The cy pres doctrine is derived from the French expression “cy pres comme possible,” which means “as near as possible.”
“[A cy pres] decree awards to a charity the money that would otherwise go to the members of the class as damages, if distribution to the class is infeasible.” Hughes v. Kore of Indiana Enterprise, Inc., 731 F.3d 672, 675-76 (7th Cir. 2013). “In the class action context the reason for appealing to cy pres is to prevent the defendant from walking away from the litigation scot-free because of the infeasibility of distributing the proceeds of the settlement (or the judgment, in the rare case in which a class action goes to trial) to class members.” Mirfasihi v. Fleet Mortg. Corp., 356 F.3d 781, 784 (7th Cir. 2004).
On occasion, distribution of benefits to all individual class members is infeasible. In those instances, we negotiate in an attempt to prevent a defendant or an insurance company from taking back unclaimed or undistributed money and to provide awards to legal assistance foundations and other not-for-profit organizations. As a result, courts have awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars to many terrific, qualified entities on our recommendation.