I cannot believe my good fortune. The potential windfall coming my way could change my life, and I apparently owe this unexpected mana from heaven to the selfless commitment of a dedicated legal team whom I have never met, yet without my knowledge has worked diligently on my behalf.

The fact that this is part of a trend that benefits a select few while saddling employers, businesses and consumers with added costs and fees should not be a concern.

I was notified last week that I was potentially part of a class represented in a class action lawsuit against Southwest Airlines. The notification, which came from an Illinois court, advised me of a pending settlement that could involve anyone who bought a Business Select fare prior to August 1, 2010, and who did not use the free drink coupon which comes with that fare.

Apparently the suit was based on a change Southwest Airlines made to their policy regarding these drink coupons, which prior to that date could be used on any flight. After  that date, they had to be used on the specific flight for which the fare was paid. I am assuming this must have left a gaggle of careless drinkers holding worthless drink coupons, and the uproarious objections culminated in the combining of no doubt thousands of lawsuits into one giant, noble class action against the callous carrier. 

And here I was, silly man that I am, completely oblivious to the fact that my rights had been so blatantly violated. Thank God there are people willing to sacrifice everything to fight the good fight on my ignorant behalf. And the award I will be entitled to if this settlement is approved?

If I did purchase a Business Select fare prior to August 1, 2010, and if I did not use my drink coupon that came with that fare, I could be entitled to – you better sit down for this – one free drink coupon. Wow. And my mother said I would never amount to anything. (She actually never said that, but I needed the sarcastic effect)

And the noble legal team that fought for this, for me and all the other oblivious people who had no idea we had been mistreated? The court records indicate they intend to seek legal fees of up to $7,000,000. Apparently Southwest has already agreed to fees of $1,750,000.

So, to reiterate, IF I dig through my records to see if I flew Business Select on Southwest over 2 1/2 years ago, and IF I somehow realize I failed to use my drink coupon, and IF I fill out the claim form declaring my eligibility, then I MAY get a free drink coupon sometime late this year.     

And the lawyers who brought the class action, apparently on my behalf, will make up to seven million dollars.

There is a good chance I qualify for this class. I travel extensively, and often fly Business Select on Southwest. They are my carrier of choice. In fact I fly them almost exclusively. I will drive hours out of my way to use airports they service. I love (Luv) that company. It is quite likely I didn’t use a coupon or two back then, because in those days Southwest frequent fliers were awash in free drink coupons. They issued them by the truckload. I had dozens of them. If I had actually used them all I would most likely have been removed from a flight or two for extreme intoxication. I likely had no need for the one that came with my ticket.

I actually used to give my coupons to uniformed military personnel I would see in airports. I did not know at the time that most Southwest employees, a particularly patriotic bunch, gave those guys and gals free drinks anyway.  

I don’t know the specific merits and details of the case. Southwest may have botched the implementation of a new policy and left some people feeling shorted. Maybe they should have done something to correct that. I just can’t imagine there were too many people so upset about it as to bring legal action. I think the notion of a lawsuit over something so incredibly trivial is beyond ridiculous. However, in my opinion, even the frivolous nature of the lawsuit itself pales to my incredulity of the potential settlement, where the allegedly aggrieved get a drink coupon and the lawyers “representing” them make millions.

This is especially irksome when I think about who will have to pay for this. I will. As a frequent Southwest customer, I, along with all my fellow flyers, and their employers, will pick up this extensive Bar tab. And by “Bar tab”, I am not referring to the comparatively minuscule amounts of free drinks that will result from this.

This isn’t the first example of imbalanced class action settlements that primarily benefit lawyers. The state tobacco lawsuits a number of years ago made many attorneys multi-millionaires. About 9 years ago my company was eligible to participate in a class action case over the way a new top level domain name was sold. It was found to be an illegal lottery, and there was a $3,000,000 settlement from the case. The lawyers took 2.8 million of it, leaving $200,000 to be divided up amongst the many thousands who were the “beneficiaries” of their work. I believe we received about $1.80 in refund for the $500 or so we spent for a particular domain in the process.

Lawyers are necessary in our world. I work with quite few of them in this line of work, and they are good people. I consider many of them friends. They are getting a bad reputation because of actions like this. These are abuses of the legal system that benefit a relative few at the expense of many.  I personally will not be a party to it. Those of us contacted have the option to object, which I intend to do. It’s not because I think I deserve more. It’s because I think the legal profession deserves a better reputation than what this case will provide them.

And I frankly am more upset about paying the gargantuan Bar bill than any free drinks I may have missed.

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