the Settlement, Class Counsel agreed to cap their
application for attorneys' fees and costs-which will be
made prior to the final approval hearing-at $6, 500, 000 in
attorneys' fees and $500, 000 in costs and expenses
(including payment of Class Representative service awards),
subject to the review and approval of this Court.
Id. ¶ VIII.B. Class Counsel also planned to
apply for Class Representatives to receive service awards of
up to $2, 500 each, subject to the Court's approval.
Id. ¶ VIII.C.
return for this relief, “Class Representatives, and
each Class Member, on behalf of themselves and any other
legal or natural persons who may claim by, through, or under
them, agree to fully, finally, and forever release,
relinquish, acquit, and discharge the Released Parties from
any and all claims, demands, suits, petitions, liabilities,
causes of action, rights, and damages of any kind and/or type
regarding the subject matter of the Action and the Related
Action, including, but not limited to, compensatory,
exemplary, punitive, expert and/or attorneys' fees or by
multipliers, whether past, present, or future, mature, or not
yet mature, known or unknown, suspected or unsuspected,
contingent or non-contingent, derivative or direct, asserted
or un-asserted, whether based on federal, state or local law,
statute, ordinance, regulation, code, contract, common law,
violations of any state's deceptive, unlawful, or unfair
business or trade practices, false, misleading or fraudulent
advertising, consumer fraud or consumer protection statutes,
any breaches of express, implied or any other warranties,
RICO, or the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, or any other source,
or any claim of any kind arising from, related to, connected
with, and/or in any way involving the Action, the Related
Action, the Subject Vehicles' sliding doors, and/or
associated parts that are, or could have been, defined,
alleged, or described in the Class Action Complaint, the
Action, the Related Action or any amendments of the Action or
the Related Action.” Id. ¶ VII.B.
Representatives and Class Members are not, however, releasing
claims “for personal injury, wrongful death[, ] or
actual physical property damage arising from an accident
involving a Subject Vehicle.” Id. While Class
Representatives “acknowledge that they and other Class
Members may hereafter discover claims presently unknown or
unsuspected, or facts in addition to or different from those
that they now know or believe to be true concerning the
subject matter of the Action or the Related Action and/or the
Release herein, ” “it is the intention of Class
Counsel and Class Representatives in executing this
Settlement Agreement to fully, finally, and forever settle,
release, discharge, and hold harmless all such matters, and
all claims relating thereto which exist, hereafter may exist,
or might have existed (whether or not previously or currently
asserted in any action or proceeding) with respect to the
Action and the Related Action.” Id. ¶
Preliminary Certification and Approval
December 11, 2018, the Simerlein and Combs
Plaintiffs moved for an order under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 23: (1) preliminarily approving the proposed
Settlement Agreement as fair, reasonable and adequate; (2)
preliminarily certifying the proposed Class for settlement
purposes only; (3) appointing the proposed Class
Representatives as Class Representatives; (4) appointing the
proposed Class Counsel as Class Counsel; (5) ordering Notice
to be disseminated to the Class; (6) appointing Jeanne C.
Finegan of Heffler Claims Group as the Settlement Notice
Administrator; (7) appointing Patrick A. Juneau and Thomas
Juneau of Juneau David, APLC as the Settlement Claims
Administrator; (8) setting a date and procedures for a final
Settlement Fairness Hearing and related deadlines; and (9)
issuing related relief, as appropriate. Unopposed Motion for
Entry of an Order Preliminarily Approving Class Settlement,
Directing Notice to the Class, and Scheduling Fairness
Hearing, dated Dec. 11, 2018, ECF No. 84; Plaintiffs'
Memorandum of Law in Support of Mot., dated Dec. 11, 2018
(“Pls.' Mem.”), ECF No. 84-1.
Simerlein and Combs Plaintiffs also filed
several additional submissions in support of the motion: (1)
a memorandum of law in support of the motion, Pls.' Mem.;
(2) a joint declaration from the proposed Class Counsel in
support of the motion, outlining the details of their efforts
in pursuing this litigation and negotiating the Settlement as
well as their qualifications to serve as Class Counsel, Joint
Declaration, dated Dec. 11, 2018, ECF No. 86; and (3) an
affidavit from Patrick A. Juneau outlining his qualifications
to serve as Settlement Claims Administrator, Affidavit of
Patrick A. Juneau, dated Dec. 10, 2018, ECF No. 87.
same day, the Simerlein Defendants also filed a
memorandum of law in support of the motion. Defendants'
Memorandum in Support of ...