$54 Million Lawsuit Against Best Buy? Poof, Gone

By April 30, 2008Briefly Legal

Raelyn Campbell had her 15 minutes of fame but lost out on the $54 million she claimed she deserved. A Washington, D.C., Superior Court judge has dismissed her lawsuit against Best Buy (a fact we have not seen reported elsewhere).

Campbell is the D.C., woman who sued the electronics retailer after she took her laptop in for repairs to the Tenleytown store (that’s a neighborhood in northwest D.C.) and the computer went missing. According to her account, Best Buy wasn’t up front with her about losing the device and then tried to buy her off with coupons and settlement offers. That and her supposed concerns about identification theft led her to file a $54 million suit in D.C. Superior Court last November.

The very ridiculousness of the amount — which mimicked the $54 million suit by D.C. Judge Roy Pearson against his drycleaners for misplaced suit pants — undermined any legitimacy of her grievances. But the $54 million certainly gained Campbell publicity. She started a blog — Best Buy vs. Consumer Protection Blog — recounting her tribulations as a modern consumer. There was the NBC Today Show appearance, an interview on MSNBC, and articles in major newspapers like the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, trade publications like ComputerWorld, and activist blogs like The Consumerist.

In February, we called the suit outrageous, arguing, “The more time the court spends on her litigation after Best Buy made a serious settlement offer, the more taxpayer money the judicial system spends and the more economic resources are wasted on unproductive uses.”

Campbell has been quiet lately — her last blog post was February 15th — a sensible silence given the fact Judge Natalia M. Combs Greene dismissed her lawsuit on February 28th. (The Superior Court’s civil division has an online search function, which led us to the docket after about 10 minutes of work. The suit is 2007 CA 007641, Campbell v. Best Buy.Com, LLC.)

Best Buy has been seeking sanctions against Campbell for her lawsuit, several request rejected by the judge. However, the February 28th docket entry notes: “Deft. Atty. awarded 2 hours attorney fees as sanctions.” Campbell’s website provides her point of view about defense’s motions challenging the service of summons and other mishandled procedural steps. But in the end, the judge dismissed the suit.

What a waste, an expensive waste. Take a look at that docket, all the orders, hearings, appearances, summons, motions — months of work and tens of thousands of dollars (taxpayer dollars included) expended because of what, self-promotion? A legitimate complaint taken to absurd ends? Perhaps it started with a company that might have done better by a customer, but the ultimate source of all this waste was yet another American acolyte of “jackpot justice.”

Addendum: The case was dismissed two months ago. Funny how the news hadn’t been reported yet. And we did attempt to contact lawyers for both sides and Best Buy’s corporate headquarters this morning, but have not heard back as of yet.

Addenda: This blogger has bought one laptop from Best Buy, the Tenleytown store, and has had several service interactions with the company. No complaints, at all.

UPDATE (1:53 p.m.) A Best Buy spokeswoman, Dawn Bryant, responds (before this post went live) via e-mail that the company cannot comment at this time, but there was no settlement in the suit.

Join the discussion 6 Comments

  • R says:

    Well, the fact remains that even trying to get $54 million out of something like that is ridiculous. I agree that they should have handled it more quickly, but come on. They give her more than the computer is worth. There is NO mention of her ever having identity theft problems, or anything. Me? I’d rejoice in the fact that I’m getting new stuff for free, and can get any damn laptop I please. If you’re dumb enough to leave personal info and not encrypt it, you deserve to have it stolen.

  • dusty says:

    “The very ridiculousness of the amount…undermined any legitimacy of her grievances”

    What you fail to mention is that she chose this amount for one reason and one reason only – to draw attention to the case. In her own words, it was never her intent to collect that sum of money, just to draw attention to the highly inappropriate and incompetent manner in which Best Buy handled the issue. Your article sounds like you support Best Buys’ poor customer service and admonish those object to it.

  • br says:

    No way “tens of thousands of dollars” was spent on this case. Thousands would be generous. The case was active for 3 months and the only significant events were the filing of the Complaint, issuance of service, filing of a Motion to Dismiss and a hearing. Little work was expended. You are either ignorant of the court system or disingenuous. Plus, why blame her when it all could have been avoided had Best Buy done what was right in the first place?

  • The Truth says:

    In FACT BestBuy pushed money in to her account with out here concent and then called it a settlement – the lady did not agree to recieve that payment and the amount did not cover the cost of the laptop, lets not forget BestBuy lied for months about this.

  • hatrack says:

    It’s my understanding Best Buy offered her the $2500 after she filed the lawsuit. If they had treated her properly to begin with it never would have reached that point.

  • B***-monkey says:

    I remember when her suit made news. If I recall correctly, Best Buy offered her around $2500, which was more than the laptop was worth (even if you consider the data she lost).

    She rejected the offer, choosing instead to file this ridiculous suit. That’s the very definition of frivolous.

    I’m no fan of Best Buy. I think they offer mediocre products and terrible service, but this suit wasted a good deal of time and money – some of it belonging to the taxpayers.

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