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Vasich v. City of Chicago

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

December 20, 2013

SAMANTHA VASICH, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, a municipal corporation, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

MARIA VALDEZ, Magistrate Judge.

This matter is before the court on the Plaintiffs' motion for final approval of class action settlement. (Doc. No. 171.) For the reasons that follow, the motion for final approval is granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

On April 11, 2013, the parties reached a settlement agreement. (Doc No. 127.) In subsequent months, the parties negotiated several disputes before this Court, agreeing in principal to the major terms of the settlement on July 18, 2013. (Doc. No. 139.) On September 4, 2013, the parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court for all matters related to the case. (Doc. No. 141.) On December 3, 2013, Plaintiffs submitted their Motion for Final Approval of Class Action Settlement, (Doc. No. 171), along with a Proposed Final Judgment and Order, (Doc. No. 171-1), and a memorandum in support of both documents (Doc. No. 173.) Defendants filed an objection to Plaintiff's motion (Doc. No. 174.)

DISCUSSION

I. Approval of the Settlement.

Based on the fairness hearing at which the parties' counsel appeared, as well as on their representations, the parties' written submissions, the lack of any objections as to the general contours of the settlement agreement, and the entire record in this case, the Court concludes that the parties' settlement is fair, reasonable and adequate pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure, Rule 23.

II. Disputed Matters With Respect to the Proposed Judgment Order.

The present disagreement stems from disputed language in the Proposed Final Judgment and Order. The vast majority of the Proposed Final Judgment and Order was agreed upon by the parties prior to submission by Plaintiffs. However, Plaintiffs added two bracketed sections of disputed text: (1) A sentence in Paragraph 21, stipulating that the settlement and the final order cannot be used as evidence as an acceptance or endorsement of the Candidate Physical Abilities Test ("CPAT") (the physical fitness examination the Settlement Class must pass to become firefighters); and (2) Paragraph 26, which states that "[t]he Court retains jurisdiction for monthly status hearings, as scheduled by the Court, until the hiring process is complete." (Pls.' Mot. Ex. 1). The parties appear to have no further disagreements regarding the substance of the Proposed Final Judgment and Order.

a. Plaintiff's disputed addition, Paragraph 21.

Plaintiffs argue that the first section of disputed language contained in Paragraph 21 of the Proposed Final Judgment and Order is necessary to prevent future litigants from presenting the settlement as evidence in favor of the CPAT when Plaintiffs have not expressed an endorsement of the test and have only consented to its use due to Defendant's suggestion. ( See Mem. in Supp. of Pls.' Mot. at 11-12.)

Defendant responds that the other operative language in that section forbidding the use of the Settlement as an indication of acceptance by the Plaintiffs or Settlement Class (Pls.' Mot. Ex.1, at ¶ 21) was included in the Proposed Final Order because it was copied from the parties' final Settlement Agreement. Defendant's primary objection to this new language is that it was not discussed and agreed upon during settlement negotiations and therefore represents a unilateral change by Plaintiffs.

The Court finds that the proposed addition to Paragraph 21 is unnecessary to effectuate the intended outcomes of the Settlement Agreement. As written, Paragraph 21 states that "neither the Stipulation, nor the Settlement, nor any act performed or document executed to or in furtherance of the Stipulation or the Settlement including this Final Judgment and Order shall be construed as an acceptance or endorsement of the CPAT" by Plaintiffs, the Settlement Class, or the Court. (Pls.' Mot. Ex.1, at ¶ 21.) This language immediately a statement that "[n]either the Stipulation, nor the Settlement... shall be offered in evidence by any Party for any purpose except as provided for in this paragraph." ( Id. ) ...


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