Case Status: Remanded and Dismissed

Frank v. Gaos

  • U.S. Supreme Court

The rules governing class action litigation are often fundamentally unfair to the plaintiffs. The rules tend to favor awarding settlement funds to attorneys and third parties at the expense of the actual plaintiffs who were injured in the case. A prime example of this was the settlement in Gaos v. Google.

In that case, 129 million people accused Google of violating their privacy. A lower court approved an $8.5 million dollar settlement, but the plaintiffs in the case never saw a dime of the money. Thanks to a legal doctrine known as cy pres, the money was split between the attorneys and third party charities that promised to use the money advocating for privacy on the internet.

Cy pres awards are problematic because they are easily abused. In this case, for instance, the charities selected had ties to both sides of the case. According to the Wall Street Journal, Google already supported the charities chosen, and several were housed at the alma maters of the plaintiffs’ attorneys.

In Frank v. Gaos, the issue of cy pres awards came before the Supreme Court. CIR’s amicus brief urged the Supreme Court to review the case and argued that cy pres awards violate the First Amendment by compelling plaintiffs to support third party charities without their consent. CIR’s position in this case was similar to its position in Friedrichs v. CTA and Yohn v. CTA. Just as public sector workers shouldn’t be compelled to support third party unions, class action plaintiffs should not be required to fund third party charities without their consent.

The case will likely be argued this fall and will give the Supreme Court an important opportunity to reign in class action abuse and protect the First Amendment rights of class action plaintiffs.

You can read more about the case from the Competitive Enterprise Institute here.

Updates on this case

Supreme Court Remands Class Action Challenge
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Mar 2019

Supreme Court Remands Class Action Challenge

The Supreme Court today remanded Frank v. Gaos to the Ninth Circuit after determining there were still questions about whether…

CIR Defends Free Speech In Class Action Case
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Feb 2018

CIR Defends Free Speech In Class Action Case

The Center for Individual Rights recently filed a brief at the Supreme Court defending the free speech rights of plaintiffs…

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