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Swiger v. Utz Quality Foods, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 14, 2017

JASON SWIGER and JULIO CRUZ, on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
UTZ QUALITY FOODS, INC. Defendant.

          PRELIMINARY ORDER APPROVING CLASS ACTION SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT AND NOTICE

          Honorable Christopher C. Conner United States District Chief Judge

         Rule 23 Class Representatives Julio Cruz, Julia Williams, Tom Holt, and Nicholas DeRose ("Rule 23 Class Representatives") and Defendant Utz Quality Foods, Inc. ("Defendant" or "Utz") have moved the Court to preliminarily approve, as fair and reasonable, a Class Action Settlement Agreement ("Settlement Agreement") between Rule 23 Class Representatives and Defendant pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(e).

         Having reviewed the Settlement Agreement, as well as the Parties' Joint Motion for Preliminary Approval of Class Action Settlement ("Motion for Preliminary Approval"), the Declarations of Anthony J. Lazzaro and Hans A. Nilges appended thereto, and the pleadings and papers on file in this Action, and for good cause established therein, the Court enters this Preliminary Order granting preliminary approval of the Rule 23 Class Action Settlement, and approving notice to Rule 23 Class Members, as follows:

         1. Unless otherwise defined, all terms used in this Preliminary Order have the same meanings as defined in the Settlement Agreement.

         2. On September 15, 2015, Brian Jurden ("Mr. Jurden"), an individual, on behalf of himself and others similarly situated, filed this Action as a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201-219 against Defendant Utz Quality Foods, Inc. ("Utz") in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Case No. 2:15-cv-2833.

         3. On September 22, 2015, the Complaint was amended to include Jason Swiger and Julio Cruz as named Plaintiffs.

         4. On October 29, 2015, by stipulation of the Parties, the Complaint was amended to dismiss Brian Jurden. Jason Swiger and Julio Cruz remain named Plaintiffs.

         5. On November 17, 2015, the action was transferred to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania and docketed at Case No. 1:15-cv-2196.

         6. Consistent with the terms of the Parties' Settlement Agreement and by Stipulation, Plaintiffs Third Amended Complaint to add Rule 23 Class Action claims for relief for alleged violations of wage and hour laws in Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey and adds as additional named plaintiffs Julia Williams (as class representative of the Maryland class), Tom Holt (as class representative of the North Carolina class), Nicholas DeRose (as class representative of the New Jersey class), and Julio Cruz as class representative of the Pennsylvania class was attached to the Parties Motion as Exhibit 4. The Parties also attached, as Exhibit 5, Defendant's Answer to Third Amended Complaint. The Parties moved this Honorable Court to grant Plaintiffs leave to file Plaintiffs' Third Amended Complaint.

         7. Between December 2015 and January 2017, the Parties engaged in informal and formal comprehensive discovery regarding Plaintiffs' claims and Defendant's defenses to such claims. This included written discovery, including interrogatories and exchanging thousands of documents, multiple depositions, and a complete analysis of each Rule 23 Class Member's overtime damages.

         8. The Parties engaged in extensive legal discussion and correspondence surrounding the Parties' positions, providing legal authority and arguments on both sides, which included numerous and lengthy discussions and written communications.

         9. In February and March 2017, the Parties engaged in mediation that began at a formal mediation in New York City on February 7, 2017, with the assistance of Mediator Michael D. Young of JAMS. The mediation extended several weeks thereafter under the Mediator's auspices, which led to a proposed settlement of the Action on the terms set forth in the attached Settlement Agreement.

         10. The Parties reached the proposed settlement in this matter after extensive research, discovery, legal debates, discussions, ...


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