Can class members of multiple plaintiffs receive service awards in California class actions?

Can class members of multiple plaintiffs receive service awards in California class actions? The answer is quite possibly.

Bell v. Farmers, 115 Cal.App.4th 715, 726 (2004) upheld service awards to compensate named plaintiffs for their efforts in bringing the case.

California appellate courts may look to federal authority to determine whether settlement of a class action is fair and reasonable, Garabedian v. Los Angeles Cellular, 118 Cal.App.4th 123 (2009). A number of federal decisions have allowed service awards to named plaintiffs who are not class representatives. Trujillo v. City of Ontario, 2009 WL 263723 (C.D. 2009) awarded service awards of $10,000 to ten of the twelve named plaintiffs. Service awards to two named plaintiffs were justified where they constituted a small percentage of the gross settlement, In Re Mego Fin, 213 F.3d 463. Ingram, 200 F.R.D. 685, 694 (N.D. Georgia 2001) held service awards of $3,000 to non-representative class members who actively participated in the litigation were warranted. Byran v. Pittsburg, 59 F.R.D. 616. 618 (W.D. PA. 1973) awarded the most active members of the plaintiff class service awards. Huguley v. General Motors, 128 F.R.D. 81, 85 (E.D. Mich. 1989), reversed on other grounds at 35 F.3d 1052 (6th Cir. 1994), awarded incentive payments to 88 class members, including named plaintiffs as well as potential and anecdotal witnesses.

Roberts v. Texaco, 979 F.Supp. 201-202 (S.D.N.Y. 1997), in general, wrote plaintiffs in employment class actions who are present or former employees put their credentials and recommendations at risk when suing the employer so service awards are justified. In Boyd v. Bank of America SA-13-CV-00561 DOC, on January 19, 2016 Hon. David Carter awarded $2,000 to each class member deponent for their time and effort in providing deposition testimony in support of the class claims and $1,000 to each class member who provided document and interrogatory discovery responses.

Judges have great discretion in deciding whether to or how to approve a class action settlement. It is ultimately up to the judge to decide whether additional class representatives or plaintiffs should receive extra money for participating in the class action.

Author, Karl Gerber has submitted four class action settlements for court approval in 2016. He has handled more than 1,630 separate employee lawsuits. He has handled a number of class action and Private Attorney General Actions under PAGA. He has also acted as counsel in FLSA collective actions. If you have questions about unpaid wages you may contact him at 1-877-525-0700. Karl Gerber is licensed in California, Massachusetts, Texas, and Washington D.C. In his practice he only represents employees.

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