Settling Data Privacy Claims
multi-disciplinary lawyers are in demand (Getty Images license)
Many areas of the law are becoming more integrated and inter-dependent. Very important for legal advisors to be knowledgeable about multiple disciplines in order to provide their clients an integrated picture so they can create an effective legal strategy. Gone are the days when litigation lawyers operate in silos from privacy lawyers for example. To better illustrate this, a recent U.S. Supreme Court case is expected to dramatically change the dynamics of Federal class actions as well as how data privacy class actions may be resolved.
Regarding federal class actions, last month, the U.S. Supreme Court hinted that settlements that do not directly benefit class members may not survive judicial scrutiny. Further, the lower courts have indicated that class counsel legal fees should be limited to a percentage of actual benefits paid to class members. If this becomes judicial precedent, federal class actions may begin to decrease since class attorney fees drive such lawsuits. If the lawyers are not get paid the big bucks, there is little incentives to take on a big class action law suits.
Regarding privacy lawsuits, Frank v. Gaos, No. 17-961 (U.S. Mar. 20, 2019) examined a settlement offer agreed between Google and plaintiffs class counsels, which would have absolved Google from “any and all privacy related claims of the estimated 129 million people who used Google’s search engine in the United States between 2006 and 2014.” To settle such claims, Google agreed to pay US$8.5 million of which US$2.1 million are fees to class counsel. The balance would be paid to NGOs who would “devote the funds to promote public awareness and education, and/or to support research, development, and initiatives, related to protecting privacy on the internet.” Justices who reviewed this settlement believed it did not provide direct benefits to class members. If this becomes precedent, it would undercut efforts by internet or data companies to fashion settlement agreements that promote research in privacy safeguards.
Please contact your legal team for further insights on how to integrate data privacy and class action defense strategies.