Judge Friedman rules on the denied claimants’ requests for reconsideration. See how he ruled below…
On March 5, 2014, Judge Friedman issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order based on numerous requests for reconsideration filed by denied plaintiffs on December 27, 2013. At that time, the Judge ordered class counsel and the USDA to file a response to the requests for reconsideration by January 30, 2014, which they did. Both Class Counsel and the USDA pointed to language in the settlement agreement which does not allow judicial intervention in the final decisions of the Neutrals. Today, Judge Friedman addressed those responses.
The March 5th order states that the parties are correct in that the Settlement Agreement provides that it may only be modified by agreement of the parties and approval by the Court. However, the government opposes modification of the settlement to allow for reconsideration of the denied claimants claims.
The Order then goes on to note that although the Settlement Agreement itself does not allow modification without party and court consent, Rule 60(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure would allow a modification of the Settlement Agreement without the agreement of the parties if applying the agreement is no longer equitable or circumstances justify relief.
However, the standard for modification under the rule is strict and requires a showing that a significant change in the facts or the law warrants revision of the agreement. In this case, no denied claimant has made such a showing. In fact, by including the “no review by a court” clause, the parties have in fact demonstrated that these specific circumstances were foreseeable and even expected.
The Court notes that this conclusion must follow regardless of the reason that denied claimants are seeking reconsideration.
The Court further notes that the parties negotiated for the “no review by a court” clause in order to reach a settlement which allowed an additional $1,150,000,000.00 to be appropriated to successful claimants. Otherwise, prevailing claimants would have had to split a mere $100,000,000.00 instead of $1,250,000,000.00. The Court recognizes that this may be “cold comfort to plaintiffs who believe that their claims were denied in error” but by negotiating a settlement agreement, class members were able to receive ten times what they would have without a settlement. Therefore, the finality of claims was an “essential element” of the valid settlement agreement.
Thus, the Court has no power to modify the settlement agreement to allow review of the denied claimants claims whether the parties consent or not.
All of the motions seeking reconsideration were therefore denied.
The full order can be found here: 3-5-14 Order