In the published portion of Litwin v. iRenew Bio Energy Solutions LLC, ___ Cal.App.4th ___ (May 28, 2014), the Court of Appeal (Second Appellate District, Division One) reversed final approval of a class action settlement because the notice informed the class members that if they wished to object, they (or their counsel) must appear in person at the final approval hearing.
The panel explained:
Requiring class members in a nationwide class or even a statewide class to appear at the final approval hearing or hire an attorney to have their objections heard works a hardship on objectors, as the benefit to the objector from the class action may be so low that it would be cost prohibitive or physically challenging to personally assert one’s rights at a hearing in a potentially distant location. .... Requiring any objector to attend the final approval hearing does not offer a meaningful opportunity to be heard, and therefore violates class members’ due process rights.
.... Although appellant was afforded the opportunity to be heard, there may have been many class members whose objections were chilled. Misstating objectors’ rights such that they are dissuaded from exercising their opportunity to be heard does not fairly apprise class members of their options associated with the settlement. For these reasons, the order granting final approval of the settlement must be reversed.
Slip op. at 8-9.