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Click and Collect: How to Make Money From Class Action Lawsuits

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Introduction

I just received a $5 check. It’s my share of a settlement resulting from a class action lawsuit against Blue Diamond Growers.

The lawsuit claims Blue Diamond misrepresented some of their almond-based products as “all natural,” when they actually contained synthetic ingredients. The settlement allows anyone who bought these products from May 28, 2009 through 2016 to file a claim for compensation.

I’ve eaten several Blue Diamond products over the years, probably including those incorrectly labeled ones. So when I saw the settlement information five months ago, I signed up as a claimant. Then I just waited for the check.

Yes, it’s only $5, but no, I didn’t have to hire an attorney or go to court. In fact, all I did was fill out a simple form online. It took less than two minutes. There was nothing else to do.

Sometimes you can make a lot more than $5 from a settlement. And if you have your auto-fill set up on your browser like I do, filling out the form is fast. You basically click and collect.

You may be eligible for several class action payouts right now. I’ll tell you how to check in a moment, but first let’s answer an important question…

What Is a Class Action Lawsuit or Settlement?

As explained by FindLaw.com, “A class action lawsuit is one in which a group of people with the same or similar injuries caused by the same product or action sue the defendant as a group.”

Basically, it’s a way for a large group of people to sue a company for wrongdoing when it would be impractical for each person to sue individually.

For example, suppose you — and a million other people — bought a particular brand of peanuts in a bag marked “16 ounces.” Then, 24 bags and several years later you discover that the bags only contained 14 ounces of peanuts.

The company cheated you, but what can you do? Hiring an attorney could be expensive, and you’d be suing for peanuts — 48 ounces of them, to be precise.

A class action lawsuit makes such a case much simpler for the average consumer. Here’s how it might happen…

Some law firm that wants to make a large contingency fee (typically 25%) finds one or more peanut-buying plaintiffs to initiate the lawsuit, and then adds all affected parties (except for any who choose to exclude themselves) as members of the “class,” the consumers who have been damaged.

They sue for a large amount, but a negotiated settlement for a lesser amount is the typical outcome. At that point it is a class action settlement.

Now let’s suppose the company settled for millions of dollars. Expenses are paid, the lawyers take their percentage, and anyone who bought the peanuts can fill out a simple form online to claim a share of the rest.

If the settlement amount remaining after expenses and fees is $1 million and 100,000 people, including yourself, file a claim by the deadline, you’ll each get a check for $10 ($1 million divided by 100,000).

Where Can You See if You’re Eligible?

Class Action Rebates is a website that tracks settlements. You can scroll through class actions to see if you’re eligible to file a claim in any of them. You can also sign up to be notified of new cases by email.

At the moment the website lists more than 70 class action settlements. For example, you can claim $125 if you bought a defective Kenmore grill, or up to $29 if you bought under-filled cans of Wild Planet tuna, or up to $50 if Wells Fargo made robocalls to your cell phone.

The titles of the class action settlements often indicate what they’re about, as you can see in these current (as this is written) examples:

  • Porsche Dashboard Glare Class Action Settlement
  • Sears Gift Card with under $10 balance Class Action Settlement
  • Aveeno Active Naturals Class Action Settlement
  • Aero Knife False Advertising Class Action Settlement
  • Amazon In-App Unauthorized Purchase Class Action Settlement
  • Wells Fargo Student Loan Calls TCPA Class Action Settlement
  • Nissan & Infiniti Transmission Defect Class Action Settlement

The claim amount is noted, although this is typically a maximum amount. The actual amount will usually be affected by how many claimants there are, since the settlement is a set amount that is divided among those who file a claim.

The deadline for filing a claim is usually noted as well. You can click on the titles to get more information and to file a claim.

Here are some other places where class action settlements are listed:

The Class Action Settlement Claim Process

Class Action Rebates makes it sound very easy to get a settlement check. They list these three simple steps:

  1. Find products you purchased
  2. Fill out the claim form
  3. Get your check in the mail

Actually it can be that easy. I really did spend only a couple minutes to get my $5 check. That particular class action settlement did not require any verification of purchase, which is why it was so simple.

Fortunately most product-based class action settlement claims don’t require proof-of-purchase or other paperwork. It wouldn’t be realistic or fair to do so. After all, who saves their tuna or shampoo receipts for years?

If you are required to document your purchase the process can take more time. For a $5 claim I wouldn’t bother to dig out an old receipt (if I even had it) and send or fax it somewhere. On the other hand, if it was a $200 claim it would make sense.

Typically you have two deadlines in these cases.

First, you have an exclusion deadline, by which time you have to notify the court that you do not want to be part of the settlement. If you do that you can’t collect any part of the settlement, but you are free to sue for damages on your own.

Then there is the claim deadline. You have to click that “File a Claim” button and fill out the form before that date if you want to collect your settlement money.

Of course, by doing so you give up your right to sue on your own. This is true even though you may not know how much you’ll receive, since the amount is adjusted according to the number of claimants.

Should you give up your rights to sue a fast food restaurant that’s been shorting your large fries for years? Well, first ask yourself if you would ever actually sue on your own. If the answer is no, why wouldn’t you click the button and get a check in the mail?

I don’t regret giving up my my right to sue Blue Diamond, and I’m on my way to the bank with my $5 check. Hey, at least it will buy me a can of almonds.

If you’ve filed a claim in a class action settlement tell us about your experience below, and keep on frugaling!

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