In Re: Bluetooth Headset Product Liability Litig., No. 09-56683 (9th Cir. 2011)Annotate this Case
Plaintiffs filed 26 putative class actions against defendants, alleging that defendants knowingly failed to disclose the potential risk of noise-induced hearing loss associated with extended use of their wireless Bluetooth headsets at high volumes, in violation of state consumer fraud protection and unfair business practice laws. The subsequent settlement agreement provided the class $100,000 in cy pres awards and zero dollars for economic injury, while setting aside up to $800,000 for class counsel and $12,000 for the class representatives. William Brennan and other class members (Objectors) challenged the fairness and reasonableness of the settlement and appealed both the approval and fee orders, arguing that the district court abused its discretion in failing to consider whether the gross disproportion between the class award and the negotiated fee award was reasonable. The court agreed that the disparity between the value of the class recovery and class counsel's compensation raised at least an inference of unfairness, and that the current record did not adequately dispel the possibility that class counsel bargained away a benefit to the class in exchange for their own interests. Therefore, the court vacated both orders and remanded so that the district court could conduct a more searching inquiry into the fairness of the negotiated distribution of funds, as well as consider the substantive reasonableness of the attorneys' fee request in light of the degree of success attained.