George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School

Class Action Fairness? Zero-Dollar Settlements and Cy Pres Awards Go to the U.S. Supreme Court

Event Details

  • Date:
  • Venue: Rayburn House Office Building, Room 2226
  • Division: Civil Justice Academy

Class action lawsuits are an important and valuable part of the legal system because they permit many small legal claims to be aggregated into a single action against a defendant that has allegedly harmed a large number of people in a similar way. By banding together, class actions can provide a fair and efficient resolution for plaintiffs who could not otherwise afford to take their cases to court. Unfortunately, the attorneys who bring class action cases exert outsized influence over their resolution. And some attorneys are willing to trade away plaintiffs’ rights to fair compensation in exchange for a settlement that pays them and their colleagues significant fees. Other times, settlements pay uninjured third parties so-called cy pres awards when injured plaintiffs get nothing.

Are these arrangements actually fair to plaintiffs? Or should courts do more to police unfair class action settlements. The U.S. Supreme Court recently accepted a case that will begin to answer these questions. At this program, our panel of experts discussed the value of zero-dollar settlements, cy pres awards, and the likely outcome of the Supreme Court’s case, Frank v. Gaos.

This briefing featured:

Robert S. Peck
Founder and President, Center for Constitutional Litigation

Adam Schulman
Attorney, Competitive Enterprise Institute Center for Class Action Fairness

Gregory Conko
Interim Executive Director, George Mason University Law & Economics Center