No Decision In Approval Of Trump University Settlement But Expected Money For Class Members Increased

Plaintiff's attorney's said the class members are now expected to receive $.90 on the dollar if settlement is approved.

A San Diego federal judge did not make a decision Thursday after hearing arguments about whether a class member can be allowed to opt-out of the settlement agreement in the Trump University lawsuit.

The hearing in a San Diego federal courtroom lasted close to an hour. During the hearing, U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel questioned attorney's about the language used in the opt-out and join agreements sent to class members.

At issue is whether or not to allow one of the class members, Sherri Simpson, a Fort Lauderdale, Florida attorney, to be removed as a class action member.

Simpson and a partner paid $35,000 in 2010 to enroll in Trump University's "Gold Elite" program to be paired with a mentor who would teach them Trump's secret real estate investment strategies. Simpson, who appeared in two anti-Trump campaign ads, said they got little for their money — the videos were 5 years old, the materials covered information that could be found free on the internet and her mentor didn't return calls or emails.

The Trump University lawsuits allege the former university, which took in over $40 million, was fraudulent and deceptive. Two class-action lawsuits against the now-closed Trump University are being heard in San Diego courtrooms; another lawsuit is based in a New York court.

The San Diego cases include: Cohen v. Trump, a nationwide class action lawsuit, and Low v. Trump, a class action in California, Florida and New York. Trump denies the allegations in the lawsuits.

The attorney for Simpson, Gary Friedman, argued in court Thursday that his client has a right to opt-out of the settlement and when agreeing to be a class member in the case she was promised an opportunity to opt-out of any settlement that may result. According to Friedman, Simpson would like to pursue a case on her own and would like to see it go to trial because she has the law on her side and "she gets something better...a verdict and it would be guilty."

Judge Curiel questioned the plaintiff's attorneys about how the process to become a member of the class action worked, how they were notified and when. The plaintiff's attorney explained a total of 13 people have opted out, but they did so in a more timely manner.

Jason Forge, one of the attorneys representing the class members said if this settlement isn't approved it is because of "selfish persistence" and some of the class members will likely die before seeing any money.

Judge Curiel described the courts role in approving a class action settlement like this. When discussing each element considered he said he they point to allowing the settlement to be approved. He also said, "on the face of the is fair and reasonable."

Both named plaintiff's in the class action cases, Sonny Low and Art Cohen, were present in court Thursday but did not speak to the media.

Attorney's reached a deal 10 days after Trump's election. A month later, Judge Curiel granted preliminary approval of the deal. Attorney's on both sides have said the settlement, agreed to by current U.S. President Donald Trump, is an excellent outcome for the disgruntled former students.

The plaintiff's attorneys have noted the two dissenters make up just 0.05 percent of the class action.

In court Thursday, the attorney's for the plaintiff's announced class members are expected to receive at least 90% of the money they spent back. That's an increase from an earlier estimate of 80%.

The increase is due to more money being committed from the New York Attorney General. The pre-approved settlement calls for President Trump to pay $25 million with $4 million going to the New York AG. According to the plaintiff's attorney's, the New York AG is now committing $1.6 million on that to class action members.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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