Class action plaintiff pay day

By The West Virginia Record | Apr 16, 2010

There are benefits for the guy at the top that just aren't available to the people below. As Louis XVI (Mel Brooks) says in History of the World, Part I, "It's good to be the king!"

Anyone who represents a group of people is likely to encounter enrichment opportunities at the expense of the group. Temptations arise for politicians to sell out their constituents, union reps to betray the membership, fundraisers to shortchange intended beneficiaries, etc.

Even lead plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit may find it profitable to accept awards not available to the rest of the class.

Take, for example, the 10 lead plaintiffs in a class action suit alleging DuPont polluted the environment around a Harrison County smelter, tried by Circuit Court Judge Thomas Bedell. During a 2008 hearing, none objected to the $127 million being paid to the attorneys representing their class. Those same attorneys subsequently asked the judge to authorize $75,000 payments to the lead plaintiffs. These so-called "incentive awards" come out of attorneys fees.

Did the prospect of receiving such awards cloud the judgment of the lead plaintiffs, prompting them to place their interests ahead of those of the rest of the class? Did the thousands they might receive keep them from protesting the millions paid to the attorneys?

"The class representatives may have had a greater interest in maximizing the amount of attorneys fees and expenses awarded to Plaintiffs' counsel than in maximizing the amount of recovery paid to absent class members," DuPont attorneys argued. "These payments create a powerful incentive for improper collusion between class representatives and the class counsel who pays them."

That's something the rest of the class or members of any group should keep in mind. Is the representative representing them, or is the representative pretending to do so? Is that representative really representing personal interest alone?

When a king has it too good and the rights of his subjects suffer, he runs the risk of revolution.

Want to get notified whenever we write about DuPont ?

Sign-up Next time we write about DuPont, we'll email you a link to the story. You may edit your settings or unsubscribe at any time.

Organizations in this Story


More News

The Record Network