Johnston v. USAA Class Action Settlement

Johnston, et al. v. United Services Automobile Association, et al
Superior Court of the State of Washington, County of Pierce, Case No.: 14-2-10507-5

Following is a list of frequently asked questions about this settlement. To view the answer to a question, please click on the question from the list below. The answers to these questions will be updated periodically to reflect the current status of the settlement.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

BASIC INFORMATION

  1. I received a Notice package in the mail. Why? What is this about?

    You may have received a Notice package (with enclosed Claim Form(s)) in the mail. If so, it’s because the records of the USAA companies show that you were an insured of a USAA company with a Washington auto policy and received payment under your uninsured/underinsured motorists coverage (“UIM PD”) coverage for property damage to your insured vehicle for an accident occurring between July 1, 2008 and May 3, 2016, and that you may meet certain other requirements (set forth in Question 5, below).

    The Court authorized the Notice because you have the right to know about a proposed Settlement of this class action, and about your options, before the Court decides whether to approve the Settlement. If the Court approves the Settlement, and after any objections and appeals are resolved, payments will be made to those who qualify.

    The Notice explains the lawsuit, the Settlement, your legal rights, what benefits are available, who is eligible for them, and how to get them.

    The Court in charge of the case is the Pierce County Superior Court for the State of Washington, and the case is known as Johnston, et al. v. United Services Automobile Association, et al., Case No. 14-2-10507-5. The people who brought this suit (Edmond Johnston, Jr. and Jessica Lonero) are called “Plaintiffs” or “Class Representatives,” and the USAA companies they sued are called the “Defendants.” The USAA companies involved are United Services Automobile Association, USAA Casualty Insurance Company, USAA General Indemnity Company, and Garrison Property and Casualty Insurance Company.

  2. What is this lawsuit about?

    In the lawsuit, Plaintiffs claim that when certain automobiles sustain damage to their structural systems and bodies, they cannot be fully repaired to their pre-accident condition, causing the vehicles to suffer a loss in value called “diminished value.” Plaintiffs allege that the USAA companies failed to pay for this type of loss under their Washington insurance policy’s UIM PD coverage, and that such an alleged failure to pay is a breach of their automobile insurance contract.

    The USAA companies deny that they did anything wrong, and maintain that they have complied with and exceeded their insurance policies and their obligations under Washington law. The Parties, however, have agreed to settle the lawsuit to avoid the cost, delay, and uncertainty of continued litigation.

  3. Why is this a class action?

    In a class action, one or more people called Class Representatives (here, Edmond Johnston, Jr. and Jessica Lonero) sue on behalf of people who have similar claims. All of these people are part of a “Class.” One court resolves the issues for all Class Members, except for those who have previously excluded themselves from the Class. Pierce County Superior Court Judge Vicki Hogan is in charge of this class action.

  4. Why is there a Settlement?

    The Court did not decide in favor of Plaintiffs or Defendants. Instead, both sides agreed to a Settlement, which, if approved, brings the litigation to an end. That way, Plaintiffs and the USAA companies avoid the cost, delay, and uncertainty of a trial, and the Class Members will get payments. The Plaintiffs and their attorneys think the Settlement is best for the Class Members.

    You are eligible to receive money from this Settlement if you are a Class Member and you submit a valid Claim Form (explained in more detail in Question 5, Question 6, and Question 7, below).

WHO IS IN THE SETTLEMENT?

  1. How do I know if I am part of the Settlement?

    You are a member of the Class if:

    1. One or more of the USAA companies paid to have your insured vehicle repaired under the UIM PD provision of an auto policy issued in Washington; and
    2. your covered accident was between July 1, 2008 and May 3, 2016; and
    3. the repair estimate on your vehicle (including any supplements) totaled at least $1,000; and
    4. your vehicle was no more than six years old (model year plus five years) and had less than 90,000 miles on it at the time of the accident; and
    5. your vehicle suffered structural (frame) damage and/or deformed sheet metal and/or required body or paint work.

    You are not a part of the Class if, at the time of your accident, (a) your vehicle was leased, (b) your vehicle was declared a total loss, (c) you are currently employed by the USAA companies, or (d) you are the assigned judge, the judge’s staff, and their family members.

    If you still have questions about whether you’re a Class Member, you can call the Claims Administrator toll-free at 1-888-219-6058 or send an email to mail@johnstonsettlement.com for more information.

THE SETTLEMENT BENEFITS—WHAT YOU GET IF YOU QUALIFY

  1. How much will my payment be?

    At this point, we don’t know how much anyone’s individual payment will be. Each Class Member who submits a timely, valid Claim Form will receive a payment that will depend on his or her vehicle repair costs. Here’s how it works. Each Class Member is entitled to request a payment. For Class Members who qualify for a payment, that payment will be calculated by taking the portion of the Settlement payable to Class Members (i.e., $5,947,200 minus attorneys’ fees and costs and service award payments to the Class Representatives) and multiplying it by the fraction that the Class Member’s individual repair costs is to the Class’ total repair costs.

    Not everyone who receives this Notice will be eligible for payment. When a vehicle has been in a previous accident, the payment will be reduced by one-half. Also, there is no payment under this Settlement if your vehicle repair was limited to glass repair or replacement, tire replacement, sound systems repair or replacement, or any combination of those. The average payment for qualified Class Members will be greater than $500 per Class Member, but your payment (if you qualify) may be more or less than that figure. You can receive a payment under the Settlement only if you submit a Valid Claim Form according to the requirements set forth in Question 7, below. You can find more details about the calculation of settlement payments in the Stipulation of Settlement (Paragraphs 30-42), which is available on the Settlement and Court Documents section of this website.

HOW YOU GET A PAYMENT—SUBMITTING A CLAIM FORM

  1. How can I receive a payment?

    To be eligible for payment, you must (1) fit the class definition (see Question 5 above) and (2) you must submit a timely, valid Claim Form.

    A yellow Claim Form was enclosed with the Notice package you may have received in the mail. You can also get a Claim Form on this Settlement website or by calling 1- 888-219-6058 toll-free, or by sending an email to mail@johnstonsettlement.com.

    Read the instructions on the Claim Form carefully, fill out the Claim Form, and sign it. To be timely, you can either (i) mail your Claim Form or (ii) submit it online by October 3, 2016. If you mail your Claim Form, you must mail it to the Claims Administrator at the address below so that it is postmarked by October 3, 2016. Here’s the Claims Administrator’s address:

    Johnston v. USAA Settlement
    c/o Dahl Administration, LLC
    PO Box 3614
    Minneapolis, MN 55403-0614

    Do not send your Claim Form to the Court, the Judge, or the USAA companies.

    IMPORTANT NOTE: If you have more than one insurance claim that qualifies under the Class definition you must submit a separate Claim Form for each insurance claim. If USAA’s records show that you have more than one insurance claim, you were sent a separate Claim Form for each such insurance claim with the date of the accident and the vehicle make, model, and year for each claim. If you believe that the pre-printed information on the Claim Form is incorrect, or that you have other qualifying claims, you should note that on the Claim Form. (See the instructions on the Claim Form.)

    Note that only a Class Member or his or her “Legally Authorized Representative” can submit a claim. If you have a personal lawyer, your lawyer may assist you with your Claim Form, but you must personally sign the Claim Form, unless the lawyer is your Legally Authorized Representative. If you are a Legally Authorized Representative, you must also fill out the section on page 2 that begins “For Legally Authorized Representatives Only.” The Claim Form explains that in more detail.

    Claim Forms submitted as part of a group effort, or on behalf of a class of persons, are invalid and ineffective.

    Who is a “Legally Authorized Representative” is explained in Question 9, and the Claim Form, in more detail.

  2. When would I get my payment?

    The Court will hold a hearing on October 6, 2016, to decide whether to approve the Settlement. You will get your payment if the Court approves the Settlement and after all appeals have been concluded and the Settlement is approved with no further appeals possible. It’s always uncertain whether these appeals can be resolved, and resolving them can take time. Please be patient.

    We will provide regular updates of the status of the Settlement on this Settlement Website. You can also contact the Claims Administrator with any questions.

  3. What is a “Legally Authorized Representative”?

    A Legally Authorized Representative means an administrator/administratrix, personal representative, or executor/executrix of a deceased Class Member’s estate; a guardian, conservator, or next friend of an incapacitated Class Member; or any other legally appointed person or entity responsible for handling the business affairs of a Class Member. A Legally Authorized Representative of a Class Member can, for example, submit a Claim Form, an exclusion request, or an objection on behalf of the Class Member.

  4. What am I giving up to get a payment or stay in the Class?

    Unless you exclude yourself from the Settlement, you are staying in the Class, and that means that you can’t sue or be part of any other lawsuit against the USAA companies about the diminished value issues in this case. It also means that all of the Court’s orders will apply to you and legally bind you.

    If you stay in the Class, you will agree to “release and discharge” the USAA companies from claims for diminished value as fully described in Paragraphs 24-25, 29, and 74-75 of the Parties’ Stipulation of Settlement. You can get a copy of the Stipulation on the Settlement and Court Documents section of this website or by contacting the Claims Administrator.

EXCLUDING YOURSELF (“OPTING OUT”) FROM THE SETTLEMENT

  1. How do I get out of the Settlement?

    To exclude yourself from the Settlement, you must send a letter to the Claims Administrator by first-class mail with a clear statement that you want to be excluded from the Johnston v. USAA Settlement. You must sign this statement.

    You must mail your Exclusion Request so that it is postmarked by September 6, 2016 to the following address:

    Johnston v. USAA Settlement
    c/o Dahl Administration, LLC
    PO Box 3614
    Minneapolis, MN 55403-0614

    If you ask to be excluded, you will not get any money from the Settlement, and you cannot object 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) the USAA companies. If you have a pending lawsuit against the USAA companies involving the same legal issues in the Settlement, speak to your lawyer in that case immediately. If you wish to continue your individual lawsuit(s), you must exclude yourself from this Settlement.

    If you are sending the request to be excluded as the “Legally Authorized Representative” of a Class Member (see Question 9 for the definition of that term), you must include any information or documents that confirm your appointment or status as a Legally Authorized Representative. Requests for exclusion must be submitted individually by a Class Member or his, her, or its Legally Authorized Representative, and not on behalf of a group or class of persons. If you have a personal lawyer, your lawyer may assist you with your exclusion request, but you must sign the exclusion request, unless the lawyer is also your Legally Authorized Representative.

  2. If I don’t exclude myself, can I sue the USAA companies for the same thing later?

    No. Unless you exclude yourself from the Settlement, you give up any right to sue the USAA companies for the claims that are resolved by Settlement. If you have a pending lawsuit, speak to your lawyer in that lawsuit immediately.

    Remember, the exclusion deadline is September 6, 2016.

  3. If I exclude myself can I get a payment from the Settlement?

    No. If you exclude yourself, you will not be able to get any money from the Settlement, and you cannot object to the Settlement. You will not be legally bound by anything that happens in the Settlement.

THE LAWYERS REPRESENTING YOU

  1. Do I have a lawyer in this case?

    Yes. The Court has appointed the attorneys bringing this suit to be “Class Counsel” to represent the interests of all Class Members. Class Counsel appointed by the Court are Scott P. Nealey, Debra Brewer Hayes, and Stephen M. Hansen. They can be reached to answer any questions you may have at 253-302-5955 / steve@stephenmhansenlaw.com (Mr. Hansen); or 281-815-4972 / dhayes@dhayeslaw.com (Ms. Hayes); or 415-231-5311 / snealey@nealeylaw.com (Mr. Nealey).

    Class Counsel’s fees and costs will be determined by the Court and subtracted from the Settlement. Other than that, you will not be charged for these lawyers’ work in securing the settlement benefits for you and the other Class Members. You owe nothing if you participate in the Settlement. If you want to be represented by your own lawyer, you may hire one at your own expense.

  2. How will the lawyers be paid?

    Class Counsel will ask the Court for an award of attorneys’ fees up to 27.5% of the settlement fund according to the terms of the Stipulation of Settlement, and payment of $7,500 to each of the class representatives for their service. Class Counsel have worked on this case since before it was filed, but have not received any money for that work. The attorneys’ fees, costs, and payments to class representatives, as awarded by the Court, shall be paid from the $5,947,200 available to the Class Members in this Settlement. The Court has the discretion to determine how much to award for attorneys’ fees and expenses and class representative service awards, and may award less than the amounts requested by Class Counsel.

OBJECTING TO THE SETTLEMENT

  1. If I don’t like the Settlement, how can I tell the Court?

    If you’re a Class Member, and you do not exclude yourself, you can object to the Settlement or seek to intervene in the case if you don’t like any part of it. The Court will consider your views.

    To object, you must (1) mail your objection to the Claims Administrator, (2) mail your objection to Class Counsel, and (3) file your objection with the Court. To be timely, your objection must be mailed to the Claims Administrator and Class Counsel so that it is postmarked by September 6, 2016, and it must be filed with the Court by no later than September 6, 2016, at the following addresses:

    CLAIMS ADMINISTRATOR:COURT:CLASS COUNSEL:
    Johnston v. USAA Settlement
    c/o Dahl Administration, LLC
    PO Box 3614
    Minneapolis, MN 55403-0614
    Pierce County Superior Court
    930 Tacoma Ave. S, Room 110
    Case No. 14-2-10507-5
    Johnston v. USAA Settlement
    Tacoma, WA 98402
    Stephen M. Hansen, P.S.
    1821 Dock Street, Suite 103
    Tacoma, WA 98402

    Be sure to include your name, address, telephone number, your signature, and the reasons you object to the Settlement. The other requirements for objections are in the Stipulation of Settlement at Paragraphs 58-63.

  2. What’s the difference between objection or excluding?

    Objecting is simply telling the Court that you don’t like something about the Settlement. You can object to the Settlement only if you stay in the Settlement. Excluding yourself is telling the Court that you don’t want to be part of the Settlement. If you exclude yourself, you have no basis to object, because the case no longer affects you.

THE COURT’S FINAL APPROVAL HEARING

  1. When and where will the Court decide whether to approve the Settlement?

    The Court will hold a Hearing at 9:00 a.m. on October 6, 2016 at the Pierce County Superior Court Courthouse (Department 5), in Courtroom 2E (or as posted), 930 Tacoma Ave. S, Tacoma, WA 98402. At this Hearing, the Court will consider whether the Settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate. If there are objections, the Court will consider them. Judge Hogan will listen to anyone at the Hearing who asks to speak. The Court will also decide how much to pay Class Counsel and the Class Representatives.

    At or after the Hearing, the Court will decide to whether to finally approve the proposed Settlement. We do not know how long these decisions will take.

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

  2. Do I have to come to the Hearing?

    No. Counsel will answer questions Judge Hogan may have. But you are welcome to come at your own expense. If you send an objection, you don’t have to come to Court to talk about it. As long as you submit it on time, the Court will consider it. You may also pay your own lawyer to attend, but it’s not necessary.

  3. May I speak at the Hearing?

    You may ask the Court for permission to speak at the Final Settlement Hearing. To do so, you must send a “Notice of Intention to Appear at the Final Settlement Hearing in Johnston v. USAA” and follow the procedures in Question 15 and at Paragraphs 58-63 of the Stipulation of Settlement. Your Notice of Intention to appear must be (1) mailed to the Claims Administrator, (2) mailed to Class Counsel, and (3) filed with the Court by September 6, 2016. You cannot speak at the Hearing if you excluded yourself.

IF YOU DO NOTHING

  1. What happens if I do nothing at all?

    If you do nothing, you will get no money from this Settlement. But unless you exclude yourself, you won’t be able to sue, continue to sue, or be part of any other lawsuit against the USAA companies about the legal issues in this case, ever again. To receive a payment you must submit a qualifying Claim Form. (See Question 7.)

GETTING MORE INFORMATION

  1. Are there more details about the Settlement?

    For the precise terms and conditions of the Settlement, please see the Stipulation of Settlement.

    You may also obtain additional information by

    • Calling the Claims Administrator toll-free at 1- 888-219-6058 to ask questions and receive copies of documents, or e-mailing the Claims Administrator at mail@johnstonsettlement.com.
    • Writing to the Claims Administrator at the following address:

      Johnston v. USAA Settlement
      c/o Dahl Administration, LLC
      PO Box 3614
      Minneapolis, MN 55403-0614

    • Contacting Class Counsel listed in Question 14.

    Please do not call the Court, the Court clerk’s office, or USAA or its lawyers to inquire about this Settlement. They will be unable to help you.