Lawyers wanted more money, class members wanted TV

Steve Gonzalez Feb. 14, 2005, 4:59am

While class action members were waiting for justice in the form of a properly tuned television set, the lawyers who represented them wanted more than the $2.3 million Madison County Circuit Judge Phillip Kardis allowed.

In the original settlement reached last May, Thomson Consumer Electronics agreed to pay $6.9 million in attorney fees for a case involving allegations of faulty audio in its Proscan TV sets.

Because the judge reduced attorney fees by two-thirds, class counsel, David Nester of Nester & Constance of Belleville and John Carey of Carey & Danis of St. Louis, filed supplemental applications for fees and costs.

Meanwhile, class member Rich Dygert of New Hartford, N.Y., hasn't received anything from the settlement.

"Every time we turn on the set, within one-to-two minutes, the screen turns to snow," Dygert recently told the Record. "My cat runs like hell straight to the basement every time this happens, not to mention my wife screaming for a new TV."

Dygert, who is a mechanical engineer, said the only way to get the picture and sound back to normal on his Proscan TV "is to bang on the top of the set," he said.

He filled out his claim form and mailed it to TAL Claims Center in Minneapolis, Minn. on Jan. 26, 2004, and still has received nothing--let alone a response.

"The judge has it in his discretion to reduce attorney fees and costs under Illinois class action laws," said John Carey of Carey & Danis.

Late last month, attorneys for the class withdrew their application for an award of additional attorney fees stating the court refuses to award additional fees to the class.

When Kardis denied the plaintiff's attorney's motion for supplemental fees on Aug. 11, 2004, he said, “The court is amazed that plaintiffs’ counsel have chosen to completely ignore previous directives of this court. Not only is the court’s order not discussed, it is not even mentioned. The court will NOT base a contingent attorney’s fee on possible payments, i.e., as much as $27 million.”

Kardis stated that the attorneys were already more than amply awarded at $2.3 million, noting that at $250 per hour for 1,000 hours billed would only amount to $250,000.

The class action case was filed in Madison County on Feb. 15, 2002, by James Stalcup and Mary Gick against RCA, GE, and Proscan television sets which were manufactured by Thomson Consumer Electronics. The complaint alleged that the televisions Thomson manufactured between 1998 and 2000 had a serious defect which caused total audio failure in the television's circuitry.

The plaintiffs alleged the total audio disruptions cause the television to exhibit characteristics and symptoms so that no matter what remedy is attempted to adjust the sound, nothing cures the problem except unplugging the television.

According to the complaint, the class members have been out a substantial amount of money and all temporary repairs have been unsuccessful with the average cost to replace the defective part in the set is between $100-$200.

On May 24, 2004 Judge Kardis approved the settlement of the claims which provides complete cash refunds for all customers who incurred out-of-pocket expenses for repairs related to audio loss, as well as purchase certificates for other class members who did not have to spend money for repairs.

The class also alleged that Thomson was fully aware of the defect at the time of the manufacture and engaged in conduct to minimize and conceal the defect. They also alleged Thompson’s Customer Service representatives have “feigned ignorance” about the defect and stated there was nothing the company could do.

Damages were sought for fraud, breach of warranty, violations of consumer protection acts of all 50 states and punitive damages from the company for its alleged “outrageous, unconscionable, and indefensible conduct of concealment” of the audio problem.

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