Class Action Lawsuit ?
December 15, 2010 5:52 PM   Subscribe

If I am a qualified claimant for a Class Action Lawsuit regarding an Illegal Strip Search in the state of IL, and am eligible for a payment of anywhere from $700-$1000, do you believe that is fair? or should I "opt out" and try to recover damages with my own attorney?
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (9 answers total)
You know, I've wondered this myself, being party to many price-fixing and antitrust settlements in the computer industry over the past decade or so. I'd be interested to learn that the settlement helps those who come after. Then again, maybe that's what "no admission of wrongdoing" is designed to protect.
posted by rhizome at 5:54 PM on December 15, 2010

I'm not yet a lawyer, and I know nothing about the specifics of your case.

When I get class action notifications, I don't even consider opting out. Your choices are (1) sue on your own, hoping to win ENOUGH more than that $700-1000 to make up for thousands of dollars in unrecoverable legal fees, or (2) let the suit go forward without worrying about it, placing trust in both a judge and a legal team who have the duty to make sure you don't get screwed on the deal. You'll be disappointed by the amount of money you ultimately receive, but that would probably have been true anyway, and (at least in theory) they don't certify these cases unless an impartial judge has been convinced that you'll be better off if you cast your lot with the class.
posted by foursentences at 6:16 PM on December 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

My thought is that a class action settlement is presumptively fair. If you opt out, it's going to be a major pain in the ass to separately litigate your individual claim, and you could cost yourself a lot of money by doing so -- so how risk averse do you want to be?
posted by J. Wilson at 6:22 PM on December 15, 2010

you may actually find it difficult to find a decent lawyer to actually take the case, and if you do their expenses are going to be pretty steep.

Sometimes I like to think of the results of Class Action settlements as something that is Individually mediocre, but (often) Socially good.
posted by edgeways at 6:35 PM on December 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

It is unlikely that you will receive more than a $700-$1000 settlement if you choose to pursue this matter on your own. Consider that the attorney of this case has probably already been working on this matter for several months and maybe years before even notifying you. Now consider if you found an attorney to file this lawsuit on your individual behalf and paying for his/her service - for years (IANAL, but know of collective action lawsuits that are still being litigated which started in 2003).

Are you interested in making a point, or getting the biggest settlement offer that you reasonably can? Sure, maybe you will get more than what they are currently offering you if you find your own counsel, but do you have the patience, time and money to do so?
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 6:49 PM on December 15, 2010

Is this the one where a principal ordered female security officers to search female students?

Seems like a pretty fair settlement given your likelihood of success pursuing other venues. And the hassle involved.

[Although, do the math. Whoever the Bad Guy was, how much are they actually shelling out? If they are somehow not having to pay anything, but the city/insurance is footing the bill, I would be more likely to want to sue them personally. Even if I got no money at all, and just got an admission of wrongdoing.]
posted by gjc at 7:23 PM on December 15, 2010

Talk to a lawyer.
posted by mrs. sock at 7:47 PM on December 15, 2010

It is highly unlikely that the settlement is fair. The plaintiffs' attorneys have a strong incentive to maximize their own fees at the expense of the class. The defense attorneys have a strong incentive to agree to pay the plaintiffs' attorneys $X if that means that they can reduce the amount they pay the class by $2X. And judges, while usually well-intentioned, are loath to second-guess a settlement that both sides' lawyers sign off on.

That said, the other posters are correct that the settlement is still probably better than you would do suing on your own. Litigation is expensive, slow, and risky. But you can talk to a lawyer in your jurisdiction, who will tell you whether he thinks it is worth taking your chances on litigating your case by yourself.

(By the way, in many jurisdictions there is a third option-- filing an objection to the settlement, if you believe that the amount is too low. Figuring out whether you are entitled to do that and if so, how, is another job for . . . . you guessed it, a lawyer.)
posted by willbaude at 8:38 PM on December 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

By coincidence, I'm a lawyer who runs a non-profit that represents people pro bono in class action settlement objections. As we speak, I'm flying to Seattle on behalf of a law professor who is objecting to a ripoff of a settlement over $52,000 cash for 3 million class members, $65,000 in coupons for another 54 million class members; and the lawyers are asking for over a million dollars for themselves.

Some class actions are fair; some aren't for the reasons that willbaude accurately summarizes. In your case, it's going to depend on a lot of facts specific to your case that you haven't discussed: was the strip-search arguably reasonable or indiscriminate? When and where and by whom and why? Have they previously been successfully sued over it? Your case might be worth a lot, or it might be worth zero. You should consult with an experienced civil rights lawyer (not me) about whether the settlement is your best option, bird-in-the-hand or otherwise.

(And kalessin: next time you want to stick it to the Man over an unfair class action settlement, drop me a line.)
posted by ccaf at 6:58 AM on December 16, 2010

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