The Hot Coffee lawsuit against Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas has hit a bump in the road as the judge in the case has decertified the settlement class.
Judge Shirley Wohl Kram said purchasers of the game could not be joined in a class action because the claims involved would be affected by the laws of each individual's home state, deciding as a result that the matter could not be addressed in a single class action in a federal court. "Accordingly, the court decertifies the settlement class on the grounds that common issues do not predominate over individualized issues," she ruled.
The decision essentially kills the settlement reached between Take-Two Interactive and claimants in the suit, which had been reached in November 2007. That settlement would have provided either a replacement, edited copy of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas or up to $35 in cash to owners of the game who were willing to swear to certain elements regarding their purchase of the game, including that they were "offended and upset by the ability of consumers to modify and alter the game's content using the third-party Hot Coffee modification." While Take-Two had braced itself for settlement costs and legal fees to approach $3 million, ultimately only 2676 purchasers, out of roughly 8.5 million copies sold in the U.S. alone, filed claims.
Controversy surrounding the case was renewed in June, however, when the lawyers representing the aggrieved class announced that they were seeking $1.3 million in legal fees, despite the maximum value of the settlement itself reaching only $26,505.
Jeffrey S. Jaconbons of Take-Two representatives Debevoise & Plimpton declined to comment on the matter, saying only that the decision is under review. Lawyers for the plaintiffs could not be reached for comment.