My two cents worth on the multimillion dollar class-action lawsuit that was filed on my behalf against Ralphs Grocery Company.
The Honorable Judge Carl J. West
Superior Court of California
James D. Hamilton
Objection to Proposed Settlement
The Great Escape Promotion Cases
Case No. JCCP 4343
I write in regard to the class-action lawsuit against Ralphs Grocery Company. Ralphs has been accused of failing to disclose important terms and conditions to its customers participating in its “Great Escape” promotion. Under this promotion, customers were offered free hotel stays if they purchased over $400 in groceries from Ralphs between June 4 and July 15, 2003. For members of the class who did not end up receiving free hotel stays, the Court’s proposed remedy calls for Ralphs to give members of the class 12 coupons for 30% discount on future Ralphs purchases up to $30 per coupon. The remedy also calls for up to $4.5 million cash to the attorneys for their expenses and fees.
I hereby testify, under penalty of perjury, that I am a member of the class and I object to the proposed terms of settlement.
The first fact to which I would like to call the Court’s attention is that Ralphs is one of six different grocery stores within five miles of my home. I made a decision to shop at Ralphs rather than the other five on the basis of what I perceive to be a fully informed judgment as to the complete range of prices, available products, and promotions available at each store. I maintain that I myself am inherently better suited than is a court in Los Angeles to making a determination of whether Ralphs is giving me a worse treatment than I would receive at another store. Furthermore, I myself am perfectly capable of remedying the situation should I perceive that my treatment from Ralphs is unfair or unreasonable, namely, by going to another store. For this reason, I object to a court in Los Angeles to be putting itself in the position of reviewing the fairness with which I am treated by a grocery store promotion in San Diego. I certainly did not ask your Court to attempt to make this determination, and I dispute the details of the conclusion that you have drawn.
The second question which I would like to ask the Court is, where is the money to pay $4.5 million to the lawyers going to come from? I would submit that in part this sum will be paid from higher prices that I myself will now have to pay for the groceries that aren’t covered by the $30 coupon. This I find particularly objectionable– that the Court would use its power to take money away from me in order to give it to a millionaire lawyer, and claim that it is doing so for my own benefit!
I grant that it is possible that not all of the $4.5 million will come from higher prices that I myself pay– some may come from lower wages and benefits for Ralphs employees or their suppliers. Most of these people are in fact less wealthy than I am, and although I do not have the same directly personal indignation that the Court would order money taken from them in order to be delivered to millionaires, I condemn it with no less moral clarity than I condemn your ordering the money to be taken from me.
A third possibility is that the money will come from a reduction in Ralphs profits or increase in their operating loss. Even here, I retain moral certitude that our society would be better served if this $4.5 million is invested in grocery stores that provide people with food than if it is given to the plaintiff lawyers. In particular, if these losses were to force my local Ralphs store to close, I would count myself quite profoundly aggrieved and personally greatly harmed as a result of an action that your Court has ordered, allegedly in order to benefit me.
I noted above that I make my own decision whether or not to shop at Ralphs. But I cannot make the same statement about this lawsuit. I did not ask the plaintiffs to file this suit on my behalf, I did not select the lawyers, I did not approve of their strategy, and I strenuously object to the terms of settlement. It seems my only recourse is to write this letter, about which I entertain significant doubts as to whether you will even bother to read it.
But I do have a way to get a few thousand other people to read this letter: it’s up for the whole world to see (and offer additional comments of their own) at http://www.econbrowser.com.