A 75-year-old Chula Vista man who was one of the lead plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Trump University was awarded $15,000 for that role plus more as part of the $25 million settlement approved by a federal judge on March 31.
Sonny Low spent $27,500 on his credit cards to take real estate courses held by the unaccredited Trump University which held its classes in San Diego hotel rooms in 2009. He filed a lawsuit against Trump University in 2010.
U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel released a 31-page settlement approval March 31 that appears to pay most students back at about 90 percent of what they paid for the courses at Trump University, which went out of business in 2010.
Donald Trump agreed to settle the lawsuit Nov. 18, 2016, about 10 days before a 4-week jury trial would have begun in federal court in San Diego. He was elected president Nov. 8 and he paid the $25 million in December.
“We’re not taking a dime,” said plaintiff attorney Patrick Coughlin after the March 30 hearing as he explained the lawyers for the former students were working “pro bono” without a fee.
Since Trump didn’t have to pay attorneys’ fees, Trump considered the settlement “a really good deal,” said Coughlin.
Low and four other people whose names were listed as key plaintiffs on the case were awarded $15,000 each by Curiel, who detailed their duties on the long running class action suit. Low and the others will also be receiving more money as part of the settlement.
Low produced 1,357 pages of documents for attorneys, all of whom agreed to waive their fees. He participated in two depositions in October 2012 and in April 2016. Low also spent many hours with attorneys preparing for trial and also participated in a mock trial.
Low devoted hundreds of hours to the case and authorized attorneys to agree to the settlement. He was in the audience March 30 as attorneys talked about finalizing the settlement.
Curiel wrote that 8,253 claim forms were sent to all potential class members, and the settlement administrator received 4,090 claim forms filled out by the March 6 deadline.
One former student, Sherrie B. Simpson, who is now an attorney herself and lives in Florida, disagreed with the settlement and her attorneys asked Curiel not to approve it. Simpson wanted the opportunity to sue Trump by herself.
One plaintiff attorney told the judge Simpson was “looking for an apology (from Trump) and you can’t get this from litigation.” Other attorneys also said Simpson was seeking an apology from Trump.
Former students said Trump University employees pressured them to max out their credit cards. Low said he was told Trump would be sharing his real estate secrets.
Although Trump University claimed that Trump “hand-picked” all of the instructors, depositions of Trump show he did not know or remember anyone who worked at Trump University. Trump said in depositions he hired someone he had not met to hire the instructors, but he could not recall whom he had hired.