I Won a Class Action Lawsuit and…

I don’t even have a T-shirt to show for it!

The very first Bluetooth Headset I had (a Motorola HS280) was so quiet that even with the volume turned way up I couldn’t always hear it. I solved that problem by buying a  Plantronics Voyager 510. It turns out that I was in grave danger of hearing loss (even with the Motorola HS280 that was too quiet for successful use) because neither manufacturer provided adequate guidance in their instructions. Watching out for what they perceived to be my interests, lawyers filed a class action lawsuit on my behalf and on the behalf of anyone else who bought one of the many headsets they allege included inadequate notice that listening to sounds that are too loud might damage your hearing. Motorola, Plantronics, and a host of other device manufacturers decided to buy off the plaintiff’s lawyers by making a $100k donation to charity as damages and by paying them for $850k in legal fees. What do I and the other “harmed” consumers get? Nothing. Nada. Zip.

In June I had an opportunity to object to the proposed settlement. I filed the following objection with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California last June (below the break):

Clerk of the Court
United States District Court
Central District of California
312 N. Spring St.
Attn.: Room G-19, Civil Intake Section
Los Angeles, CA 90012

In re Bluetooth Headset Product Liability Litigation, No. 07-ML-1822, MDL 1822

To Whom It May Concern:

Over the period in question, I purchased two Plantronics Voyager 510 Bluetooth headsets and two Motorola HS280 Bluetooth headsets. I am, therefore, a member of the class with standing to object to the proposed settlement.

I object to the proposed settlement for several reasons. First, I have not been harmed by the Defendants. Ironically, I was dissatisfied with my Motorola HS820 Bluetooth Headset because the volume was too low for successful use in the presence of high background noise. I doubt it could possibly cause hearing damage. In any event, both my Motorola and Plantronics headsets come with volume control allowing me to adjust the volume to a comfortable level taking into account background noise. Such volume adjustment is ubiquitous in electronic devices and as a frequent user of such devices, I understand how to adjust volume to my comfort and how to use the minimum volume necessary to make the sounds audible.

Second, even if I were harmed in some way by some hypothetical inadequate notice of the well-known fact that loud sounds can damage hearing, the proposed remedy seems structured to profit plaintiffs and plaintiffs’ attorneys, not me. How exactly do I benefit from the proposed charitable contribution in the settlement? If the alleged harm is so small as to warrant such negligible compensation to me, why are plaintiffs and plaintiffs’ attorneys wasting the valuable time of the court with such trivial concerns? Has the United States District Court for the Central District of California nothing better to do than spend my tax money this way?

Finally as a customer of electronics devices, I resent plaintiffs and plaintiffs’ attorneys seeking undeserved windfalls from companies with whom I do business. These companies will pass on at least some of their losses to me in the form of inflated prices when I eventually replace my headset with a new one. Plaintiffs and plaintiffs’ attorneys are acting in their own interests, and directly counter to mine.

I respectfully request that the Court reject the settlement and deter further such frivolous actions by denying the Plaintiff’s attorneys requests for fees and costs. I further wish to go on the record as joining in the objection of William J. Brennan et al., docket number 107. I thank the court for its consideration of my objection.

The folks at Overlawyered were all over this one. Alas, it did no good. But now, Ted Frank at the Center for Class Action Fairness has filed an appeal. I wish him well. More information and other egregious examples of class action abuses are available here.

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