Headline of an advertisement in an airline magazine:
"If you received a text message advertising the Stephen King book "Cell" in January of 2006, you could get a $175 cash payment from a class action settlement."
The advertisement went on to explain that the Plaintiffs claim that an unsolicited text message was sent on behalf of the Defendant, Simon & Schuster et al to cell phone users in 2006. The Defendants deny the claim and the court did not decide which party was right so the parties are settling the lawsuit to avoid the burden, costs, risk and uncertainty of continuing the case.
Simon and Schuster have agreed to set up a $10 million fund and successful claimants (you have to prove that you received this text message in 2006) will receive the lesser of their pro-rata share of the fund or $175. The suit was brought by a group of attorneys who will receive…$2.725 million!
Now I pride myself on my tolerance of the world around me. And I don't often make political statements. But this kind of crap is cause for pause. First, I'm a pretty organized guy. As a writer/speaker, I have held on to some interesting records. For instance, I still have every canceled check that I've ever written…from age 15. It's these kinds of records that are and will one day be fodder for my books. And I even hold on to my e-mail exchanges for months. But, for the life of me, I can't figure out how I, or anyone else for that matter, would have a record of a text message from 2006. Further, please explain the damage caused to me for receiving an unsolicited text message.
This is a shakedown! By a group of attorneys. Of you and me…the American Consumer. You may think that this kind of stuff has no impact on those of us not involved. But the reality is that Simon and Shuster will have to obtain the funds to handle this litigation from somewhere…and it can only come from the books and publications that you and I purchase.
This kind of shakedown occurs daily. In the United States, anyone with a few dollars (and many with nothing, thanks to way too many attorneys) can sue anyone for anything. And whether you're guilty or innocent doesn't matter…you have to defend yourself. And the cost of that defense often exceeds the cost of writing a check out that's the equivalent of a pay-off. And that's how attorneys get rich. From gorging on the teat of a system that they've created. What's wrong with this picture?
In Europe and most parts of the world, as I understand it, if you sue someone you'd better have a case because the prevailing party pays all legal fees. This certainly slows down the volume of litigation and makes people think twice about bringing frivolous actions. It's time to bring this method to the U.S.
In my opinion, the situation in our country is the result of a lack of accountability on the part of the legal profession. It's the result of a "good ole boy" network of attorneys and lawmakers (36% of the House of Representatives and 54% of the Senate are lawyers) who both make the laws and then use them to their advantage. This has apparently been the case for our entire history as a country, as Thomas Jefferson said, "If the present Congress errs in too much talking, how can it be otherwise in a body to which the people send one hundred and fifty lawyers, whose trade it is to question everything, yield nothing, and talk by the hour? "
I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't have the right to take action when wronged. And certainly we shouldn't allow unsolicited texts. What I am suggesting that our system is corrupt and broken.
Of course, if you did receive this damaging text message way back in 2006 about Stephen King's novel, I can understand why you'd be upset and feel entitled to $175. And, of course, if you're one of the attorneys who worked so hard to identify this societal wrong, I applaud your investment to ensure that society is protected from these kinds of ugly and damaging acts. Imagine…an unsolicited text message…what's next? Perhaps I'm going to sue XYZ for their ridiculous Father's Day commercial that came on last night right in the middle of my favorite TV show. It was, after all, UNSOLICITED!