Settlement Reached in Lawsuit Against Publishers Clearing House
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) _ Publisher’s Clearing House agreed Tuesday to give millions of people another chance in its sweepstakes so it could settle a lawsuit over entry forms that were thrown away.
Under the settlement, everyone who was sent a contest form between Feb. 10 and Oct. 7 and from whom no response was received will be entered into drawings for three major prizes, the company announced.
The lawsuit was brought by Gary Lewis of South Orange, who charged in an Oct. 13 complaint that the company had thrown away entry forms from contestants who did not agree to buy magazine subscriptions.
The company acknowledged that several thousand unprocessed forms were mistakenly dumped, but denied it was intentional.
″I’m satisfied there was no deliberate discarding of entries,″ said Jeffrey Herrmann, the attorney for Lewis. ″Everybody will be made whole. We accomplished what we set out to do.″
Herrmann said the settlement covered ″tens of millions″ of people. David Sayer, executive director for advertising of Publisher’s Clearing House, said the company would not release the number.
Publishers Clearing House, whose sweepstakes mailings include a magazine order form, does not require magazine purchases for eligibility in the contest, company officials said.
Sayer said everyone who did not respond to the company’s mailings during the eight-month period will be entered in a contest for a $10 million prize, another for a $1 million prize and a third for a car or a $50,000 cash equivalent prize.
As part of the settlement, an independent accounting firm will monitor the company’s handling of the new sweepstakes entries.
″It gives the public an additional sense of security that this is going to be carried out properly,″ Herrmann said.
Superior Court Judge Murray Simon must approve the settlement. A hearing has been scheduled before Simon in Newark on Nov. 25.
Lewis decided to file the lawsuit after seeing a television news report that sanitation workers in the New York City borough of Queens had found unopened sweepstakes forms in the trash.
The company blamed an independent mail processing contractor for the dumping and said entries that included magazine orders were also dumped.
″This was a very isolated instance,″ Sayer said. ″We have been running this contest with the utmost integrity for 25 years.″ He said that all processing of forms is now done internally by the company.
Sayer also said that Lewis’s entry had been found and entered into the contests prior to the settlement.
Sayer said that of the 15 winners of sweepstakes prizes of $1 million or more, 11 did not subscribe to magazines when they entered.