Google, Cookies, and Cy-Pres-Only Settlements

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In a case strikingly similar to a case that had been before the Supreme Court last term and that involves the same defendant and the same well-traveled objector, a unanimous panel of the Third Circuit vacated and remanded a district court’s approval of a Rule 23(b)(2) class action settlement that included cy pres payments but no payments to class members.  Its decision addresses important questions arising from a controversial approach to class action settlements.

The reader may recall the case of Frank v. Gaos, in which the Supreme Court had granted certiorari to review a settlement that had a significant cy pres component but no money going to the class. We wrote about the case in our First Class Defense blog, and you can find that post here. The defendant in Frank v. Gaos was Google, and the case challenged Google’s use of “referral headers” in its search results that transmitted data about the user

The Roles of the Players in Class Settlements. Part 1: Defense Counsel

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Class action settlements are different from other settlements for several reasons. The most obvious difference is that class action settlements are subject to a unique notice and court approval process. The overriding purpose of the process is to ensure fairness to members of the class. Judicial oversight is deemed necessary because most class members have little knowledge of the lawsuit and are unknown to plaintiffs’ counsel yet will be bound by the decisions counsel make on their behalf.

The nature of class action settlements and the process to which they are subject fundamentally alter the roles of counsel and the court. This post and the ones that follow will explore these altered roles. We will start with the simplest one – the role of defense counsel.

Examining the role of defense counsel in a class action settlement is simplest because, unlike plaintiffs’ counsel, defense attorneys generally possess no potential conflict of interest in the settlement approval process. Their duty to their clients remains undivided

Class Action Settlements: A Few Links To Get Us Started

Welcome to our newest blog, Class Action Settlements and Mediation! The purpose of this blog is to provide information about developments in the law of class action settlements, as well as practical tips for lawyers and parties mediating class actions and negotiating class action settlements.  As many lawyers know, settling a class action is far more complex than settling a single-plaintiff lawsuit, and I hope that this site will become a useful resource for both plaintiffs’ and defendants’ attorneys undertaking that monumental task.

To kick it off, I have decided to link to a few posts from our website and our First Class Defense blog that offer guidance and legal updates relevant to class action settlements. If you find these links useful, you may also want to read my white paper on class action mediation, which you can find in the right-hand panel of this blog’s home page. Soon, I will be posting original material on the topics of class action settlements and mediation.

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