ST. LOUIS – A federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri recently ordered American Campus Communities Services (ACC) to pay over $400,000 in final approval of class action lawsuit that alleged the company falsely marketed student housing lease rates in Columbia.
in his June 20 ruling, U.S. District Judge John A. Ross awarded Brian Fellows and other plaintiffs final approval after accepting a preliminary proposal for a settlement on Feb. The settlement included attorneys' fees.
Fellows filed suit against ACC, along with other students for the company's false advertising of monthly lease rates. The plaintiffs alleged that ACC signed 11-and-a-half-month leases but marketed their prices and charges based on 12 full months. They also alleged that some students were paying 200 percent in rental rates for the first month in which they were only able to occupy their dwelling for half of the first month.
Fellows and other students believed the marketing practice to be deceptive and in violation of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act.
Shortly after Fellows filed suit, ACC changed their marketing material to reflect installments instead of monthly prices.
ACC was ordered to pay $275,000 to a fund that will be distributed equally for all of the defendants that submitted a valid claim with Fellows. There were 715 valid claims.
Additionally, ACC will pay $125,000 in attorneys' fees and a $5,000 service award to Fellows the named plaintiff. Courts generally award an amount to the named plaintiff in advocating for others in like situations. ACC also was ordered to pay $39,775 in administrative and notice costs toward the settlement.
The total payout will be $444,775 to the defendants and associated fees.
The claimants will end up getting $322.77 per share for the class action lawsuit. Some of the defendants are entitled to more than one share. Even though there were 715 valid claims, there are 852 shares total.
Payments to the claimants are going to be made within 30 days of the judgment.