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ORLOFF v. SYNDICATED OFFICE SYSTEMS

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania


April 21, 2004.

MAXINE ORLOFF, ON BEHALF OF HERSELF AND ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED
v.
SYNDICATED OFFICE SYSTEMS, INC., HEALTHCARE BUSINESS SERVICES and CENTRAL FINANCIAL CONTROL

The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICHARD B. SURRICK, District Judge

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

Plaintiff, Maxine Orloff, ("Plaintiff) filed this consumer class action against Defendants, Syndicated Office Systems ("SOS"), Healthcare Business Services ("HBS"), and Central Financial Control ("CFC") after HBS and CFC attempted to collect a debt for medical expenses that Plaintiff allegedly owed to HBS. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated the Credit Repair Organization Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1679, et. seq. ("CROA"), the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692, et seq. ("FDCPA"), the Pennsylvania Fair Credit Extension Uniformity Act, 73 PA. CONS. STAT. § 2270.1, et seq. ("FCEUA"), and the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law, 73 PA. CONS. STAT. § 201-1, et seq. ("UTPCPL"). On January 21, 2004, we provisionally certified this case as a class action pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 23(a) and 23(b)(1) for the purpose of achieving a settlement. On March 29, 2004, we held a fairness hearing to assess the settlement the parties reached. Presently before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Final Approval of Class Action Settlement (Doc. No. 35) and Plaintiff's Motion for Award of Attorneys' Fees and Reimbursement of Expenses (Doc. No. 36). For the following reasons, we will grant both Motions. I. BACKGROUND

A. Plaintiff's Allegations

  Plaintiff's claims are based on two letters that she received from HBS and CFC seeking to collect money owed to a medical facility where Plaintiff purportedly incurred unreimbursed medical expenses. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 10-19.) Both letters allegedly attempted to coerce Plaintiff into paying a debt that she purportedly owed. (Id. ¶¶ 10, 12.) The letters allegedly were false, deceptive, misleading, and unfair and violated CROA, FDCPA, FCEUA, and UTPCPL. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants' acts caused her actual and consequential damages. (Id. ¶ 22.)

  Plaintiff purports to bring this action on behalf of herself and a class of persons who received substantially similar letters from Defendants during the two years prior to the filing of the complaint (the "Class"). (Id. ¶ 23.) Plaintiff alleges that the Class has hundreds, if not thousands of members, the precise number of which is known only to Defendants. (Id. ¶ 24.) Plaintiff argues that there are questions of law and fact common to the Class that predominate over other questions, namely, whether Defendants violated CROA, FDCPA and UTPCPL by mailing letters substantially similar to those mailed to Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 25.) Plaintiff states that her claims are typical of the claims of the Class, which all arise from the same operative facts and are based on the same legal theories. (Id. ¶ 26.) Plaintiff claims she has fairly and adequately protected the interests of the Class and that she has retained counsel experienced in handling class actions and claims involving unlawful business practices. (Id. ¶ 27.) Finally, Plaintiff argues that this action meets the other criteria required for class treatment, including the requirement that a class action be superior to other available litigation methods for the fair and efficient adjudication of this controversy. (Id. ¶ 31.) B. The Settlement and the Fairness Hearing

  The settlement provides for the following: (1) Defendants shall fully, finally, and completely forgive ten percent, or approximately $437,000, on a pro rata basis, of the total debt allegedly owed to Defendants by the approximately 3,340 members of the Class, and shall report that ten percent forgiveness to the consumer reporting agencies to which Defendants report; (2) Plaintiff, as a representative of the Class, shall receive $5,000 in full settlement and satisfaction of her individual claims pursuant to 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(a)(2)(B)(i), and as compensation for her services rendered to the Class as well as a ten percent forgiveness of her alleged debt; (3) Defendants shall fund all administration expenses related to the settlement, including the costs required to provide notice of the settlement to the Class; (4) Defendants shall confirm that they no longer send the letter attached as Exhibit A to the complaint in connection with their efforts to collect debts in Pennsylvania; (5) Defendants shall revise the letter attached as Exhibit B to the complaint and begin using the form of letter attached to the Settlement Agreement at Tab 1 in connection with their efforts to collect debts in Pennsylvania; and (6) Defendants shall pay up to $67,500 to satisfy Plaintiff's reasonable attorneys' fees and costs, subject to the approval of the Court.

  Defendants identified 3,147 potential Class members and mailed them notice of the settlement on February 17, 2004. (Doc. No. 40 ¶ 3.) The notice conformed to the requirements of Rule 23 and informed the Class members of the existence of this action, the terms of the settlement, and the Class members' rights with respect to the settlement. Specifically, the notice informed each Class member that they had the right to participate in the settlement or opt out of the Class, and to object to any of the terms of the settlement. The notice also informed each Class member of the procedure necessary to opt out of the Class and/or object to the settlement, including each Class members' right to appear at the fairness hearing scheduled for March 29, 2004. Notices could not be served on 665 Class members, either because their last known addresses were invalid or the notices were returned as "undeliverable" by the United States Postal Service. (Id. ¶ 6.) As of March 23, 2004, only one potential Class member opted out of the settlement. (Id. ¶ 7.) No Class member have objected to the settlement. (Id. ¶ 8.) On March 29, 2004, a fairness hearing was conducted with respect to the settlement. No Class members appeared at that hearing to object to the settlement.

 II. FAIRNESS OF THE SETTLEMENT

  In order to ensure meaningful appellate review of a decision to approve a settlement, a district court must present its reasons for approving the settlement. Eichenholtz v. Brennan, 52 F.3d 478, 488-89 (3d Cir. 1995). "It is essential in cases such as this that the district court set forth the reasoning supporting its conclusion in sufficient detail to make meaningful review possible; use of `mere boilerplate' language will not suffice." Bryan v. Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co., 494 F.2d 799, 804 (3d Cir. 1974). First we will examine the proposed Class to ensure that it meets the requirements of Rule 23. Then we will evaluate the fairness of the settlement by following the nine-factor test adopted by the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Girsh v. Jepson, 521 F.2d 153 (3d Cir. 1975).

  A. Class Certification

  On January 21, 2004, we provisionally certified the Class for the purpose of reaching a settlement. Before we can finally approve the settlement, however, Plaintiff must demonstrate that the Class meets the requirements of Rule 23. In re Prudential Ins. Co. of Am. Sales Practice Litig., 148 F.3d 283, 308 (3d Cir. 1998) ("[A] district court must first find a class satisfies the requirements of Rule 23, regardless whether it certifies the class for trial or for settlement."). To be certified, the Class must meet all of the requirements of Rule 23(a), and the action must fit into one of the three categories of class actions set forth in Rule 23(b)(1), (b)(2) or (b)(3). In re Life USA Holding Inc., 242 F.3d 136, 143 (3d Cir. 2001). Rule 23(a) states that:

One or more members of a class may sue or be sued as representative parties on behalf of all only if (1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable, (2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class, (3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class, and (4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.
FED. R. CIV. P. 23(a). "These four elements are often referred to as numerosity, commonality, typicality, and adequacy of representation, respectively." In re Life USA, 242 F.3d at 143.

  1. Numerosity

  "Numerosity requires a finding that the putative class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable." Newton v. Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc., 259 F.3d 154, 182 (3d Cir. 2001). Defendants represent that 3,340 people received the debt collection letters at issue in this case during the relevant time period. "No minimum number of plaintiffs is required to maintain a suit as a class action, but generally if the named plaintiff demonstrates that the potential number of plaintiffs exceeds 40, the first prong of Rule 23(a) has been met." Stewart v. Abraham, 275 F.3d 220, 227 (3d Cir. 2001); see also Oslan v. Collection Bureau of Hudson Valley, 206 F.R.D. 109, 111 (E.D. Pa. 2002) (finding numerosity requirement met when there were either 740 or 941 class members). A class with 3,340 potential members satisfies the numerosity requirement. 2. Commonality

  Commonality demands that there are "questions of law or fact common to the class." FED. R. CIV. P. 23(a)(2). "The commonality requirement will be satisfied if the named plaintiffs share at least one question of fact or law with the grievances of the prospective class." Stewart, 275 F.3d at 227 (quoting Baby Neal v. Casey, 43 F.3d 48, 56 (3d Cir. 1994)). Generally, courts have held that the commonality requirement is satisfied when "the defendants have engaged in standardized conduct towards members of the proposed class by mailing to them allegedly illegal form letters or documents." Saunders v. Berks Credit & Collections, Inc., No. 00-3477, 2002 WL 1497374, at *6 (E.D. Pa. July 11, 2002) (citing Keele v. Wexler, 149 F.3d 589, 594 (7th Cir. 1998)). Furthermore, courts in this district have previously found commonality in debt collection letter class action lawsuits. See, e.g., Saunders, 2002 WL 1497374, at *6 (finding commonality requirement met when consumers sent substantially similar debt collection letters); Hudson Valley, 206 F.R.D. at 111 (same); Schilling v. Let's Talk Cellular & Wireless, No. 00-3123, 2002 WL 391695, at *1 n.1 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 6, 2002) (same). Plaintiff claims that Defendants sent her debt collection letters that were substantially similar to those sent to the other Class members and that those letters violated the same federal and state debt collection statutes. These allegations are sufficient to show questions of law or fact that are common to the Class.

  3. Typicality

  Typicality requires that "the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class." FED. R. CIV. P. 23(a)(3). The central inquiry in a typicality evaluation is whether "the named plaintiff's individual circumstances are markedly different or . . . the legal theory upon which the claims are based differs from that upon which the claims of other class members will perforce be based." Eisenberg v. Gagnon, 766 F.2d 770, 786 (3d Cir. 1985) (quoting Weiss v. York Hosp., 745 F.2d 786, 809 n. 36 (3d Cir. 1984). "The heart of this requirement is that the plaintiff and each member of the represented group have an interest in prevailing on similar legal claims." Seidman v. Am. Mobile Sys., Inc., 157 F.R.D. 354, 360 (E.D. Pa. 1994).

  Plaintiffs claims and those of the other Class members are typical because Plaintiff and the other Class members received substantially similar letters and claim that those letters violated the same federal and state statutes. Other courts have found the typicality requirement satisfied under similar circumstances in debt collection class actions. See, e.g., Saunders, 2002 WL 1497374, at *7; Hudson Valley, 206 F.R.D. at 112; Schilling, 2002 WL 391695, at *1 n.1. We are satisfied that the typicality requirement has been met here.

  4. Adequacy of Representation

  A class representative is adequate if (1) the class representative's counsel is competent to conduct a class action; and (2) the class representative's interests are not antagonistic to the class's interests. In re General Motors Corp. Pick-up Truck Fuel Tank Prods. Liab. Litig., 55 F.3d 768, 800-01 (3d Cir. 1995). A number of courts in this district have found that Plaintiff's counsel are competent to prosecute class actions such as this. See, e.g., Saunders, 2002 WL 1497374 at *8 ("Defendants do not challenge the qualifications of Saunders' counsel [Francis & Mailman P.C.] and the Court finds them to be well qualified"); Hudson Valley, 206 F.R.D. at 112 ("Francis & Mailman P.C. and Donovan Searles LLC, possess sufficient qualifications, skill, and experience in consumer law and class action practice to prosecute this suit to its conclusion."). We concur. Plaintiffs counsel is very experienced in prosecuting class actions and has competently represented this Class. In addition, it is clear that Plaintiff's interests are not antagonistic to the interests of the Class. Accordingly, this Class meets all the requirements in Rule 23(a).

  5. Rule 23(b)

  Before we can certify the Class, we must also find that this action fits into one of the three categories of class actions set forth in Rule 23(b). Because we find the Class meets the requirements of Rule 23(b)(3), we need not consider whether it fits into any of the other subsections of Rule 23(b). To certify a class under Rule 23(b)(3), we must find that "questions of law or fact common to the members of the class predominate over any questions affecting only individual members, and that a class action is superior to other available methods for the fair and efficient adjudication of the controversy." FED. R. CIV. P. 23(b)(3).

  Predominance "tests whether proposed classes are sufficiently cohesive to warrant adjudication by representation." Amchem Prods., Inc. v. Windsor, 521 U.S. 591, 623 (1997). This is "a test readily met in certain cases alleging consumer or securities fraud." Id. at 625. Defendants sent substantially similar debt collection letters to Plaintiff and the other Class members. Accordingly, "[c]ommon questions of law and fact predominate because of the virtually identical factual and legal predicates of each class member's claim." Smith v. First Union Mortgage Corp., No. 98-5360, 1999 WL 509967, at *2 (E.D. Pa. July 19, 1999); see also Hudson Valley, 206 F.R.D. at 112 (finding predominance when "each member of the proposed class received substantially similar letters from the defendant").

  We also find that a class action is "superior to other available methods for the fair and efficient adjudication" of this case. FED. R. CIV. P. 23(b)(3). A class action is superior to individual lawsuits by the Class members because it provides an efficient alternative to individual claims, and because individual Class members are unlikely to bring individual actions given the likelihood that their litigation expenses would exceed any potential recovery. See, e.g., Ralston v. Zats, No. 94-3723, 2000 WL 1781590, at *5 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 7, 2000) (ruling that class action was the superior method for addressing claims in which "[e]ach plaintiff allegedly suffered harms, but the possibility of recovery would not be enough to make litigation worthwhile."). Thus, Plaintiff has shown both predominance and superiority as required by Rule 23(b)(3). Because the Plaintiff has shown that this action meets all the requirements of Rule 23(a) and Rule 23(b)(3), we will certify the Class and assess the fairness of the settlement.

  B. Fairness of the Settlement According to the Girsh Factors

  Rule 23(e) requires that all settlements of class actions be approved by the Court. Under this rule, "`the district court acts as a fiduciary who must serve as a guardian of the rights of absent class members.'" General Motors, 55 F.3d at 785 (quoting Grunin v. Int'l House of Pancakes, 513 F.2d 114, 123 (8th Cir. 1975)). Approval of a class action settlement requires that the settlement be fair, adequate, and reasonable. Id. In Girsh, the Third Circuit held that district courts should consider nine factors when determining whether to approve a class action settlement. 521 F.2d at 157. Those factors are: (1) the complexity, expense and likely duration of the litigation; (2) the reaction of the class to the settlement; (3) the stage of the proceedings and the amount of discovery completed; (4) the risks of establishing liability; (5) the risks of establishing damages; (6) the risks of maintaining the class action through trial; (7) the ability of defendants to withstand a greater judgment; (8) the range of reasonableness of the settlement fund in light of the best possible recovery; and (9) the range of reasonableness of the settlement fund in light of all the attendant risks of litigation. Id. at 785 (citing Girsh, 521 F.2d at 157). Upon consideration of each of the Girsh factors, we conclude that the settlement is fair, adequate, and reasonable.

  1. The Complexity, Expense and Likely Duration of the Litigation

  Absent settlement, the parties would have to prepare for trial. Proceeding to trial would undoubtedly involve great expenses for both parties, and would substantially delay any relief to the Class members. An appeal by the losing party could further delay these proceedings. On the other hand, a settlement provides immediate benefits to both sides with less costs. Thus, we find this factor favors approval of the settlement.

  2. The Reaction of the Class to the Settlement

  Approximately 3,147 notices were mailed to Class members advising them of the terms of the settlement and their right to opt out of the Class. Only one Class member opted out by the settlement, and no Class member objected to the settlement. These facts support approval of the settlement. See Stoetzner v. U.S. Steel Corp., 897 F.2d 115, 118-19 (3d Cir. 1990) (holding that "only" 29 objections in 281 member class "strongly favors settlement"); In re Prudential, 148 F.3d at 318 (affirming conclusion of district court that class reaction was favorable when 19,000 class members opted out of class of eight million and 300 objected).

  3. The Stage of the Proceedings and the Amount of Discovery Completed

  The parties arrived at the settlement only after filing and briefing several motions to dismiss. We granted in part and denied in part Defendants' motion to dismiss the amended complaint (Doc. No. 23), and granted Plaintiffs motion to dismiss Defendants' counterclaims (Doc. No. 32). The parties also engaged in discovery. Thus, the settlement occurred at a stage where "`the parties certainly [had] a clear view of the strengths and weaknesses[]' of their case[s]." Bonnett v. Educ. Debt. Servs., Inc., No. 01-6528, 2003 WL 21658267, at *6 (E.D. Pa. May 9, 2003) (quoting In re Warner Communications Sec. Litig., 618 F. Supp. 735, 745 (S.D.N.Y. 1985), aff'd, 798 F.2d 35 (2d Cir. 1986)). We conclude that this factor favors approval of the settlement.

  4. The Risks of Establishing Liability

  To prevail at trial, the Class would have to prove that Defendants violated the FDCPA by sending the subject letters. This is far from certain. There is always a risk that a Court might rule as a matter of law that the letters did not violate the FDCPA. See, e.g., Wilson v. Quadramed Corp., 225 F.3d 350 (3d Cir. 2000). Accordingly, we find that this factor favors approval of the settlement.

  5. The Risks of Establishing Damages

  Even if the Class established liability, it is unlikely that the Class members would recover more than they would from the settlement. The FDCPA provides that a plaintiff may recover actual and/or statutory damages. See 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(a)(1) & (2)(B). The nature of the Class's claims — that Defendants' debt collection letters failed to effectively communicate certain validation notices and were otherwise false and misleading — make it unlikely that actual damages could be recovered because no evidence of obvious financial loss or emotional distress arising from receipt of the letters is apparent. In that event, the Class would be relegated to statutory damages under the FDCPA, which are limited to the "lesser of $500,000 or 1 per centum of the net worth of the debt collector. . . ." 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(a)(2)(B). Given the net worth of Defendants, statutory damages would be limited to approximately $10,000, or about $3.00 per Class member. The settlement, on the other hand, provides about $131 in economic benefit to each Class member. Thus, the settlement secures economic benefits that likely exceed any benefits the Class members could get from going to trial.*fn1 We conclude that this factor favors approval of the settlement.

  6. The Risks of Maintaining the Class Action Through Trial

  Class certification is always conditional and may be reconsidered. Rendler v. Gambone Bros. Dev. Co., 182 F.R.D. 152, 160 (E.D. Pa. 1998). There is a risk that, absent settlement, the Court could revisit the issue of class certification prior to trial. The settlement affords relief to the Class members who, without class certification, would receive nothing. This factor favors approval of the settlement.

  7. The Ability of Defendants to Withstand a Greater Judgment

  Although Defendants are financially stable today, there is no assurance that they will remain so in the event this case proceeds to trial. If Defendants' financial position were to decline, the Class could have difficulty in collecting any judgment. Thus, this factor favors approval of the settlement.

  8. The Range of Reasonableness of the Settlement Fund in Light of the Best Possible Recovery

  As we have discussed, there is no guarantee the Class would be successful at trial. Moreover, the Class will likely get more by participating in the settlement that it would if it were to prevail at trial. We also note that in arguing that the settlement is fair, attorneys for the Class have pointed to weaknesses in the claims of the Class. Courts in this district have concluded that we may give weight to the opinions of experienced attorneys in deciding the fairness of a settlement compared to the likely recovery at trial. See, e.g., Olsan v. Law Offices of Mitchell N. Kay, 232 F. Supp.2d 436, 444 (E.D. Pa. 2002). Taking into consideration the opinions of Class counsel that the settlement provides the best possible recovery to the Class, we find this factor weighs in favor of approving the settlement.

  9. The Range of Reasonableness of the Settlement Fund in Light of All the Attendant Risks of Litigation.

  We have already discussed the risk that the Class might not prevail at trial, and the risk that it would recover less at trial than by participating in the settlement. Given these significant risks, we find that the settlement is reasonable and that this factor favors its approval.

 III. AWARD TO CLASS REPRESENTATIVE, ATTORNEYS' FEES, AND COSTS

  A. Award to Class Representative

  The settlement contemplates a $5,000 award to Plaintiff as the class representative. This award is consistent with the range of awards made in favor of class representatives in similar cases. See, e.g., Bonnett, 2003 WL 21658267, at *7 (approving award of $4,000 to class representative as part of a FDCPA class action settlement). We find the award to Plaintiff is reasonable given her effort in bringing this action and obtaining significant benefits for the Class.

  B. Attorneys' Fees and Costs

  Defendants agreed to pay the Class $67,500 to cover its attorneys' fees and costs. As the prevailing party, the Class is entitled to an award of its costs and reasonable attorneys' fees. See 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(a)(3). Because this is a class action, however, we must thoroughly review the fee application. See In re Prudential, 148 F.3d at 333. The Class's counsel used the lodestar method to calculate its fees. We have reviewed the affidavits that council for the Class filed showing the hours and rates that they billed in this matter. Attorneys from Francis & Mailman, P.C. charged between $170-$235 per hour, rates that other courts have found reasonable. See Bonnett, 2003 WL 21658267, at *8. Co-counsel Donovan Searles, LLC charged a rate of $390 per hour, which also has been found reasonable. See id. We find that the hours billed by the Class's counsel and paralegals are also reasonable, considering the fact that the parties briefed several motions to dismiss, engaged in discovery, and negotiated the settlement, which provides valuable benefits to the Class. In addition, we note that the settlement provides $437,000 in economic benefit to the Class, which is more than five times greater than the $67,500 in fees to be awarded their attorneys. Some courts have approved fee applications that exceeded the settlement amount, so long as the fee application was reasonable in light of the success the attorneys achieved for the class. See, e.g., Mitchell N. Kay, 232 F. Supp.2d at 444. Here, the settlement amount easily exceeds the requested fees. We conclude that Class counsel has achieved significant benefits for the Class, and that the fees and costs requested are reasonable.

  An appropriate Order follows.

  ORDER

  AND NOW, this ___ day of April, 2004, upon consideration of Motion for Final Approval of Class Action Settlement (Doc. No. 35) and Plaintiff's Motion for Award of Attorneys' Fees and Reimbursement of Expenses (Doc. No. 36), and all papers filed in support thereto and in opposition thereof, the parties having presented their Settlement Agreement to the Court and the Court having held a hearing on the fairness of the proposed settlement, at which objectors to the settlement could appear, and the Court being fully advised in the premises, the Court finds that:

  A. Notice of the proposed settlement has been timely mailed by Defendants to all persons in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania who, during the two years prior to the filing of the Litigation, were sent collection letters substantially in the form of the two letters attached to the Amended Complaint in connection with the collection of debts incurred for non-business purposes, which letters were not returned as undeliverable by the Postal Service. Such notice satisfies the requirements of Rule 23(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

  B. One Class member has requested exclusion from the Class. That member is Charles Poland, Jr., 4537 Osage Avenue, Apt. Cl, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19143, and he is not bound by the terms of the settlement of the Litigation. No objections to the proposed settlement have been filed.

  C. The issues as to liability and remedies, if any, in the Litigation are issues as to which there are substantial grounds for difference of opinion, and the proposed settlement of the Litigation constitutes a resolution of those issues that is fair, reasonable and adequate to the members of the Class.

  It is therefore ORDERED that:

  1. The Settlement Agreement submitted herein is approved as fair, reasonable and adequate pursuant to Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and the parties are directed to consummate such agreement in accordance with its terms. All terms defined in the Settlement Agreement have the same meanings when used herein.

  2. The Litigation is hereby dismissed, with prejudice and without costs, and all Class members who did not timely request exclusion shall be barred and enjoined from bringing any and all claims, actions and causes of action asserted in the Litigation or that could have been asserted in the Litigation under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, Pennsylvania Fair Credit Extension Uniformity Act and/or the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law arising from Defendants' violation or alleged violation of federal or state debt collection laws, or that relate to or arise from the settlement of the Litigation or the administration of the settlement, against (i) Representative Plaintiff; (ii) Defendants; (iii) their respective personal representatives, estates, beneficiaries, administrators, executors, heirs, parents, partners, contractors, clients, subsidiaries, and affiliates; (iv) the principals, representatives, owners, shareholders, partners, limited partners, joint venturers, directors, officers, employees, employers, attorneys, agents, successors, and assignes, both past and present, of Defendants; (v) any attorney for Defendants, the Representative Plaintiff, her agents, employees, successors, and assigns (collectively, the "Released Parties").

  3. Defendants and the Released Parties are hereby enjoined and barred from bringing any claim, action, or cause of action in connection with this matter against the Representative Plaintiff or any of her attorneys, administrators, successors, or assigns that have been released under the Settlement Agreement.

  4. Upon the Effective Date, Defendants shall fully, finally, and completely forgive ten percent (10%), approximately $437,000, on a pro rata basis, of the total debt allegedly owed to Defendants by members of the Class (which Defendants represent totals approximately $4,367,000), and shall report the 10% forgiveness to the consumer reporting agencis to which Defendants report.

  5. The Representative Plaintiff is awarded $5,000 in full settlement of her individual claims, pursuant to 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(a)(2)(B)(i).

  6. Class Counsel is awarded $67,500 in fees and expenses, which the Court finds to be fair and reasonable and which shall be paid to Class Counsel by Defendants in accordance with the Settlement Agreement.

  7. Consummation of the settlement shall proceed as described in the Settlement Agreement and the Court hereby retains jurisdiction of this matter in order to resolve any disputes which may arise in the implementation of the Settlement Agreement or the implementation of this Final Judgment and Order. The Court retains continuing jurisdiction for purposes of supervising the implementation of the Settlement Agreement. Final judgment shall be entered as provided herein.

  IT IS SO ORDERED.


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