Ninth Circuit Chucks Apple MagSafe Settlement, Chides Judge’s Oversight

Forbes reports on the settlement of a class action against Apple which would have paid the lawyers $3 million but less than $1 million to their clients. The Center for Class Action Fairness objected to this settlement.

The three-judge panel also reversed U.S. District Judge James Ware’s order requiring the objectors, represented by attorney Ted Frank of the Center for Class Action Fairness, to post $15,000 bonds in order to pursue their appeal of the lopsided settlement. The opinion was unpublished, meaning it has no precedential value, but the judges criticized Ware for ignoring previous Ninth Circuit decisions requiring judges to be “particularly vigilant” in examining settlements for “self-dealing and implicit collusion.”

There was ample evidence of that in this case, since Judge Ware approved several of the features that the Ninth has warned judges to be suspicious of, including a “clear sailing” provision under which Apple agreed not to challenge the fees of the plaintiff lawyers suing it and stood to get back any funds that weren’t claimed by class members.

The lawyers at Zeldes Haeggquist & Eck claimed $1,986,362 in fees, which Judge Ware increased 1.5 times to $3 million to compensate them for the skill and risk involved in the case. That risk was minimized, of course, by the clear-sailing provision, and the skill is debatable: The Center for Class Action Fairness, in its objection, noted that the settlement seemed designed to discourage consumers from actually collecting anything. While Apple had electronic records of MacBook purchasers who had replaced their power supplies and most of the procedures were online, the lawyers required their clients to submit refund forms in writing.

Read the full article at Forbes.