Gay v. Tom's of Maine

Case # 14-cv-60604
Case Name Gay v. Tom's of Maine
Jurisdiction US District Court for S.D. FL
Summary

Plaintiffs allege that Defendants improperly marketed their "Tom's of Maine"-branded toiletries as being "natural", without sufficiently explaining what made the products "natural."  As a result of these marketing assertions, consumers paid a premium, expecting to receive a premium product in return.  In reality, the Defendant products contained numerous synthetic and heavily processed ingredients.  These practices are in violation of numerous false advertising and consumer fraud statutes.

Final Approval Date 03/11/2016
Result
  1. Final approval granted.
  2. Judge Moore noted the following in overruling all objections:
    • "Helfand, an attorney, is a well-known serial objector" (see Final Settlement Order, page 4, footnote)
    • "The last two objections are from professional objector Patrick S. Sweeney, one in his individual capacity as a purported member of the class and the other as counsel for Dawn Weaver.  BOTH THE SWEENEY OBJECTION AND WEAVER OBJECTION ARE FACIALLY SPECIOUS AND WITHOUT MERIT. SWEENEY'S AND WEAVER'S OBJECTIONS ARE THE SAME RECYCLED, BOILERPLATE ARGUMENTS THEY HAVE PREVIOUSLY (AND UNSUCCESSFULLY) USED IN THE PAST IN A NUMBER OF OTHER CLASS ACTION SETTLEMENTS.  Indeed, much of the language from the Weaver objection was taken directly from the Helfand objection.  Like the Helfand objection, the arguments in the Weaver objection are meritless, filled with boilerplate language and unsubstantiated, conclusory statements attacking the settlement, notice procedures, class counsel's requested attorney's fees and costs, and certification of the settlement class.  IT IS APPARENT THAT SWEENEY AND WEAVER ARE UNFAMILIAR WITH THE ACTUAL PLEADINGS AND SUBMISSIONS IN THIS CASE, AS WELL AS THE SUBSTANTIVE TERMS OF THE SETTLEMENT AT ISSUE. (emphasis added)"  (see Final Settlement Order, page 6-7)
  3. Judge Moore, in a March 11, 2016 paperless order, also referred Objector Sweeney's conduct to the Magistrate Judge for possible sanctionable ethics violations, since he filed objections both on behalf of himself and a client.  Florida's Professional Rules of Conduct notes that "a lawyer violates this rule (Fla. Bar Reg. R. 4-1.8(i)) where a lawyer is both a litigator for a client in a litigation and a party to the litigation."
  4. The Magistrate Judge cleared Objector Sweeney of wrong-doing, finding that no conflict of interest was present and that his client (Ms. Weaver) had waived any ethical issues (see Report and Recommendation).
  5. Objectors Sweeney and Weaver voluntarily withdrew their objections.
  6. Objector Helfand appealed the Final Approval, voluntarily dismissing his appeal seven days later.
Dismissal of Last Appeal 04/15/2016
Attachments Docket Report.pdf
First Amended Class Action Complaint.pdf
Preliminary Approval Order.pdf
Plaintiff's Response to Objections (Part 1).pdf
Plaintiff's Response to Objections (Part 2).pdf
Final Settlement Order and Judgment.pdf
Report and Recommendation Regarding Sweeney Conflict of Interest.pdf
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Objection of Steven F. Helfand

Objectors Steven F. Helfand
Signers Steven F. Helfand
Attorneys
Summary
  1. "Clear sailing" provisions are improper.
  2. Cy pres recipient engages in advocacy that the Objector disagrees with.
  3. Notice is insufficient.
  4. Class size is unknown.
  5. Forecasted claims rate is too low.
Attachments Objection of Steven F. Helfand.pdf
Appeal of Objector Helfand.pdf
Dismissal of Helfand Appeal.pdf
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Objection of Dawn Weaver

Objectors Dawn Weaver
Signers Patrick Sweeney
Attorneys Patrick Sweeney
Kelly Puls
Joseph Darrell Palmer
Summary
  1. Notice is inadequate.
    • Does not disclose the scope of the release.
    • Does not identify the cy pres recipient.
  2. Relief available to class members is inadequate.
  3. Attorneys' fees are excessive.
  4. Class representative incentive awards are excessive.
  5. Cy pres distribution is improper.
  6. Settlement cannot be certified.
    • Has not met the threshold of superiority.
  7. Requirements to disclose other objections is burdensome and harassing.

NOTE:  Kelly Puls and Joseph Darrell Palmer were Ms. Weaver's attorneys on this objection (though they never filed appearances).  Mr. Sweeney acted as local counsel and filed her objection.

Attachments Objection of Dawn Weaver.pdf
Affidavit of Patrick Sweeney Regarding Representation of Objector Weaver.pdf
Declaration of Dawn Weaver Regarding Her Representation.pdf
Withdrawal of Weaver and Sweeney Objections.pdf
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Objection of Patrick Sweeney

Objectors Patrick Sweeney
Signers Patrick Sweeney
Attorneys
Summary
  1. Claim administration does not have adequate oversight.
    • Attorneys' fees should be withheld to ensure proper oversight.
  2. Deadlines benefit settling parties but not class members.
    • No deadline for claim administration process means class members cannot anticipate when they will receive payment.
  3. Attorneys' fees are excessive and opaquely calculated.
Attachments Objection of Patrick S. Sweeney.pdf
Withdrawal of Weaver and Sweeney Objections.pdf
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