Kyla Asbury Oct. 23, 2014, 1:09pm

SAN DIEGO (Legal Newsline) - A federal judge has granted preliminary approval of a settlement in a class action lawsuit against the North County Times by former newspaper carriers.

District Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel granted preliminary approval in the 2008 class action on Oct. 17, granting $3.2 million to the class members.

NCT agreed to establish a maximum settlement fund in the amount of $3.2 million, according to the settlement order filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.

A net settlement fund will be made available to class members after deductions are made for attorneys’ fees, which are estimated at $800,000; attorneys' costs, which are estimated at $50,000; claims administration, which is estimated between $30,000 and $40,000; and service awards to the named plaintiffs, which are estimated at $36,000. The net settlement fund will be approximately $2.27 million.

"Class members may file claims against the net settlement fund and it is estimated that they will be eligible to receive payouts that amount to approximately 90% of all deductions recorded on NCT’s records during the relevant period," the order states.

Sharon Hughen and Hector Miguel Salgado will receive incentive awards of $7,500 each. Yvonne Dalton, Dian Garza, Arminda Guzman, Etelvina Salgado and Refugio Sanchez will receive incentive awards of $3,500 each.

The plaintiffs filed the class action lawsuit against NCT on April 18, 2008 in state court. It was removed to federal court on June 17, 2008.

The plaintiffs claimed NCT violated multiple California labor codes and routinely made deductions from the class members' wages.

For each alleged complaint it received from its customers for, among other things, damaged papers, wet papers and allegedly undelivered papers, NCT would make deductions from their wages, up to $5 per complaint and "redelivery fees," according to the suit.

"The defendant made said deductions as part of a wrongful attempt to make the plaintiffs and class members insurers of the defendant's merchandise, which purpose is prohibited by California law," the complaint stated.

NCT routinely provided the class members with newspapers in excess of the number that was needed to complete their respective delivery routes, and then routinely made deductions for each extra newspaper and charged class members for their own mandatory subscription to the newspaper, the plaintiffs alleged.

The plaintiffs are represented by C. Keith Greer and Julie A. Lowell of Greer & Associates APC.

NCT is represented by David D. Kadue of Seyfarth Shaw LLP.

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California case number: 3:08-cv-01072

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