Ferguson v. Safeco, Case No. DV 04-628B
www.FergusonMontanaSettlement.com

Frequently Asked Questions

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If you received a Notice it is because you have a right to know about a settlement of this class action, and about all of your options, before the Court decides whether to give “final approval” to the settlement. The Court granted Final Approval of the parties’ Stipulation of Settlement on May 5, 2015, and after any objections and appeals are resolved, payments will be made to those who qualify.

Judge Katherine Curtis of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit, Flathead County, is overseeing this class action. This case is known as Margaret Ferguson, et al. v. Safeco Insurance Company of America, et al. Case No. DV 04-628B.

The Notice explains the lawsuit, the settlement, your legal rights and what benefits are available under the settlement.

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This settlement involves Safeco Insurance Company of Illinois and Safeco Insurance Company of America. The Notice also sometimes refers to these companies as the “Defendants.”

The lawsuit claims that Safeco improperly recovered subrogation on automobile accident claims where it had already paid its insureds for covered losses under automobile insurance policies in Montana.

Safeco denies that it did anything wrong, and maintains that it has complied with its obligations under Montana law. The Parties, however, have agreed to settle the lawsuit to avoid the cost, delay, and uncertainty of continued litigation.

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In a class action lawsuit, one or more people called “Class Representatives” (in this case, Margaret Ferguson) sue on behalf of people who have similar claims. All these people are a “Class” or “Class Members.” One court resolves the issues for everyone in the Class, except for those people who have chosen to exclude themselves from the Class.

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Both sides agreed to a settlement to avoid the cost, delay, and uncertainty of further litigation. Class Counsel think that the settlement is in the best interest of the Class and that the settlement is fair, adequate, and reasonable.

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If you received a Notice, Safeco believes that you are part of the Class, based on a review of its records. The Class includes all persons, from September 1, 1996 through December 31, 2010, who:

(a) was insured under an auto insurance policy issued by Safeco Insurance Company of America or Safeco Insurance Company of Illinois in Montana; and (b) who, as a result of an automobile accident, suffered losses covered by such policy; and (c) received payments under the coverages of such policy; and (d) with respect to whom Safeco recovered from a third party subrogation for all or some of such payments, excluding the individuals identified in Question 2.2, below.

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Yes. Excluded from the Settlement Class are all officers, directors, employees, and agents of Safeco, Class Counsel and Safeco’s counsel of record and members of the Montana judiciary assigned to this case.

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If you were sent a Notice by the Settlement Administrator that means that Safeco’s records show that between September 1, 1996 through December 31, 2010 you were a policyholder under a Montana personal auto insurance policy issued by Safeco Insurance Company of America or Safeco Insurance Company of Illinois in Montana; (b) who, as a result of an automobile accident, suffered losses covered by such policy; (c) received payments under the coverages of such policy; and (d) with respect to whom Safeco recovered from a third party subrogation for all or some of such payments.

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The total settlement amount for the Class will be $4,766,169.72, which includes a recovery of attorney’s fees, costs and expenses. You will receive a payment in at least the approximate amount listed on the Notice mailed to you.

Safeco will pay Ms. Ferguson an incentive award of $7,500, and will also pay the costs of settlement notice and administration.

If the settlement becomes final, the lawsuit will be dismissed with prejudice, and Safeco will receive a complete release and discharge of the claims asserted in the lawsuit.

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The exact date that Class Members will receive checks (the “Distribution Date”) is not known at this time.

The Court held a hearing on May 5, 2015, at 1:00 p.m. (Mountain time) to decide whether to approve the settlement. The Court approved the settlement (see the section “The Court’s Final Approval Hearing,” below), but there may be appeals. It is always uncertain whether these appeals can be resolved, and resolving them can take time.

If the settlement becomes final (in other words, any appeals have been finally resolved), the Distribution Date will be no later than 60 days after the settlement becomes final.

This website will post updates on the Distribution Dates. Additionally, you can call us toll-free at 1 (855) 382-6457 or send an e-mail to Info@FergusonMontanaSettlement.com to learn the status.

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All calculations under this settlement are final, binding, and non-appealable. The Court granted Final Approval of the settlement on May 5, 2015, and Class Members do not have the right to object to the calculation of their payment, or the decision whether they are eligible for payment. All Class Members who did not ask to be excluded may have objected to the terms of the settlement as described in Question 4.1  below.

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Unless you excluded yourself, you stayed in the Class, and that means that you cannot sue, continue to sue, or be part of any other lawsuit against Safeco about the legal issues in this case. It also means that all of the Court’s orders will apply to you and legally bind you. If you stayed in the Class, you will agree to “release and discharge” Safeco as described in Paragraphs 13, 30 and 31 of the Stipulation of Settlement.

A complete copy of the Stipulation of Settlement can be obtained on this website under the 'Important Documents' tab. Talk to Class Counsel (see the section on “The Lawyers Representing You”) or your own lawyer if you have questions about the Released Claims or what they mean.

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To exclude yourself from the settlement, you must have sent a letter to the Settlement Administrator by first-class mail with a clear statement that you wanted to be excluded from the Ferguson v. Safeco settlement.

You must have included your name, address, telephone number, and your signature. If you sent the request to be excluded as the “Legally Authorized Representative” of a Class Member (see Question 4.2 for the definition of that term), you must have included any information or documents that confirm your appointment or status as a Legally Authorized Representative. Requests for exclusion must have been submitted individually by a Class Member or his or her Legally Authorized Representative, and not on behalf of a group or class of persons. If you have a personal lawyer, your lawyer could have assisted you with your exclusion request, but you must have signed the exclusion request, unless the lawyer is also your Legally Authorized Representative.

You must have mailed your exclusion request postmarked no later than April 21, 2015, to:

Ferguson Montana Settlement
P.O. Box 35100
Seattle, WA 98124-1100

You could not exclude yourself on the phone, by e-mail, or on the website. If you asked to be excluded, you will not get any money from the settlement, and you could not have objected to the settlement. You will not be legally bound by anything that happens in this lawsuit. You may be able to sue (or continue to sue) Safeco.

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“Legally Authorized Representative” means an administrator/administratrix or executor/executrix of a deceased settlement Class Member’s estate or a guardian, conservator, personal representative or next friend of an incapacitated settlement Class Member or minor. A Legally Authorized Representative does not include a professional objector or claim filing or similar service purporting to act on behalf of an individual Class Member or group of settlement Class Members.

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No. Unless you excluded yourself, you give up any right to sue Safeco for the claims that this settlement resolves. If you have a pending lawsuit, speak to your lawyer in that case immediately. You must have excluded yourself from this Class to continue your own lawsuit.

The exclusion deadline was April 21, 2015.

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No. If you excluded yourself, you are not eligible for a payment under the settlement. But you may sue, continue to sue, or be part of a different lawsuit against Safeco.

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The Court has appointed the following law firms to represent the Class:

Allan M. McGarvey, Esq.
McGarvey, Heberling,
Sullivan & Lacey, PC
345 1st Avenue East
Kalispell, MT 59901
(406) 752-5566
Alan J. Lerner
Lerner Law Firm
P.O. Box 1158
128 Second Street East
Kalispell, MT 59903
Judah M. Gersh
Viscomi and Gersh, PLLP
121 Wisconsin Ave.
Whitefish, MT 59937

These lawyers are called Class Counsel. Services performed by Class Counsel will be compensated by a Court approved fee paid out of the total class settlement as described in Question 5.2. If you want to be represented by your own lawyer, you may hire one at your own expense.

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The Court granted Final Approval on May 5, 2015 and approved a payment of attorneys’ fees, expenses, and costs which is one third (1/3) of the total class recovery of $4,766,169.72. This amount includes costs and expenses up to $50,000.00. The Court approved payment of $7,500 to the named Plaintiff, Margaret Ferguson, for her service as Class Representative, to be paid by Safeco. Safeco has agreed not to oppose the request for fees, expenses, and awards to Class Counsel and the Class Representative up to these amounts.

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If you are a Class Member (or a Class Member’s Legally Authorized Representative, see Question 4.2), and you did not exclude yourself from the settlement, you could have objected to the settlement. You could not have objected if you excluded yourself. In other words, you must participate in the settlement as a Class Member in order to have objected to its terms.

You could have given reasons why you think the Court should not approve the settlement or the request for fees, expenses or awards to the Class Representative and Class Counsel. The Court would have considered your views. To object, you must have(a) served your objection on counsel for Safeco and Class Counsel for the Plaintiffs and (b) filed it with the Court. To be timely, your objection must have been postmarked by April 21, 2015, and must have been filed with the Court by no later than April 21, 2015, at the following addresses:

Address of Class Counsel:

Allan McGarvey
McGarvey, Heberling, Sullivan & Lacey, PC
345 1st Avenue East
Kalispell, MT 59901
Address of Court:

Flathead County District Court
Case No. DV 04-628B
920 South Main Street
Kalispell, MT 59901
Address of Safeco Counsel:
Daniel F. Diffley
Alston & Bird LLP
1201 West Peachtree Street
Atlanta, GA 30309
Carey E. Matovich
Matovich, Keller & Murphy
2812 First Avenue North
P.O. Box 1098
Billings, MT 59103-1098

Note: You could have mailed your objection to the Court, but it must have been received by the Court and filed by April 21, 2015. See the 'Important Documents' tab on this website for more information on how to object to or intervene in the settlement.

Your objection must have included all of the following: (a) a heading which includes the name of the case and case number (Ferguson v. Safeco, Case No. DV 04-628B); (b) your full name, address, telephone number, and signature; (c) the specific reasons why you objected to the settlement, attorney fees or any other part of the settlement; (d) the name, address, and telephone number of your counsel, if represented by an attorney (if you are represented by an attorney, he/she or it must comply with all applicable laws and rules for filing pleadings and documents); (e) a list of other cases in which you or your counsel has appeared either as an objector or counsel for an objector in the last five years; and (f) whether you intend to appear at the Final Approval Hearing, either in person or through counsel. All objections must have been signed by the objecting Class Member (or his or her Legally Authorized Representative), even if the Class Member is represented by counsel. If you objected, you must have made yourself available to be deposed by any Party in the county of your residence within seven (7) days of service of your timely written objection.

If you intended to appear at the Final Approval Hearing to object to the settlement, you must also have provided with your written objection a detailed statement of the specific legal and factual basis for each objection, a list of any witnesses you will call at the Hearing with each witness’ address and summary of the witness’ testimony, a detailed description of all evidence you will offer at the Hearing with copies of the exhibits attached, and documentary proof of your membership in the Class. You or your lawyer could have appeared at the Final Approval Hearing if you filed a written objection as provided above. (See the section on the “Court’s Final Approval Hearing” below.) If you had a lawyer file an objection for you, he or she must have followed all applicable court rules and must have listed the attorney’s name, address, and telephone number in the written objection filed with the Court.

Unless you submitted a proper and timely written objection, according to the above requirements, you were not allowed to object or appear at the Final Approval Hearing.

Please note that any objections or motions must have been submitted by an individual Class Member or his or her attorney, not as a member of a group, class, or subclass. The only exception is that an objection may have been submitted on behalf of an individual Class Member by his or her Legally Authorized Representative (see Question 4.2 above for a definition of that term).

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Objecting is simply telling the Court that you do not like something about the settlement. You can object only if you stay in the Class. Excluding yourself is telling the Court that you do not want to be part of the Class. If you exclude yourself, you have no basis to object, because the case no longer affects you. If you object, and the Court approves the settlement anyway, you will still be legally bound by the result.

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The Final Approval Hearing was on May 5, 2015, at 1:00 p.m. (Mountain time) before Judge Katherine Curtis, Montana Eleventh Judicial Circuit, at the Flathead County Courthouse, 920 S. Main St., Kalispell, Montana.

At this Hearing, the Court considered whether the settlement and all of its terms were adequate, fair, and reasonable. If there were objections, the Court considered them. The Court may have listened to people who asked for permission to speak at the Hearing and complied with the other requirements for objections explained in Question 6.1 above. The Court also decided how much to award Class Counsel for fees and expenses for representing the Class and how much to award the Class Representative for representing the Class.

The Court granted Final Approval of the settlement. There may be appeals after that. We do not know how long these decisions will take.

The Court may change deadlines listed in this Notice without further notice to the Class. To keep up on any changes in the deadlines, please contact the Settlement Administrator or review this website.

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No. Class Counsel answered any questions asked by the Court. You were welcome to come at your own expense. If you intended to have a lawyer appear at your expense on your behalf at the Final Approval Hearing, your lawyer must have entered a written notice of appearance of counsel with the Clerk of the Court no later than April 21, 2015, and you must have complied with all of the requirements explained above.

If you sent an objection, you did not have to come to Court to talk about it. So long as you mailed your written objection on time and complied with the other requirements for a proper objection, the Court would have considered it.

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If you submitted a proper written objection to the settlement, you or your lawyer acting on your behalf may have spoken at the Hearing. To do so, you must have sent a Notice of Intention to Appear and follow the procedures set out in Question 6.1. Your Notice of Intention to Appear must have been mailed to the Lead Counsel, Safeco’s counsel, and the Court so that it is postmarked no later than April 21, 2015, and it must have been filed with the Clerk of the Court by that same date. See Question 6.1 for the addresses. You could not have spoken at the Hearing if you excluded yourself.

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If you do not exclude yourself, you do not have to do anything to receive a payment. You will receive a check automatically. (See Question 3.2 for more details.)

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You may obtain additional information by:

  • Calling the Settlement Administrator toll-free at 1 (855) 382-6457 to ask questions and receive copies of documents, or e-mailing the Settlement Administrator at Info@FergusonMontanaSettlement.com.
  • Writing to the Settlement Administrator at the following address:

    Ferguson Montana Settlement
    P.O. Box 35100
    Seattle, WA 98124-1100
  • Visiting the 'Important Documents' tab on this website.
  • Reviewing legal documents that have been filed with the Clerk of the Court in this lawsuit at the Court offices stated in Question 6.1 above during regular office hours.
  • Contacting Class Counsel at (406) 752-5566

PLEASE DO NOT CALL THE JUDGE OR THE COURT CLERK TO ASK QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS LAWSUIT OR NOTICE.

THE COURT WILL NOT RESPOND TO LETTERS OR TELEPHONE CALLS. IF YOU WISH TO ADDRESS THE COURT, YOU MUST FILE AN APPROPRIATE OBJECTION, PLEADING OR MOTION WITH THE CLERK OF THE COURT IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE COURT’S USUAL PROCEDURES.

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