Haines v. Washington Trust Bank
Haines NSF Fee Settlement
20-2-10459-1 SEA

Frequently Asked Questions

 

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  • The lawsuit that is being settled is entitled Haines v. Washington Trust Bank.  The case is a “class action.” That means that the “Named Plaintiff,” Joseph Haines, is an individual who is acting on behalf of a group that includes all customers of Defendant who were charged an NSF fee on their accounts for a single payment submitted to Defendant for collection from June 25, 2014 through August 1, 2020, which request for collection initially was rejected for insufficient funds, but subsequently was re-presented to Defendant for collection on one or more additional occasions resulting in additional NSF and/or Overdraft Fees.  The persons in this group are collectively called the “Class Members.”

    The Named Plaintiff claims he was improperly charged NSF and/or Overdraft fees.  Defendant does not deny that it assessed the Named Plaintiff NSF and/or Overdraft fees, but denies that its practices give rise to claims for damages by the Named Plaintiff or any Class Member. Defendant specifically maintains that it properly and lawfully assessed all fees in accordance with the terms of its agreements, disclosure, and applicable law. The trial court in this case granted Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss the Complaint, which Plaintiff appealed.

  • In any lawsuit, there are risks and potential benefits that come with a trial versus settling at an earlier stage. It is the Named Plaintiff’s lawyers’ job to identify when a proposed settlement offer is good enough that it justifies recommending settling the case instead of continuing to trial. In a class action, these lawyers, known as Class Counsel, make this recommendation to the Named Plaintiff. The Named Plaintiff has the duty to act in the best interests of the class as a whole and, in this case, it is his belief, as well as Class Counsel’s opinion, that this settlement is in the best interest of all Class Members for at least the following reasons:

    The trial court granted Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss the Complaint, but Plaintiff appealed that decision. There is legal uncertainty about whether the Court of Appeals (or eventually a trial court judge or a jury) will find that Defendant breached its agreements with customers or otherwise acted improperly by assessing the NSF and/or Overdraft fees that are the subject of this case.  There also is uncertainty about whether the Named Plaintiff’s claims are subject to other defenses that might result in no recovery or less recovery to Class Members. Even if the Named Plaintiff were to win at trial, there is no assurance that the Class Members would be awarded more than the current settlement amount, and it may take years of litigation before any payments would be made. By settling, the Class Members will avoid these and other risks and the delays associated with continued litigation.

    Although Defendant disputes Plaintiff’s claims, it has agreed to settle to avoid the costs, distractions and risks of further litigation. Thus, even though Defendant denies that it did anything improper, it believes settlement is in its best interest and in the best interests of all of its customers.

  • If you received a notice in the mail or via email, then Defendant’s records indicate that you are a Class Member who is entitled to receive a payment or credit to your account.

  • Class Members have three options: (1) do nothing and receive a payment according to the terms of this settlement; (2) exclude yourself from the settlement (“opt out” of it); or (3) participate in the settlement but object to it. The deadline to request exclusion or object to the Settlement was September 16, 2021 and has passed.

  • If you do nothing, you will receive settlement funds by credit to your account if you are still a customer of Defendant when the settlement is paid or via check mailed to your residence of record if you are not a customer of Defendant when the settlement is paid.

    The deadline for sending a letter to exclude yourself from the settlement was September 16, 2021 and has passed.

    The deadline to file an objection with the Court is also September 16, 2021 and has passed.

  • If you do not like the settlement and you believe that you could receive more money by pursuing your claims on your own (with or without an attorney that you could hire) and you are comfortable with the risk that you might lose your case or get less than you would in this settlement, then you could have considered opting out of the Settlement. The deadline to request exclusion was September 16, 2021 and has passed.

    If you believe the settlement is unreasonable, unfair, or inadequate and the Court should reject the settlement, you could have objected to the settlement terms. The deadline to object to the Settlement was September 16, 2021 and has passed.

  • The Court has to decide that the settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate before it will approve it. The Court already has decided to provide preliminary approval of the settlement, which authorized this Notice. The Court will make a final decision regarding the settlement at a “Fairness Hearing” or “Final Approval Hearing,” which is currently scheduled for November 19, 2021 at 10:00 a.m.

  • Defendant has agreed to create a Settlement Fund of $200,000.00. As discussed separately below, attorneys’ fees, litigation costs and a service award to the Named Plaintiff, will be paid out of this amount. The balance of the Settlement Fund will be allocated to all Class Members proportionally.  Additionally, as a result of this lawsuit, Defendant has implemented changes to its disclosures that clarify Defendant’s NSF and Overdraft fee practices and will pay the costs of notice and administration, up to $40,000, separately.

  • Class Counsel will request that the Court award up to one-third (33-1/3%) of the value of the settlement as attorneys’ fees plus reimbursement litigation costs incurred in prosecuting the case. The Court will decide the amount of the attorneys’ fees based on a number of factors, including the risk associated with bringing the case, the amount of time spent on the case, the amount of costs incurred to prosecute the case, the quality of the work, and the outcome of the case.

  • Class Counsel on behalf of the Named Plaintiff will request that the Court award him up to $2,500 a piece for their role in securing this settlement on behalf of the class. The Court will decide if a Service Award is appropriate and if so, the amount of the award.

  • The balance of the Settlement Fund will be allocated to all Class Members proportionally. Please see section 8(d)(iv) of the Settlement Agreement for more information. Class Members will receive a check for the amount they are entitled to receive from the Settlement Administrator.

  • No. Any amount you are entitled to under the terms of the settlement will be distributed to you unless you choose to exclude yourself from the settlement, or “opt out.” Excluding yourself from the settlement means you choose not to participate in the settlement. You will keep your individual claims against Defendant, but you will not receive a payment. In that case, if you choose to seek recovery against Defendant, then you will have to file a separate lawsuit or claim.

  • The Court will hold a Fairness Hearing (explained below in Questions 20-22) on November 19, 2021 at 10:00 a.m. to consider whether the settlement should be approved. If there are no objections and the Court approves the settlement, then the Settlement Administrator should begin making payments within approximately forty days of the Court's approval. However, if someone objects to the settlement, and the objection is sustained, then there is no settlement.  Even if all objections are overruled and the Court approves the settlement, an objector could appeal, and it might take months or even years to have the appeal resolved, which would delay any payment.

  • The deadline to exclude yourself from the Settlement was September 16, 2021 and has passed.

  • If you opted out of the settlement, you will preserve rights to sue Defendant for the claims alleged in this case. However, you will not be entitled to receive a payment from this settlement.

  • No. If you excluded yourself, you will not be entitled to a payment.

  • The deadline to object to the Settlement was September 16, 2021 and has passed.

  • Objecting is telling the Court that you do not believe the settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate for the class, and asking the Court to reject it. You can object only if you do not opt out of the settlement. If you object to the settlement and do not opt out, then you are entitled to a payment if the settlement is approved, but you will release claims you might have against Defendant. Excluding yourself or opting out is telling the Court that you do not want to be part of the settlement, and do not want to receive a payment or release claims you might have against Defendant for the claims alleged in this lawsuit.

  • If the Court sustains your objection, or the objection of any other Class Member, then there is no settlement. If you object, but the Court overrules your objection and any other objection(s), then you will be part of the settlement.

  • The Court will hold a Final Approval or Fairness Hearing on November 19, 2021 at 10:00 a.m. at 516 Third Ave, Seattle, WA 98104. At this hearing, the Court will consider whether the settlement is fair, reasonable and adequate. If there are objections, the Court will consider them. The Court may also decide how much to award Class Counsel for attorneys’ fees and expenses and how much the Named Plaintiff should get as a “Service Award” for acting as the class representatives.

  • No. Class Counsel will answer any questions the Court may have. You may attend if you desire to do so. If you have submitted an objection, then you may want to attend.

  • If you have objected, you could have asked the Court for permission to speak at the Final Approval Hearing with your objection. The deadline to object to the Settlement was September 16, 2021 and has passed.

  • If you do nothing at all, and if the settlement is approved, then you may receive a payment that represents your share of the Settlement Fund. You will be considered a part of the class, and you will give up claims against Defendant for the conduct identified in the settlement. You will not give up any other claims you might have against Defendant that are not released in this settlement.

  • The Court ordered that the lawyers and their law firms referred to in this notice as “Class Counsel” will represent you and the other Class Members.

  • No. Class Counsel will be paid directly from the Settlement Fund.

  • The Court will be asked to approve the amount of attorneys’ fees at the Fairness Hearing. Class Counsel will file an application for fees and costs and will specify the amount being sought. Class Counsel's application for fees and costs will be posted on the Important Documents page after it is filed with the Court. You may also visit the Important Documents page to access copies of the Settlement Agreement and other pleadings in this case.

    PLEASE DO NOT CONTACT THE COURT OR ANY REPRESENTATIVE OF DEFENDANT CONCERNING THIS NOTICE OR THE SETTLEMENT.

For More Information

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Mail
Haines v. Washington Trust Bank
c/o JND Legal Administration
PO Box 91244
Seattle, WA 98111