On November 7, the United States District Court for the Southern District of California granted final approval of the class settlement in Stemple v. QC Holdings, Inc., No. 3:12-cv-01997 (S.D. Cal.). The plaintiff in the case alleged that QC Holdings, a check-cashing and short-term loan company, negligently and willfully violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act by placing calls to consumers’ cellular telephones using an automatic telephone dialing system or an artificial or prerecorded voice without consent to do so. Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that QC Holdings called him approximately twelve times attempting to collect a debt that he did not owe, in each instance using either an ATDS or an artificial or prerecorded voice. The plaintiff sought the TCPA’s maximum statutory damages of $1,500 per violation on behalf of himself and a class of similarly situated consumers.
The parties in Stemple proceeded through substantial litigation before reaching a settlement, including numerous mediation sessions. In September 2014, more than two years after Stemple first filed his claim, the court certified a class of California-only consumers. QC Holdings moved the district court to reconsider that order and then sought interlocutory review in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals; neither attempt was successful. From there, with the certainty of a certified class hanging over them, the parties negotiated a nationwide class settlement, which was filed with the court in December 2015.
The settlement created a $1.5 million settlement fund to pay claims submitted by class members, as well as an incentive award to Stemple, attorneys’ fees and costs to his counsel, and the costs of notice and administration. To submit a claim, any class member had to provide the cellular telephone number on which QC Holdings had called them and affirm that QC Holdings had actually called that number during the four-year class period. In total, the class consisted of approximately 31,230 class members eligible to submit claims.
The settlement drew no objections and only one exclusion request. In all, class members submitted 645 valid claim forms (and roughly as many that were in some way deficient), marking an overall claims rate of barely 3%. After deducting amounts for an incentive award, attorneys’ fees, and costs of notice and administration, the settlement is expected to pay approximately $1,208 to each class member.