After sending emails to more than 50 million subscribers, a website faced $25 billion in potential liability under Washington’s Commercial Electronic Mail Act, which imposes statutory damages of up to $500 per violation. Similarly, an entertainment company was sued for more than $100 million for allegedly disclosing subscribers’ personal information in violation of the Cable Communications Policy Act, which provides minimum damages of up to $1,000 per plaintiff. As these examples illustrate, the combination of statutory damages and the class action device can transform even technical statutory violations into high-stakes—and even “potentially annihilating”—litigation.
As numerous courts have now recognized, classwide awards of statutory damages may run afoul of the due-process clause. For a defendant in a class action considering a due-process challenge, there are two key considerations: the applicable legal standard and procedural timing.