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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on December 9, 2008 10:47 AM. The previous post in this blog was Anything but justice. The next post in this blog is Marked man still making his mark. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.



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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Only in America

A while back I got a notice informing me that I'm a member of a class in a class action lawsuit being brought against a life insurance company with which I have a policy. The company apparently wronged all us policyholders somehow. But have no fear, a law firm in Los Angeles is vigilantly vindicating our rights!

I get quite a kick out of these lawsuits. I've been a class member a few times before. When the case winds up, everybody in the class gets something like a coupon for $1.19 off at Pizza Hut, and the law firm who brought the case gets seven or eight figures as its fee. Great.

Anyhow, I got another notice in the mail yesterday, informing me that yes! Hurray! A settlement has been reached! If we just sit back and do nothing, we class members will get a check in a little while. How much will our check be? It doesn't say. But it does say that if we want to opt out of the class and pursue our own remedies, we have to act fast:

This is quite interesting, because as I say, I just received this notice in the mail yesterday, which was four days after the deadline. Guess my chance to opt out wasn't much of a chance at all.

Oh well. I'm looking forward to my big settlement. I'm thinking mushroom, pepperoni, and olive.

Comments (14)

Well of course getting notice of your right to opt out after the opt out deadline simply means that a short note to the court explaining the situation would probably preserve your right to opt out, if you wanted it. And letting the court know that the lead attorneys screwed up on the notice would probably help get their cut knocked down so that more would flow to the class.

Trial Lawyers for Public Justice has a nice effort going to intervene against abusive class action settlements that only benefit the attorneys.

I was in a class against a drugmaker -- I got a pretty nice check ($70 or so) for doing absolutely nothing and am glad that the drugmaker got stung hard for its misconduct, so I also don't mind that the attorneys did well.

Given our corporate-owned government and "regulators" like the FDA staffed with nothing but executives from (and who will return to) the regulated companies (Lilly, Merck, etc.), class actions are about all we have left to hold these turds accountable.

I'm guessing that your reward in this case will be more or less commensurate with the effort you're devoting to the cause.


Maybe you need to take something that really messes you up to get the big payday. I received five figures on a contact lens suit. $210 on a drug claim. My dad got $400 +/- on price gouging. The big winner? was my cousin who got $450K, but those meds really screwed him up, so winner probably not what he is thinking right now.

a short note to the court explaining the situation would probably preserve your right to opt out

That would be great, except that the address of the court is nowhere to be found on the notice or the lawsuit website. There are, however, quite a few warnings not to bother the court -- for anything.

I normally boycott these because I don't want to encourage the law firms. But recently I received one about a power adaptor that I had to replace for my laptop computer. That particular power adaptor was truly deficient and I had to replace at least two or three of them. Now they promise me $50 to $80 for each one.

I am not quite sure how these things work. Should I go along? If I refuse, will it just mean more money for the lawyers? Or will they get more if I accept the settlement?

I'm looking forward to the day that some judge presiding over a class action suit like this would tell the attorneys "Let's be fair, a normal profit margin in our socialist order for many industries and professions is 5%. Your fees for this $5 Million award for your five years of effort will be $250,000. Thank you for helping the masses."

I am not quite sure how these things work.

In short: imperfectly. What they are supposed to do is aggregate your small but legitimate claims, that you could never economically pursue only for yourself, with other similar ones so that the aggregate is big enough (a) to justify legal work being done on your behalf for pay, and (b) to raise the stakes for the defendant company to a level that can't be ignored. Without this mechanism, lots of small injuries could be inflicted with, as a practical matter, impunity. To have the benefit of all that, we seem to have to live with a system that can be very lucrative for plaintiffs' lawyers, often at the expense of the real claimants.

Allan L: yes, bringing - and, don't forget, winning (a case or a settlement) can be lucrative for the lawyers, but it's not at the expense of any real claimants, unless you think they are entitled to have benefit of the lawyering done for the class without paying for it.

I personally think it would be swell if we had salaried state attorneys who would act as the attorneys to pursue class actions on behalf of state residents and do it for no cut of the damages recovered.

Oddly, the companies that fund election campaigns to the state legislature see it differently.

I personally think it would be swell if we had salaried state attorneys who would act as the attorneys to pursue class actions on behalf of state residents and do it for no cut of the damages recovered.

Not sure that would be so swell. I would presume they are granted a monopoly to do this; after a while, such entities tend to forget who the client is.

I agree with Lee regarding the attorney's fees in these class action cases. As a business owner, I was part of a class action against one of the major credit card companies regarding excessive fees on debit cards. And the tiny check I got was so small I think I threw it away. But I'm sure the law firm representing the class got a nice payout.

Dave A: Oh, it has definitely happened. That's why I became interested in TJPJ's project against abusive class settlements that do more for the lawyers than the class members.

You might also be interested in a group called HALT,, which "provides a powerful voice — working for consumers in Washington and across the nation — to make America's civil justice system more accessible and accountable for everyone."

George: winning is one thing; when I think of short-changed claimants, I'm thinking more of court-approved settlements, which I think still are the bulk of the cases. In these, I think claimants often get short shrift (with or without the "r" and the "f").

Allan: Understood. But if you look at the TLPJ link, you see that those cases--collusive settlements that benefit the defendants and the lawyers, but not the class--are precisely the ones that TLPJ challenges.

Here's one involving a class my Dad was in:

Dotson v. Bell Atlantic (Maryland State Court)

TLPJ challenged a proposed class action settlement of late fee claims by Bell Atlantic (now Verizon) customers in Maryland.The original settlement reached with the phone company would have paid $156,000 in relief to the class, but $13 million to the plaintiffs’ lawyers with the firm of Beins, Goldberg & Gleiberman. TLPJ represented objectors to this settlement and the state court rejected the settlement. As a result of three years of hard-fought litigation by TLPJ and other objectors’ counsel, a new settlement was reached that increases the amount paid to consumers to almost $17 million, while reducing the attorneys’ fees paid to class counsel to $6.1 million. TLPJ’s Michael Quirk was lead counsel for two objectors to the settlement; Kieron F. Quinn of Quinn, Gordon & Wolf, Chtd. in Baltimore, was lead counsel for ten objectors. The objectors in this case were also represented by TLPJ’s Paul Bland, Baltimore’s Richard Gordon and Martin Wolf, Philip Foard of Towson, Maryland, and Philip Friedman of Washington, D.C.

Press Release Regarding Final Court Approval of Improved Second Settlement (May 23, 2006) (link)

Maryland Circuit Court, Prince George's County, Final Approval Order (March 21, 2006) (link)

TLPJ’s Brief on the Merits to Maryland Court of Appeals Challenging Approval of Second Settlement (June 20, 2005) (link)

Maryland Circuit Court, Prince George’s County, Opinion and Order Denying Final Approval of Proposed Class Action Settlement (November 13, 2003) (link)

TLPJ's Reply Brief (May 2, 2003) (link)

TLPJ's Initial Objections (April 11, 2003) (link)


As a lawyer/blogger, I get
to be a member of:

In Vino Veritas

Lange, Pinot Gris 2015
Kiona, Lemberger 2014
Willamette Valley, Pinot Gris 2015
Aix, Rosé de Provence 2016
Marchigüe, Cabernet 2013
Inazío Irruzola, Getariako Txakolina Rosé 2015
Maso Canali, Pinot Grigio 2015
Campo Viejo, Rioja Reserva 2011
Kirkland, Côtes de Provence Rosé 2016
Cantele, Salice Salentino Reserva 2013
Whispering Angel, Côtes de Provence Rosé 2013
Avissi, Prosecco
Cleto Charli, Lambrusco di Sorbara Secco, Vecchia Modena
Pique Poul, Rosé 2016
Edmunds St. John, Bone-Jolly Rosé 2016
Stoller, Pinot Noir Rosé 2016
Chehalem, Inox Chardonnay 2015
The Four Graces, Pinot Gris 2015
Gascón, Colosal Red 2013
Cardwell Hill, Pinot Gris 2015
L'Ecole No. 41, Merlot 2013
Della Terra, Anonymus
Willamette Valley, Dijon Clone Chardonnay 2013
Wraith, Cabernet, Eidolon Estate 2012
Januik, Red 2015
Tomassi, Valpolicella, Rafaél, 2014
Sharecropper's Pinot Noir 2013
Helix, Pomatia Red Blend 2013
La Espera, Cabernet 2011
Campo Viejo, Rioja Reserva 2011
Villa Antinori, Toscana 2013
Locations, Spanish Red Wine
Locations, Argentinian Red Wine
La Antigua Clásico, Rioja 2011
Shatter, Grenache, Maury 2012
Argyle, Vintage Brut 2011
Abacela, Vintner's Blend #16 Abacela, Fiesta Tempranillo 2014
Benton Hill, Pinot Gris 2015
Primarius, Pinot Gris 2015
Januik, Merlot 2013
Napa Cellars, Cabernet 2013
J. Bookwalter, Protagonist 2012
LAN, Rioja Edicion Limitada 2011
Beaulieu, Cabernet, Rutherford 2009
Denada Cellars, Cabernet, Maipo Valley 2014
Marchigüe, Cabernet, Colchagua Valley 2013
Oberon, Cabernet 2014
Hedges, Red Mountain 2012
Balboa, Rose of Grenache 2015
Ontañón, Rioja Reserva 2015
Three Horse Ranch, Pinot Gris 2014
Archery Summit, Vireton Pinot Gris 2014
Nelms Road, Merlot 2013
Chateau Ste. Michelle, Pinot Gris 2014
Conn Creek, Cabernet, Napa 2012
Conn Creek, Cabernet, Napa 2013
Villa Maria, Sauvignon Blanc 2015
G3, Cabernet 2013
Chateau Smith, Cabernet, Washington State 2014
Abacela, Vintner's Blend #16
Willamette Valley, Rose of Pinot Noir, Whole Clusters 2015
Albero, Bobal Rose 2015
Ca' del Baio Barbaresco Valgrande 2012
Goodfellow, Reserve Pinot Gris, Clover 2014
Lugana, San Benedetto 2014
Wente, Cabernet, Charles Wetmore 2011
La Espera, Cabernet 2011
King Estate, Pinot Gris 2015
Adelsheim, Pinot Gris 2015
Trader Joe's, Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley 2015
La Vite Lucente, Toscana Red 2013
St. Francis, Cabernet, Sonoma 2013
Kendall-Jackson, Pinot Noir, California 2013
Beaulieu, Cabernet, Napa Valley 2013
Erath, Pinot Noir, Estate Selection 2012
Abbot's Table, Columbia Valley 2014
Intrinsic, Cabernet 2014
Oyster Bay, Pinot Noir 2010
Occhipinti, SP68 Bianco 2014
Layer Cake, Shiraz 2013
Desert Wind, Ruah 2011
WillaKenzie, Pinot Gris 2014
Abacela, Fiesta Tempranillo 2013
Des Amis, Rose 2014
Dunham, Trautina 2012
RoxyAnn, Claret 2012
Del Ri, Claret 2012
Stoppa, Emilia, Red 2004
Primarius, Pinot Noir 2013
Domaines Bunan, Bandol Rose 2015
Albero, Bobal Rose 2015
Deer Creek, Pinot Gris 2015
Beaulieu, Rutherford Cabernet 2013
Archery Summit, Vireton Pinot Gris 2014
King Estate, Pinot Gris, Backbone 2014
Oberon, Napa Cabernet 2013
Apaltagua, Envero Carmenere Gran Reserva 2013
Chateau des Arnauds, Cuvee des Capucins 2012
Nine Hats, Red 2013
Benziger, Cabernet, Sonoma 2012
Roxy Ann, Claret 2012
Januik, Merlot 2012
Conundrum, White 2013
St. Francis, Sonoma Cabernet 2012

The Occasional Book

Phil Stanford - Rose City Vice
Kenneth R. Feinberg - What is Life Worth?
Kent Haruf - Our Souls at Night
Peter Carey - True History of the Kelly Gang
Suzanne Collins - The Hunger Games
Amy Stewart - Girl Waits With Gun
Philip Roth - The Plot Against America
Norm Macdonald - Based on a True Story
Christopher Buckley - Boomsday
Ryan Holiday - The Obstacle is the Way
Ruth Sepetys - Between Shades of Gray
Richard Adams - Watership Down
Claire Vaye Watkins - Gold Fame Citrus
Markus Zusak - I am the Messenger
Anthony Doerr - All the Light We Cannot See
James Joyce - Dubliners
Cheryl Strayed - Torch
William Golding - Lord of the Flies
Saul Bellow - Mister Sammler's Planet
Phil Stanford - White House Call Girl
John Kaplan & Jon R. Waltz - The Trial of Jack Ruby
Kent Haruf - Eventide
David Halberstam - Summer of '49
Norman Mailer - The Naked and the Dead
Maria Dermoȗt - The Ten Thousand Things
William Faulkner - As I Lay Dying
Markus Zusak - The Book Thief
Christopher Buckley - Thank You for Smoking
William Shakespeare - Othello
Joseph Conrad - Heart of Darkness
Bill Bryson - A Short History of Nearly Everything
Cheryl Strayed - Tiny Beautiful Things
Sara Varon - Bake Sale
Stephen King - 11/22/63
Paul Goldstein - Errors and Omissions
Mark Twain - A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
Steve Martin - Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life
Beverly Cleary - A Girl from Yamhill, a Memoir
Kent Haruf - Plainsong
Hope Larson - A Wrinkle in Time, the Graphic Novel
Rudyard Kipling - Kim
Peter Ames Carlin - Bruce
Fran Cannon Slayton - When the Whistle Blows
Neil Young - Waging Heavy Peace
Mark Bego - Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul (2012 ed.)
Jenny Lawson - Let's Pretend This Never Happened
J.D. Salinger - Franny and Zooey
Charles Dickens - A Christmas Carol
Timothy Egan - The Big Burn
Deborah Eisenberg - Transactions in a Foreign Currency
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. - Slaughterhouse Five
Kathryn Lance - Pandora's Genes
Cheryl Strayed - Wild
Fyodor Dostoyevsky - The Brothers Karamazov
Jack London - The House of Pride, and Other Tales of Hawaii
Jack Walker - The Extraordinary Rendition of Vincent Dellamaria
Colum McCann - Let the Great World Spin
Niccolò Machiavelli - The Prince
Harper Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird
Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus - The Nanny Diaries
Brian Selznick - The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Sharon Creech - Walk Two Moons
Keith Richards - Life
F. Sionil Jose - Dusk
Natalie Babbitt - Tuck Everlasting
Justin Halpern - S#*t My Dad Says
Mark Herrmann - The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law
Barry Glassner - The Gospel of Food
Phil Stanford - The Peyton-Allan Files
Jesse Katz - The Opposite Field
Evelyn Waugh - Brideshead Revisited
J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
David Sedaris - Holidays on Ice
Donald Miller - A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
Mitch Albom - Have a Little Faith
C.S. Lewis - The Magician's Nephew
F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
William Shakespeare - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Ivan Doig - Bucking the Sun
Penda Diakité - I Lost My Tooth in Africa
Grace Lin - The Year of the Rat
Oscar Hijuelos - Mr. Ives' Christmas
Madeline L'Engle - A Wrinkle in Time
Steven Hart - The Last Three Miles
David Sedaris - Me Talk Pretty One Day
Karen Armstrong - The Spiral Staircase
Charles Larson - The Portland Murders
Adrian Wojnarowski - The Miracle of St. Anthony
William H. Colby - Long Goodbye
Steven D. Stark - Meet the Beatles
Phil Stanford - Portland Confidential
Rick Moody - Garden State
Jonathan Schwartz - All in Good Time
David Sedaris - Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Anthony Holden - Big Deal
Robert J. Spitzer - The Spirit of Leadership
James McManus - Positively Fifth Street
Jeff Noon - Vurt

Road Work

Miles run year to date: 113
At this date last year: 155
Total run in 2016: 155
In 2015: 271
In 2014: 401
In 2013: 257
In 2012: 129
In 2011: 113
In 2010: 125
In 2009: 67
In 2008: 28
In 2007: 113
In 2006: 100
In 2005: 149
In 2004: 204
In 2003: 269

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