The attorneys handling the Rita’s Water Ice class action over the company sending unsolicited text messages asked for $1 million in fees, but a federal judge said that price is too steep.
On March 16, U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Savage of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted class counsel’s request for $40,000 in expenses and $10,000 in incentive awards, but denied their request for $1 million in legal fees, instead awarding them $651,000. That reduced fee represents roughly 22 percent of the litigation’s settlement fund.
According to Savage’s opinion, more than 110,300 people are eligible for a piece of the $3 million settlement fund, and of those noticed, roughly 25,500 filed valid claims.
“The amount each class-member claimant will receive is not significant, but rather modest,” Savage said, and because there were more claimants than class counsel had anticipated, each would get less than previously thought.
“Counsel claim that they extracted the largest settlement possible for the class in light of Rita’s ability to pay,” Savage said, “Yet, rather than adjust the attorney fees to increase the amount available to the class, counsel propose a lesser recovery for the class members.”
Steven Woodrow of Woodrow & Peluso in Denver, who filed the motion for attorney fees and billed the most hours in the class action out of the eight attorneys representing the class members, did not return a call seeking comment.
In an email March 17, a spokesman for Rita’s said “Rita’s Water Ice Franchise Co. LLC and its counsel are pleased that the court granted final approval of the settlement agreement and dismissed the case. We otherwise do not have any additional comments on the court’s orders or analysis from yesterday. They speak for themselves.”
The class action was filed in 2015 by Sherry Brown and Ericka Newby. The two claimed that Rita’s sent them “Cool Alerts” text messages announcing when certain water ice flavors and other products were available at local stores.
They alleged that the lists were generated using a database of telephone numbers that the owners did not provide to Rita’s. They also claimed that they kept receiving messages after texting “STOP” in response to the texts’ instructions to stop receiving future notifications.
A settlement agreement was reached between the parties in March 2016 and was approved by the judge shortly thereafter. Brown and Newby received $5,000 each as class representatives.
P.J. D’Annunzio can be contacted at 215-557-2315 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PJDannunzioTLI.