N.Y. group fears more suits like movie popcorn class action

John O'Brien Mar. 8, 2012, 11:12am

ALBANY, N.Y. (Legal Newsline) - A New York legal reform says the movie popcorn class action lawsuit that is gaining headlines could be a preview of the state's class action future if a pending bill passes the state Senate.

The class action lawsuit filed by Joshua Thompson of Michigan says it is unfair for movie theaters to force patrons to buy their food. He filed the lawsuit after his local theater stopped allowing outside food.

Mike Seinberg of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York wrote Thursday that the case reminds him of legislation pending in the state Senate. The Private Right of Action for Price Gouging bill puts power currently held by the Attorney General's Office into private individuals represented by trial lawyers.

The bill passed the state Assembly Wednesday.

"If this legislation were to pass, a lawsuit could be brought against a gas station inadvertently overcharging by $0.03 per gallon of gas," Seinberg wrote.

"If they had 1000 customers who bought ten gallons of gas, they would have inadvertently overcharged their customers by $300. With this new law in place they could face $1,000,000.00 in potential lawsuits."

The bill provides for a minimum recovery of $1,000 per plaintiff and allow for an additional recovery of $5,000 per plaintiff if the defendant is found to have committed a willful violation of the law.

Seinberg says the bill doesn't clearly define price gouging and relies on courts to define it on a case-by-case basis.

"If this power, designed for the Attorney General, got into the hands of private attorneys, we could see a flood of lawsuits like these hurting the business climate in our state," he wrote.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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