Speaks v. U.S. Tobacco Cooperative Inc., No. 18-1316 (4th Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
Speaks Plaintiffs filed a class action against the Cooperative, seeking a declaratory judgment, distribution of the reserve funds to members, and judicial dissolution of the Cooperative as an alternative form of relief. Speaks Plaintiffs argued that after Congress enacted the Fair and Equitable Tobacco Reform Act (FETRA) and the price-support program ended, the Cooperative's primary purpose ceased to exist, and it should be forced to distribute the reserve funds and be judicially dissolved. The parties eventually mediated the case and the district court certified the class, approving a settlement.
In this appeal, Fisher-Lewis class members, and would-be intervenor Dan Lewis, objected to the Speaks settlement. The Fourth Circuit dismissed Lewis' appeal for lack of jurisdiction, holding that Lewis filed his appeal far beyond the 30-day deadline prescribed by statute. The court affirmed the district court's denial of the attempted group opt-out. However, the court could not agree with the district court that the objectors' interests were adequately protected or that the settlement was fair, reasonable, and adequate for the class. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's order certifying the class and granting final approval of the class-action settlement, remanding for further proceedings.