The Florida Bar Foundation has received a $341,897 cy pres award from a class action settlement in a case concerning the rights of consumers whose cars were repossessed. Ft. Lauderdale attorney Robert W. Murphy represented the class against TD Bank, N.A.
Judge John B. Bowman of the 17th Judicial Circuit in Broward County approved the cy pres distribution. Under cy pres, courts can approve a charitable donation out of unclaimed class action funds. The Foundation will use the funds to support legal aid organizations throughout Florida.
“For most Americans, especially those persons of modest means, the car is the biggest investment in the family,” Murphy said. “We made a point of negotiating hard to make sure that no money went back to the defendant bank and any money that was left in the residual would go to a nonprofit. Because The Florida Bar Foundation provides funding for legal services offices throughout the state of Florida, Judge Bowman readily approved the designation.”
The case, Lynn Phillips v. TD Bank, N.A., involved a financially distressed senior whose vehicle was repossessed by her bank. The lawsuit challenged the way the bank disposed of repossessed vehicles. After an appeal, Murphy mediated the case and settled for $1.85 million in cash for 942 class members, and $7.2 million worth of waivers to forgive loan balances due on the class members’ vehicles.
“I would encourage both practitioners and judges to recognize that there’s going to be a potential for a cy pres in every single class action that involves money being paid out,” Murphy said. “Civil legal aid is a natural cy pres recipient for unclaimed settlement funds.”
“The Foundation is so very appreciative of Bob’s work on behalf of consumers, which will ultimately result in more Floridians being able to access civil legal assistance,” Florida Bar Foundation President Juliette Lippman said. “Cy pres awards provide a significant boost to the Foundation’s ability to fulfill its mission.”