In Ohio federal court lawyers for the U.S. Department of Justice are seeking to reverse a proposed class action settlement that would give consumers $72.50 coupons for defective pressure cookers that allegedly cause scalding hot contents to erupt, in some cases causing users to suffer from second and third degree burns.
Justice Department lawyers have criticized the settlement, calling coupons “worthless” and taking issue with the court-ordered fees due the plaintiff attorneys.
Countering the DOJ’s critique, lawyers for the plaintiffs note that the fees in the case were reasonable given the amount of work performed on behalf of the claimants, and that the settlement provided a valuable outcome for the nearly 3.2 million class members, noting that none of the actual class members have expressed any complaints. Nevertheless, the Justice Department voiced its disfavor, citing complex concerns for consumer rights and the protection of consumer interests.
“The idea that this administration is doing anything — including the objections in this case — to protect consumers is patently ridiculous. They are doing everything they can to reduce consumer protections that already exist,” noted Lieff Cabraser partner, Jonathan Selbin, who represents consumers in class action cases.
Selbin said it was “fair to wonder if any of this has anything at all to do with protecting consumers as opposed to going after lawyers and protecting big companies.”
Speaking generally, Selbin noted that cases that misused the class action device were “few and far between” — and judges knew how to spot them.”
What the federal government “should not be doing — and I have seen this — is coming in and trashing the merit of the underlying consumer claim,” said Selbin. “It is not for the federal government to object to a settlement because they don’t like the underlying state-law legal claim.”
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About Jonathan D. Selbin
Jonathan Selbin is a senior partner in Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP’s New York office. He chairs the firm’s Economic Injury Product Defect Practice Group, and is a long-time member of the firm’s Executive Committee.
Mr. Selbin litigates consumer protection and defective products class action lawsuits against many of the nation’s most prominent corporations, and has been appointed by courts around the country to lead such litigation on behalf of consumers. He has argued and obtained favorable appellate opinions in multiple Courts of Appeal, including in the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Ninth Circuits. His work on behalf of consumers was featured in a September 2014 Forbes article and a March 2016 National Law Journal article.
Together, cases in which Jonathan has played a lead role have resulted in court-approved class action settlements with combined total payouts to class members exceeding $3.0 billion in cash, plus other relief, such as extended and enhanced warranties.
Jonathan is a 1993 magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School, and clerked for Honorable Marilyn Hall Patel in the Northern District of California from 1993-1995.
In 2017, Mr. Selbin and his family founded the Selbin Voting Rights Fellowship at Equal Justice Works, funding a Fellow’s two-year project on fair access to voting in the state of North Carolina.