On July 22, National Economic Research Associates (“NERA”) Economic Consulting released a study entitled “Consumer Class Action Settlements: 2010-2013”.  The study is available online here.  This study concluded empirically what many businesses have been experiencing in practice: Consumer class action settlements have been increasing steadily in the years between 2010 and 2013.

NERA’s analysis was based on 479 consumer class actions which it identified between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2013 and stored in its proprietary database.  NERA defined consumer class actions as cases in which a class of consumers had purchased a product or service from the defendant and that included at least one of a variety of consumer-related allegations, such as false advertising, violation of consumer privacy, and fraud, to name just a few.

According to NERA’s database, in 2010, 66 consumer class actions settled.  By 2013, the number of settlements had increased to 161 annually.  Despite the significant increase in total settlements, the median settlement fund value did not fluctuate significantly between 2010 and 2013 when excluding settlements greater than $1 billion.  NERA’s data indicates that the median settlement fund value fluctuated between $9 million and $9.8 million for each year from 2010 through 2013, with the largest percentage of settlements valued at less than $10 million.

California was home to the largest number of settled cases.  According to NERA’s data, California alone accounted for 224 of the 479 settlements.  Illinois, New York, Florida, and New Jersey rounded out the top five states with the highest number of settlements, with between 28 and 33 settlements each.

NERA’s study provides interesting insights into the amount and size of consumer class action settlements over the past three years and the trends that are developing for the years to come.