Jacksonville Area Legal Aid recently received a $51,356 cy pres award resulting from a case in which attorney Jordan A. Shaw represented a class of patients who were improperly billed by a hospital for the difference between the provider’s charge and the allowed amount under their insurance.
Shaw, a partner at Zebersky Payne Shaw Lewenz, LLP, chairs the firm’s Consumer Litigation Practice Group and co-chairs its Commercial Litigation Practice Group.
“We are quite proud of the result in this case,” Shaw said. “We were able to obtain meaningful compensation for class members, including a 100% refund of actual damages plus statutory damages. As a bonus, and because the settlement was non-reversionary, we were also able to give back to the community in the form of a cy pres award.”
Under cy pres doctrine, the courts can approve a charitable donation out of unclaimed class action funds, or a direct grant in lieu of damages to an organization that could vindicate class member rights in the future.
The French term cy pres means “as near as possible,” and the doctrine is often applied in class action cases in which full restitution to all injured parties is either impossible or infeasible, such as when the amount of damage per person is insignificant, even though the aggregate damages are large. It can also be employed in probate matters when gifts fail, or in the area of charitable trusts.
Legal aid programs are often the beneficiaries of cy pres awards, as the public interest work they do, including in consumer cases, often benefits people who face civil legal issues not unlike those of the class from which the award came.
“I would be remiss if I did not also give credit to my adversary, attorney Christi Lawson,” Shaw said. “She and her team litigated this case with candor and professionalism. Both her team and mine agreed that JALA was the absolute best recipient for the cy pres funds. The case involved the Jacksonville community, and we wanted to give back to that community—a goal that JALA serves with excellence.”
JALA CEO Jim Kowalski said the award will go a long way in supporting JALA’s work, including consumer protection.
“We are extremely grateful to the attorneys as well as the judge in this case,” Kowalski said. “And we hope this inspires others involved in class action litigation to consider JALA as a recipient for future cy pres awards.”
About Jacksonville Area Legal Aid
The mission of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, Inc. is to obtain and provide high-quality legal assistance to low-income and other special-need groups and to stimulate and empower groups of poor people to accomplish energetic and affirmative advocacy, all to alleviate the circumstances, incidence and causes of poverty.