Walter’s post about Tehmina Haque‘s lawsuit against American Airlines over her “fear” of an unrealized peanut allergy is not the first time her attorney, Kenneth Mollins, has attempted such a tactic.
Tehmina Haque’s four-year-old son apparently did not suffer any allergic reaction, but mom got really stressed about the possibility he would so she’s suing American Airlines anyway. The airline says it never promises peanut-free flights, if only because it cannot keep other passengers from bringing their own peanut snacks on board. (Zachary R. Dowdy, “LI woman sues over in-flight peanuts”, Newsday, Jun. 2).
We now know how many people signed up for the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas class action settlement out of the millions of members in the purported class.
Tier 1 (up to $35.00) (no exchange required): 416
Tier 2 (up to $17.50) (exchange required): 22
Tier 3 ($10.00) (exchange required): 131
Tier 4 ($5.00) (no exchange required): 2,050
Disc Exchange w/o cash: 57
2676 total claimants, receiving a total cash value of at most $26,505, though likely even less than that, given that the plaintiffs’ attorneys record no actual cash distribution.
The seven “representative” class members are asking for approval to receive another $24,500, or nearly half of the total cash recovery.
Of course, as we’ve discussed, none of these people had a legitimate cause of action or suffered any legally cognizable injury. But how much are the plaintiffs’ attorneys (from thirteen different offices of twelve different law firms!) asking for for this travesty of a lawsuit and settlement–one that was entirely redundant of the taxpayer-funded investigation conducted by the Los Angeles district attorney? They claim their time devoted to the litigation was worth $1,317,433, but are “generously” claiming a 28% discount for a total fees-and-costs request of $1 million.
Recognizing that this 3774% contingent fee looks fishy to the least scrutinizing of judges applying Rule 23 review, the plaintiffs have sought to inflate the appearance of accomplishment through a $870,000 cy pres award to the National PTA and ESRB. (As I’ve discussed, cy pres awards that do not directly benefit class members should not be used to justify fee awards.) They also inflate the award by claiming that the costs of notice, administration and disk replacement should be attributed to the size of the accomplished result, thus puffing matters up to over $2 million, consisting nearly entirely of empty calories for the plaintiffs they purport to be representing.
Alas, I was the only class member to docket a formal objection to this rip-off. (While it was my idea to object, I can take no credit for the objection brief, which was written by my attorney, Larry Schonbrun.) On Thursday, the plaintiffs’ attorneys filed a brief defending the settlement, with many cites to Overlawyered as ad hominem attacks on the objection. The court’s hearing is June 25.
- Contriving to give Sheldon Silver the moral high ground: NY judges steamed at lack of raises are retaliating against Albany lawmakers’ law firms [NY Post and editorial. More: Turkewitz.]
- When strong laws prove weak: Britain’s many layers of land use control seem futile against determined builders of gypsy encampments [Telegraph]
- “U.S. patent chief: applications up, quality down” [EETimes]
- Plenty of willing takers for those 4,703 new cars that survived the listing-ship near-disaster, but Mazda destroyed them instead [WSJ]
- “Prof. Dohrn [for] Attorney General and Rev. Wright [for] Secretary of State”? So hard to tell when left-leaning lawprof Brian Leiter is kidding and when he’s not [Leiter Reports]
- Yet another hard-disk-capacity class action settlement, $900K to Strange & Carpenter [Creative HDD MP3 Player; earlier. More: Sullum, Reason “Hit and Run”.]
- Filipino ship whistleblowers’ case: judge slashes Texas attorney’s fee, “calling the lawyer’s attempt to bill his clients nearly $300,000 ‘unethically excessive.'” [Boston Globe, earlier]
- RFK Jr. Watch: America’s Most Irresponsible Public Figure® endorses Oklahoma poultry litigation [Legal NewsLine]
- Just what the budget-strapped state needs: NY lawmakers earmark funds for three (3) new law schools [NY Post editorial; PoL first, second posts, Greenfield]
- In Indiana, IUPUI administrators back off: it wasn’t racial harassment after all for student-employee to read a historical book on fight against Klan [FIRE; earlier]
- Fiesta Cornyation in San Antonio just isn’t the same without the flying tortillas [two years ago on Overlawyered]
For being the first Overlawyered blogger to have a post cited in a federal case. In Taylor v. XM Satellite Radio, Inc., 533 F.Supp.2d 1151 (N.D. Ala. 2007), XM argued that the class action demanding a refund for a 24-hour outage was moot because they offered refunds well before the class certification motion was made. Plaintiffs disputed this, arguing they did not know about the refund offer until after they moved for class certification. One questions the relevance of the time of the certification motion (and, indeed, the court found this factual claim irrelevant) given that the refund offer was to the entire class rather than just to the named plaintiffs, but one reason that the court expressed skepticism at the attorneys’ claims was the existence of an Overlawyered post by David discussing the refunds and the ludicrousness of the suit. Case dismissed for mootness, though the court also noted that XM had no contractual obligation to provide continuous uninterrupted service.
The National Law Journal gets around to discussing the problem of FACTA lawsuits in the April 7 issue; Overlawyered readers are well ahead of the curve. See also my Liability Outlook on the subject.
- Judge expresses surprise at how many law firms want in on fees in Visa/MasterCard issuer settlement [NYSun]
- Mississippi bill would require a lawyer’s presence at real estate escrow closings; so rude to cite the profession’s self-interest as a factor [Clarion-Ledger]
- Following Coughlin Stoia’s lead, Mark Lanier announces he’s expanding into intellectual property litigation [The Recorder]
- Maryland legislation would require state-aided colleges and universities to report on what they’re doing to advance “cultural diversity” [Examiner via Bader/Open Market]
- New era at UK pubs? Under new directive, “employers will risk being sued if a bar worker or waitress complains of being called ‘love’ or ‘darling’, or if staff overhear customers telling sexist jokes.” [Daily Mail]
- ACLU just sued city of San Diego and snagged $900K in legal fees, but that’s no impediment to the city’s council’s enacting a special day of tribute to the group [House of Eratosthenes]
- George Wallace, who’s guestblogged here, hosts twin editions of Blawg Review #153 at his blogs Declarations & Exclusions and A Fool in the Forest, on piratical and Punchinello themes;
- Obama won’t support lowering drinking age [Newsweek]
- Such a shame for entrepreneurial plaintiffs, post-Proposition 64 if you want to sue a California business you might actually need to have been injured [CalBizLit]
- Time mag appeals $100 million Suharto libel ruling [IHT]
- Hey, no fair enforcing that fine print disclaiming liability for sweepstakes misprints [three years ago on Overlawyered]
- Remember those class actions against tech manufacturers for allegedly misstating the capacity of hard drives? Another one just settled, with buyers in for coupons and discounts, lawyers for $1.78 million [The Register, Cho v. Seagate Technologies settlement website]
- Watch what you say about lawyers, cont’d: Erie, Pa. paper thus far has fended off libel suit by Pittsburgh attorney over coverage of his run-ins with authorities over client treatment [Post-Gazette via Ambrogi]
- New at Point of Law: suicide risk of anticonvulsants?; Ohio AG Dann rebuked on foreclosure activism; simultaneous asbestosis and silicosis happens all the time at some law firms; Bush nominates an ATLA/AAJ member to a federal judgeship; and much more.
- Has a prominent investor with close ties to President Bush set up shop as an East Texas patent troll? [Troll Tracker, The Recorder]
- Embattled Tom Lakin and Lakin Law Firm, once high on the Madison County heap, fight to overturn $3.7 million legal-malpractice judgment [MC Record]
- Brent Coon suing former colleagues at Beaumont’s Provost Umphrey over division of billions in tobacco-fee booty [Texas Lawyer]
- UK judge criticizes “barking mad” human rights rules after prisoner refuses to leave his “comfy” jail cell to attend hearing [Times Online, Telegraph]
- “Six years after Enron, executives face greater risks—but investors are no safer.” [Gelinas/City Journal]
- United Farm Workers union threatens to sue over unflattering coverage [two years ago on Overlawyered]
Back in 2005, when the first lawsuits were filed over the Grand Theft Auto hot coffee mod, I wrote:
Me, I’m just amused by the thought of class action attorneys trolling for a named plaintiff parent who will testify that, while she was okay for her little Johnny to buy a game involving drug dealing, gambling, carjacking, cop-shooting, prostitution, throat-slashing, baseball-bat beatings, drive-by shootings, street-racing, gang wars, profanity-laced rap music, violent homosexual lovers’ quarrels, blood and gore, and “Strong Sexual Content,” she is shocked, shocked to learn that the game also includes an animation at about the level of a Ken doll rubbing up against an unclothed Barbie doll with X-rated sound effects…
Alas, Take Two games has given in to the blackmail and settled the case, but a sense of how frivolous it was can be seen from the following deposition excerpt of lead plaintiff Brenda Stanhouse, a schoolteacher in Belleville, Illinois, who will receive $5000 for her role in the litigation. Recall that Mrs. Stanhouse is alleging she was defrauded because she would not have bought a game that could be modified to include “pornography,” but take a look at pp. 67 ff. of the deposition, where she makes clear she didn’t have the faintest idea what was in the game that she did buy. Readers: type your favorite Stanhouse deposition excerpts in the comments.
My latest Liability Outlook looks at the abusive litigation created by a statutory drafting oversight: a bill designed to protect against identity theft has instead become a mechanism for the entrepreneurial plaintiffs’ bar to attempt to bankrupt innocent businesses that haven’t harmed anyone.