U.S. Magistrate Judge Cathy Waldor
U.S. Magistrate Judge Cathy Waldor (Carmen Natale)

A federal judge has approved an accord worth more than $5 million—including $725,000 in fees—that settles claims against a self-storage facility that allegedly sold customers’ items before they had a chance to retrieve them.

In the action against Extra Space Storage, U.S. Magistrate Judge Cathy L. Waldor of the District of New Jersey on July 13 signed off on the plaintiffs’ motion for final approval of the settlement.

The class consists of nearly 155,000 Extra Space customers whose items allegedly were prematurely sold at auction. According to Waldor’s opinion, Extra Space has agreed to deposit roughly $5.08 million into a common fund.

Under the terms of the settlement agreement, 7,700 subclass members can pursue separate actions to recover for the sale of their property if it violated the Self-Storage Facility Act. All class members are set to receive a $75 certificate toward Extra Space products and services in New Jersey. They will also receive $25 after the settlement for administration expenses, Waldor said.

Lead class representative Steven Gomes will receive a $22,500 incentive award, and attorney fees totaling $725,000.

Gomes failed to make monthly payments on his storage unit for two months, December 2011 and January 2012, and received a letter from Extra Space management informing him that his property would be auctioned off if he didn’t pay the balance or retrieve his items by March 15, 2012, according to the decision.

According to Waldor, Gomes discovered in early March that his property had actually been sold at a Feb. 16, 2012, auction. Gomes estimated his possessions to be worth about $8,700.

Gomes filed the class action a year later, alleging violations of the SSFA, the Truth-in-Consumer Contract, Warranty, and Notice Act (TCCWNA), and the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (CFA).

A mediation attempt in 2014 did not produce results, according to Waldor. It wasn’t until 2016, after a period of motion practice, when a second mediation was attempted, and an initial settlement agreement was reached.

“We think that it was a very fair and reasonable settlement for the class in this case,” lead attorney Andrew R. Wolf of the Wolf Law Firm in North Brunswick said.

“It was a normal type of class action that had its ups and downs, but by the end of the day, we thought we did a good job and got excellent resolution on behalf of the class,” Wolf added.

Extra Space’s lawyer, Daniel Brown of Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton, did not return a call seeking comment.

P.J. D’Annunzio can be contacted at pdannunzio@alm.com. Follow him on Twitter @PJDannunzioTLI.