Dworken & Bernstein Makes U.S. History With Largest Ever 'Cy Pres' Donation and Kicks off National Campaign to Raise Awareness of 'Cy Pres' Awards Akron, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo, Youngstown Charities to Share in Pool of Money CLEVELAND, July 16 /EMWNews/ -- The Northeast Ohio law firm of Dworken & Bernstein will give away $14 million on July 18, 2008 to 34 Ohio charities at a historic luncheon, thanks to an obscure legal doctrine known as cy pres. (pronounced sigh-PRAY) Cy pres awards are funds leftover from class action lawsuit settlements. For a number of reasons, not all class members can be located to receive settlement monies. Instead of that money reverting back to the defendant, cy pres allows the funds are directed to charitable organizations. "The cy pres doctrine accomplishes enormous benefit," said Patrick Perotti, Dworken & Bernstein partner who learned about cy pres in law school. He is spearheading a national campaign to raise awareness of cy pres awards so they will become a standard component of all class action settlements. "There is very little awareness or use of cy pres," said Perotti. "We are among only a handful of firms in the country employing this legal doctrine." In the last year, Dworken & Bernstein has directed over $1 million of cy pres monies to charities addressing hunger, homelessness, disease prevention, education, drug and alcohol treatment, and a host of other programs. "The $14 million cy pres award is significant because it is the largest cy pres of its kind in United States history," said Perotti. "This is just from one case and one law firm. Imagine if all plaintiff lawyers used cy pres. It would mean hundreds of millions of dollars for charities." According to Stephanie Ortbals-Tibbs, a spokeswoman for the American Bar Association, there has not been a larger donation of this kind. "I am not aware of cy pres donation that exceeded $14 million." The multi-million dollar award is the money left over from a class action suit against Grange Mutual Insurance, a Columbus, Ohio insurance company. The suit: policyholders in Ohio were billed extra premiums for under- and uninsured motorist coverage. During the course of the 2007 trial, Grange agreed to settle. $30 million was awarded to the class members, but only $16 million was paid-out. Because of the historic settlement, the remainder will all go to charities. Perotti stressed his admiration for defendant Grange in agreeing to the cy pres provision. "We applaud Grange for its role in making this money available to these charities." Dworken & Bernstein will present the award checks to charities during a luncheon on July 18 at the Cleveland Renaissance Hotel in downtown Cleveland. More than 350 guests including state and federal judges, charity representatives, lawyers, politicians, and business, religious and civic leaders will witness this historic event. "This is going to be an extremely exciting and emotional event," said Perotti. "These charities have no idea just how much money they are getting." The slow economy and a decrease in donations have forced many charities to suspend programs or make significant cuts, often affecting the most vulnerable in our community. "Like many other organizations, we've been hit pretty hard by the way the economy has been going," said Frank Canning, Interim Executive Director of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. "A lot of our programs have not hit their budget, so we do have a shortfall, and monies that we receive will go directly to our programs for children and families affected by leukemia." "We are thrilled that this cy pres will have an immediate and life-changing impact on these charities and the people they serve," said Perotti. To learn more about cy pres awards, go to http://www.ohiolawyersgiveback.org Dworken & Bernstein will officially launch Ohio Lawyers Give Back.org on July 18. The launch of the site coincides with the kick-off the national campaign to raise awareness of cy pres awards. Visitors to the site will learn about each charity, the amount of funds it received, and how the money will impact the nonprofit. According to Perotti, the site was developed to educate lawyers, judges and the public about cy pres, to inform them of the positive impact the awards will have on charities and the communities they serve, and to encourage the use of cy pres in every class action where there is likely to be a substantial amount of unclaimed settlement funds.
About Dworken & Bernstein Dworken & Bernstein, L.P.A., with twenty-one experienced attorneys, and offices in Cleveland and Painesville, is the largest law firm in the Lake, Geauga and Ashtabula County area, offering a full range of professional legal services. With its main office in Painesville and another office in Cleveland, the firm represents businesses, individuals and families in all areas of law.
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