Overlawyered Disses Hot Coffee Class Action Settlement

One of our favorite blogs is Overlawyered, where overzealous attorneys (including you-know-who) are skewered on a daily basis.

While giving a mention to GTA IV on Monday, Overlawyered’s Ted Frank dropped a nugget of information that caught our eye: He’s one of those who signed on to the GTA San Andreas Hot Coffee class action suit. Ted writes:

As someone who purchased Grand Theft Auto:San Andreas the first day it was out for the Xbox 360, I am a member of a plaintiff class in a class action settlement over the Hot Coffee mod…

In the settlement, I get, well, nothing, and the attorneys will ask for about a million dollars; worse, individual “representative” class members who suffered no injury will get $5000 that could have been used to buy more music rights for Grand Theft Auto IV… This settlement was sufficiently appalling that I actually retained an attorney…

Curious about Ted’s thoughts on the class action, we asked him to say a bit more:

The underlying litigation was meritless.  Lawsuits allege that the “Hot Coffee mod” is consumer fraud, damaging the class. This is dishonest nonsense: no one can identify a single human being who… bought the game knowing about the sexual innuendo and violence… but would not have bought the game had they known that it was conceivably possible to modify the game… [with] additional content that wasn’t any more explicit…

The lawsuit is simply extortion: threaten Take Two with expensive litigation unless they agree to pay off the lawyers who brought the lawsuit.  But the lawyers are supposed to be representing the class, not themselves, and the lawsuit injured the class of Grand Theft Auto customers, the vast majority of whom would have preferred that Take Two not be harassed.

Ted had some specific issues with the terms of the settlement as well: 

Class members will not receive any cash unless they sign an affidavit that they were offended by the Hot Coffee mod and would not have purchased the game if they had known about it.  These facts are not enough to be entitled to damages…

The named class members, who are supposed to be acting as class representatives, will be receiving $5000 — even though a number have no valid cause of action because they bought the game without actually knowing what was in the game, and would not have been entitled to more than a refund even if they had won…

The plaintiffs’ lawyers… will be asking for close to a million dollars, though there is no evidence that they provided any benefit to the vast majority of class members, and there is no record of how many class members will be getting paid.

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