Google Privacy Case To Test Limits Of Novel Settlements

Law360 cited CEI attorney Anna St. John and Director of Litigation Ted Frank after the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear CEI’s case, Frank v. Gaos. CEI hopes the court rules in our favor and creates a standard that forbids attorneys from misusing class action settlements to selfishly put themselves and third parties ahead of their clients.​           

Justices are set for the first time to consider the cy pres remedy, which distributes awards in class actions to parties not affiliated with the litigation in cases where sending them to individual plaintiffs would be unreasonable. Google and class counsel have argued that their deal, which awards roughly $5.3 million to six internet privacy nonprofits and $2.25 million in attorneys’ fees, is a fair way to divide what would have amounted to a mere 4 cents apiece for each of the estimated 130 million people who used the search engine between 2006 and 2014.

Both a California district court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals have signed off on the deal, but critics, including the conservative Washington, D.C., think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute, say such settlements incentivize class lawyers to leave members without relief while collecting millions in fees and allowing companies to funnel awards to groups they favor.

“This will allow the courts to set a nationwide standard that requires class members be put first,” Anna St. John, a CEI attorney, said of the high court’s decision to hear a petition brought by the group’s Litigation Director Ted Frank.

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