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PA: Class Action Lawyer Duty to Notify of Settlement

Zimmer Paper Products, Inc. v. Berger & Montague, P.C., 586 F. Supp. 1555 (E.D. Pa. 1984).

PA: Underlying class action antitrust case

By: Laura Binski

Facts: Zimmer Paper Products (the client) was a member of a class action antitrust lawsuit. The lawsuit settled, and the client claims that it never received the letter giving notice of the settlement including the procedures for filing for recovery on the settlement fund. The client then sued the lawyers for the class action suit. The court dismissed the claim and ruled that the client could only win by showing that the lawyers negligently failed to mail the notice to the client.

Issue: Did the client show that the lawyers negligently failed to mail the notice to the clients?

Ruling: No. It is undisputed that the lawyers hired a company (the agents) to print, address, and mail the notices to members of the class. The clients do not argue that the agent was an inappropriate choice, or that the agent failed to mail any notices at all, or even that the agent failed to mail the notice to the client. The client’s only evidence is that they did not get the notice, that the mailing labels weren’t checked against the master list, that the agent didn’t acquire return receipts from the post office, and that none of the agents can recall whether or not the notices were mailed properly. None of the evidence presented by the clients is sufficient to give rise to an inference of negligence.

Lesson: The court reasons “the fact that Zimmer did not receive the notice does not give rise to an inference that the lawyers, or their agents, acted negligently.” The court also noted that having to constantly check and re-check that all the notices were mailed properly would be so time consuming as to defeat the purpose and convenience of a class action lawsuit. 

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Posted in: Pennsylvania