Foster Care Class Actions

  State Action - Sheehey v. State of Hawaii, Civ. No. 14-1-1709-08 VLC


  Federal Action - Sheehey v. Bhanot, Civ. No. CV13-00663 LEK-KSC

Media Coverage

Relevant documents




What does the Settlement provide?


The State has agreed to provide $2,341,103.10 (Total Settlement Amount) to be divided among the Payment Recipients and to pay for Class Counsel’s attorneys’ fees and costs and the administrative costs for carrying out the settlement.

The $2,341,103.10 is based on $35 per month per foster child, child in permanent custody/legal guardianship, adoptive child with special needs, and former foster youth in the higher education program, for whom DHS made monthly payments for the time period July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014 (which is the State’s 2014 fiscal year), pro rated for actual days in care. The time period represents the period right before the foster board rates were raised in July 2014. The $35 figure was negotiated in the settlement, and represents a compromise figure preliminarily agreed to by the Class Representatives and the State.

The amount that each Payment Recipient will receive will be calculated by subtracting the amount of the costs involved in administering this settlement (for example, copying and mailing this notice to, and locating Class Members) and the attorneys’ fees and costs awarded by the Court from the Total Settlement Amount of $2,341,103.10 to arrive at a Net Settlement Amount. This Net Settlement Amount will then be distributed to Payment Recipients based on the number of days each eligible child was in care between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014.



Why won’t all Class Members receive a payment?


This settlement is a compromise between the Plaintiffs and the State. The State strongly believes it has no liability to any of the Class Members and does not owe any of them any money. The State believes its position is supported by the rulings of the federal court. But the State is willing to provide some money to some of the Plaintiffs as a way to bring an end to the case rather than continue to litigate. Plaintiffs strongly believe the State should be paying more to all of the Class Members, but also understand there are serious risks in continuing to litigate this case, including the possibility that none of the Class Members may get anything. Based on the federal court’s rulings, and the risks inherent in any lawsuit, the Class Representatives and Class Counsel believe the compromise is fair.

Even if you are not a Payment Recipient, as a member of one or more Settlement Classes, you are bound by the settlement and give up the right to sue the State for the claims that are covered by the settlement and the lawsuit, unless you opt out of the settlement.


Are there any conditions to this Settlement?


This settlement will not become final until the Court approves this settlement, the federal court approves the settlement of the federal lawsuit, and the Hawaii Legislature approves the money that will be needed to pay for both settlements. If the Legislature does not approve the money needed to pay for both settlements, the settlement will not go forward, and the Plaintiffs in the Federal Lawsuit will go to trial.



Do I need to do anything to be a part of the settlement?


If you meet the criteria to be a part of the class, you do not have to do anything to participate in the settlement.



When will payments be made to Payment Recipients?


The Court preliminarily approved the settlement at a hearing on March 24, 2017. The Court will hold a Fairness Hearing on June 23, 2017, to finalize the settlement. If the presiding Judge approves the settlement, after that, there may be appeals. It’s always uncertain whether these appeals can be resolved, and resolving them takes time, perhaps more than a year. The Hawaii legislature must also approve the funding for the payments. The legislative process lasts several months.



Do I give up anything if I am part of the settlement?


Yes. Unless you exclude yourself, you are staying in the Class and will be part of the settlement even if you don’t get a payment, which means you can’t sue, continue to sue, or be part of any other lawsuit against the State about the legal issues in this case. It also means that all of the Court’s orders will apply to you and legally bind you.



Do I have lawyers in the case?

  Yes. The Court has appointed lawyers to represent you and other Class Members. These lawyers are called Class Counsel. Their names are:

Paul Alston
Anderson Meyer
Michelle Comeau
Claire Wong Black
Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing
1001 Bishop Street, Suite 1800
Honolulu, HI 96813


  Victor Geminiani
Gavin Thornton
Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice
119 Merchant Street, Suit 605
Honolulu, HI 96813

You will not be charged personally for these lawyers. If you want to be represented by another lawyer, you may hire one to appear in Court for you at your own personal expense.



How will the lawyers be paid? Does the Class Representative get paid?


Class Counsel’s fee agreement allows them to ask for up to 25% of any recovery on behalf of the Class Members. However, Class Counsel will ask the Court to approve payment of 20% of the Total Settlement Amount to them for attorneys’ fees and costs. The fees and costs would pay Class Counsel for investigating the facts, litigating the case, and negotiating the settlement. The Court may award less than these amounts. The attorneys’ fees and costs will be deducted from the $2,341,103.10. The State has agreed not to oppose these fees and costs.

The Court is not bound by any agreed upon or requested amounts. You may object to Class Counsel’s request for attorneys’ fees and costs. After considering the objections of Class Members, the Court will determine the amount of attorneys’ fees and costs in accordance with controlling law.

The expenses to administer the settlement (for example, the cost to mail out the proposed settlement notice) will also be deducted from the $2,341,103.10. It is estimated that the administrative expenses will be approximately $18,357.14.

Class Counsel have reserved the right to provide Service Awards for the Named Plaintiffs. These Service Awards are intended to recognize the Named Plaintiffs for the extensive services they performed for the class, the time they spent on this case, and the risks they assumed in connection with this litigation. The amount of the Service Awards, if any, will be deducted from any award of attorneys’ fees and costs by the Court to Class Counsel. In other words, the Service Award will reduce the amount of money going to Class Counsel, NOT the amount of payments to Class Members.



Continue to Objecting to the Settlement