Archive for March, 2014

What Happens to Unclaimed Money in Class Action Suits

Unclaimed Money in Class Action Lawsuits

Did you know that millions and millions of dollars of settlements from class action suits have been unclaimed by the plaintiffs, consumers, small businesses, investors and the general public? Hundreds of millions of dollars get reverted back to the same companies that were found to be in the wrong or who agreed to settle the cases out of court.

The reason why so much settlement money goes unclaimed is the majority of people who are entitled to the settlement money simply don’t know it, or they never receive official notification in the mail, never opened the mail, or they died, or because they really didn’t want to fill out the very long, complex legal documents required in order to claim the funds. For these reasons, a significant amount of people do not take advantage of their personal legal rights. Basically, they are being denied justice.

Unclaimed settlement money is a complete irritant to the courts, because unclaimed money is an issue for the claim administrators and disbursing agents who are in charge of the distributing class action settlement money to harmed individuals. As each year passes, the aggregated total of unclaimed cash, which was earmarked for distribution from class action settlement funds, escrow accounts increases.

In the early 80’s, many lawyers began to appeal to the courts to not give the unclaimed money back to the wrongful defendants, but use the Cy Pres doctrine, which translates to ‘as nearly as possible’. Meaning, the lawyers said the unclaimed money should be dispersed to projects that are as close to the original intention as possible. Mostly, all unclaimed settlement money now goes to help the community as a whole, for instance to help lower income families, to charities and to other organizations that help improve the quality of life for all concerned. Currently, many class action law firms are now requesting, before a settlement is agreed upon, that the defendant in the case agrees to allow unclaimed settlement money to be given to charities.


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