Update on Gascho v. Global Fitness Holdings (CA6)

May 15th, 2016

I have blogged in the past about my role as a client in the case of Amber Gascho v. Global Fitness Holdings, LLC (see herehere, here, here, here, and here). In short, I objected to a class-action settlement based on a gym membership I purchased in 2011. On Friday, the 6th Circuit ruled against my appeal in divided 2-1 decision.

Law360 has a summary of the decision:

A split Sixth Circuit panel on Friday approved a consumer class action settlement in a case against Global Fitness Holdings LLC, saying two objections to the district court’s decision did not demonstrate that the settlement was unfair or that legal counsel’s $2.39 million fees were disproportionate to the claims paid.

The 2-1 ruling found that objectors Joshua Blackman and Robert and April Zik failed to show that the settlement contained any provisions suggesting gym members contested counsel’s fee requests or that the settlement unnecessarily required them to take part in an onerous claims process.

“Blackman protests that if a court is allowed to ‘split the baby,’ the parties can game the system by awarding members an inflated benefit then imposing an onerous process to limit claims,” the Sixth Circuit said. “Our job is to determine whether the district court’s actions were an abuse of its discretion. We do not agree with Blackman’s and the dissent’s argument that the district court erred.”

However, Circuit Judge Eric L. Clay wrote that panel Judges Damon J. Keith and Jane B. Stranch mistakenly focused on theoretical policy considerations when the more important issue was a protracted proceeding that resulted in class counsel’s requested $2.39 million fee award.

“What the majority misses in its survey of the case law and academic literature is that the court … abused its discretion in approving a class action settlement which fails to adequately protect the interests of class members and unduly enriches class counsel at the expense of their own clients,” Clay wrote.

My attorney Adam E. Shulman of the Center for Class Action Fairness offered this statement:

“We are disappointed by the majority opinion but enthused by Judge Clay’s compelling dissent,” Schulman said in an email. “We are contemplating our next steps, whether that is a petition for Sixth Circuit en banc review or a certiorari petition to the Supreme Court.”