Cleveland Law Firm Dworken & Bernstein to Disburse $14 Million to Charities; Millions Leftover After Class Action Settlement Money Goes Unclaimed

2008-07-16 11:16:00

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


    "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


    "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


    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


    "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


    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


    To learn more about cy pres awards, go to

    Dworken & Bernstein will officially launch Ohio Lawyers Give

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.

Contact: Carolyn Grossi 216.687.8000 216.407.5301 Mobile

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