Did Lawyers Inflate Fees in Hot Coffee Class Action Suit?

Lawyers who filed a class-action lawsuit against Take-Two Interactive over the 2005 Hot Coffee scandal have put in a claim for $1,000,000 in legal fees.

But, as Overlawyered reports, the total value of a settlement award to 2,676 claimants in the case tallies less than $27,000. Here’s how those awards break down:

  • Tier 1 (up to $35.00) (no [GTA San Andreas disc] exchange required): 416
  • Tier 2 (up to $17.50) (exchange required): 22
  • Tier 3 ($10.00) (exchange required): 131
  • Tier 4 ($5.00) (no exchange required): 2,050
  • Disc Exchange w/o cash: 57

Seven lead plaintiffs are seeking an additional total of $24,500.

Apparently, as part of the settlement, Take-Two may wind up donating $870,000 to the ESRB and the National PTA. Overlawyered’s Ted Frank criticizes the claim for fees:

Of course, as we’ve discussed, none of these people had a legitimate cause of action or suffered any legally cognizable injury… Recognizing that this 3774% contingent fee looks fishy… the plaintiffs have sought to inflate the appearance of accomplishment through a $870,000 cy pres award to the National PTA and ESRB…

As GamePolitics previously reported, Frank has been critical of the Hot Coffee suit in the past. 

A hearing on the fee issue is scheduled for June 25th.

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  1. 0
    Anonymous says:

    Yeah, reminds me of the iomega class action suit, you basically got a discount towards yet another faulty zip/jaz/etc drive to eat your disks & lose your data AGAIN!

    Of course, that defect seriously cost lots of people time & money, while this case….  Well, I doubt there was much of a "class action" other then just those lawyers and a few morons stupid enough to get upset over this.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if most of those claims were from gamers trying to get some easy cash, just look at tiers 1 & 4!  Easy money for something with "no exchange required."

  2. 0
    Tyler Baumbarger says:

    Basically, Rockstar originally made a minigame for GTA:SA which quite obviously wasn’t intended to be in the final release. They disabled the code and made it unaccessible without altering the code. Someone discovered the code and released a mod to activate. The problem was that the minigame was sexual in nature. People freaked, people lied, people got sued, ect.

    The entire situation was a waste of time because you have to go out of your way to activate it, which breaks the terms and conditions since it alters the code. Legally, Rockstar should have been in the clear, but that never stops anyone.

  3. 0
    Jack Wessels says:

    This kind of makes me want to be a lawyer. I mean, this can’t be an isolated incident. I’m sure this kind of crap is more common than not, and the pay is epic to begin with…

    Then again, I do enjoy having a soul….

  4. 0
    Jabrwock says:

    the plaintiffs have sought to inflate the appearance of accomplishment through a $870,000 cy pres award to the National PTA and ESRB…

    IANAL, but doesn’t "cy-pres" mean that the court altered the original settlement? It was for $1,000,000, and they couldn’t figure out how to reasonably distribute that to people who had no "real" claims anyway? So instead of giving plaintiffs more than they deserve, they send the remainder after "semi-reasonable" claims are settled to a couple of not-for-profit orgs?

    I think the judge should award the legal fees based on ACTUAL damages paid out, and not count the "leftovers"…

    I also think that the "donation" should come with a stipulation that it all go towards an ad campaign education parents about paying attention to what their kids are doing. Afterall, just because it’s illegal to sell porn to a kid, doesn’t mean they won’t get ahold of it. Occasionally, it’s necessary to talk to your kids…

    "Boys, I wanted to wait until you were a bit older before we talked about things like sex, drugs, and human sacrifice for the harvest…"

    — If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap…


  5. 0
    jer says:

    Quick fix: "tha" to "the"

    "Apparently, as part of the settlement, Take-Two may wind up donating $870,000 to the ESRB and tha National PTA."

  6. 0
    Jim Strathmeyer ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Did you miss the part where the content wasn’t even in the actual game, but was actually a mod? How are we supposed to even pretend that the system isn’t corrupt?

  7. 0
    Anonymous says:

    Whats the problem with this hot cofee thingy? The game is for people of 17 and up and i doubt a 17 year old will be traumatised by pixels that look like sex.

  8. 0
    Adamas Draconis says:

    OH MY GOD!!! A lawyer inflating his bill by nearly 4000%! I would’ve NEVER seen that happening!! *sarcasm*


    Hunting the shadows of the troubled dreams.

  9. 0
    JustChris says:

    Short answer to the title: yes, they really did. Don’t remember where the old article was but Dennis posted an inside view on exactly what goes down in class action suits. Lawyers always get a lion’s share of the profits.


  10. 0
    Tyler Baumbarger says:

    The whole deal with replacing the discs upsets me. You don’t need your disc replaced, just don’t download the freaking mod. It isn’t like you can just go ahead and accidentally stumble into the minigame. You have to go out of your way to unlock it. The whole situation was BS, so why should we expect the lawyers to be straightforward?

  11. 0
    Pominator ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    But don’t you see?! these games are marketed to children to corrupt their still developing minds!!!



    The problem is that the last generation will never understand the adult orientation of games, not until we make up more than 80% of the adult population then we will not be taken seriously by our peers, a crying shame I know, but still it is the case, as a culture we will be scorned until we take over, but you will see that it is beginning to happen all around us, Mayors, Governors, Celebrities, a lot of them are from our stable, so to speak, there are many lessons to be learned from videogames that can be applied in politics and other such walks of life, in that respect I find videogames to be a very important tool in our develpopment as people.


    @ Article

    This is plain overkill, however it is the unfortunate staple of modern lawyering, the release of the hot coffee mod and the subsequent lie by R* did not do them any good, hot coffee should probably not have been made, or if it had,  it should have been part of the game from the get go, it wouldn’t affect the American ratings if it was a launch feature I believe, it was the fact that it was added to the game in the months following its release that caused it so much bad press because it was noticed and was heavily publicised.

    My general understanding of lawyers is that about 90% of them are lying, cheating scum who will sweet talk you whilst looking you in the face, but under the table he is kicking you in the nadgers. I know of very few lawyers who deserve our respect, anyway, I think the inflation is absurd and this is a problem that should have died out with R*s apology.

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