At today’s TEDxCLE event in Cleveland, I learned about an extraordinary idea.? The NEO law firm of Dworken & Bernstein is spearheading an effort to pass a law in Ohio to force defendants to pay up unclaimed class action judgments, and donate the funds to charities.

Ohio Lawyers Give Back was founded by Dworken & Bernstein Co., L.P.A. to promote the use of cy pres in class action settlements. When a class action is settled, plaintiff and defendant agree to a fund amount to pay all class members. Since many class members have moved, passed-away, or can’t be found, millions of settlement dollars go unclaimed. That settlement money is intended to benefit the class?rather than revert to the wrongdoing defendant?so the ancient doctrine is now being used to distribute the unclaimed money to charities and non profits.

Over $20 million dollars has already been distributed, just by the sponsors, a single law firm. If cy pres were used more broadly, hundreds of millions of dollars each year would be available to help charities, non-profits, and the communities where we live. This website is dedicated to advancing the use of cy pres in all class action settlements where a large pool of unclaimed settlement funds is expected.

Here is attorney Pat Perotti explaining the issue, as he did at today’s TEDxCLE.

SB 157 would create Ohio law mandating the use of cy pres doctrine in class action judgments, forcing the defendant to pay the full amount of the judgment, and donating the amount unpaid to the plaintiff class to charity.? Here’s a portion of the sample letter to lawmakers.

Senate Bill 157 will provide a huge pool of needed money to these programs.? Use of the doctrine codified by S.B. 157 has already given over $20 million dollars to charities and non-profits, and has kept programs open that were out of funding and closing their doors.? Those monies have provided medicine and treatment to sick kids who would not have received it otherwise due to funding cuts.? Meals for tens of thousands of poor throughout Ohio?who were not otherwise going to be served due to funding cuts.? Speech and hearing therapy for deaf children in areas where the programs were closing.

S.B. 157 will expand this pool of money in an amount conservatively estimated at over $50 million dollars each year.? It will do so without costing the state anything.? It will do so by requiring nothing more than honesty in the settlement of class action lawsuits, so that the benefit of a settlement (presented to the court as, for example, $1 million) will be that amount.? No more.? No less.? Just the honest truth.

I spoke with Pat Perotti who gave the presentation at TEDxCLE – he’s a Republican plaintiff’s attorney, a confluence which warmed my heart.? Perotti explained that SB 157 is currently being held up in the Ohio Senate by Senate president Republican Bill Harris, and Republican Senators Keith Faber and Steve Buerher.? Well, if SB 157 is good enough for a Republican plaintiffs attorney, it damn well oughta be good enough for the Republican controlled Ohio Senate.

This issue is a no brainer.? We all get letters in the mail from class actions which we ignore, because the amounts we are due as plaintiffs in the class are so small as to not be worth our effort to collect it.? Because of this, even though the money has been awarded by a judge, even though the lawyers have been paid, the only party getting away with behavior a court has deemed worthy of a judgment against that behavior are the people who owe the money.

It only makes sense to make the defendant pay the full amount, and if the full amount isn’t distributed to the entire class, donate that amount to charity.? I can’t imagine why anyone would oppose this.? There is no reason for the Ohio Senate to delay action on SB 157.? Perotti told me the votes are there to pass it.? So put it on the floor, and pass it.

Please send a letter, or this blog post, to the email addresses below.? I’m doing that right now. – Senator Bill Harris – Senator Keith Faber – Senator Steve Buehrer

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