Wondering why you’ve been hearing more from Workplace Fairness lately? One very big reason is a donation that we recently received as part of a consumer class action lawsuit. We owe some very huge thanks to Dworken & Bernstein Co., L.P.A., and Grange Insurance, whose settlement has made it possible for Workplace Fairness to resume staffed operations and carry out its mission to educate workers in a more comprehensive and effective way.
The 1994 consumer class action suit [Martin v. Grange Mutual Insurance Co.] alleged that consumers were incorrectly charged for uninsured motorist insurance. As part of the settlement of the case, Dworken and Bernstein and Grange agreed that the unclaimed funds would go to the benefit of national and Ohio-based nonprofit organizations, a practice known as cy pres.
“We commend Grange for working with us to use unclaimed funds for the benefit of charitable and non-profits in a broad range of areas, including help to the homeless, hunger prevention, drug and alcohol addiction prevention, fair treatment of employees, and a host of others,” said plaintiff’s counsel Patrick J. Perotti of Dworken & Bernstein. The parties chose 33 organizations to share in the unclaimed funds from the settlement of over $10 million, the largest class action residual fund donated to charity in history.
“We encourage attorneys around the country to provide for charitable reverter of a reasonable portion of unclaimed funds in all class suits. The practice can provide needed help to the community in a very difficult economic time,” said Perotti. If you’d like to hear Pat talking more about the practice of using cy pres funds to help worthy organizations, check out his YouTube video here, where he explains how this process works:
Cathy Ventrell-Monsees, president of Workplace Fairness, which provides information to workers about their legal rights in the workplace, said her organization is honored to be part of the resolution of this important case. “With the residual funds, we will be able to help thousands of workers to understand, protect and strengthen their rights through our website at www.workplacefairness.org,” she said.
The funds will be used to enable Workplace Fairness to resume staffed operations, with the hiring of Paula Brantner (that’s me) as Executive Director, and to assist in completing Workplace Fairness’ program priorities, including making the organization’s website fully accessible to users with disabilities.
We owe Pat Perotti an enormous debt of gratitude, but as he’ll be the first to tell you, he has done something with this case that many attorneys have the opportunity to do, but don’t always do when settling cases. Instead of allowing unclaimed funds to revert to the alleged wrongdoer, attorneys on both sides have an opportunity to benefit their local communities and worthwhile causes by using the cy pres mechanism to distribute funds. Pat is adamant that he will not settle cases without making this provision, and feels that other attorneys should insist on doing the same.
For additional information about the organizations participating in the settlement proceeds, see:
You’ll also see highlights from the July 18 luncheon in Cleveland, where lots of happy people from great organizations talked about how this donation has transformed their work in extraordinary ways.