(Daily Journal) Steven Williams of the Joseph Saveri Law Firm was selected by the California Daily Journal as a “Top Plaintiff Lawyer” in California for 2020. He and fellow Top Plaintiff Lawyer Joseph Saveri were profiled in a supplement issue contained in today’s Daily Journal. The Firm was one of only seven statewide to have multiple lawyers selected for this prestigious group.
Williams moved to a partnership at Joseph Saveri Law Firm Inc. in 2018 and soon filed a novel class action against Facebook Inc., alleging its content reviewers faced the threat of post-traumatic stress disorder harms from viewing and removing offensive and disturbing posts.
In May 2020, Facebook agreed to settle the matter for $52 million-plus workplace improvements. Scola v. Facebook Inc., 18CIV05135 (S.F. Super. Ct., filed Sept. 21, 2018).
“First we had to answer the question of whether this is a cognizable legal claim,” said Williams, referring to the pushback he got from Facebook’s lawyers. “We were asking for medical monitoring, and claims like these are available under California law but they’re as rare as Bigfoot sightings.” The defense lawyers said that it couldn’t possibly be a class action because each claim was individualized. They added that Williams and colleagues could not show injury because the allegations regarded the mere increased risk of injury, Williams said.
“But we told them this was in fact the best class we’ve ever sought to certify because everything the class members did can be seen and reviewed. Facebook tracked and stored it all. Also, the science shows that repeated viewings of awful content does lead to PSTD. You see a beheading, it affects you.”
The Facebook lawyers eventually came around. “It sure was complicated. They litigated for a year, then discussed the settlement for a year. In the mix were psychological evaluations and treatment programs our clients needed to keep confidential. But we kept counterpunching and eventually Facebook said we should work something out.”
Williams remains co-lead counsel in a case he brought with him to Saveri’s Firm from his previous partnership at Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy LLP over contentions that Nestlé’s Poland Springs brand is not ”100% Natural Spring Water” as the label says.
At least 13 million consumers of the bottled water nationwide each year buy the product under false and deceptive circumstances, the complaint states, Patane v. Nestlé Waters North America Inc., 3:17-cv-01381 (D. Conn., filed Aug. 15, 2017).
Williams represents a class of consumers who seek refunds of unjustified premium prices they have paid or minimum statutory penalties under false advertising laws. in March 2019, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey A. Meyer of New Haven, Connecticut denied most of Nestlé’s motion to dismiss the case. He also allowed the plaintiffs to present evidence that the product is not true spring water.
“Their defense is that states condone the claims on the label,” Williams said. “We think they’re wrong. This is individuals going up against a global water behemoth, and we have a motion for summary judgment pending.”
(Reporting by John Roemer)