April 13, 2006
An open letter to the Honorable Judge Carl J. West
My two cents worth on the multimillion dollar class-action lawsuit that was filed on my behalf against Ralphs Grocery Company.
The Honorable Judge Carl J. West
Superior Court of California
James D. Hamilton
Objection to Proposed Settlement
The Great Escape Promotion Cases
Case No. JCCP 4343
I write in regard to the class-action lawsuit against Ralphs Grocery Company. Ralphs has been accused of failing to disclose important terms and conditions to its customers participating in its "Great Escape" promotion. Under this promotion, customers were offered free hotel stays if they purchased over $400 in groceries from Ralphs between June 4 and July 15, 2003. For members of the class who did not end up receiving free hotel stays, the Court's proposed remedy calls for Ralphs to give members of the class 12 coupons for 30% discount on future Ralphs purchases up to $30 per coupon. The remedy also calls for up to $4.5 million cash to the attorneys for their expenses and fees.
I hereby testify, under penalty of perjury, that I am a member of the class and I object to the proposed terms of settlement.
The first fact to which I would like to call the Court's attention is that Ralphs is one of six different grocery stores within five miles of my home. I made a decision to shop at Ralphs rather than the other five on the basis of what I perceive to be a fully informed judgment as to the complete range of prices, available products, and promotions available at each store. I maintain that I myself am inherently better suited than is a court in Los Angeles to making a determination of whether Ralphs is giving me a worse treatment than I would receive at another store. Furthermore, I myself am perfectly capable of remedying the situation should I perceive that my treatment from Ralphs is unfair or unreasonable, namely, by going to another store. For this reason, I object to a court in Los Angeles to be putting itself in the position of reviewing the fairness with which I am treated by a grocery store promotion in San Diego. I certainly did not ask your Court to attempt to make this determination, and I dispute the details of the conclusion that you have drawn.
The second question which I would like to ask the Court is, where is the money to pay $4.5 million to the lawyers going to come from? I would submit that in part this sum will be paid from higher prices that I myself will now have to pay for the groceries that aren't covered by the $30 coupon. This I find particularly objectionable-- that the Court would use its power to take money away from me in order to give it to a millionaire lawyer, and claim that it is doing so for my own benefit!
I grant that it is possible that not all of the $4.5 million will come from higher prices that I myself pay-- some may come from lower wages and benefits for Ralphs employees or their suppliers. Most of these people are in fact less wealthy than I am, and although I do not have the same directly personal indignation that the Court would order money taken from them in order to be delivered to millionaires, I condemn it with no less moral clarity than I condemn your ordering the money to be taken from me.
A third possibility is that the money will come from a reduction in Ralphs profits or increase in their operating loss. Even here, I retain moral certitude that our society would be better served if this $4.5 million is invested in grocery stores that provide people with food than if it is given to the plaintiff lawyers. In particular, if these losses were to force my local Ralphs store to close, I would count myself quite profoundly aggrieved and personally greatly harmed as a result of an action that your Court has ordered, allegedly in order to benefit me.
I noted above that I make my own decision whether or not to shop at Ralphs. But I cannot make the same statement about this lawsuit. I did not ask the plaintiffs to file this suit on my behalf, I did not select the lawyers, I did not approve of their strategy, and I strenuously object to the terms of settlement. It seems my only recourse is to write this letter, about which I entertain significant doubts as to whether you will even bother to read it.
But I do have a way to get a few thousand other people to read this letter: it's up for the whole world to see (and offer additional comments of their own) at http://www.econbrowser.com.
Posted by James Hamilton at April 13, 2006 08:14 AMdigg this | reddit
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Tracked on April 17, 2006 03:32 AM
I basically agree with you, but I think you're argument is a little sloppy.
First, to the extent that the 4.5 million is like a "lump sum" tax on Ralphs, basic economic theory would predict that it would come entirely out of profits and have no affect on prices or wages. (This will not be exactly true for various reasons, but it's a pretty good first approximation.) Nor should it cause any stores to close, assuming they make an operating profit. The "coupons" part of the remedy is more likely to affect prices, but even then I don't think most of it would be passed through. You seem to have listed the most likely possibility third just because it provided the least support for your position.
More importantly, you neglect to consider the deterent effect of punitive damages that could affect future behavior, both by Ralph's and by other firms. In principle, this could be a strong justification for a punitive judgement even if it doesn't help the consumers at all.
Posted by: ed at April 13, 2006 08:42 AM
Ed, what economic theory do you have in mind that would imply that an increase in fixed costs would have no effect in the long run on the price of the product?
New grocery stores open and old grocery stores close all the time.
As for the deterrent effect, what I would really like to know is, how can I deter the lawyers from taking my money?
Posted by: JDH at April 13, 2006 09:08 AM
Man, you sound really down on Los Angeles ;-)
Posted by: odograph at April 13, 2006 09:08 AM
The 4.5 million isn't an increase in fixed cost, it's a lump sum transfer--it applies only one time, only to one firm. What theory do you have in mind that would allow Ralph's to pass this on to the customer? Aren't they *already* pricing to maximize profits? And why would a one-time charge make them shut down a store that makes an operating profit?
Posted by: ed at April 13, 2006 09:19 AM
Ed, if this were the only time that a court will order Ralphs to pay somebody over the next 10 years, you might have a point. But do you honestly believe that? If I were running Ralphs, or any other American company in the current environment, I would view court-ordered legal payments as simply another annual operating expense, that we can count on seeing more of in the future just as surely as we count on the summer following the spring.
Posted by: JDH at April 13, 2006 09:22 AM
You don't discuss the merits of the case, which I suspect are fairly dubious. But surely you can't be opposed in principle to lawsuits filed by a businesses clientele against that business.
The bizarre element seems to be that the compensation is in coupons which are redeemable only at Ralphs. If it were a cash settlement then customers could shop at other stores and Ralphs' ability to recoup the costs of the lawsuit would be dependent upon their prices remaining comparable to their competitors'.
Posted by: Ben at April 13, 2006 09:44 AM
Ben, I agree that I as a business customer should have a right to sue a business for the damages that I may be able to prove they caused me. What I object to is somebody else suing a business for what they claim falsely to be damages the business caused to me, and, in the process, causing direct harm to me in order to enrich themselves.
I do not believe that the court was in this case capable of forming an accurate judgment as to the damages that the business caused me, in part because I myself was unable to testify. On the contrary, the real players want me as far away from the process as they can keep me. This case was only about pretend damages to me, as an excuse to extract real money to benefit the lawyers.
Posted by: JDH at April 13, 2006 10:14 AM
Out of curiousity, how many members are there in the class?
Posted by: t_do at April 13, 2006 10:47 AM
The default on class actions should be opt-in, not opt-out. That would cause a lot of the problems to evaporate overnight.
Posted by: Kent at April 13, 2006 10:51 AM
Oh, I see. You're complaining about the overuse of legal remedies in general, not just about this specific case. Then you have a point that such overuse has costs that are ultimately borne by the consumer, with no commensurate benefits, and I agree with you.
But I also agree with Ben...whether this is "overuse" depends crucially on the merits of the case, which you don't discuss. To the extent that cases like this actually prevent serious fraud, then they may well be worth the costs to society.
In this case, however, I trust that you're probably right. How would you improve the system to prevent these problems, beyond writing angry letters to the judge?
Posted by: ed at April 13, 2006 11:59 AM
Can you file a class-action suit against the lawyers?
Posted by: Ben at April 13, 2006 02:06 PM
Shakespeare had it right.
Posted by: mh497 at April 13, 2006 03:59 PM
This should open a can of worms. In Canada, where I live, the medical system is about 10% of GDP. In the US, its about 15%. Yet statistics (survival rates at birth, longevity, etc.) show no significant differences in health care outcomes. While perhaps universal medicare in Canada has something to do with the difference, could it be that a significant part of the 50% higher cost in the US is due to the US' lawsuit industry??? (I suspect relative medical malpractice insurance premiums between the two countries would offer a big clue here.) So... getting back to JDH's case, what we have here is a significant wealth effect to lawyers and neither a better health care system nor (I suspect) a better grocery store system as a result.
Posted by: Larry A at April 13, 2006 04:30 PM
Aside from writing angry letters which I also personally favor, what about another round of serious discussion on tort reform?
This very litigious society could use one.
Just FYI, showing how extensively suits like this can cover:
Last year I received a notice of the result of a class action suit on a vehicle I bought more than 16 years ago. The malfunction subject of the suit did finally happen to my vehicle after using it for over 16 years. Wow, I said, although it turned out, my vehicle went beyond total mileage covered by the award, but not by much since I had used the vehicle sparingly.
Posted by: Amadeo at April 13, 2006 05:50 PM
So if a company commits fraud, how would you propose it be handled? You complain that litigation hurts customers. Surely you are not arguing that bank robbers should not be put in jail because it would deprive their innocent families of their breadwinner.
The U.S. has chosen to have a fairly weak system of governmental regulation in exchange for the free market of private litigation. This is the opposite of the European approach. Would you rather switch?
Posted by: Joseph at April 14, 2006 12:12 AM
So, the lawyers get 4.5 million and you get a few coupons?
Remember your mom told you to go to law school and leave all that economic stuff alone?
Posted by: richard at April 14, 2006 01:43 AM
Joseph, I claim to be in a better position than the Court to make a determination as to whether or not I was defrauded. And, I submit to you, I was not defrauded. Furthermore, I am perfectly capable of avoiding any fraud, had I perceived it to be perpetrated by Ralphs, by no longer shopping there.
You make a general reference to a "free market of private litigation." The essence of a free market is that people make their own choices of what is in their own best interests, and society relies on their calculations to allocate resources in a way that in fact is in people's best interests. My whole complaint about this lawsuit, to repeat, is "I did not ask the plaintiffs to file this suit on my behalf, I did not select the lawyers, I did not approve of their strategy, and I strenuously object to the terms of settlement."
The claim that this case is supposed to be protecting me from fraud is a complete sham. The one and only purpose of this case is to take money from me and others and give it to wealthy lawyers.
Posted by: JDH at April 14, 2006 06:18 AM
I think Kent makes a great point about changing the default on class action suits to opt-in. While it wouldn't mean the end of opportunism, it would make it a bit more of an effort. Without knowing all of the specifics of the case it does sound like the worst effects of any fraud would have been customer disappointment which will always penalize a business without court involvement. As a small businessman I would gladly offer the coupon and discount as remedy to my customers, maybe more. The $4.5 million in cash to the filing attorneys would bother me as excessive. You bet it would show up in future business decisions, none of which are likely to benefit my customers or the economy of my trade area.(with the exception of the attorneys personal economies!)
Posted by: Rick at April 14, 2006 07:03 AM
"In particular, if these losses were to force my local Ralphs store to close, I would count myself quite profoundly aggrieved and personally greatly harmed as a result of an action that your Court has ordered, allegedly in order to benefit me."
"Profoundly aggrieved" and "greatly harmed" by the closing of a Ralphs?
Posted by: John at April 14, 2006 10:03 AM
Open Letter to James Hamilton and Honorable Judge Carl J. West
Dear Mr. Hamilton and Judge West,
I also shop at Ralphs in the San Diego area, though I must admit most of the shopping in my household is performed on a weekly basis by my wife. Gender roles die hard.
Irrespective of this particular shortcoming in our support of the good fight for fairness and women's rights, let me say this: when I enter the local Ralphs store, I am always amazed at the number of products they provide me and my family. I'm particularly please with the salad bar which, though not comparable to the fresh leafy selection available at those soup and salad restaurants, is still welcome when large slabs of beef or highly processed food-items (the latter always found in the center aisles of the store) are unwelcome.
My son, on the other hand, is quite pleased with the bulk candy section. So pleased, in fact, that we have been forced to place limits on his consumption of said candy.
I was not aware that Ralphs had affronted me and my family with a confusing promotion. I thank you for bringing it to my attention. After considering the issue, I have decided to forgo any punitive measures: any confusion caused is greatly ameliorated by the salad bar. Just to be sure, I checked with my son. He similarly believes that the bulk candy section more than makes up for any confusion caused by said promotion.
San Diego, CA
Posted by: T.R. Elliott at April 14, 2006 10:15 AM
Another voice from Canada, for what it's worth. As I understand it, except for Federal appointees, all of your judges are elected. And the largest contributors to their election campaigns are trial lawyers. Who are also the largest contributors to the political parties in general. So why, exactly, are your surprised by the proliferation of these bogus class action suits where coupons of low value, and seldom redeemed, go to lots of people who were not aware that they were damaged, as a pretext for the generaton of huge legal fees? This is the result the trial lawyers bought and paid for. If you want a different outcome, it seems you will have to pay for either, a different set of judges, or a different group of politicians who will have the balls to take on the trial bar.
Posted by: David Baskin at April 14, 2006 10:49 AM
So a company makes a false advertisement, comes up with a gimmick to make sure that few people can redeem the coupons or plain fails to give them the coupon owed to them -- what part of fraud don't you understand.
You're a clever fellow. You can avoid fraud so we should just allow them to continue the fraud on the poor rubes that aren't so clever?
If we had a vigorous regulatory system that would heavily fine companies or put a few CEOs in jail, there would be no need for class action litigation. You seem to imply that if you have been defrauded that you should just suck it up and move on to another store. Can we have a civil society based on fairness if wrongdoing is just ignored? If you steal a quarter from a million people, no big deal. Perhaps we should replace all civil penalties with public shunning.
You complain that you did not ask anyone to file this suit, but someone obviously did. Lawyers cannot file a class action suit on their own behalf without plaintiffs. The class must be approved by a judge. In most class action suits you are free to opt out of the class if you don't like the lawyers or the settlement.
Of course the lawyers are in it for the money. Exactly the same as an airline CEO is in it for the money. The economy works such that giving the airline CEO lots of money ensures that I have lots of choices for air travel. Giving the trial lawyers lots of money ensures that fraud or harm done by a company is punished because the government refuses to do it. In a non-regulatory environment there just is no other way to discourage fraudulent behavior that involves small amounts of damage to large numbers of people. Trial lawyers perform a public service encouraging ethical behavior by companies. They are certainly motivated by the prospect of earning big bucks but that that is no different than any other person working for a living, including CEOs. Do you complain about all the money going to the CEO of Ralphs?
The reason the lawyers get lots of money is because they risk lots of money. It can cost millions to bring a class action lawsuit to trial and they have no guarantee of recovering those millions.
I like the fact that trial lawyers are out there holding people's feet to the fire. Without them America would be a less fair and less safe place. They perform the same function in the business environment as public prosecutors do in the criminal environment. I would have no problem with replacing litigation with government regulation, but you can't have it both ways.
Posted by: Joseph at April 14, 2006 01:15 PM
Joseph, yes, the class-action suit has 13 named plaintiffs who purport to be Ralphs customers who suffered damages. My belief is that the lawyers found the plaintiffs rather than the plaintiffs found the lawyers. Google any pending class action or multiple tort and you'll find gaggles of lawyers eagerly looking to find a few actual clients.
The Court's proposed settlement also calls for $1,000 to be paid to each of these 13 named plaintiffs.
Posted by: JDH at April 14, 2006 01:57 PM
JDH, your point about the internet search for plaintiffs is confirmed by the "pay per click" data. Lawyers are consistently at the top of the list of those paying the most for each click. Somehow, it doesn't feel like an enraged public with pitchforks and torches storming the halls of Justice.
Posted by: David Baskin at April 14, 2006 02:03 PM
Joseph, In a theoretical world where banter and debate about the philosophy of righting wrongs, and how best to structure a society your argument may be valid. As a pragmatist, however, when I look at this specific case I see a few basic realities: 1) A business who made a mistake with a promotion(having read a little more it sure doesn't sound like a willful attempt to harm, and they did act to cancel and offer some level of redemption to those who felt wronged) 2) Some irritated customers with little real practical damage done, but deserving of some return of the investment they made to participate in the promotion(some people probably purchased more items than they really needed in order to gain the prize) 3) Excessive penalties for Ralphs. 4.5 million dollars above and beyond the expense of recompensating the wronged customers is nuts. It's wrong and it's nuts.
Posted by: Rick at April 14, 2006 02:25 PM
I've seen national television advertising for Vioxx clients. That tells you they smell blood in the water. There are a lot of dodgey cases out there, but that is what happens when the government opts to sub-contract civil enforcement to private enterprise. It ain't pretty but its all we've got.
In contrast, look at current government enforcement. They fined CBS $550,000 for Janice Jackson's two second "wardrobe malfunction" at the Super Bowl. But the coal company that killed 12 miners in January had been repeatedly cited for 208 safety violations, 96 of which were considered substantial, in the months leading up to the fatal accident. The average fine was $150. This for a $210 million company. Obviously neither fines nor conscience motivated the company to improve safety, but you can bet all coal mines will be looking at safety issues a little harder after the lawsuits from this disaster.
Posted by: Joseph at April 14, 2006 02:31 PM
Rick, I agree that at face value the settement sounds a little high, but I am always wary of anecdotes about these kinds of cases that often seem to omit important facts. The company agreed to the settlement so they obviously made a business decision that their exposure to damages was greater than $4.5 million. It sounds like a fairly simple case so I wouldn't expect that it would have cost them much to go to trial. Apparently they knew they were guilty and were going to lose.
An example of misplaced outrage was the famous McDonalds coffee case. This was widely cited as the idiocy of frivolous lawsuits and trial lawyers. But it turns out that the woman originally tried to get only her $20,000 medical costs covered and McDonalds refused, she had third degree burns requiring extensive skin grafts and hospitalization, McDonalds had 700 previous claims for similar injury, served coffee at a temperature of 190 degrees which will cause third degree burns in 2 seconds, that risk decreases exponentially to being relatively safe at 155 degrees, its competitors used lower temperatures, and they had refused to lower their coffee temperatures in spite of previous safety warnings. Oh, and despite all the millions you heard about, the judge reduced the compensation to $480,000 even though he called McDonalds actions reckless, callous and willful. So whenever I hear about one of these "frivolous" lawsuits, I always wonder about the other half of the story.
But even if you still think this or Ralphs is an egregious example, we didn't decide to abolish our criminal justice system just because of O.J. Simpson.
Posted by: Joseph at April 14, 2006 03:01 PM
Q&A: People vs. Ralphs Grocery Co. (a banner brand of Kroger Co.) Class Action Lawsuit
"I hereby testify, under penalty of perjury, that I am a member of the class and I object to the proposed terms of settlement." - Are you a registered member of the class action lawsuit, People vs. Ralphs Grocery Co. (a banner brand of Kroger Co.)?
"I certainly did not ask your Court to attempt to make this determination, and I dispute the details of the conclusion that you have drawn." - It sounds like you are not a registered member of the class action lawsuit, People vs. Ralphs Grocery Co. (a banner brand of Kroger Co.).
"The second question which I would like to ask the Court is, where is the money to pay $4.5 million to the lawyers going to come from?" - Who pays for the People vs. Ralphs Grocery Co. class action lawsuit? Kroger Co., of course. See Kroger Co. SEC 10-K filing. Kroger as represented by its banner brands, including Ralphs Grocery Co., will spread the litigation cost over corporate and store operations of approximately 2,532 supermarkets, 536 fuel centers, 795 convenience stores, and 436 jewelry stores (as of January 29, 2005).
"I grant that it is possible that not all of the $4.5 million will come from higher prices that I myself pay-- some may come from lower wages and benefits for Ralphs employees or their suppliers." - Average cost per store to cover the attorneys fees will be approximately $1777.25 if only the supermarket stores cover the cost; will be $1195.85 if all stores participate in the covering the attorney costs.
"I would submit that in part this sum will be paid from higher prices that I myself will now have to pay for the groceries that aren't covered by the $30 coupon." - It sounds like you are a registered member of the class action lawsuit, People vs. Ralphs Grocery Co. (a banner brand of Kroger Co.).
I retain moral certitude that our society would be better served if this $4.5 million is invested in grocery stores that provide people with food than if it is given to the plaintiff lawyers. In particular, if these losses were to force my local Ralphs store to close, I would count myself quite profoundly aggrieved and personally greatly harmed as a result of an action that your Court has ordered, allegedly in order to benefit me. - Why should your local Ralphs Grocery Co./Kroger Co. store close? See comments above. $1195.85 to $1777.25 cost to your local store should be quite manageable, as should the additional outlay for the coupons cost.
Ralphs Grocery Co./Kroger Co. has other lawsuits which are pending. See Kroger Co. SEC 10-K filing and Kroger Co. SEC 10-Q filing for more details. Kroger expressed no overriding concerns as stated in both SEC filing documents.
I did not ask the plaintiffs to file this suit on my behalf, I did not select the lawyers, I did not approve of their strategy, and I strenuously object to the terms of settlement. It seems my only recourse is to write this letter, about which I entertain significant doubts as to whether you will even bother to read it. - It sounds like you are not a registered member of the class action lawsuit, People vs. Ralphs Grocery Co. (a banner brand of Kroger Co.).
Who receives class action lawsuit settlement payments? At a minimum, those individuals who registered and qualified for damages or remedies that might be awarded in a possible Ralphs Great Escape Promotion class action lawsuit. How could an individual or company entity register for qualification to enjoin the People vs. Ralphs Grocery Co. (banner brand of Kroger Co.)? One method was to register here.
Background: People vs. Ralphs Grocery Co. (a banner brand of Kroger Co.) Class Action Lawsuit
People vs. Ralphs Grocery Co.(a banner brand of Kroger Co.): lawsuit background 1
People vs. Ralphs Grocery Co.(a banner brand of Kroger Co.): lawsuit background 2
People vs. Ralphs Grocery Co.(a banner brand of Kroger Co.): lawsuit background 3 / Kroger Co. SEC 10-Q filing see 11. Commitments and Contingencies (middle of page)
Source for annual reports (10-K) and quarterly reports (10-Q)
Posted by: BH at April 14, 2006 05:19 PM
BH, sounds like you're one of the lawyers trying to drum up some more business by getting more people to click on your "register here link."
I am a member of the class covered by the lawsuit. I have not registered with any of the lawyers filing this claim, for reasons I have stated-- I do not want the coupon for a 30% discount on a $30 purchase, I did not ask for it, and I condemn those who seek to profit from this enterprise.
The whole premise of the lawsuit is to pretend that it is for the benefit of people exactly like me.
As for your supposition that "1195.85 to $1777.25 cost to your local store should be quite manageable", this is typical lawyer mush, trying to pretend that $4.5 million is not much money because you divide it by something big. First, you conveniently base the number you provide just on the lawyers' fees, not the total cost. Second, stores open and close all the time-- of course this could be exactly the factor that tips the scale in some instance. Do not forget the costly strike Ralphs just went through.
Posted by: JDH at April 14, 2006 05:51 PM
this is typical lawyer mush, trying to pretend that $4.5 million is not much money because you divide it by something big.
That argument cuts both ways. You seem to be making light of the fact that Ralphs cheated, say, a million people out of a couple dollars.
I retain moral certitude that our society would be better served if this $4.5 million is invested in grocery stores that provide people with food than if it is given to the plaintiff lawyers.
I can understand your opinion, but I would argue just as strongly that the lawyers have performed a public service by punishing crooked behavior and discouraging it by others in the future. That the lawyers were motivated by profit is immaterial.
Posted by: Anonymous at April 14, 2006 07:22 PM
"I do not want the coupon for a 30% discount on a $30 purchase, I did not ask for it, and I condemn those who seek to profit from this enterprise."
Then you should not have made the following statement to Judge Carl J. West in your submitted document letter:
"I would submit that in part this sum will be paid from higher prices that I myself will now have to pay for the groceries that aren't covered by the $30 coupon."
Your two statements do not flow together seamlessly.
Posted by: Anonymous at April 14, 2006 08:18 PM
To the 8:18 Anonymous,
Yes, I agree, my choice of words could be confusing. I was trying to make the point that if, for example, the price on groceries ends up being raised 5%, even if I were to receive a 30% discount on the first $30 of a given month's groceries ($9 less), if I buy $200 groceries in the month($10 more), I would be worse off. My specific point is that it is not clear that this will work out to the benefit even of those who collect the coupons.
In the event, it unambiguously will not work out to my personal benefit, since I am refusing to accept the coupons as a matter of principle. And yet, it was because the lawyers have allegedly provided a benefit to me that the judge considers them worthy of being paid $4.5 million.
Posted by: JDH at April 14, 2006 08:44 PM
I think you are misunderstanding the situation. The judge did not pay the lawyers -- the case never went to trial. Ralphs settled the case voluntarily and agree to pay the lawyers. The judge had nothing to do with it other than signing off on an agreement between Ralphs and the plaintiffs. The lawyers are merely collecting money that Ralphs owed to customers for its vacation promotion plan. Ralphs was obligated to pay that money when they designed the promotion. They tried to renege on their debt and the lawyers forced them to pay up. As is typical in these cases, the lawyers collected about one-third of the payment as their collection fee. So the total amount due was presumably about $15 million. This is money Ralphs owed to their customers for the promotion regardless of the litigation -- it was not invented by the judge. Your outrage should be directed at Ralphs for spending $15 million on an advertising program in which you had no interest in participating.
Posted by: Joseph at April 16, 2006 09:18 PM
Joseph, I feel that the judge should have dismissed this case.
But if you are saying that at this point my letter will accomplish nothing, I agree with you. There appears to be nothing that the supposed beneficiaries of this lawsuit can do to prevent the lawyers from looting the $4.5 million.
Posted by: JDH at April 17, 2006 08:35 AM
But how could he dismiss the case? On what grounds? It seems pretty simple. Ralphs made an agreement with its customers to provide promotional awards. They tried to renege on that agreement. The lawyers forced them to abide by their agreement and collected a share of the amount owed for their effort. Are you saying that companies should just be permitted to abandon their agreements if they don't like the outcome?
Your beef should be with the managers of Ralphs who decided to set up an advertising program that turned out to be a bad value for them. Should businesses be allowed to just walk away from their bad decisions? That is not the way the market works. Good business decisions are rewarded and bad ones are punished. If Ralphs prices are forced to rise due to their bad business decisions, customers are free to patronize the nearby Safeway store. Seems like Econ 101 to me.
Posted by: Joseph at April 17, 2006 10:49 AM
I agree with kent and Rick: "The default on class actions should be opt-in, not opt-out."
I was, without my consent, a member of a class action suit against computer monitor makers because they overstated the size of the monitors. Similarly, we alleged victims could register to get coupons while the lawyers got real money. I didn't register and didn't want the coupon, and I was so very annoyed for being used by the lawyers.
Posted by: pat at April 17, 2006 02:24 PM
Iím 100% with you. Because of great age and my unwilling service in the Vietnam undeclared war, where I saw many needless deaths, Iíve become quite concerned about social cohesion and whether the US can hold together. One needs faith in the country and in the average citizen to follow the law (there arenít enough policemen), pay your taxes and do the little things that make life worthwhile.
The Roman empire collapsed because of corruption, excessive taxation to feed a huge military and a feeling that everybody was being screwed by the system. I think that these class action suits are an example of forces pulling our country apart. I donít know when weíll pass that fabled tipping point, maybe we already have but wonít know it for some time yet.
Posted by: frog judge at April 17, 2006 05:32 PM
It is always entertaining to revert to a silly "class action law suit thing". Some people have actually RSPV'ed some real issues, like Larry from Canada suggesting that health care in America is overpriced because of the shyster's getting their due. I disagree that it is the lawyers causing the price of health care to increase.
The health care monopoly is causing cost of health care to increase Larry. The monopoly is based on licensing requirements. The lawsuits are about the damage they do!
Monopolists maximize profit by proving less for more. That is what's going on in America.
Posted by: Anonymous at April 22, 2006 04:52 PM
It is nice to see that Ralph's has to recoup something to their customers. I'm curious how they will recoup me as our Ralph's store has closed down and I don't know of any store even close to where I live. Obviously they aren't having to pay anything to me. Maybe they should send me a check or a special coupon that I can use at any grocery store in my local area.
Posted by: Becky delos Reyes at September 22, 2006 04:27 PM
I agree with Becky. I lived in SoCal when this program was in effect. I loved shopping a Ralphs instead of the other stores, and I did spend more during that qualifying time so I would get the 2-night hotel stay. None of the stuff I purchased went to waste, it was just a timing issue. I might not have purchased it all at once. Well, here it is years later I no longer live in SoCal, and there is no Ralphs or Kroger anywhere in the 20 mile radius I would consider driving to do my grocery shopping. A coupon for Ralphs really wouldn't do me much good, but the 2 night hotel stay would. I just found out that this was settled, but was not told how I personally would be affected by the settlement since I don't live near a store. If it's not money or hotel stay, then Ralphs is the benefactor, not me.
Posted by: t at October 13, 2006 11:53 AM