Class member and CCAF attorney Anna St. John objected to settlement approval, class certification, and the request for attorneys’ fees in Ma v. Harmless Harvest, Inc. The legal claim involved whether Harmless Harvest’s labeling representations that their products were “100% organic” and “raw” were accurate. The proposed settlement provides class members with worthless injunctive relief, simply codifying labeling changes that Harmless Harvest voluntarily made in 2015. At the same time, and in a clear signal of who the settlement is structured to benefit, the class attorneys and named representatives are seeking combined payments of $575,000.
Following a fairness hearing, the district court issued an order denying approval of the settlement and attorneys’ fee award. The court agreed with CEI that the settlement is not fair, reasonable, and adequate, and cited the Subway Footlong case CEI previously won on the same merits.
CEI attorney Adam Schulman said, “The district court properly recognized that obligating the defendant to do what it was already doing benefits no one. When plaintiffs’ attorneys seek a half-million-dollar payday, they must first confer a reciprocal benefit upon the absent class members. The court also found something even worse, that to the detriment of the class, class counsel was ‘less than frank’ about the benefit to the class and showed a ‘willingness to avoid scrutiny.”