As readers of this blog may recall, the Middle District of North Carolina recently denied Dish Network’s request for reversion of $11 million in unclaimed funds from the jury-awarded damages in a TCPA class action trial. See Krakauer v. Dish Network, LLC, No. 14-0333 (M.D.N.C. Oct. 27, 2020). Noting that the TCPA is a deterrence statute, the District Court held that allowing unclaimed funds to revert to the defendant would undermine the function of the damage award, and it determined that such funds should either escheat to the government or be donated to an appropriate charity whose work is related to the objectives of the TCPA. But the District Court did not decide the ultimate recipient of the unclaimed funds, appointing a special master to identify and evaluate potential cy pres recipients and make recommendations to the court.
Last week, the federal judge presiding over a class action against Dish Network (“Dish”) denied a request for reversion of $11 million in unclaimed funds, deciding instead that the funds—which were the product of a trial rather than a settlement—should escheat to the government or be donated to a charity. See Krakauer v. Dish Network, LLC, No. 14-0333 (M.D.N.C. Oct. 27, 2020).
In denying Dish’s request for reversion, the court explained that “[t]he TCPA is a deterrence statute, and reversion does not support th[at] statutory goal.” Id. at 10. It then cited cases for the proposition that unclaimed funds should not revert to a defendant if doing so would undermine the deterrence function of damages. Id. at 5 (citing In re Lupron Mktg. & Sales Practices Litig., 677 F.3d 21, 32-33 (1st Cir. 2012); Six Mexican Workers v. Ariz. Citrus Growers, 904 F.2d 1301, 1307 (9th Cir. 1990)).
In Holzman v. Turza, Nos. 15-2164 & 15-2256, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 12594 (7th Cir. July 8, 2016), the Seventh Circuit reversed an order that could have resulted in individual payments of $500 per violation plus attorneys’ fees, i.e., more than the $500 in statutory damages for which the statute provides.
After the plaintiff prevailed on the merits, the trial court directed the defendant to deposit $4.215 million into court, which represented the $500 in statutory damages for each of the 8,430 faxes at issue. It then ordered that one third of the $4.215 million be used to pay class counsel and that two-thirds of the $4.215 million be used to pay class members. Id. at *3. Class members would be sent a check in the amount of $333 per fax, i.e., two thirds of $500. If, however, a check was uncashed or undeliverable, class members who had cashed their checks would receive a second distribution of up to $167 (i.e., so that their total recovery could, in theory, reach $500 per fax). Id. If any funds remained after that second distribution, then, and only then would they revert to the defendant. Id. Continue reading