United States District Judge William Alsup has denied a motion for preliminary settlement approval for the lawsuit detailed on this page. In a nine-page document submitted September 29, 2019, Judge Alsup cited the fact that class members would receive no money while the named plaintiffs would each receive $6,000 among his reasons for disallowing the settlement.
“The signs of self-interest here are not so subtle,” wrote Judge Alsup.
Judge Alsup said that the terms of the proposed settlement “drastically narrowed” the class to be covered by the deal from that proposed in the lawsuit. The new class proposed by the parties left out consumers who owned Samsung plasma TVs from 2009 until 2013, as well as those who no longer owned a Samsung TV as of July 2019, and cut the type of television covered by the settlement to just three models. Further still, the new settlement added the requirement that a class television must have undergone diagnostic testing by an authorized repair center in order to be covered.
The biggest issue with the settlement, however, was the proposed agreement’s prohibition on providing notice to absent class members, leaving those individuals to effectively “fend for themselves.” Judge Alsup explained that even though damages claims would in theory survive the settlement, “absent class members would not be put on notice” that they need to file their own claims. Given the substantial narrowing of the class and the prohibition on providing any notice at all to those covered, original class members stand to receive nothing, Judge Alsup said, “not even notice of the need to bring their own lawsuit.”
According to Judge Alsup, the deficiencies with the settlement are by design:
“Of course, this is all exactly what Samsung wants. Samsung is trying to avoid a new damages class action by a new lawyer to pursue the abandoned damages claim. Samsung alternatively is trying to avoid individual lawsuits brought by absent class members. Absent class members need to know that they now have to fight for themselves."
Lastly, Judge Alsup highlighted the proposed deal’s “onerous” procedures for objectors, noting that “they too, tank the settlement.” Namely, Judge Alsup’s issue with the parties’ proposed objector procedures came down to the requirement that all objections include an individual’s name, address, and all arguments, citations and evidence that support the objection, including copies of all documents relied upon and a statement that the objector either intends to appear at the final approval hearing or will have counsel present in their absence. Further, it was proposed that objectors include photographic proof that they own an affected television or a “notarized sworn statement” confirming that their TV had been tested diagnostically. The final straw, according to Judge Alsup, was that if an attorney “in any way” assisted an objector, the counsel’s information would need to be provided.
“No settlement can fairly move forward with these procedures,” Judge Alsup wrote. “They require objectors to jump through so many hoops, no one would ever object.”
The parties have leave to move for a new settlement by October 4. A hearing on a new proposed settlement is tentatively slated for October 10.