The stage was set. The Harvey Weinstein class action litigation had a solution in hand. The parties agreed on the proposed settlement. New York State Attorney General Letitia James publicly announced the agreement, describing it as a “must-win” for Weinstein’s victims.
Weinstein, you may recall, was found guilty of 3rd-degree rape and criminal sex acts and sentenced to 23 years in prison, as reported in the New York Law Journal.
The proposed settlement would establish an 18.875-million-dollar compensation fund for the victims and release them from non-disclosure agreements that effectively had silenced many. Next up was the preliminary approval hearing with the judge. The approval and settlement process was underway.
NOT SO FAST…
In a stunning ruling dated Tuesday, July 14, 2020, Federal Judge Alvin Hellerstein rejected the proposed agreement, stating it was “…nothing more than an end-run around a fatally flawed class certification, given that the proposed class could not possibly meet certification criteria.”
Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP), a named plaintiff must have standing, be a member of the proposed class, and satisfy the four requirements of FRCP 23(a): numerosity, commonality, typicality, and adequacy of representation. Specifically, the class must be so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable. There must be questions of law or fact common to the class. The claims or defenses of the representative parties must be typical of the claims or defenses of the class. Finally, the representative parties must be able and willing to fairly and adequately protect the class’s interests.
Judge Hellerstein opined the proposed deal would treat all victims the same regardless of their interactions with Weinstein. In the judge’s view, given that “women who have been raped are entitled to a much greater recovery than those who just met him,” the “class” could not possibly meet the criteria required under Federal law.
The judge was critical of lead class-counsel Fegan Scott, asking why the women were not pursuing individual cases, given how much their allegations varied in severity.
The attempted settlement was also roundly criticized by other attorneys representing Weinstein victims, who lambasted the terms and conditions as unfair (i.e., the Weinstein Company’s former directors could recover legal fees from insurance proceeds that should go to the victims instead).
For now, these cases will move forward individually. The Weinstein case highlights the challenges class action lawyers face when trying to bring disparate claims under the same umbrella.
The Weinstein case is a noteworthy addition to my recent series on the increasing number and variety of class action lawsuits, this one unrelated to the Pandemic. RapidFunds can help you navigate the rocky shores of these proceedings. We monetize your settled cases, freeing up capital to give your boat strong oars and a steady tailwind.