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Stamps Brothers Oil & Gas, LLC v. Continental Resources, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

September 6, 2017

STAMPS BROTHERS OIL & GAS, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
CONTINENTAL RESOURCES, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER AND FINAL JUDGMENT GRANTING FINAL APPROVAL OF CLASS ACTION SETTLEMENT

          JOE HEATON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This is a class action lawsuit brought by Class Representative, Stamps Brothers Oil & Gas, LLC, on behalf of itself and as representative of a proposed Class of royalty and overriding royalty owners (defined below), against Continental Resources, Inc. (referred to at times as "Defendant" or "Continental") for the alleged non-payment of certain sums of interest to the putative class members and for other related relief, as described in the Class Representative's Petition and Amended Petition.

         On October 27, 2016, the Class Representative and Defendant exchanged executed counterparts of the fully-composed Settlement Agreement dated as of October 24, 2016, with completed exhibits (the "Settlement Agreement"), finalizing the terms of the proposed Settlement.[1]

         On April 6, 2017, the Court preliminarily approved the Settlement and issued its Order Granting Preliminary Approval of Class Action Settlement, Certifying the Class for Settlement Purposes, Approving Form and Manner of Notice, and Setting Date for Final Fairness Hearing (the "Preliminary Approval Order") (Doc. 95). In the Preliminary Approval Order (Doc. 95), the Court, inter alia:

a. certified the Settlement Class for settlement purposes only, finding all requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 have been satisfied with respect to the proposed Settlement Class;
b. appointed Plaintiff, Stamps Brothers Oil & Gas, LLC, as Class Representative and the law firms of Pate & Wolfe and Taylor, Foster, Mallett, Downs, Ramsey & Russell as Class Counsel;
c. preliminarily found: (i) the proposed Settlement resulted from extensive arm's-length negotiations; (ii) the proposed Settlement was agreed to only after Class Counsel had conducted legal research and fact and expert analysis regarding the strengths and weaknesses of Class Representative's and the Settlement Class' claims; (iii) Class Representative and Class Counsel have concluded that the proposed Settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate; and (iv) the proposed Settlement is sufficiently fair, reasonable, and adequate to warrant sending notice of the proposed Settlement to the Settlement Class;
d. preliminarily approved the Settlement as being the product of serious, informed, non-collusive negotiations, has no obvious-deficiencies, does not improperly grant preferential treatment to class representatives or segments of the class and falls within the range of possible approval. In re Motor Fuel Temperature Sales Practices Litig., No. 07-MD-1840, 2011 WL 4431090, at *5 (D. Kan. Sept. 22, 2011).
e. preliminarily approved the form and manner of the proposed Notice, and Summary Notice to be communicated to the Settlement Class, finding specifically that such Notice and Summary Notice, among other information: (i) described the terms and effect of the Settlement; (ii) notified the Settlement Class that Class Counsel will seek attorneys' fees, reimbursement of Litigation Expenses, and a Case Contribution Award for Class Representative's services; (iii) notified the Settlement Class of the time and place of the Final Fairness Hearing; (iv) described the procedure for requesting exclusion from the Settlement; and (v) described the procedure for objecting to the Settlement or any part thereof;
f. instructed the Settlement Administrator to disseminate the approved Notice to the Settlement Class and to publish the Summary Notice in accordance with the Settlement Agreement and in the manner approved by the Court, with all costs of administering such Notice to be borne by the Defendant; g. provided for the appointment of a Settlement Administrator;
h. provided for the establishment of an Escrow Account;
i. set the date and time for the Final Fairness Hearing as August 7, 2017 at 10:00 A.M. in the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma; and
j. set out the procedures and deadlines by which Settlement Class Members could properly request exclusion from the Settlement Class or object to the Settlement or any part thereof.

         After the Court issued the Preliminary Approval Order, due and adequate notice by means of the Notice and Summary Notice was given to the Settlement Class, notifying them of the Settlement and the upcoming Final Fairness Hearing. On August 7, 2017, in accordance with the Preliminary Approval Order and the Notice, the Court conducted a Final Fairness Hearing to, inter alia:

a. determine whether the Settlement should be approved by the Court as fair, reasonable, and adequate and in the best interests of the Settlement Class;
b. determine whether the notice method utilized by the Defendant: (i) constituted the best practicable notice under the circumstances; (ii) constituted notice reasonably calculated under the circumstances to apprise Settlement Class Members of the pendency of the litigation, the Settlement, their right to exclude themselves from the Settlement, their right to object to the Settlement or any part thereof, and their right to appear at the Final Fairness Hearing; (iii) was reasonable and constituted due, adequate, and sufficient notice to all persons and entities entitled to such notice; and (iv) meets all applicable requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and other applicable law;
c. determine whether to approve the method for Settlement Class Members to submit claims and the manner for distributing Settlement Funds to the Settlement Class Members who timely submit proper claims;
d. determine whether a Judgment should be entered pursuant to the Settlement Agreement, inter alia, dismissing the Litigation against the Defendant with prejudice and extinguishing, releasing, and barring all Released Claims against all ...

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