Bower v. MetLife, Case No. 1:09-cv-00351
Following is a list of frequently asked questions about this Settlement. To view the answer to a question, please click on the question from the list below. To view the answer to a question, please click on the question from the list below.
The plaintiffs in this lawsuit are beneficiaries under the FEGLI Policy. They allege that MetLife failed to pay them all the delayed settlement interest that the FEGLI Policy requires. Delayed settlement interest is the interest that accrues on FEGLI Policy benefits from the date of the FEGLI insured's death to the date MetLife pays FEGLI Policy benefits to a beneficiary.
MetLife denies plaintiffs' allegations and contends it complied with the terms of the FEGLI Policy when it paid delayed settlement interest to FEGLI beneficiaries at a rate of 1.5%. MetLife also contends that the Office of Personnel Management, the owner of the FEGLI Policy, agreed to the 1.5% delayed settlement interest rate that MetLife paid to FEGLI beneficiaries.
In a class action, one or more people called Class Representatives (in this case, Debra Goettsche-Bower and Linda Cassady) sue on behalf of people who have similar claims. Together, they are called the "Class." Individuals in the Class are called "Class Members." One court resolves the issues for all Class Members, except for those who exclude themselves from the Class.
The Court previously decided that this lawsuit can proceed as a class action because it meets the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23, which governs class actions in federal courts. The Class Representatives caused notice of the Court's decision to certify the class to be issued to then-identifiable Class Members in August 2011. More information about the Court's prior decision to permit this case to be a class action is in the Court's Order Certifying the Class.
When, as here, the parties propose to settle a class action, the Court must determine whether the Settlement is fair, adequate, and reasonable for all Class Members.
No, the Court has not decided whether MetLife or the Plaintiffs are correct. There has been no trial or final ruling on the claims of the Class, nor is this Settlement to be construed as an admission of liability or wrongdoing on the part of MetLife. Instead, both sides have agreed to a proposed Settlement. The proposed Settlement will allow all parties to avoid the costs, delays, and uncertainties of a trial and appeals, and will provide a payment to Class Members who do not exclude themselves from the Settlement. The Class Representatives (the plaintiffs) and the attorneys for the Class think the Settlement is fair, adequate, and reasonable and is in the best interests of the Class Members.
You received a notice because MetLife's records show that you meet the criteria for being a member of the class action Settlement. MetLife's records show (a) you filed a claim for FEGLI Policy benefits during the time period of May 18, 2003 through May 31, 2012, (b) your insured decedent died on or before January 31, 2012, and (c) you were paid delayed settlement interest at a rate of 1.5%.
You are part of the class action Settlement unless:
MetLife has agreed to pay $11,500,000 to create a Settlement Fund that will be used to pay the following:
1) A payment from the Settlement Fund to each Class Member who does not opt-out of this Settlement, which payment will be proportionate to the amount of delayed settlement interest originally received by that Class Member compared to the total amount of delayed settlement interest originally received by all the Class Members collectively.
2) The following Fees and Costs, all of which must be approved by the Court:
a. All reasonable costs incurred by the Settlement Administrator in connection with the Notice process, claims administration, and activities related to the creation and maintenance of the Settlement Fund;
b. Class Counsel's reasonable attorneys' fees and reimbursements for Class Counsel's reasonable costs and expenses; and
c. Any Contribution Award paid to the two Class Representatives.
3) If any money (including interest earned on the Settlement Fund) is left in the Settlement Fund because a Class Member could not be located or because a Class Member did not cash their check, then that leftover money will be paid to the Federal Employees Education and Assistance Fund, if approved by the Court.
In exchange, MetLife will receive what is called a "release," as well as a "bar order." Generally speaking, the release and/or bar order will prevent Class Members who do not exclude themselves from the Settlement from bringing or joining a lawsuit against MetLife for delayed settlement interest. Terms creating a release and/or bar order are typically included in every settlement.
MetLife also has the right (but is not obligated) to terminate its participation in the class action Settlement if more than a certain number of people decide to exclude themselves (or opt out) from the Settlement.
More information on the proposed Settlement can be found in the Settlement Agreement.
Subject to the Court's approval of the Settlement, each Class Member who does not exclude him or herself from the Settlement will receive a payment from the funds remaining in the $11.5 million Settlement Fund after payment of the Fees and Costs (attorneys' fees and expense reimbursements, Contribution Awards to the Class Representatives, and payment of Settlement administration costs). The allocation plan provides for a payment to each Class Member that is proportionate to the amount of delayed settlement interest originally received by that Class Member compared to the total amount of delayed settlement interest originally received by all the Class Members collectively.
The actual amounts received will vary. For example, it is currently estimated that a Class Member who was paid $500 in delayed settlement interest from MetLife when the FEGLI insurance proceeds were originally paid to that Class Member will receive a $47 payment pursuant to the Settlement. A Class Member who originally received $100 in delayed settlement interest will receive less. These are just estimates and examples.
Payments to Class Members calculated to be less than one dollar will be rounded up to one dollar.
The two Class Representatives will each receive a payment, the amount of which will be determined by the same allocation plan that applies to all Class Members who do not exclude themselves from the Settlement. In addition, the Class Representatives will ask the Court to approve a "Contribution Award" that compensates them for their time and effort in the lawsuit. MetLife has agreed not to object to a Contribution Award that in total does not exceed $10,000, to be shared by the two Class Representatives.
To receive a payment from the Settlement Fund, you will not be required to fill out any paperwork. A payment will be mailed directly to you if the Court approves the Settlement.
If you received a notice, and the Court approves the class action Settlement, then you are already part of and will stay in the class action Settlement and will receive a payment from the Settlement Fund even if you do nothing. You must act if you wish to exclude yourself from the class action Settlement (excluding yourself is also called "opting out").
You do not have to do anything to stay in the Settlement. If you decide to stay in:
You can exclude yourself from the Settlement by complying with the exclusion or "opt out" procedures in the Notice and on this Website (Question 13 below). If you decide to exclude yourself:
Please note that if you start your own lawsuit against MetLife after you exclude yourself, you will have to hire and pay your own lawyer for that lawsuit, and you will have to prove your claims. If you do exclude yourself so you can start or continue your own lawsuit against MetLife, you should talk to your own lawyer soon, because your claims may be subject to a statute of limitations. A statute of limitations is a law that imposes time limits on when a lawsuit may be filed.
If you do nothing then you will stay in the Settlement and will receive a payment from the Settlement Fund if the Court approves the proposed Settlement. For more information as to how staying in the Settlement affects your rights, see the response to Question 10 above.
Although the parties have submitted the proposed Settlement agreement to the Court, no money is available right now. There will be a Final Fairness Hearing on October 17, 2012. The Court will then decide whether to approve the proposed Settlement. Class Counsel does not know how long it will take for the Court to make this decision.
If the Court grants final approval of the Settlement and there are no appeals, then payments should be mailed within approximately sixty days of the decision. If there are appeals, resolving them can take time, perhaps more than a year. If there are no appeals, payment will be much quicker. Please be patient.
To exclude yourself from the Settlement, you must mail a written request for exclusion to the Settlement Administrator, post-marked by September 17, 2012. The request must include (a) your full name, (b) your address, and (c) a sentence that says you wish to be excluded from the Bower v. MetLife Settlement. The Class Member, or a representative who has legal authority to sign for the Class Member, must sign the written request for exclusion. The Settlement Administrator's address is: FEGLI Settlement Administrator, PO Box 3616, Minneapolis, MN 55403-0616.
If you mail a letter requesting to be excluded from the Settlement, you will be excluded from the Settlement and you will not get a payment from the Settlement Fund. For more information on how excluding yourself affects your legal rights, please see the response to Question 10, above.
The Court has appointed attorneys Jeffrey S. Goldenberg and Todd B. Naylor of the law firm Goldenberg Schneider, LPA, in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Janet E. Pecquet of the law firm Beckman Weil Shepardson LLC, in Cincinnati, Ohio, to represent you and the other Class Members. These lawyers are called Class Counsel.
They are experienced in handling class actions against insurance companies. More information about these law firms, their practices, and their lawyers' experience is available at www.gs-legal.com and www.beckman-weil.com.
You may, but do not need to, hire your own lawyer because Class Counsel is working on your behalf. If you want your own lawyer, you will have to pay that lawyer. For example, you can ask him or her to appear in Court for you if you want a lawyer to argue your objection to the Settlement or if you want someone other than Class Counsel to speak for you.
You will not be charged to be represented by the lawyers representing the Class ("Class Counsel"). Class Counsel will ask the Court to approve a payment of up to 20% of the $11.5 million Settlement Fund ($2.3 million) to compensate them for their attorneys' fees. Class Counsel will also ask the Court to approve reimbursement of all reasonable expenses and costs incurred in investigating the facts, litigating the case, hiring experts to analyze the data, sending notice of the Court's class certification decision to Class Members, and negotiating the Settlement. MetLife has agreed not to oppose Class Counsel's requests for up to 20% of the Settlement Fund as attorneys' fees and for reimbursement of all reasonable costs and expenses up to $500,000. It will be up to the Court to determine the amount of fees to be paid and costs and expenses to be reimbursed to Class Counsel.
If you want to be represented by your own lawyer, you may hire one at your own expense.
You can object to the proposed Settlement if you do not like any part of it. In order for the Court to consider your objection, you must follow these procedures:
To file your objection with the Court, please use the following address:
Office of the Clerk
Class Counsel's addresses are:
Jeffrey S. Goldenberg, Esq.
Janet E. Pecquet, Esq.
MetLife's Counsel's addresses are:
James L. Griffith, Jr., Esq.
James A. Comodeca, Esq.
You and/or an attorney you hire at your own expense may, but do not have to, appear at the Fairness Hearing to talk to the Court about your objection. If you and/or your lawyer want to speak at the Fairness Hearing about your objection, you and/or your lawyer must follow these procedures:
(1) Object in accordance with all the procedures described above;
(2) On or before September 17, 2012, you and/or your attorney must file with the Court a "notice of intention to appear at the Fairness Hearing" and deliver a copy to Class Counsel and MetLife's Counsel. The addresses for the Court, Class Counsel and MetLife's Counsel are listed above.
(3) The written notice of intention to appear at the Fairness Hearing must include:
- your and/or your attorneys' name, address, and telephone number,
- a statement of your/your attorneys' "notice of intention to appear at the Fairness Hearing in Bower v. MetLife," and
- a description of all evidence you/your lawyer will seek to introduce at the Fairness Hearing, including all documents to be introduced and witnesses to be called.
Any attorney hired by a Class Member at that Class Member's expense for the purpose of objecting to the fairness, reasonableness, or adequacy of this Settlement Agreement, to any terms of the proposed Settlement, to the proposed attorneys' fees and expenses, or the proposed Plaintiffs' Contribution Award shall file with the Court and deliver to Class Counsel and MetLife's Counsel a notice of appearance by September 17, 2012.
Objecting is telling the Court that you do not like something about the proposed Settlement. You can object only if you stay in the Settlement. If the Court agrees with your objection, it might refuse to give final approval to the Settlement unless the parties change the Settlement to address your concerns. If the Court disagrees with your objection, and gives final approval to the Settlement as it is, then you will still be bound by the Settlement.
Excluding yourself from (or opting out of) the Settlement is telling the Court that you do not want to be part of the Settlement. If you exclude yourself, you cannot object because the Settlement no longer affects you.
The Court will hold a Fairness Hearing on October 17, 2012 at 9:00 a.m. at the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, 100 E. 5th Street, Room 822, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202. The purpose of the hearing is to allow the Court to collect and review information about the Settlement and to hear arguments for and against the Settlement, including any properly submitted objections. After the hearing, the Court will decide whether the Settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate, and whether to give final approval to the Settlement. The Court will also decide how much to award Class Counsel for fees and expense reimbursements and whether the Class Representatives should receive a Contribution Award for their time and effort in this class action, and, if so, how much. Class Counsel does not know how long it will take for the Court to decide these issues.
No. But you are welcome to come at your own expense. If you wish to speak or have a lawyer you hire speak at the Fairness Hearing, then you must follow the procedures set forth in the response to Question 16.
If the Settlement is not approved by the Court, then:
This website contains the Court's Order Denying Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, the Court's Order Certifying the Class, the Plaintiffs' Class Action Complaint, the Defendants' Answer to the Complaint, the Proposed Settlement Agreement, and the Long Form Notice.
You can call (877) 421-6821 toll free to hear recorded messages about the Settlement.
You may also communicate with Class Counsel by writing to: FEGLI Settlement Administrator, P.O. Box 3616, Minneapolis, MN 55403-0616.
Please do not contact the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), Metlife, or the Office of Federal Employees Group Life Insurance (OFEGLI) for information about the Settlement. They are not authorized to give information about the Settlement.
If you do not keep the Settlement Administrator informed of your correct and current mailing address, you may forfeit any entitlement to receive a payment from the Settlement Fund. Consequently, if there is a change in your mailing address, please notify the Settlement Administrator in writing at: FEGLI Settlement Administrator, P.O. Box 3616, Minneapolis, MN 55403-0616.