CHICAGO – A class-action lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson that resulted
in a $5 million settlement, including $1.5 million dollars in attorney fees, has raised questions of fairness, but not enough to persuade one class action settlement watchdog organization to get involved.
The members of the class, or the victims in
the case, could receive up to $15 each if they submit claims eligible under the
The settlement was reviewed by the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s (CEI) Center for Class Action Fairness, said Senior CEI Attorney Ted
Frank, and the Center considered the possibility of getting involved. Founded in 2009, the Center says it works to ensure "fairness" in class action lawsuit settlements between the amount of money received by attorneys and the benefits garnered by members of the class.
“We were aware of the case, the fairness hearing was last
week. We decided not to get involved,” Frank said.
center often reviews attorney fees, and did find that in this case the
settlement was unbalanced.
“The fees were a little bit excessive, but it wasn’t the
worst case in the world,” Frank said. “They asked for $1.65 million in
fees and the class is going to get about $3 million or less, and that ratio
seemed a little bit high to us, but it wasn’t worth our time to come in and get
the fees reduced by $200,000-300,000 for the class.”
There are a lot of cases where the disparity between
attorney fees and the awards for class members are much greater, Frank said, noting the organization sees “a lot of settlements that are a lot worse than this.”
“We have to commit triage and decide where can we do the
most good with our limited resources, so a case like this where we’re not
complaining about the settlement as a whole, just the opportunity
cost of going into if we did this case, then we wouldn’t be able to do a case
where there is an opportunity to create a precedent affecting more than just
one case,” Frank said.
Class members who believe they are victims of unfair
settlements can contact the center directly and the staff attorneys will review
the case and consider becoming involved on behalf of the class. Each case
varies and the deadlines for the center to file with the courts concerning
fairness depend on the notice of each settlement.
The Johnson & Johnson case class could contain as many
as 12.9 million consumers who purchased the company’s Johnson & Johnson
Bedtime Products. The products, Bedtime Bath and Bedtime Lotion, were sold at a
what is referred to as a premium price compared to that of other Johnson &
Johnson products. Customers allegedly were lured into purchases by advertising that
claimed the products were “clinically proven” to help babies sleep when used as
a part of a three-step routine nightly.
Plaintiffs in the case in Chicago federal court argued the products didn’t actually
make babies sleepy. The claims deadline
for those who purchased the products is in April 2017, so any possible
class members will have to submit their claim prior to the deadline. Any
settlement money that remains following the payment of all class members is
designated to be donated to the Nurse-Family Partnership and Newborns in Need.