Maribel Moses v. The New York Times Company, No. 21-2556 (2d Cir. 2023)Annotate this Case
Objector-Appellant appealed from a district court judgment approving a settlement award, attorneys’ fee award, and incentive award in a class action lawsuit. Plaintiff-Appellee, on behalf of similarly situated subscribers in California, sued Defendant-Appellee The New York Times (“NYT”), claiming that NYT automatically renewed NYT subscriptions without providing the disclosures and authorizations required by California’s Automatic Renewal Law (the “ARL”). The parties negotiated a settlement agreement whereby class members dropped their claims in exchange for NYT’s reformation of its business practices and either Access Codes for one-month NYT subscriptions or pro rata cash payments. The settlement agreement also provided for the payment of substantial attorneys’ fees to class counsel and an incentive award to the class representative. Appellant objected to the proposed settlement, primarily arguing that the settlement is unfair, the attorneys’ fees calculation improperly exceeds limits set by the coupon settlement provisions of the Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”), and the incentive award is not authorized by law. The district court disagreed, certifying a class and approving the settlement, $1.25 million attorneys’ fees, and a $5,000 incentive award.
On appeal, the Second Circuit agreed with Appellant that the district court exceeded its discretion when it approved the settlement based on the wrong legal standard in contravention of Rule 23(e). The court also agreed that the Access Codes are coupons, which subject the attorneys’ fees calculation to CAFA’s coupon settlement requirements. Because the district court’s conclusions are intertwined, the court vacated the district court’s judgment in its entirety and remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings.