Helping Individuals Who Have Been Hurt By Others

Selected Case Summaries – Class Actions


For over six years, Volkswagen intentionally and systematically cheated its customers, lied to the government, and misled the public about the efficacy of its four-cylinder diesel engine vehicles sold under the Volkswagen and Audi brands.

On September 18, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a Notice of Violation to Volkswagen relating to nearly 482,000 diesel-powered cars in the United States since 2008 sold under the VW and Audi brands (Volkswagen owns Audi). VW programmed the computers in these cars to detect when they were undergoing official emissions testing. Only then did the cars turn on their full emission control systems. The controls were then automatically and surreptitiously turned off during actual road use, resulting in better fuel economy and performance, but producing significantly greater pollutants in violation of U.S. clean air laws.

Many consumers bought the VW and Audi diesel cars because they wanted to protect the environment. VW said its diesel cars “this ain’t your daddy’s diesel, stinky, smoky, and sluggish.” However, VW and Audi diesel cars emit up to 40 times the national standard for nitrogen oxide, or NOx. Nitrogen oxide is linked to respiratory problems, including asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema.

Lawsuits were filed in several states, and all consolidated in the Northern District of California. In a massive class action like this, the court appoints a 22-member Steering Committee for the Plaintiffs to guide the litigation and assure fair treatment of Plaintiffs, and if necessary, to try the case. Judge Breyer held a day long “audition” for Steering Committee members. One hundred fifty law firms applied to be members. Roxanne, who had never been on a previous Steering Committee, was selected, the only person with a small law office, and only person from Iowa.

Volkswagen simply had no defense, so the case was settled on June 28, 2016. It provided owners and lessees of Volkswagen and Audi 2.0-liter diesel vehicles with substantial compensation through buybacks and lease terminations, government-approved emissions modifications, and cash payments, while fixing or removing these polluting vehicles from the road.

This was the largest consumer auto industry class action settlement in U.S. history.

Roxanne had several responsibilities after the settlement was approved, the most important of which was to respond directly to individual consumers who had questions or concerns. This was the first and probably the last Steering Committee Roxanne will serve on. She prefers to work one on one with people who have been hurt or discriminated against, but she did love seeing VW held accountable.

Comes v. Microsoft (2006 – 2007)

Roxanne Conlin served as Plaintiffs’ co-lead counsel in this indirect purchaser antitrust class action brought on behalf of Iowa consumers. We said Microsoft illegally monopolized and engaged in unreasonable restraints of trade for operating system and productivity applications software and Iowa consumers were overcharged for various Microsoft software packages, including MS-DOS, Windows, Word, Excel and Office.

We obtained a $179.95 million settlement from Microsoft after three intense months of trial in Polk County District Court. Microsoft agreed to provide up to $179.95 million in cash to consumers and vouchers to volume purchasers who purchased Microsoft operating systems and applications between May 18, 1994 and June 30, 2006. Governments could apply for refunds for a four year period. The Comes settlement is unique because unlike any other indirect purchase class action settlement with Microsoft to date, the Comes settlement provided consumers with cash payments, and up to $200 without proof of purchase.

In addition, the terms of the Comes settlement will benefit Iowa’s public schools. Microsoft agreed in the settlement that they will commit half of the unclaimed proceeds in vouchers to disadvantaged K-12 schools for the purchase of software and hardware. Approximately 70 million dollars has been given to Iowa schools and Iowa is the only state that included cash payments. $1 million of the unclaimed proceeds was contributed to the Iowa Department of Education to fund administration of the technology program. In addition, $1 million of the unclaimed proceeds was provided to the Iowa Legal Aid Society. On a per capita basis, the results obtained by Iowa Class Counsel are about double the settlements in every other indirect purchaser class action settlement with Microsoft.

The case took seven years to litigate, was appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court three different times, and was one of the largest cases in Iowa history.

Case Highlights:

  • Three months of trial, following almost seven years of litigation;
  • More than 286 discovery requests on Microsoft;
  • More than ten motions to compel discovery;
  • Twenty-five million pages of documents produced in discovery;
  • More than 24 expert reports;
  • Sixteen motions in limine;
  • Nine motions for partial summary judgment;
  • Three rounds of collateral estoppel briefing (and additional related motion practice); and
  • More than 117,000 hours of Iowa Class Counsel time.

To read press reports click here.

Martin I. Cohen v. Board of Directors of MidAmerican Energy (2003)

This is a class action brought as a result of the merger of MidAmerican Energy and Teton Acquisition Corporation. The class said that the Board did not get the full value of the company in the transaction, and deprived shareholders of MidAmerican of appropriate compensation. The class of MEC shareholders was certified and the case was settled in 2003 for $7.5 million dollars.

Race Discrimination Class Actions

Meeks v. Allen Memorial Hospital (2013)

Pack, Ward, Fortune & Williams v. Thomas Baldwin d/b/a Coconut Joes; Gen. Corp, Inc. d/b/a Generations; DTMC, L.L.C. d/b/a Big Kahuna’s; D. T. Corner, Inc. d/b/a Papa’s Planet; Last Titan Productions, L.L.C. d/b/a Iguana Jakes; Graffiti’s, L.L.C. d/b/a Graffiti’s, Larry Smithson; Thomas Baldwin; Pat McNulty; J. Michael McCoy and Michael Fry (2000)

Nightclubs in Des Moines used a variety of tactics to keep African Americans out. Sometimes the door personnel would challenge the valid identification of African Americans. Each club had a dress code, but the dress code enforcement depended on race. Mike Ward and a white friend tested this issue. His white friend sought admission to a local nightclub wearing Mike’s shirt. He was admitted without any challenge. He left after a short time and he met Mike in a nearby parking lot, where Mike changed into the very same shirt his friend had been wearing. Mike then sought admission to the same nightclub and was denied on the basis of the “dress code.” The events were all recorded in an award winning TV series done by Erin Kiernan.

We learned of other discrimination in our investigation and we learned that even if African Americans were admitted, they were harassed inside the clubs, and often “thrown out” for invented infractions. One of the owners would say “It’s getting pretty dark in here” as a signal to his bouncers to get African Americans out of the club.

The cases were resolved before the class was certified. Many changes were made in the way nightclubs do business in Des Moines. For example, dress codes specifying particular brands of clothing were eliminated. Behavior of bouncers was changed and monitored. The individual cases were resolved for a confidential amount.