Parker v. Time Warner Entertainment Co.
United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York
631 F. Supp. 2d 242 (2009)
Time Warner Entertainment Company, L.P. and Time Warner Cable, Inc. (collectively, Time Warner) (defendants) provided cable-television services. Time Warner collected information about its cable subscribers’ names, addresses, premium-subscription purchases, credit cards, employers, Social Security numbers, driver’s licenses, and whether the subscriber rented or owned a residence. Some of this information was collected directly from the subscribers, but some information was obtained from third parties. Time Warner kept all the subscriber information in a database that it offered for sale to third parties, such as marketing companies and other Time Warner entities. Time Warner cable subscribers Andrew Parker and Eric DeBrauwere (the subscribers) (plaintiffs) filed a class-action lawsuit against Time Warner, claiming that Time Warner had violated the federal Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984 (CCPA) by (1) not providing proper notice of its practices of collecting and distributing the subscribers’ personally identifiable information and (2) disclosing the subscribers’ personally identifiable information without their consent. The district court initially denied the subscribers’ request to certify the case as a class action, finding that the potential class damages were disproportionate to Time Warner’s alleged wrongs because (1) an award based on the number of plaintiffs in the proposed class multiplied by the minimum statutory damages of $1,000 per plaintiff could reach hundreds of millions of dollars and possibly bankrupt Time Warner and (2) Time Warner’s alleged violation was mostly technical and had not caused much actual harm. The subscribers and Time Warner later reached a proposed settlement agreement that allowed a class to be certified and gave each class member a month of free Time Warner services to use or to give to someone else. However, class members who currently lived in areas not served by Time Warner objected to the settlement, and the district court refused to approve it. The subscribers and Time Warner then reached a new proposed settlement that gave (1) each proposed class member the choice of a free month of Time Warner services or $5, for a total of approximately $10.7 million in damages; (2) $2,500 incentive awards to the named plaintiffs; and (3) $5 million to the subscribers’ attorneys for their 10 years of work on the case. The parties jointly presented the new proposed settlement to the district court for approval.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Glasser, J.)
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