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Do Facebook and Class Action Lawsuits Mix?

By Robyn Hagan Cain | Last updated on

Passive aggressive Facebook posts — in which people announce their opposition to a government policy, a reality show plot line, or someone's choice of fragrance — are not terribly effective. Such messages rarely even reach the object of their ire.

A class action settlement objector's Facebook posting, however, can ruffle the right feathers.

In January, McDonald's and one of its franchise owners agreed to pay $700,000 to settle allegations that a Detroit-area restaurant falsely-advertised its food as halal, The Associated Press reports. The funds were set to be distributed to charities, also known as cy pres: $275,000 were expected to go to the Huda Clinic, about $150,000 to the Arab American National Museum, $230,000 to attorneys and $20,000 to lead plaintiff Ahmed Ahmed.

Dearborn activist Majed Moughni wasn't satisfied with the settlement, and posted about it on Facebook. The Daily Online Examiner reports:

Moughni wrote on Facebook that the "backroom deal" wouldn't compensate the people who allegedly were misled by McDonald's about whether its food was prepared in accordance with Muslim dietary laws ... "We think the money should go to you, the people who were lied to and bought and ate 'Haram' chicken sandwiches, not a medical center or museum who were not injured," Moughni wrote. The post also said that the lawyer for the plaintiffs "wants to pocket $230,000."

Moughni asked people to "like" the post if they agreed. About 1,300 clicked the "Like" button, the Detroit Free Press reports.

While "like" statistics don't generally matter in the real world, attorneys who settled the class-action with McDonald's asked the judge to silence Moughni after he became involved in this case. According to the legal eagles representing the golden arches, a court order was necessary to prevent false and misleading statements from reaching the public. (Moughni's Facebook page gets about 20,000 views per week.)

Wayne County Circuit Judge Kathleen Macdonald -- no relation to Ronald -- granted the injunction, and "ordered Moughni to remove his Facebook comments and replace them with official court documents. She prohibited him from speaking about the case to any class members who might want to opt out of the settlement. She ordered him to identify anyone who "liked" his post. And she said he couldn't circulate any form that would allow class members to opt out," the Examiner reports.

Unsurprisingly, Moughni is challenging the injunction.

Even if Moughni wins, and we suspect he will, this situation raises important issues regarding whether lawyers (and clients) should address pending cases on social media. Paul Levy, a Public Citizen Litigation Group attorney who is representing Moughni, writes at Blue MauMau that Moughni's situation "struck me as an outrage, and quite typical of what sometimes gets done to class action objectors - and which consequently deters people of good faith from objecting."

Have you encountered a similar situation in class action litigation? Tell us about it on Facebook (naturally) or Google+ .

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