Citing the extremely low number of objections and opt-outs, Betty Johnson, through her counsels, filed yesterday a motion for the final approval of her class action settlement agreement.
Johnson asked the U.S. District Court for the NMI to enter an order granting certification of the settlement class under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and approving the settlement agreement.
Johnson said that only two class members filed objections to the settlement agreement by the Sept. 16, 2013, deadline.
“But one of the objectors advocates for final approval, so it is not, in fact, an objection to final approval. The other objection was filed on Sept. 16, 2013, one day after it was due,” said Johnson’s counsels, Robert M. Hatch, Bruce Jorgensen, and Stephen C. Woodruff.
Also, Johnson counsels said, only 16 asked to be excluded from the settlement class by the Sept. 20, 2013, deadline, and only 13 are currently receiving benefits.
“The extremely low number of objections and opt-outs supports approval of the settlement,” the lawyers said.
The suit has more than 4,000 class members.
“This is an overwhelmingly positive response, especially given the widespread publicity given to the case in the CNMI,” the lawyers said.
U.S. District Court for the NMI designated judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood tentatively approved the settlement agreement on Aug. 6, 2013.
Under the agreement, the Fund will transfer all of its assets to the settlement fund, which will be subject to the court’s oversight.
The CNMI government has agreed to make annual payments sufficient to enable the settlement fund to pay no less than 75 percent of the class members’ benefits.
In the event the government does not make its annual payments, the class can enforce a $779 million consent judgment against the CNMI.
Johnson said if the settlement is not finally approved, the Fund will continue to make payments to the class members until it runs out of money in June 2014.
In accordance with the court’s order, Johnson said a class notice was sent by first class mail to all class members’ last known address.
In total, Johnson said, the class notice was mailed to 4,399 class members and 330 proved undeliverable.
Tydingco-Gatewood is expected to grant the final approval of the settlement agreement during a hearing on Sept. 30, 2013.