One of my post-election projects has been to excavate my desk. It’s littered with many victims of mailbox triage.. items that looked important enough to read, but “later” since they lacked a payment coupon.
I am stunned by the number of class action notices I’ve received this year: eight or maybe you could say nine, since the suits against Wal-Mart and Netflix were combined. Many of these suits seem like get rich quick schemes since the companies involved often settle quickly to avoid a protracted and expensive court case.
I think (naively?) that court cases are for deliberate and/or harmful actions. These lawsuits are really about exploiting the myriad of laws that make everyone a criminal. Jiffy Lube sent you a text! Autoweek forgot to send you a magazine! Oh, the humanity!
The worst one has to be against Costco, which alleges that they sold gasoline above 60 degrees Fahrenheit without adjusting their pumps for the fuel’s temperature. A class action suit requires that multiple parties have the same complaint. I don’t think there’s a large number of people who (1) have bought gasoline at Costco, (2) know what specific gravity is, (3) that it varies with temperature, (4) maybe thought about the minuscule volume differences possible with temperature changes AND (5) think they could convince other people that it was done with intent to defraud. But it turns out five of them thought it would be a smashing idea to tie up a popular retailer and the Kansas courts for over five years (and counting). Recently, the case had to be expanded to 21 “Class Representatives” by amending the original settlement since each state where gas was sold had to be accounted for separately. Wouldn’t that technically cease to be a class action?
Think that’s crazy? How about the class action suit against American Express that was rejected in June 2012because not enough class members filed claims?
Those few class members who have submitted requests for benefits would receive a mere $41,510.35 in benefits in exchange for their claims while the Kaufman plaintiffs’ attorneys would receive $1,525,000 in fees. This disparity is troubling and ultimately unacceptable. Because the first round of notice provided to the Settlement Class was clearly inadequate, the court has reconsidered its preliminary approval of the parties’ notice plan.
–Joan B. Gottschall, United States District Judge
In the Costco suit, plaintiffs’ attorneys have requested $10 million in fees. In the Jiffy Lube suit, the plaintiffs’ attorneys are requesting $4,750,000 (the hearing is February 4, 2013). I’m tempted to attend the hearing to listen to them justify almost $5 million in fees because I received a text message. Or maybe I just want to go because it’s in San Diego. In February.
There certainly is an appropriate application of class action suits. I only scanned some of the Netflix-Wal-Mart court papers, but it looks possible from testimony that there may have been collusion.
In so many other cases, it feels like petty people taking advantage of a bloated bureaucracy where everything is an offense, knowing they’re guaranteed class-suit-mates because of our consumer-driven culture.
In December 2003, the Fair and Accurate Transactions Act was amended to exclude retailers from printing more than five digits of your credit/debit card number or its expiration date on a receipt. I’m a party to a lawsuit against a locally owned appliance store because they printed my card’s expiration date in 2010. Well, I should say, ‘I was.’ I excluded myself from the suit today. My action won’t stop the $6,500 paid to EACH of the three class representatives, nor the court costs or legal fees owed to both sides, but I’m not going to passively claim I suffered any harm. I think the suit should be dismissed completely. Given the “Bleak House” cases that the Costco and American Express suits have turned into, this local business is sure to save money by settling quickly to avoid one sentence from a 84 page federal bill intended to regulate national credit reporting agencies.
Score another win for big government… and higher prices.
Cross posted at noranndillon.com