A few days ago I received an email that looked a little suspicious. My spam filter is usually pretty good at catching email from bankers and deposed dictators from Nigeria as well as lonely, beautiful, nineteen-year-olds from Uzbekistan in search of their true love. The subject line read: NOTICE OF PROPOSED CLASS ACTION SETTLEMENT. I was afraid to open it for fear of unleashing some Russian-mafia computer zombie virus pent on destroying my 15,000+ mp3 files.
Over the years I have entered into a class action suit or two but had never heard anything back regarding the outcome. I’m still waiting for my windfall from the DeBeers diamond class action lawsuit. I keep a file with the open cases just in case I do make it rich off the back of some poor unsuspecting manufacturer who forgot to put the proper label on the packaging of his toilet plunger which reads “Do not use near power lines.” I know I have purchased at least three plungers through my life. I thought maybe this email was the key to my early retirement.
It turns out the defendant in this case is the social website Classmates.com. As I organize all of my high school class reunions every five years, I subscribe to Classmates.com for a few months before each reunion to help track people down. Prior to setting up my Facebook account, this was the easiest way to hunt down acquaintances. People I don’t have a desire to see more than once every five years. With all the misery and aggravation which accompanies that effort, I figure Classmates, both the website and ungrateful high school friends, probably owe me big time.
It turns out those insensitive bastards at Classmates.com allegedly “sent email messages to subscribers of http://www.classmates.com that were in violation of the law and engaged in conduct that had the potential to violate w ww.classmates.com users’ privacy rights.” They have denied the allegations but have nevertheless concluded that it is in their best interest that the litigation be resolved. In other words, “We are not going to admit it, but we know we screwed up and the lawyers are going to bleed us dry if we don’t make this go away soon.”
According to the Settlement Agreement, as a Settlement Class member, if I fill out some paperwork and submit a timely Valid Claim Form, I’m entitled to receive…get this… a credit of $2.00 off of the purchase or renewal of a http://www.classmates.com Gold Membership. So for receiving annoying notifications from Classmates that “someone has viewed your profile” for the past six years, I get to spend $37.99 instead of the regular $39.99 for an annual membership. Guess what Classmates; Facebook is free…at least for the moment.
Ok, I’m not bitter that for doing nothing except filling out an online form I get a $2.00 coupon. What really pisses me off are the fees paid to those “representing” my interests. Class Counsel, my free representation, is asking the Court for attorneys’ fees up to $1.3 million, plus costs. And Classmates.com and the Court have agreed! Not only that, those costs include participation awards of up to $2,500 for each of the two Lead Plaintiffs. These are the two people who actually decided to “hire” the vampires and sue Classmates in the first place. And you wonder why people hate lawyers!
So while I get the opportunity to pay $37.99 to a website whose owners all but just admitted they were violating the law and violating my electronic privacy, a couple of attorneys get new Bentleys and vacation homes in Vail. I bet they are eyeing up Facebook at this very moment. I knew I should have gone to law school. I wonder how much money that writing website I belong to has?
Marc “Wiggy” Kovacs – Luminary of Lecherous Lawyers and Legal Laughter