The federal judge overseeing the consumer portion of the TJX case wants to see TJX vouchers offered in the proposed settlement replaced by cash.
U.S. District Court Judge William Young told attorneys in a hearing in Boston Sept. 27 that he "had a lot of questions and concerns" about the settlement, in which wronged consumers would be given $30 TJX vouchers, according to Thomas Shapiro, an attorney representing some of the consumer plaintiffs, who was present in the courtroom.
Attorneys on both sides had asked that the judge approve the proposed settlement and that he remove the trial—currently slated for July 2008—from the court calendar. However, Young refused to do that and ordered that the trial date be maintained. He scheduled another hearing for October.
According to two attorneys involved in the hearing and notes filed with the clerks office, Young had concerns about the vouchers and asked what they were truly worth. "He expressed a preference that the class members have the option of receiving cash," Shapiro said.
Said another attorney, who did not want to be identified: "Trial dates are sacrosanct with this judge." In response to a question about having the trial suspended, the judge said, "Im not staying anything," according to the attorney.
Young also posed some detailed legal questions involving jurisdiction and whether consumers should have 60 days to file a claim (as sought in the settlement) or 90 days. "The judge wanted 90 days," said one participant, who also didnt want to be identified.
Young also asked if there was a practical way for TJX, of Framingham, Mass., to send notices to all 46 million consumer victims; a TJX attorney said the retailer did not have those addresses.
What was behind the TJX settlement? Find out here.
Court observers said that its not unusual for a judge who is being asked to approve a class-action settlement—especially such a high-profile case as TJX—to ask for changes. Unlike a traditional civil settlement where its assumed that the interests of both sides have been protected, many of the consumers being represented by such a case have no input. Therefore, a judge will often push back harder.
Typically, the settlement will be adjusted somewhat to try to accommodate the judge. How far TJX will bend—the judges concerns were all in the pro-consumer direction—and whether the judge will ultimately reject the agreement are the magic questions.
Retail Center Editor Evan Schuman can be reached at Evan.Schuman@ziffdavisenterprise.com.
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