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The Courts The Almighty Buck Technology

Class Action Suit Goodies Await Tech Users 117

Posted by timothy
from the didja-save-those-receipts? dept.
jfruh writes "Did you buy an Acer laptop with Vista and less than 1 GB of RAM? The company has a thumb drive it would like to send you. Did you get an unwanted text from Papa John's? The company would like to make it up with you with $50 worth of free pizza. These and other little rewards are available as a result of class action lawsuits that have wound their ways through the court systems and now, years later, are paying off for very large groups of tech users." I wonder how many USB drives the lawyers took as their share.
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Class Action Suit Goodies Await Tech Users

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  • by SirGarlon (845873) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @10:48AM (#43925365)
    It sounds more like these settlements are paying off for the defendants. Papa John's pulled off an especially neat trick there, getting the court to accept pizza the customers don't want in lieu of statutory damages.
    • by CastrTroy (595695) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @10:54AM (#43925473) Homepage
      Them and the lawyers who brought the case to the court. In most of these class action lawsuits, the lawyers "fighting for the little guy" end up getting huge amounts of money. Sure they have to pay their own bills, but it often goes a lot further than that. There shouldn't be any options to give out free stuff in these class action suits. The payouts should be cash only. $50 worth of pizza doesn't cost Poppa John's $50.
      • Missing the point (Score:5, Insightful)

        by KingSkippus (799657) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @11:08AM (#43925679) Homepage Journal

        The point of a class action lawsuit isn't, unfortunately, to compensate the members of the class. The point of a class action lawsuit is that there are too many people who suffered minor damages to really be able to logistically handle that.

        The primary point of a class action lawsuit isn't to "fight for the little guy," it is to punish companies that do wrong. If lawyers end up making $2 billion off a lawsuit, well, that's $2 billion out of the company's coffers. And before you go spouting off about how ultimately they pass that cost on to customers, maybe they do, but if so, that puts them at a disadvantage compared to other companies. Or put another way, if Domino's is giving their customers good quality pizza while Papa John's is skimping because they are trying to pass a $2 billion lawsuit judgment on to their customers, they'll lose market share. But I digress...

        Anyway, I don't necessarily agree that the lawyers should make so much off of a class action lawsuit, although they really should make a lot, since they're handling the details of compensation which costs a lot more than most people think. What I'd like to see is some kind of public fund set up for money like this to go into, such as to build parks or something, so that the end effect of punishing the companies is maintained but the incredible amount of time, effort, and money that goes towards mailing a few people checks for a buck or two isn't wasted. At least that way, you also avoid the problem that class action payouts usually aren't that high since most eligible claimants won't bother to jump through the hoops to get their judgment.

        • by pepty (1976012) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @11:43AM (#43926105)

          The primary point of a class action lawsuit isn't to "fight for the little guy," it is to punish companies that do wrong. If lawyers end up making $2 billion off a lawsuit, well, that's $2 billion out of the company's coffers.

          No.

          Punitive damages do that. Compensatory damages are intended to make the plaintiffs "whole". The jury or judge will make it clear which damages are intended to do what. Remember, class actions aren't just for pizzas, they're also for injuries and death caused by negligence.

          Either way, I think there should be parity in awards to the attorneys and the plaintiffs in a class action suit, both in time and monetary value. If the class is paid in coupons, the attorneys are paid in coupons.

          The attorneys are free to sell the coupons for cash.

          If the plaintiffs are paid cash over a period of time - say a trust has been established that pays medical bills- the attorneys should be paid incrementally as the trust is used up. The attorneys certainly have the option to sell that revenue stream for an immediate payment - they'll probably get 50-70 cents on the dollar.

          The point is that class action attorneys should have their interests tightly aligned with those of the class, otherwise they will cut deals that benefit only themselves. The best and simplest way to do that is to reward them as a percentage of the net present value of the market value (not face value) of the plaintiff's share of the award.

          • by Skater (41976)
            You do realize you can opt out of class action lawsuits and pursue your own legal action, right? When you join the class, you are agreeing to the lawyers' negotiated settlement.
            • by Anonymous Coward

              Why should I have to take action to be excluded from a class?

            • by pepty (1976012)

              When you join the class, you are agreeing to the lawyers' negotiated settlement.

              It's the class's negotiated settlement, not the lawyers'. The suit is started by the lead plaintiffs, who hire the lawyers. It is the lead plaintiffs that agree to any negotiated settlement, not the lawyers. The whole point of the action is to satisfy the interest of the class, not the lawyers. I realize that these principles are often abused, but those are the principles nonetheless. Lawyers who get too careless with them get jail time: just ask Bill Lerach.

      • by h4rr4r (612664) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @11:15AM (#43925749)

        Good, the lawyers did the work.

        The whole point of class actions is to make small individual claims able to be handled by the courts. No one is going to sue Papa Johns for $50. Papa Johns got a nice $25 per customer punishment.

      • by plopez (54068)

        Now you are in the position of stripping the victims of their rights. If it hadn't been for the lawyers "blowing the whistle" on the corporations the individual would not get anything and the corporation would get away scott free. You are in fact flying in the face of conventional economics, where the negative consequences of the actions of a corporation is costly. If there were no cost involved then moral hazard would rear it's ugly head. Stop slamming the lawyers, they did not cause the problem. It was th

        • by kwbauer (1677400)

          What kind of harm did Papa John's cause by sending a few texts? How many people that got these texts were charged anywhere close to $50 for having received them? This is one example of why the US legal system has issues.

          • by plopez (54068)

            It doesn't matter. The principle was violated so PJ's was forced to cough up some crappy pizza.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Article says $50 cash AND a free pizza.

      • Papa John's stop free pizza and give healthcare to your workers. Any ways the big 3 all suck. Lot's of good small chains in the Chicago area.

      • by asmkm22 (1902712)

        I'd rather have $50 worth of pizza than a $5 rebate check, which is about all I'd get as case. Class action rewards are laughable.

    • Papa John's pizza being given away for free is still dramatically overpriced. If someone wants you to eat shit, they should pay you.
      • by unixisc (2429386)
        They said $50 worth of free pizza. Doesn't that mean that one can order anything from Papa Johns, including $50 worth of coke?
      • I am from the same town as John Schnatter. I ate papa john's pizza when there was one "store" in the back of a somewhat crappy bar. It was great. Over the years I would usually always try to get PJ's whenever pizza was being ordered out of hometown loyalty (I guess).

        Having said that, papa john's is not much better than little caesar's is nowadays. It is terrible, terrible mall pizza.
    • It sounds more like these settlements are paying off for the defendants. Papa John's pulled off an especially neat trick there, getting the court to accept pizza the customers don't want in lieu of statutory damages.

      It's typical for the company's products or services to be offered in a settlement (as opposed to ruling).

    • That is nothing. When I was in high school I was a member of one of those CD club things where you bought some and got some for free. I think it was BMG. There was a class action lawsuit and I got three discounted CDs in the settlement. The court ruled I was screwed over by BMG and the settlement was the option to pay them more money for the privalege of receiving my share...
    • Nintendo [wikipedia.org] did this a long time ago. Instead of paying money, Nintendo passed out "coupons" for games. So this is nothing new.
    • by Trogre (513942)

      It's even worse when the defendants are peddlers of intangible goods. Sued for millions? No problem, here's download links to $100 of free music, or here's a copy of Microsoft Office.

      At. Zero. Cost. to them.

      • by Macgrrl (762836)

        "Nine times out of ten, starting a fire is not the best way to solve the problem." - my wife

        So, what she's saying is that arson is a good idea 10% of the time?

  • Reminder (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 06, 2013 @10:52AM (#43925421)

    These aren't the results of judgments, they're the rewards for settlements. So if you ever wondered why the end result is so awful it's because the actual money goes to the lawyers while the people for which the lawsuit was intended to provide justice get cheap plastic kazoos. This is supposed to be okay, though, because "class action lawsuits are intended to punish companies, not restore damages." The best part is that by accepting your cheap plastic kazoo you're also signing away any other legal recourse you may have had.

    • And if they owned a 3D printer, those people wouldn't need stupid lawsuits and settlements to get their very own cheap plastic kazoos!

    • The "people for which the lawsuit was intended to provide justice" were minorly inconvenienced. A cheap plastic kazoo sounds pretty OK when all that happened to you was you got an unwanted text message. The entire premise of a class action lawsuit is that the harm is so negligible at an individual level that nobody would ever sue.

      This is supposed to be okay, though, because "class action lawsuits are intended to punish companies, not restore damages"

      Yes, yes they are. Saying it in a sarcastic tone doesn't make it less true.

      • by sjames (1099)

        Unless, of course the text message cost you more than you were willing to pay for a cheap plastic kazoo.

      • by tragedy (27079)

        The entire premise of a class action lawsuit is that the harm is so negligible at an individual level that nobody would ever sue.

        Yep. All those people who were permanently crippled in Bhopal as well as losing large numbers of their friends, neighbours and relatives were only mildly inconvenienced.

    • The best part is that by accepting your cheap plastic kazoo you're also signing away any other legal recourse you may have had.

      Not quite. The best part (if my notice of the Sony PSN class action settlement is typical) is that by not explicitly excluding yourself from the settlement (i.e. even if you take no action to claim the cheap plastic kazoo), you're giving up any further legal recourse you may have.

    • by AJH16 (940784)

      Even better, if you don't specifically say you have no desire to be represented for a kazoo (even if you don't know about it until after) you still give up your right to legal recourse, even if you never claim your kazoo.

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      These aren't the results of judgments, they're the rewards for settlements. So if you ever wondered why the end result is so awful it's because the actual money goes to the lawyers while the people for which the lawsuit was intended to provide justice get cheap plastic kazoos. This is supposed to be okay, though, because "class action lawsuits are intended to punish companies, not restore damages." The best part is that by accepting your cheap plastic kazoo you're also signing away any other legal recourse

  • I was a bit confused since I was certain the minimum requirement was 512mb. Did some research and figured it out:

    • 512mb is the minimum for Home Basic (with 32mb graphics memory). 1gb is the minimum for the other editions (with 128mb graphics memory), which were the ones listed in the class action lawsuit.
    • The 1gb was shared between the GFX and RAM, so you definitely have a system that fails to meet the minimum requirements (1.25gb would have probably gotten them off the hook).
  • They pretty much never lead to anything but a payday for lawyers, and an almost insulting token gift (if even that) for the plaintiffs. At least the Apple one sounds good for those who were denied, but how many people still have texts from that long ago to prove Papa John's sent you a text?

    • The obvious solution is to have everyone in the potential class opt in at the start of the lawsuit. If the lawyers needed actual clients before proceeding, these suits would almost never happen (and probably be settled much more quickly).

  • eMachines settlement (Score:3, Informative)

    by ThatsLoseNotLoose (719462) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @11:04AM (#43925625)

    If you purchased an eMachines computer with a floppy drive way back in the late 90s, you can get either $62.50 in cash, or $365 worth of Gateway or Acer stuff from their refurb outlet.

    http://www.emachinesfloppydisksettlement.com/CaseInfo.aspx?pas=EMS [emachinesf...lement.com]

    I'd forgotten I ever bought an eMachine until I got the notice last month.

  • by jkflying (2190798) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @12:22PM (#43926621)

    "I won a class action lawsuit against Acer and all I got was this stupid flash drive."

  • But in order to get any of this you'll need to provide us with extensive information which will be used for marketing purposes, and sign away some other rights.

    Most importantly, these 'settlements' amount to trivial amounts, and no real admission of guilt ... gee, a whole 16GB USB stick for selling a laptop which is patently not suited for the claimed purposes, several years later when you can buy one at a gas station for $10. That makes up for selling a shitty product in the first place.

  • The Acer settlement (and all the others mentioned here, if I had to guess) is for US residents only. [kccllc.net] It's too bad this couldn't have been mentioned in the summary, the linked article, or even the front page for the settlement.

    Are the /. editors yet unaware that the majority of its readership lives outside the US?

    • by kthreadd (1558445)

      No, but readers outside the US should know by now that these kind of settlements are restricted to the US only.

  • Papa John's pizza needs to be hit with another class-action lawsuit. I've witnessed something quite illegal - here in California, delivery drivers have $1 taken off of every credit card-paid delivery they make where the tip received is over $1.95. That's a violation of California Labor Code 351.

    Might as well keep suing ol Schnatter until he's out of business permanently.

    • by Richy_T (111409)

      I always tip cash. That also leaves it in the hands of the tippee as to how they report it to the taxman. Also, tipping on the card can mean it takes a while for the cash to get to the receiver and cash flow can be an issue for people working those jobs.

      • by Khyber (864651)

        "That also leaves it in the hands of the tippee as to how they report it to the taxman."

        Pretty much every driver here makes less than federal minimum wage, including the tips, before illegal credit tip deductions, mileage, etc. Which means we're not reporting at all, because we're routinely falling under the filing threshold ($9,750 for 2012)

  • The first class action I got involved in was pretty decent. A replacement CD-writer for one that died early. The replacement wasn't SCSI like the original but fair enough. I'd bought the original one used anyway.

    The last couple that have come in my mailbox though were just stupid. For trivial things that were nobody's fault and were just a waste of time and resources to take through the courts. They went straight in the trash.

    What I would like to see a class action for is the broken GPS on the Galaxy S that

    • by roc97007 (608802)

      > What I would like to see a class action for is the broken GPS on the Galaxy S that I carried for 3 years

      Yes! Hell yes! Why that wasn't a fiasco of biblical proportions I'll never know. I finally ate the penalty to end the contract so daughter could get a phone that actually worked. We haven't bought a Samsung product since.

      That and the total inability to get the AT&T techs to understand that approx positioning via cell tower is NOT the same as GPS satellite lock. No, it's not. Not even a litt

      • by Myopic (18616) *

        I've never owned a Samsung phone but I hope to someday. They look nice.

        On the other hand, FUCK ATT. They are fucking bastards and I hated every single moment that I was their customer. I'm on a prepaid plan now (PagePlus) and much happier. My service is cheaper and better and it is totally impossible for me to be overcharged.

        • by roc97007 (608802)

          Fair enough. Daughter went through six Galaxy phones before I paid off ATT and she switched to a Verizon Bionic. But it did seem like a whole pallet of Galaxies had fallen off a truck on the way to the ATT store and they decided to sell them anyway. Lots of different bizarre issues, of which lack of GPS was only the most common.

          • by Myopic (18616) *

            Well, I certainly appreciate your anecdote, it will make me do extra research before I ever buy a Samsung. I had never heard of the problems you describe. But their reputation is good and gaining so if I ever buy a new smartphone (I've never owned a new smartphone*, only used ones, and never a Samsung) then they are a likely choice for me.

            * I tried that Republic phone for a month but it didn't work well enough. It's a great concept but the implementation, alas, left too much to be desired.

            Good luck, roc! Te

            • by roc97007 (608802)

              In all fairness, I'm told that the later Galaxys are a lot more reliable. Still, before I left the store I'd download the free gps testing app, go outside, and see how many satellites it finds. If only one or two, you may have trouble.

  • > Did you buy an Acer laptop with Vista and less than 1 GB of RAM?

    Um, no, because I'm not an idiot.

  • I received an email a week ago about a settlement on optical drives. Apparently it is about drive manufactures colluding to keep the disc drive prices artificially high. The email was sparse on details of the settlement and did not have details on claim amounts or how to redeem yet.

    The question I had was how they determine the amount. The settlement includes PC component drives and consumer electronics devices that have drives built into them. As someone who has built a personal computer and purchased two b

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