Fine Print: Lawyers Get $1M, you get (up to) 35 bucks in Hot Coffee Deal

As the gaming press widely reported recently, Take Two has settled a class-action lawsuit filed against it in the wake of the 2005 Hot Coffee scandal.

Gaming Steve has dug into the fine print of the deal and discovered that the big winners are – surprise! – lawyers:

Any US citizen who was officially “offended and upset” by the ability to unlock [the Hot Coffee] content can now claim up to $35 in compensation. The exact amount you may be entitled depends upon directly upon how much documentation you have of your “outrage”…

Curious about this lawsuit I actually went through the trouble to download the many long and detailed legal documents when I came across this little gem on page 11:

E. Attorneys’ Fees, Costs and Disbursements. Finally, as mentioned above, only this past Friday, the Parties agreed on an amount to compensate Plaintiffs’ Counsel for attorneys’ fees and costs and disbursements in the amount of One Million Dollars ($1,000,000), the entire amount of which will be paid separate and apart from any amounts made available for payment to the Class and Class Representatives, as set forth above.

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  1. 0

    legal document…

    ???The opposition to the amnesty plan is so much more intense than the intensity of the supporters,??? said Mr. Hanna, speaking of the bill?? s provisions to grant legal status to qualifying illegal immigrants, which the authors of the legislat…

  2. 0
    Colin says:

    I don’t blame lawyers for getting compensation for doing white-collar work for a long period of time. Practicing law is a profession and like any other profession, there are those who fight for righteousness and those who work for profit or power and many do their jobs for many reasons, money, morality and prestige all being a piece of the pie. It’s disingenuous to claim all lawyers are money-grubbing hellspawns, though fun. Many are actually quite low-paid for all the loans they must pay on top of their bills, and many do their work to help those less fortunate than even you and I.

    People who don’t understand the law but deserve a chance to be heard all the same, people who without the law would get not a semblance of justice for the wrong others perpetrated upon them, people who know they have a case against a powerful person or business or agency but can’t afford the sort of high-priced lawyers their opponents have, these are some of the people, the ordinary people who can from time to time get the aid of lawyers willing to serve their community and country for a higher purpose than greed. These defenders of liberty and justice are ALSO lawyers, and they are not evil.


    As previously mentioned, $1 million is not a lot of money when one considers how much time and effort and money in fees the lawyers have to give to make sure the case goes well.

    So when you talk about how $35 is a drop in the bucket, I’d say that it’s actually accurate, from my own estimation, and quite fair, unless you think the offense taken to a mere game, something one can turn off and delete at any time, is worth some huge sum in the thousands or even tens of thousands. I think it’s worth a bit less than a refund of the game in question, taking into account deteriorating retail value and $35 seems to fit the bill.

  3. 0
    Chris Wallace, Lawyer ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    Not so much ‘crying a river’ as it was to provide some insight. Frankly, I thought that was what the forums were all about.

    If you feel that the services provided by lawyers are not valuable, then you have the ultimate power to never retain counsel.

    Keep in mind that the services are typically conducted in times of high stress or high personal risk for the client(s) with long working hours for the lawyer(s).

  4. 0
    Zerodash ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @ Chris Wallace, Lawyer

    The bottom line is that lawyers are taking in a seven figure cut while the people they claim to be “protecting” are getting a paltry $35. You also know full well how much lawyers charge per hour for their “services”.

    Cry me a river.

  5. 0
    MysterX says:

    Am I eligible? I tried to use a GameShark to unlock Hot Coffee so I could be all “upset and offended”, but I couldn’t get it to work.

    I was upset by the gimp suit and offended by the purple phallus… is that good enough for a few bucks?

    Oh, and to those overly concerned about the rights of sex-workers in video games…. didja know that in the game NetHack, I was bedding down with succubi to increase my stats, then slaying them to get my gold back … 10 YEARS BEFORE GTA?!?!?

  6. 0
    FyrHotBurnKitty says:


    I totally understand that people get the wrong idea about lawyers from the Jack Thompsons of the world. That’s the problem: The good lawyers seldom get airtime. It’s like the news footage after a hurricane – who always gets on TV? You KNOW who the news crews always interview: THAT guy. You know the guy. “It was pandelerium!” (Ever listen to Jeff Foxworthy? Great bit, that one.) But yes, the good lawyers seldom get the same coverage, and the ridiculous TV shows like Boston Legal and Ally McBeal and the like only make it worse. (Those people would be fired. Period.)

    I do agree that this lawsuit was not the best. The thing is that the legal system does have built-in safeguards against frivolous lawsuits. Sure, anyone can FILE anything. And sometimes big corporations (like this one) decide it will be easier to settle just to pay people off to get rid of it. They have whole departments that create equations to see if it’s worth fighting any given suit. But to get all the way through trial, really, you have to pass certain barriers: summary judgments, judgments as a matter of law, failures to state a claim, etc. So frivolous suits GENERALLY don’t get through, though a few may slip through the cracks. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s better than anything anyone else has come up with.

    So while I do apologize for any excess vitreole that I may have added in that comment, I must admit that as a 3L law student, being compared to Jack Thompson just because of my future profession makes my blood boil. Much the same way being compared to murderers and idiots makes gamers red in the face. I plan on being one of the good guy gamer lawyers come November of this year. So I felt obliged to defend my future profession from generalities. ;D


  7. 0
    GoodRobotUs ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    Whilst I back up your attack on generalisations about lawyers, it is worth bearing in mind that for most of the people here, their only experience with what represents a lawyer is Jack Thompson, probably the most ineffectual, insulting and incompetent lawyer that has ever (eventually) passed the Bar Exam.

    It’s not fair to compare all lawyers with that insult to founding of the New World, but that’s human nature.

    So, I do agree that people shouldn’t generalise lawyers, a lot of people blame the lawyers for trying to get unconstitutional laws passed, and forget that lawyers are also the ones defending the constitution. I don’t think Hot Coffee was really worth Class-Actioning on to honest, and I do think it was ‘done for the money’, however, that doesn’t make lawyers ‘evil’ it makes them lawyers, it is their own choice what they choose to do with that name, not ours.

  8. 0
    FyrHotBurnKitty says:

    @ the above lawyer bashers:

    Hey. Hey! HEY! Hold on a minute here. Chris Wallace, Xanter, o_rangekrush and and jdecamp have some points worth thinking about. I’ll only add on a bit, since they said it well.

    I’m sorry to disappoint some of you, but lawyers aren’t an elite breed of soul-sucking money grubbers, as easy and fun as it is to think so. Lawyers go to extensive schooling and pass difficult Bar exams in order to know the craft, and believe it or not, it’s not all about screwing over the public and amassing huge piles of fortune. They accumulate massive student debt and have mortgages just like you do, and it only makes sense that they deserve to be paid a salary, too.

    I contend that people DO need lawyers, as most legal situations are complicated, and if not handled properly, what one ends up doing is paying thousands more to fix it later . . . if it can even be fixed. I’ve seen this first-hand in custody battles, especially. So like it or not, lawyers are professionals, and sometimes there’s no help for it but to call in an expert.

    It’s true: Some lawyers are paid extremely well. So are professional basketball players. I don’t see anyone whining about Kobe Bryant making millions a year, and he doesn’t even have to share with a team of people after paying all expensive court fees. It’s true that as in any other market, some lawyers make lots of money and some hardly make any, and, as in any other field, the amount depends at least in part on the hard work and talent of the lawyer(s) involved. When it comes to professional service, at for the most part, you get what you pay for.

    And, as usual, the media does its best to make lawyers come out looking like they made more than they did. Lawyers tend to be demonized by a public that has a very limited grasp what the practice of law and lawyers are really about. There’s another group that gets typecast negatively because the media and general public don’t understand what they do and who they are . . . what was that group again?

    Oh, right. I was thinking of gamers.


  9. 0
    jarrod ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    this is bullshit. this hot coffee mod was not even released by rockstar. it was made by an individual who made it an opitional download. it states on the pack that there will be sexual references in the game anyway. get some sense people dont download the patch unless you want the content. anyway who takes that $35 from Take Two are thieves in my books.

  10. 0
    o_rangekrush ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    I was merely attempting to shed some light on the dollar figure mentioned and the comments of either greed or some form of misconduct on the part of the lawyers involved. There are those who don’t understand the costs to do the work and I thought that I could provide some context.

    As to the actions of the lawyers in question and the morality of those actions, all I can say is that no professional lawyer acts on his own. Without a client and a cause of action, a lawyer on his or her own simply has no standing to start an action.

    I can understand your frustration at some courtroom outcomes. However, in this matter, it was the defendants who chose to settle. While we can speculate as to the motives behind the settlement, we simply do not have the information that was presented or discovered by the plaintiffs or how the defendants evaluated their position. Looking at it from a different perspective, it could be said that a settlement prior to trial was a benefit as limited court resources were spared.

    As for the company setting out its maximum liability in a EULA type license, well, you can certainly understand that such a document cannot be used to protect against all acts that may be done by a company. You can also imagine all the possible unjust outcomes if it did! Speaking hypothetically, upon deciding to purchase a good, if you knew and understood all the risks and dangers, you could simply choose not to purchase the item. But what if the dangers were unknown to you? What if the company knew something and didn’t tell you?

    You are obviously a smart individual and you can see that blanket statements about how things ‘ought to be’ will always leave out many compelling exceptions. If anything, this is where lawyers can help represent your interests and ensure that you have your day in court.

  11. 0
    ~the1jeffy says:

    Chris Wallace, Lawyer,

    You do bring a good counter-point to the table, however, the reality of where the 7-figures goes is irrelevant. Anyone who reads a few John Grisham novels knows the monetary figures can get big quickly over a large case. However this fails to address the root of the issue: If this is an issue worthy of spending a million dollars worth of a giant firm’s time, don’t you think it would be severe enough to warrant more restitution for the people who are claiming harm? If you read the fine print of any video game purchase, the game company spells it out: The maximum liability they ever can have is the full purchase price. This type of class-action is a frivolous waste, and one brought about by the avarice of lawyers and the people who want a symbolic victory against a preceived harm.

    Let’s be honest, if you bought a game clearly rated M for mature, and then were suprised by the maturity of the content, the problem lies not with the game company – the problem exists squarely between your ears. And then, because you can abuse the legal system (aided by unscrupulous lawyers), you do so. Not because your ’cause’ is just, but because you are trying to mask your own ignorance. The great leaps that must be taken to view the “Hot Coffee” content go well beyond what an average player could reasonably expect to EVER see. Anyone who saw it, wanted to do so badly enough to purchase an add-on to do the game, or modify the source code of the game.

    The only legitimate suit to be had is one the will never be fought. Why can’t a media buyer return a recently opened game/movie/CD (in a reasonable short period) for full credit, especially when the producer of the media does something an end user doesn’t agree with, or the quality is not as advertised? The RIAAs and MPAAs have wailed on about protecting IP and pirating, but the real reason is that no open returns means they can keep rolling in the dough for recycled, low-quality garbage media. This is evident in the music industry (which predates movies and games), but is starting to be seen in the movies and TV. Unfortuntely, video games aren’t showing signs of bucking the Jurrasic media model (maybe online will be better, but that’s really just a way to get more frequent micro payments instead of one overpriced big box). The reason this will never see the courtroom is that it’s too big – entire media structure will crumble if that case goes awry. So instead, we see little pay-offs here and there to avoid this.

  12. 0
    TBoneTony ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Does anyone really know how to modify their PS2????

    And if so, do they modify it just so they could be offended????

    Seems so stupid if you realize that modifying your own console to get the Hot Coffie mod in GTA:SA takes a skill of getting to know the in’s and out’s of your own console and doing into allot of technical detail…

    these things can be so stupid sometimes

  13. 0
    Dog_Welder ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Overcast — “In any event – it’s a BS judgment. The judge had to be a complete idiot – if you didn’t take the steps to ‘unlock’ this – well, you didn’t see it.”

    No judge involved here. It was settled out of court.

    And that’s the problem I really have with these types of cases. It’s generally much cheaper for the defendant to settle out of court, pay the lawyers their fees, and go on their merry way, then to spend time in court and fighting it.

    If Take Two had gone to court, $1 million in legal fees would have looked like chump change (since the losing party would probably have appealed) and the likelihood of recouping that loss would have been minimal.

    In other words, the plaintiff lawyers are nothing but extortionists.

  14. 0
    jdecamp says:

    @EZK – see Chris Wallace’s post above. It does sum things up better than I could have.

    And please, not all lawyers are out for fucking over the general public. My father-in-law didn’t, and neither does my stepsister. Blanket statements are a bad thing.

  15. 0
    Father Time ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @Papa Midnight
    We really don’t need lawyers.

    No it can be done on the XBOX and PS2 versions, that’s how they proved it was actually part of the original code, and not added in by a PC modder.

    Try youtube


    JT had no involvement in this case. True his irrational rantings may have indirectly (or directly) triggered the lawsuits. But he wasn’t actually in it, he won’t see any of the $1,000,000.

  16. 0
    Steve ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    “It is so fucking hypocritical that people are shitting their pants over a clothed sex scene but don’t give a damn about the fact that you can kill thousands and thousands of people in a ton of different ways in SA. When I finished the game, the total “people wasted” stat was at 2,000+.”

    While I agree, that I’m far more concerned with violence than sex. In fact, I could not care less what kinds of sex people are having or if anyone is watching them. But I’d have to go even further here.

    The point that the sex is not offensive as killing suggests that either one could actually be offensive. They can’t, it’s a video game. Those people, they aren’t real. Nobody is really having sex, nobody is dying or killing. They are just 1s and 0s. That’s why people play games, because they aren’t real. Nobody wants to go out and run over a bunch of real people with a real stolen car. But take those 1s and 0s and run over some other 1s and 0s? Sure, sounds like fun. Offensive, hardly.

  17. 0
    Toxicity² ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I think it’s just really sad how everyone went into a moral panic when they found a sex scene in a Mature rated game with a content descriptor of “Strong Sexual Content”. That, and you can find far more “graphic” sex scenes in R-rated films, which are rated for the same age (17+).

    The people who were “offended” should get NOTHING. YOU bought the M-rated game without looking at the content descriptors, and YOU took the time to unlock the mini-game.

    It is so fucking hypocritical that people are shitting their pants over a clothed sex scene but don’t give a damn about the fact that you can kill thousands and thousands of people in a ton of different ways in SA. When I finished the game, the total “people wasted” stat was at 2,000+.

  18. 0
    LightWarrior ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    You notice that none of these lawyers are any Jack Thompsons….and these lawyers fought against T2 and won…Ouch Jack’s pride must be hurtin.

    As for the “in it for the money” agrument. I believe there is a difference between getting money to pay your bills and getting alot of money and possably having alot of excess money for new stuff. Working at our jobs even if we love it we wouldn’t do it for free because then we can’t pay bills and may a living. Where as to some people make alot more money then their monthly average bills age.

    I think THAT’S where it becomes “in it for the money.”

  19. 0
    Overcast says:

    Wow… $35

    In any event – it’s a BS judgment. The judge had to be a complete idiot – if you didn’t take the steps to ‘unlock’ this – well, you didn’t see it.

    It’s like suing John Doe for flashing, when I had to run up to him and look under his trench coat…

    Well, I wasn’t offended, and I don’t want the $35. lol

  20. 0
    Chris Wallace, Lawyer ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Hmmm, I may be stepping into a minefield here but I can explain some of the $1M:

    First of all, I don’t know how many plaintiffs there were. I will assume there were quite a few. I do know that not one of them paid anything to join in this class action. In other words, the law firm with carriage paid everything: filing fees, expert witnesses, preparation of arguments and the eventual negotiation of a settlement.

    I have never worked a class action but I do know its is a very time consuming process to administer all these clients. That would be a big job for a few employees. The firm would likely have a team of lawyers to prepare the documents, do the research, etc. The firm would also likely need to retain a team of experts (psychologists, game developers, etc). Before going into this profession, I had no idea how much expert witnesses cost. However, they are needed to lend credibility to the lawyer’s argument.

    Lastly, the negotiation of a settlement can take a very long time and will involve many people.

    So when you look at over a year’s worth of work, a team of lawyers and assistants (who likely did no other work during that time) and the retention of a team of experts, the $1m erodes quickly. Depending on the time it took to get this action to this stage, they may not have made a lot of money.

  21. 0
    Soul ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I still have my GTA: SA from before this BS Hot Coffee crap :p.

    But the thing is, Hot Coffee I believe can only be done on the PC version and even if I could get it on my PS2 version, I’m not really interested >_>.

  22. 0
    koku ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    for starters, the hot coffie had to be unlocked via altering the code. so tecnically, the mod wasn’t supossed to be in the game. and doesn’t anybody realise that none of us would be here without sexuality.

  23. 0
    Steve ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Nobody should be getting a dime off this. First of all, the content is tame compared to the gang killings. Second, you can’t even get to it without voilating the game’s TOS.

    I’d just have to assume that if I buy a toaster, then strip the plug wires bare, that the toaster manufacturer is liable for anyone who gets zapped by my modified toaster of death.

  24. 0
    PHOENIXZERO ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I’d rather keep my original release copy and eventually sell it on ebay for more than that because it’ll be “rare” and “banned” as idiots on there would sell it as.

  25. 0
    Thomas says:

    I’d say most people do their job soley for the money. Not a defense, just stating the obvious like most comments here.

    That’s like saying a if you like your job so much, do it for free (and let all your bills pile up). Come on.

    Does anyone expect individual consumers to be compensated $1M each? Assuming 3 million units sold (which it has to be more), that’s a potential $35M payout. That’s 1/35th of the total compensation or 3%. That’s less than an agent or manager makes.

    I appreciate that information, but more than anything, this story provides very little value. Thanks though, regardless, for reporting it.

  26. 0
    gs2005 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I used to be offended that other people got offended over this (many Americans can’t seem to let go of their puritan values), then Rockstar/Take Two screwed up on their side, and I lost sympathy for them.

  27. 0
    Thomas P. ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Who’s going to pass up a free 35 bucks for something they didn’t care about in the first place? I’m pretty sure those over 18 who willingly opened patched the game to see this content will collect on it.

    I personally will not collect the 35 bucks on this lawsuit. I feel I don’t deserve it at all.

  28. 0
    vellocet says:

    If you’re claiming for the console version of the game you should not only have to provide a receipt for the game but also a receipt for the game cheating device that you used to unlock the game.

    I bet you that very few people actually unlocked the game on a console and were just jumping on the outrage bandwagon.

  29. 0
    C'tri says:


    you win the prize for what this article should’ve been titled :p

    @ everyone else

    /sigh, i agree, this is just lawyers money hungering. its just a bit more than usual, i think. i dunno, i’ve never needed a lawyer.

  30. 0
    E. Zachary Knight ( User Karma: 2 ) says:

    @ jccalhoun

    That is what Microsoft does. People file class action lawsuits over one of their OS’s and as settlement you get a coupon for 50% off the next crappy OS.

    @ jdecamp

    The differnece is that my pay does not over shadow the client’s benifit. The money that the company I work for and the company contracting said company’s services get, far out weighs what I make.

    The opposite is true for class action lawyers. They know going in that the clients of the class action lawsuit are going to get screwed. They know that they are the real ones making out like bandits. If lawyers had any integrity and ethics, they would never let anyone file class action lawsuits.

    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming
    Oklahoma Game Development
    Rusty Outlook
    Random Tower
    My Patreon

  31. 0
    jccalhoun graduate student ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    This is anything but surprising. Name one class action lawsuit where the lawyers weren’t the only ones who came away happy. I as well as my parents have been part in a few class action lawsuits over the decades and every one of them ended up in crap like coupons for more products from the company that was supposed to have screwed up in the first place.

  32. 0
    nightwng2000 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Grand Theft Plaintiff.

    Seriously though, people don’t realize what they are getting into when they join in on a class action suit. They think that more people will bolster their argument. But, in the end, while a massive settlement is made, each individual plaintiff really doesn’t get much. I wonder how many folks who signed up actually thought they were going to get damages beyond what they paid for the game?

    NW2K Software

  33. 0

    Ok, I still don’t get this. You have to go out of your way to get the Hot Coffee minigame. If someone didn’t want to play it, all they needed to do was not alter the code. How does someone using a third party device to alter game code result in the company getting sued? Yeah, it’s an easy code to alter, and they could have taken it out completely. But if you don’t want to play the minigame, don’t mod your game.

    But yeah, where do I pick up said $35? I am deeply offended that this even became a controversy.

  34. 0
    Dog Welder ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Remember, to get your $35, you need the original receipt. How many people can claim they have that?

    I know there are good lawyers out there, but this story just shows why lawyers suck and why class action suits are a joke.

  35. 0
    Xantar says:

    To add to what Chris Wallace said:

    A lawyer’s job is to argue his or her client’s case, and if there wasn’t a client around who wanted to press a particular claim, there wouldn’t be a lawyer trying to argue it. The reason we have lawsuits which seem outwardly absurd is because there are people out there who believe they deserve to be compensated for this particular wrong or at least believe they can get compensation for it. You may not approve of lawyers who take on these kinds of cases, but in the end they are really just filling a demand. Dismissing class action lawsuits out of hand is not the answer. Women coal miners are protected from sexual harassment because of a class action suit, just to name one example.

    Having worked as a court clerk for two years, I can say that the vast majority of lawsuits I’ve seen are pretty reasonable (although I should note I only ever dealt with one class action suit, and that was for several injured people against their insurance company). And when it looks like the plaintiff is trying to dig for money, juries (in Delaware at least) have been willing to award nothing. In fact, lawyers often have a pretty good idea of their own chances in court and will press their clients to accept a smaller settlement if they think they will lose. In most of the cases I’ve seen where the jury awarded no money, I’ve found that the case only went to trial in the first place because the plaintiffs thought they could rake in millions and refused to accept a settlement even at the urging of their attorney.

    The problem we have is that the system is not set up to deal with these disputes quickly and efficiently. It has been carefully designed to give everybody the fairest chance they can get, and that means as the number of case filings increases, the system gets bogged down.

  36. 0
    ZippyDSMlee ( User Karma: -1 ) says:

    Meh at its best class action lawsuits can set presedaints to keep big corporations on their toes at least enough to not out right rape the populace.

    At its worse its mob power….fight teh power!

  37. 0
    neoSpider says:

    I think I have posted this here on GP before but I’ll say it again: What do you call 200 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?

    A good start.

    Cases like this and many others show fact to the claim that the American justice system is broken and lawyers are just exploiting it to ensure they make lots of money. It would be like me putting code into the game I am currently working on which I could trigger some command and give myself lots of in game currency (because I know how I could exploit the system to do so).

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