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Wodaszewski v. Gerdau Ameristeel U.S. Inc.

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

March 1, 2018

MICHAEL L. WODASZEWSKI, DARRELL LOUTSCH, JESSE A. MONTEZ, JR., CHARLES NIPPOLDT, and RICKY CARL HAMBLIN, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated; and UNITED STEEL, PAPER AND FORESTRY, RUBBER, MANUFACTURING, ENERGY, ALLIED INDUSTRIAL AND SERVICE WORKERS INTERNATIONAL UNION, AFL- CIO/CLC, Plaintiffs,
v.
GERDAU AMERISTEEL U.S. INC., and GERDAU AMERISTEEL U.S. RETIREE MEDICAL PLAN, Defendants.

         Class Action

         Demand for Jury Trial

          ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR (1) CLASS CERTIFICATION, (2) PRELIMINARY APPROVAL OF CLASS ACTION SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT, (3) APPROVAL OF CLASS NOTICE, AND (4) ORDER SETTING DATE FOR FINAL FAIRNESS HEARING

          Michael J. Davis Judge

         Plaintiffs Michael L. Wodaszewski, Darrell Loutsch, Jessie A. Montez, Jr., Charles Nippoldt and Ricky Carl Hamblin (“Class Representatives”), on behalf of themselves and all other persons similarly situated, along with Plaintiff United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union, AFL-CIO/CLC (“USW”), have entered into a proposed Settlement Agreement with Defendants to resolve the claims in this putative class action lawsuit and a related declaratory judgment pending in this district, and have agreed upon a proposed Notice to the Class. The parties have entered into a Stipulation of Settlement (“Settlement Agreement”[1]), and also have agreed on a proposed Class Notice. Class Representatives seek certification of a settlement Class as defined below and preliminary approval of the Settlement and proposed Notice. The Court has reviewed the submissions of the parties, and orders as follows:

         1. The Court defines the settlement class under Fed.R.Civ.P. 23 in this litigation for settlement purposes only (the “Class”) as follows:

Subclass A. All former USW-represented employees who (i) were hired on or before October 1, 2000; (ii) retired from the St. Paul Mill; (iii) met the Eligibility Criteria to participate in the Gerdau Ameristeel Retiree Medical Plan for St. Paul Union Retirees (the “Plan”) at the time of their retirement; and (iv) for employees who retired on or before June 1, 2016, continued to meet the Eligibility Criteria for participating in the Plan as of August 7, 2017, as well as the Eligible Dependents of all such former USW-represented employees.
Subclass B. All USW-represented employees of the St. Paul Mill who were hired on or before October 1, 2000, and who meet the Eligibility Criteria to participate in the Gerdau Ameristeel Retiree Medical Plan for St. Paul Union Retirees upon their retirement.

         2. Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a) is satisfied: (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.

         3. The class may be certified under Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(b)(1)(A), because the prosecution of separate actions by individual members of the class would create a risk of inconsistent or varying adjudications with respect to individual members of the class which would establish incompatible standards of conduct for Defendants.

         4. The class may be certified under Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(b)(2), because Defendants acted on grounds that apply generally to the class, so that final injunctive relief or corresponding declaratory relief is appropriate respecting the class as a whole.

         5. The Court appoints Class Representatives Wodaszewski, Loutsch and Montez to represent Subclass A, and Class Representatives Nippoldt and Hamblin to represent Subclass B.

         6. The Court appoints Peterson, Engberg & Peterson and Feinstein Doyle Payne & Kravec, LLC, as Class Counsel pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(g), and finds that they will fairly and adequately represent the Class.

         7. The Settlement Agreement is preliminarily approved subject to notice and a fairness hearing. The Court preliminarily finds that the Settlement is capable of being finally approved under the Eighth Circuit's factors guiding the approval of class action settlements.

         8. The Court has preliminarily considered the following factors: (1) the merits of the plaintiffʹs case, weighed against the terms of the settlement; (2) the defendantʹs financial condition; (3) the complexity and expense of further litigation; and (4) the amount of opposition to the settlement. The Court concludes that these factors favor ...


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