U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly, a federal judge in Illinois, has given final approval to a $76 million settlement agreement resolving a class action accusing several cruise marketing companies of robocalling potentially millions of Americans. There is a stipulation that the court must give prior approval to any gifting of unclaimed settlement funds. Judge Kennelly granted the class members’ motion for final approval of the proposed settlement agreement with Caribbean Cruise Lines Inc., the Berkley Group Inc. and Vacation Ownership Marketing Tours Inc. The judge had preliminarily approved the agreement in September, but said a phrase must be added that stipulates judicial approval of the unclaimed “cy pres” funds that would be awarded to charitable causes. Judge Kennelly said:
The court grants plaintiffs’ motion for final approval of the proposed settlement agreement, subject to the following modification to section 2.2(f) of the agreement: a sentence shall be added to the end of section 2.2(f) stating, ‘No funds shall be distributed to a cy pres recipient without prior approval of the court.’
Class members in the suit have called the agreement one of the most favorable Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) settlements on record, saying it will create a $76 million common fund providing most class members with more than $400 in cash.
The settlement brings to an end a suit filed in 2012 that accused the cruise marketing companies of operating a massive telemarketing scheme to offer free cruises actually designed to sell timeshares. The calls went out to at least 900,000 numbers contained in a class list put together from company records, according to the agreement. Judge Kennelly in 2014 certified two classes of people who received the calls between August 2011 and 2012, one for cellphones and one for landlines.
Judge Kennelly had said that the size of the individual awards is likely to bring out more claimants than normally would come forward in a TCPA class. That’s exactly what happened because in total, more than 63,500 class members filed provisionally approved claims for nearly 365,650 calls, far more than expected. Among those claimants, were several Fortune 500 companies and Oakland County, Michigan.
The class is represented by Jay Edelson, Rafey S. Balabanian and Eve-Lynn J. Rapp of Edelson PC and Jonathan I. Loevy, Scott R. Rauscher and Michael I. Kanovitz of Loevy & Loevy. The case is Birchmeier et al. v. Caribbean Cruise Line Inc. et al. (case number 1:12-cv-04069) in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.