The last thing the parties to a class action settlement want to see is an objection from state Attorneys General (AGs). AG objections to class action settlements are relatively rare and courts tend to give AG objections more weight than objections from private parties. Not all AG objections are successful, however, and in the recent consumer fraud case of Hesse v. Godiva Chocolatier, Inc., No. 1:19-cv-972-LAP (S.D.N.Y.), a six-state objection filed by the AGs of Florida, Idaho, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, and Utah failed to persuade Judge Loretta Preska to reject the proposed settlement.
Hesse concerned Godiva’s use of the word “Belgium” in labeling and promoting its products. According to the complaint, this practice led consumers to believe, incorrectly, that Godiva’s chocolates are made exclusively in Belgium and to pay higher prices for these products than they otherwise would have. The parties’ proposed settlement of those claims is fairly standard stuff. Anyone who purchased Godiva chocolate products between 2015 and last year could file claims to recover $1.25 per purchase. Class members with proof of purchase could recover up to $25 (for 20 purchases); those without proof were capped at $15 (for 12 purchases). Plaintiffs claimed actual damages to be $0.46 per purchase, so they characterized this relief as more than full recovery.