What Happens to Unused Class Action Settlement Money?

Gavel and scales, by Flickr user "s_falkow", licensed via Creative CommonsWe often hear about bigtime class action settlements, the ones with millions of dollars set up in trusts and application processes to benefit from.  Like the $325 million Apple antenna lawsuit, or the recent $3 million Nutella settlement.  In these types of settlements, the number of people affected by them (the “class”) is unknown, so the settlement money is put into a fund and a time period is given in which class members can sign up to receive some of the money from that fund.  The total settlement award that we read about in the papers, however, is actually an upper bound.  That’s the limit — once it’s reached, it’s hard cheese for any more people who want to benefit.  Very rarely is the full amount given out.  More often, the upper bound is not reached and some money is left sitting in the trust.  What happens to this money?

Read more to see the answer to that clearly rhetorical question

Citizens Pays $132.5 Million for Overdraft Practices

Greed, by Flickr user "las - initially", licensed via Creative Commons.Citizens Financial Group, a bank based in Rhode Island, was accused of unfair business practices in its calculation of overdraft fees for its poorer customers.  Instead of processing transactions in the chronological order they were created, the bank elected to process them from largest to smallest.  This increased the likeliness and amount of overdraft fees, which are levied when a customer spends more money than he/she has in the bank.

Read on to find out exactly how these customers were ripped off

Woman Wins $300k Due to Personal Trainer’s Negligence

Old school gimmicky workout stuff, by Flickr user "mattechi", licensed via Creative Commons.Seems legit.

When you purchase the services of a personal trainer, you hold an expectation that they have an idea or two about what’s good for your health and that their supervision over unfamiliar workouts comes with a certain expectation of safety.  A New York woman found out the hard way that this is not actually true.  The woman was exercising with her personal trainer, presumably pumping mad iron, when the trainer advised her to try out a new exercise using strange equipment or on a machine of some sort (the press release from which I found this story is a bit lacking in specific detail).  She was hesitant at first because she had never done the exercise before, but continued anyway after the reassurance of her trainer.

Read more to find out how this all went wrong, and quick

NJ School District to Pay $4.2 Million to Student Paralyzed by a Bully

A bully on the playground, by Flickr user "trix0r", licensed via Creative Commons.Sawyer Rosenstein was twelve years old when a bully punched him in his stomach hard enough to cause a blood clot in the artery that supplies blood to his spine.  Two days later, the injury paralyzed him from the waist down, permanently, in a series of events declared “incredibly rare”.  There is a certain heart-tugging sympathy we feel for the boy, because everyone has experienced a bully either as a victim or an agent or a powerless onlooker, and because in our experience bullying is merely “something kids just do”, and because this time it was more than that.  Imagine being confined to a wheelchair for the better part of your entire life all because of the baseless anger of a violent child.  Imagine no consequences to said child’s actions (the bully in this case, who was known to be one and had a history of violence, received only a few days’ suspension) and having to look him in the eye daily from your new wheelchair you’ll never leave.  Try to imagine — and this is the difficult part — whether a $4.8 million check would make that prison any better.

Read more to learn the facts behind this case

Formaldehyde-laced FEMA Trailer Companies Pay $14.8 Million to Katrina Victims

FEMA trailer, by Flickr user "KrisFricke", licensed via Creative CommonsIn the weeks and months following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, thousands of displaced families were given trailers to live in by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  These trailers, while welcome shelter for whole communities wracked by natural disaster, turned out to leak formaldehyde in the air at levels up to eleven times the EPA recommended exposure limit.  Formaldehyde is a fundamental and inexpensive chemical used in all sorts of building materials.  My guess is that the trailers’ small, compact design, combined with poor ventilation and cheap formaldehyde-based components (plywood, carpeting, insulation — even paint) caused the uptick in formaldehyde levels.  Also, they aren’t meant to be inhabited for such long periods — some refugees still live in their FEMA trailers today.  Nevertheless, despite assurances from FEMA that the risk of formaldehyde was overstated, many refugees began to exhibit persistent flu-like symptoms, breathing difficulties, and eye irritation.  The CDC conducted a study and found that 42% of the trailer homes had higher levels than what they recommend for a mere 15-minute exposure.  Now imagine sleeping all night in that kind of environment.

Today, following lawsuits alleging fault in providing such poison-inflated housing, more than twenty manufacturers agreed to pay out $14.8 million in settlement to thousands of derelict mobile home denizens.  Hopefully this will be some good news for those unfortunate people who are definitely in want of some.