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Takiguchi v. MRI International, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Nevada

January 3, 2018

SHIGE TAKIGUCHI, FUMI NONAKA, MITSUAKI TAKITA, TATSURO SAKAI, SHIZUKO ISHIMORI, YUKO NAKAMURA, MASAAKI MORIYA, HATSUNE HATANO, and HIDENAO TAKAMA, Individually and On Behalf of All Others Similarity Situated, Plaintiff,
v.
MRI INTERNATIONAL, INC., EDWIN J. FUJINAGA, JUNZO SUZUKI, PAUL MUSASHI SUZUKI, LVT, INC., dba STERLING ESCROW, and DOES 1-500, Defendants.

          JAMES E. GIBBONS (pro hac vice), Cal. State Bar No. 130631 MANNING & KASS ELLROD, RAMIREZ, TRESTER LLP ROBERT W. COHEN (pro hac vice), Cal. State Bar No. 150310, MARIKO TAENAKA (pro hac vice), Cal. State Bar No. 273895 LAW OFFICES OF ROBERT W. COHEN, A.P.C. 1901 Avenue of the Stars, Suite 1900 Los Angeles, CA Attorneys for Plaintiffs

         ORDER GRANTING PRELIMINARY APPROVAL OF CLASS ACTION SETTLEMENT WITH DEFENDANTS (1) JUNZO SUZUKI, (2) PAUL SUZUKI, (3) KEIKO SUZUKI, (4) SUZUKI ENTERPRISES, INC. PROFIT SHARING PLAN, (5) CATHERINE SUZUKI, AS TRUSTEE OF THE JUNZO SUZUKI IRREVOCABLE TRUST, (6) CATHERIN E SUZUKI, AS TRUSTEE OF THE KEIKO SUZUKI IRREVOCABLE TRUST, (7) CATHERINE SUZUKI, AS TRUSTEE OF THE JUNZO SUZUKI AND KEIKO SUZUKI IRREVOCABLE TRUST (8) SUZUKI ENTERPRISES, INC., (9) PUUIKENA INVESTMENTS LLP, (10) CATHERINE SUZUKI, AS TRUSTEE OF THE CATHERINE SUZUKI IRREVOCABLE TRUST DATED MAY 10, 2013 AND (11) PAUL MUSASHI SUZUKI, AS TRUSTEE OF THE PAUL MUSASHI SUZUKI IRREVOCABLE TRUST DATED MAY 10, 2013.

          HOWARD D. McKIBBEN, United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's motion for preliminary approval of the proposed class action settlement (the “Settlement”) between the representative Plaintiffs Shige Takiguchi, et al. and (1) Junzo Suzuki, (2) Paul Suzuki, (3) Keiko Suzuki, (4) Suzuki Enterprises, Inc. Profit Sharing Plan (“the SEI PSP”), (5) Catherine Suzuki, as trustee of the Junzo Suzuki Irrevocable Trust, (6) Catherine Suzuki, as trustee of the Keiko Suzuki Irrevocable Trust, (7) Catherine Suzuki, as trustee of the Junzo Suzuki and Keiko Suzuki Irrevocable Trust, (8) Suzuki Enterprises, Inc., (9) Puuikena Investments LLP, (10) Catherine Suzuki, as trustee of the Catherine Suzuki Irrevocable Trust dated May 10, 2013 and (11) Paul Musashi Suzuki, as trustee of the Paul Musashi Suzuki Irrevocable Trust dated May 10, 2013 (collectively the “Settling Defendants”), as set forth in the Settlement Agreement attached hereto as Exhibits A. Having considered the Motion, the Settlement Agreement, the proposed form of notice to the Class, the pleadings and other papers filed in these Actions, and for good cause shown, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED as follows:

         1. Unless otherwise defined herein, all terms that are capitalized herein shall have the meanings ascribed to those terms in the Settlement Agreement.

         2. The Court finds that the proposed Settlement with Settling Defendants for approximately $13, 100, 000 is sufficiently fair, reasonable and adequate such that it is hereby preliminarily approved. Notice of the Settlement should be provided to the Settlement Class and a hearing should be held as set forth below. The Court finds that the Settlement Agreement appears to be the product of arm's length, informed, non-collusive negotiations between experienced and knowledgeable counsel who have actively prosecuted and contested this litigation for over three and a half years. In accordance with the schedule outlined below, Class Counsel shall seek entry of an Order and Final Judgment as to the Settling Defendants.

         3. The Court hereby grants Plaintiffs' request to defer distribution of the Settlement Funds and propose a Plan of Allocation until final resolution of the case or at a later time, upon approval by the Court.

         4. The Court hereby conditionally certifies the Class as to the Uncertified Settling Defendants, subject to final approval of the Settlements pursuant to the following FINDINGS under Fed.R.Civ.P. 23:

a. The Court previously certified the Class as to Junzo Suzuki and Paul Suzuki on March 21, 2016, and as subsequently amended on May 6, 2016. The causes of actions asserted against the Uncertified Settling Defendants are the same as those asserted against the certified defendants.
b. As discussed below, Plaintiffs have satisfied the requirements for class certification under Rule 23(a) and Rule 23(b)(3).
c. Rule 23(a) requires: “(1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable; (2) there are questions of law and fact common to the class; (3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class; and (4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of class.” FRCP 23.
d. The settlement class, estimated at 8, 800, is sufficiently numerous to satisfy the numerosity requirement.
e. Plaintiffs have shown that there are common questions of law and fact. Commonality is established where there is a “common contention” of such a nature that it is capable of class-wide resolution in “one stroke.Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes (2011) U.S. 131 S.Ct. 2541, 2551. As the Court has already ruled, here, each class member suffered the same injury and the same evidence will be used to prove the existence of a Ponzi scheme, the falsity of the representations, each defendant's role and knowledge in the scheme, and whether the funds held by each defendant are the proceeds of MRI's Ponzi scheme, entitling the class to the assets under the principles of constructive trust, unjust enrichment and fraudulent transfer. The Plaintiffs allege that, like Junzo and Paul Suzuki, Keiko Suzuki was also a control person and that MRI's entire common course of conduct was attributable to Keiko Suzuki. Since the Court has already ruled that the commonality requirement has been satisfied as to Junzo Suzuki and Paul Suzuki, it stands to reason that the class should be similarly certified as to Keiko Suzuki. Similarly, the Court has already determined that there is a common question or law and fact as whether the class is entitled to the assets under the theories of fraudulent transfer, constructive trust and unjust enrichment, meaning that Plaintiffs have also satisfied the commonality requirements as to the remaining Settling Defendants.
f. Plaintiffs have also shown that their claims are typical of the class. Typicality is found where other class members have the same or similar injury as the lead plaintiff; where the action is based on conduct which is not unique to the named plaintiff; and where other class members have been injured by the same course of conduct as the named plaintiff. Wolin v. Jaguar Land Rover North Am., LLC, 617 F.3d 1168, 1175 (9th Cir. 2010); Hanon v. Dataproducts Corp., 976 F.2d 497, 508 (9th Cir. 1992). Plaintiffs and the class members ...

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