Arkansas Business reports that it may be too late to do anything about a controversial class action lawsuit settlement engineered by John Goodson and colleagues.
This is the suit against United Services Automobile Association, pending in federal court for 17 months, that suddenly was removed to a state court with a pre-packaged settlement including $1.85 million in attorney fees.
Federal Judge P.K. Holmes, after learning about the deal, ordered Goodson and others to appear in court to demonstrate why they should not be penalized for abusing the federal court system. Holmes said it appeared the settlement helped the plaintiffs’ lawyers, but not the class of supposedly damaged insurance policy owners.
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Polk County Circuit Judge Jerry Ryan didn’t see it that way. It turns out he approved the settlement last Friday. He called it a result of a “good-faith, arm’s length negotiation” and said it would save time and money for participants and “further the interests of justice.”
His order made no reference to an objection filed by Little Rock lawyer Robert Trammel that contended the claims process was too difficult for claimants to easily navigate. Ryan said a mass mailing had gone to all 15,000 potential claimants and only six had objected. He said that supported the “fairness” of the settlement. It occurs to me this might also support Trammel’s theory.
Approval in a state court isn’t likely to make Holmes’ objection go away. What remains of interest is whether the story will take hold and draw attention of, for example, the statewide newspaper. As noted yesterday, Goodson has drawn attention over the years for his ability to get favorable approval to lucrative class action work in state courts. This particular case is more of the same, but it comes with Goodson deeply involved in a political campaign for his wife, Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson, who is running for chief justice against Dan Kemp.
PS — A lawyer with some relevant experience says the settlement complicates matters as far as what Holmes may be able to do. His remaining focus may only be with lawyers defending the insurance company, for bringing their defense to federal court in the first place for purposes of a review of claims and then bailing out. That would not be something the plaintiffs’ lawyers would have to answer for, as this lawyer explains it to me.