Yesterday, a California judge has granted preliminary approval to a class action settlement between General Motors. The settlement would entitle about 20 million plaintiffs throughout the country in the car litigation class action lawsuit to $50 to $800 per repair for performance problems in almost three dozen General Motors car lines.
The lawyers’ fees in this case where the claimants will at most recover $800 is $16.5 million. In mass tort cases, lawyers certainly get large fees as well. But from the standpoint of a personal injury lawyer, it is odd that lawyers would get such large fees in cases where the clients have such a small vested interest.
What About These “Lawyers Make All the Money” Lawsuits?
I think these types of lawsuits serve a social good. We want to hold car makers and everyone else who puts a good or service out there accountable for their mistakes. This is true when the issue relates to public safety. But it frustrating for many victims to see the lawyer making all the money while they walk away with $50. From the standpoint of personal injury victims, it is particularly frustrating because jurors get offended by this kind of stuff when they see it on the news.
Jurors lash out against the system. “Why should I give this woman $5 million for the loss of her husband when I only got $50 bucks from GM. I bet her lawyer gets 95% of that money, anyway.” That is the thinking with some jurors and it takes a lot of work, a lot of climbing uphill, to convince them that you and your client are different. I would just rather start on the at even with the scales balanced instead of having to dig out of a hole.
I don’t condemn these lawsuits or begrudge these lawyers making the money they do. I just don’t like the impact it has on the jurors.