As Earth’s population continues to increase, sometimes it seems like our world is getting smaller as technological advances manage to give the appearance that people thousands of miles away are right in front of you. Shortly after the birth of the Internet, single people started using it to find other single people with similar interests. Numerous sites have been created that match people up based on geography, interests, and various preferences expressed by each member.
One such popular dating site, called It’s Just Lunch International Inc., encourages single people to meet other single people in their area for lunch, but users of the site sued the company for allegedly ignoring their dating preferences when matching people up with other singles.
The lawsuit was filed by nine plaintiffs in 2007 who combined their claims and sought to represent a total of more than 250 singles. They alleged the dating service overcharged its customers for matchmaking services that claimed to be personalized, while simultaneously ignoring preferences clearly stated by the user, including age and criminal background. Instead, the lawsuit alleged the matches made by the dating site were motivated by monthly quota requirements, even when those requirements allegedly disregarded aspects of a partner plaintiffs had clearly requested.
The lawsuit also alleged the dating site used employees without any training or history in matchmaking whatsoever. The plaintiffs were therefore allegedly tricked into paying premium prices for a subpar dating service. Their claims include allegations that Its Just Lunch violated a New York state law that prohibits dating services from utilizing contracts that require customers to pay more than $1,000.
The parties have agreed to settle the lawsuit outside of court with $60 million worth of dating vouchers in addition to $4.75 million in cash. As part of the settlement agreement, each class member will receive a voucher for one free date, with class members in some cities receiving two vouchers. Each voucher is valued at approximately $450. The dating service has also agreed to add to its website a pledge to its customers and to change the language of their contracts so that they reflect a commitment to honor its users’ stated preferences.
If the court approves the settlement, the $4.75 million will go to pay $100 to each member of a New York subclass of plaintiffs, $3.6 million in attorneys’ fees, and $10,000 to each of the named plaintiffs.
A settlement is in the best interests of both parties, as it saves everyone from the uncertainty of a court ruling. If a judge rules against Its Just Lunch, the dating company could potentially find itself facing a much larger award than $64.75 million and having to pay in cash which could force it into bankruptcy. By settling outside of court, It’s Just Lunch gets to save face and, probably, a substantial amount of money.
Pursuing a legal claim all the way to a court decision is usually equally risky for the plaintiffs. A court could always rule against them, in which case they’ll receive no payment from the dating site and have no relief at all.
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