United States: San Francisco Federal Judge Takes Aim At Lawyer-Driven Class Action Lawsuits
Last Updated: May 8 2007

SAN FRANCISCO (May 1, 2007)—A federal judge has had enough with unscrupulous plaintiffs’ lawyers and denied class action certification in a lawsuit filed against Oreck Direct, LLC, the company best known for its high quality vacuum cleaners and air purifiers.

Plaintiff’s counsel claimed their client had suffered from allergies and that an air purifier sold by the company failed to alleviate his symptoms. The lawyers had asked to certify a class of more than 70,000 people.

But in an opinion that could put plaintiffs’ lawyers on notice and possibly have far-reaching implications for class action certification, United States Northern District of California Judge Marilyn Hall Patel, who granted class status in the Napster case, found that the lawyers had manufactured their lawsuit against the defendant after it was revealed that they found the lead plaintiff through a newspaper ad.

"The conduct in this action does not look good, does not sound good, and does not smell good. In fact, it reeks," Patel wrote in her opinion. She added: "It is clear from the record that plaintiff’s counsel, and not plaintiff, is the driving force behind this action."

Patel's opinion, which was issued April 25, was welcomed by defense lawyers who have been pressing the issue of adequacy of class counsel and representatives for years. Thelen commercial litigation partner David Aronoff, who led Oreck's defense, called the decision, "groundbreaking."

He said class action plaintiffs' lawyers have been cashing in on settlements that net them huge multimillion dollar fees. In their exuberance to keep the spigot open wide, these lawyers resort to manufacturing the litigation. That is, baking up a lawsuit and then going out to solicit a class representative.

"Judge Patel issued a resounding ‘no’ to lawyer-driven litigation," Aronoff said. "She wanted nothing to do with cases manufactured by the plaintiff’s lawyers in order to create legal fees for themselves. This judge finally said enough is enough."

For more information, contact:

Kevin Livingston
National Manager of Public Relations
Thelen Reid Brown Raysman & Steiner LLP

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