Ted Frank at Overlawyered writes of a (sadly) nonremarkable class action settlement.
The Garcia Law Firm, of Long Beach California, filed a class action against Motorola and other manufacturers of bluetooth headsets, alleging consumer fraud for failure to include a warning that playing headphones at high volume may damage one's hearing.
As an aside … DUH!
The proposed settlement does nothing to benefit consumers. Although the warning will be included in the future, anyone who can make a bluetooth headset work is too intelligent to need the warning. Settlement funds are going to four charities named by the plaintiffs. The "named" class members, representing the class of all consumers who own a Motorola, et. al. headset, get token payments under $10,000 as an "incentive" for filing the action. The Garcia law firm, for all its hard work, is asking for $850,000.
As for consumers of blue tooth headsets, the people the settlement is allegedly intended to benefit? They receive … nothing.
Class settlements of this sort are shell games and shams, in which lawyers purporting to represent the interest of consumers take their purported clients, and businesses which actually produce things of value, to the cleaners. As Frank points out, the "warning," which is the only thing potentially of value to consumers, is actually a detriment. A plethora of unneeded warnings may lull consumers, causing them to ignore warnings that are actually needed, such as "Do not mix ammonia and bleach" (That will create chlorine gas, which was used to attack trenches during World War I). Moreover, class action settlement notices of this type, which most Americans throw away, may discourage reading legal notices from a court which really matter.
Frank has an interesting proposal. I'd consider taking him up on it, but I don't own a bluetooth headset, so I'm ineligible:
I’m going to float a trial balloon here (and perhaps get my friends at Kirkland mad at me). If you are a reader, and you are one of the tens of millions of members of the class (and please read the notice to ensure that you are), and you find this settlement objectionable, I may be willing to represent you pro bono to file an objection similar to the one I filed in the Grand Theft Auto case, where I argued that the settlement was evidence that the case was meritless and should be dismissed, and in no event should the attorneys get paid off. Please understand that:
- Such an objection, if fully successful in decertifying the class, will preclude you from receiving any money in the class action settlement; you would get zero financial benefit from the objection and would be doing this solely to keep these particular attorneys from stealing $850,000 from consumers, and to be some small deterrent to future trial lawyers against bringing this type of lawsuit;
- There is a non-zero chance that the trial lawyers will ask for your deposition in an attempt to intimidate or harass you, though I suspect that they wouldn’t want to spend the time or money to engage in a fruitless one-hour deposition;
- There is a chance that the judge will ignore the objection and approve the settlement anyway, though we would have the right to appeal to the Ninth Circuit.
What say you, readers? Have you bought a Bluetooth headset, are you sick of extortionate lawsuits, and are you mad enough to go on the public record to say that you don’t think these attorneys should get $850,000?
Depositions are never fun if one is on the receiving end, but if you own an eligible headset, and you oppose frivolous class actions, you might be able to wangle a trip to sunny California, at the expense of the Garcia Law Firm, and do a good deed in the process.