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LinkedIn settles case over adding connections

October 9, 2015

Over the weekend, the emails began arriving. LinkedIn Corp. was notifying millions of customers that it was settling a class action that, in all likelihood, very few users even knew was pending.

The case revolved around the social media site’s “Add Connections” feature, which, according to the initial complaint, fostered the “practice of sending repeated endorsement emails advertising its service to email addresses harvested from LinkedIn user’ external email accounts without obtaining users’ consent.” The complaint alleged that the practices violated California’s right-of-publicity and unfair-competition laws.

A federal court last year threw out much of the complaint but allowed a claim under the right-of-publicity law challenged LinkedIn’s practice of sending several follow-up emails suggesting that the recipients accept the invitation.

From there, the parties settled, ultimately agreeing to a $13 million deal, of which plaintiffs’ counsel may earn as much as $3.25 million in fees. Although a LinkedIn spokeswoman, Mary-Katharine Juric, didn’t disclose how many of the social media site’s 380 million members could be covered, individual sums presumably won’t be large.

The settlement includes a provision under which LinkedIn could add an additional $750,000 should payments fall below $10.

It was clear, as so often happens in class-action suits, that LinkedIn wanted to move on. In addition to highlighting changes to its policies, the company said in a statement that “ultimately, we decided to resolve this case so that we can put our focus where it matters most: finding additional ways to improve our members’ experiences on LinkedIn.”

Larry Russ of Russ August & Kabat was among the lead counsel for the plaintiffs; Jerome Roth of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP represented LinkedIn. Neither attorney returned calls seeking comment on the settlement.

The case is Perkins v. LinkedIn Corp., 5:13-cv-04303, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).

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