Week Adjourned: 2.24.12

The weekly wrap of top class action lawsuits and lawsuit settlements for the week ending February 24, 2012.

Top Class Actions

Hotels.com—too good to be true? Kaylen Silverberg thinks so. She filed a consumer fraud class action lawsuit this week against the online booking agency, alleging it does not back up its promise to refund money if hotel guests can find a better rate elsewhere online.

Instead, Silverberg’s lawsuit claims, Hotels.com sets an “arbitrary and undisclosed limit” on refunds.

Silverberg’s lawsuit states Hotels.com will not back up its promise: “‘after you book with Hotels.com, if you find a lower publicly available rate on line for the same dates, hotel, and room category, we will match the price and refund you the difference.'” Instead, the lawsuit states, “Hotels.com has an arbitrary and undisclosed policy to refund only a portion of the difference between its rate and other, lower rates. For example, in Silverberg’s case, Hotels.com stated that ‘we can only refund you $142,’ even though the price difference was substantially greater.”

Silverberg’s story, short version, is allegedly that she booked a room through Hotels.com for two nights in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA., for $355 per night, then found a $223 rate at HotelClub.com. A third website advertised an even lower rate, $213. Silverberg then asked Hotels.com to back up its guarantee but she was told by the company that they would refund her only $71 a night, which she calls “an arbitrary and undisclosed limit.”

The lawsuit seeks restitution and class damages for breach of contract and unjust enrichment—otherwise known as “business as usual.”

Top Settlements

Every so often a class action settlement comes along that results directly from very unfortunate circumstances. This is one such settlement. This week, Teva Pharmaceuticals, the maker of Propofol, announced it will settle 120 personal injury lawsuits arising from a hepatitis C outbreak in Southern Nevada. The amount of the Nevada Propofol settlement is a reported $285 million.

The Israeli-based generic drug maker was facing lawsuits brought by some 150 former patients of The Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada and its sister clinics, who contracted the disease after receiving propofol at the clinics. LAS reported on this in some detail at the time.

According to a report in the Las Vegas Review Journal, nine hepatitis C cases were found to be linked to the clinics which were run by Dr. Dipak Desai. Seven of the nine cases were genetically linked to the center. Health officials called another 106 cases “possibly linked.” According to health officials, more than 60,000 former clinic patients were potentially exposed to hepatitis C because of unsafe injection practices by nurse anesthetists at the clinics.

Teva lost the first three trials and was facing payments of nearly $800 million dollars in compensatory and punitive damages. The fourth trial was under way when settlement talks began in earnest. The settlement leaves 15 lawsuits unresolved.

Antennagate may be drawing to a close…if a preliminary settlement reached in a defective products class-action lawsuit against Apple is approved. The lawsuit alleges underperformance of its iPhone 4 resulting from antenna problems. And oh brother did we ever hear about it! While the iPhone 4 settlement per class member is certainly not large, by anyone’s measure—the size of the class certainly is—25 million US residents no less, each of whom could receive $15 in cash or a bumper case provided by Apple under the terms of the settlement. So, don’t be quitting your day job just yet.

The class action combined 18 separate lawsuits, all of which allege Apple was “misrepresenting and concealing material information in the marketing, advertising, sale, and servicing of its iPhone 4—particularly as it relates to the quality of the mobile phone antenna and reception and related software.”

As part of the iPhone 4 settlement original purchasers will be sent emails before April 30, 2012 alerting them to the settlement. The claims period is then open for 120 days.

OK—And it’s off to the bar we go. See you there!

Week Adjourned: 2.10.12

A weekly wrap up of the latest class action lawsuits and lawsuit settlements, for the week ending February 10, 2012

Top Class Actions

If you didn’t need Zantac before, you may need after reading this… Walgreens is facing a consumer fraud class action lawsuit over allegations the drugstore chain, in partnership with Par, a manufacturer of generic pharmaceuticals, marketed generic versions of antacid Zantac and antidepressant Prozac in dosage forms that weren’t subject to private and governmental reimbursement limitations. “As a result of this unlawful conduct, Plaintiff and other third-party payors paid two to four times more than they would have had the prescriptions been filled as written,” the lawsuit claims.

United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) who filed the lawsuit, alleges in the Walgreens class action lawsuit that Walgreens and Par “engaged in at least two widespread schemes to overcharge insurance companies, self-insured employers and union health and welfare funds for the generic versions of Zantac, Prozac and other drugs.”

According to the lawsuit, “Walgreens purchased these dosage forms from Par—at a cost substantially higher than the widely prescribed dosage forms—and systematically and unlawfully filled its customers’ prescriptions with Par’s more expensive products, rather than the inexpensive dosage forms that were prescribed by physicians.”

Pharmacies cannot legally change a prescription without a physician’s express authorization; however, this class action lawsuit alleges Walgreens used expensive capsules manufactured by Par to fill prescriptions for the lower-priced tablets.

Top Settlements

For DES Daughters, Settled but not over… In a precedent-setting ruling, U.S. Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler has this week ordered 14 pharmaceutical companies to negotiate compensation for 53 women who brought a DES class action lawsuit against the drug companies. The women alleged their breast cancer was caused by their mothers’ use of an anti-miscarriage drug, taken decades ago, called Diethylstilbestrol, also called Stilboestrol or DES.

DES was a synthetic hormone given to six million women worldwide between the 1940s and the early 1970s to prevent miscarriage. The drug was taken off the market when studies showed serious Diethylstilbestrol side effects, including a link between DES and vaginal cancer–as well as a link between DES and breast cancer, in women exposed to the medication while in the womb.

Bowler’s decision, which will have far reaching consequences, came following expert testimony from the scientific community including the Chair of Harvard’s Department of Epidemiology. The testimony included facts supporting the women’s claims that prenatal exposure to DES substantially increased risk for breast cancer among “DES Daughters” over the age of 40. The data came from information collected by the National Cancer Institute DES Follow-Up Study, and shows that DES daughters over the age of 40 are roughly twice as likely to develop breast cancer as their counterparts who were not exposed to the drug in-utero.

Manufacturers of DES include Eli Lilly and Company and E. R. Squibbs & Sons, the predecessor to Bristol-Myers Squibb. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control an estimated 10 million women in the United States have been exposed to DES—including DES mothers, DES daughters, DES sons and DES grandchildren. Attorney’s representing the plaintiffs expect there may be many more women affected by DES who will come forward as a result of this ruling.

Now it’s time for JP Morgan Chase to write a check…as they have tentatively agreed to pay $110 million to settle an overdraft fees class-action lawsuit filed by customers who allege the bank charged excessive checking overdraft fees.

The lawsuit, filed in 2009 by Andrea Luquetta of Los Angeles, claimed JPMorgan engaged in “unfair, deceptive and unconscionable” assessment and collection of overdraft fees. Her complaint also refers to the practices of Washington Mutual, which JPMorgan bought in 2008.

Specifically, the lawsuit claimed that JP Morgan Chase processed its debit card transactions unfairly so it could maximize the overdraft fees customers paid, which, according to the lawsuit, was typically between $25 and $35 per overdraft. The lawsuit remains to be approved in court, and details of the settlement terms haven’t been made readily available yet, so watch this space for updates.

OK—they’re buying—that’s a wrap for this week. See you at the bar!

Week Adjourned: 2.3.12

A wrap up of the week’s top class action lawsuits and settlements, for the week ending February 3, 2012

Top Class Actions

Write this one up…The Hearst Corporation got hit with an employment lawsuit this week.

The Hearst lawsuit claims that the publishing giant illegally employs hundreds of unpaid interns in violation of federal and state labor laws, according to a newly filed employment class action complaint. Specifically, the lawsuit, filed on behalf of a former Harper’s Bazaar intern—Xuedan Wang, of Brooklyn, N.Y., accuses Hearst of paying interns no compensation for the work they perform, including minimum or overtime wages, and committing recordkeeping violations in violation of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and the New York Labor Law. Wang alleges that she regularly worked more than 40 hours per week, and sometimes as many as 55 hours per week (had she not seen “The Devil Wears Prada“?) , without compensation while at Harper’s Bazaar in 2011.

Lawyers representing the plaintiff state that unpaid interns are becoming the modern-day equivalent of entry-level employees, except that employers are not paying them for the many hours they work. The practice of classifying employees as ‘interns’ to avoid paying wages runs afoul of federal and state wage and hour laws. (Btw, if this sounds familiar, it is—we reported on the Black Swan movie production unpaid interns complaint a while back.)

The lawsuit seeks class action certification to recover unpaid wages, overtime pay, liquidated damages, interest and attorneys’ fees for unpaid interns who worked for Hearst between February 1, 2006 and the date of a final judgment. So, it’s been going on for a while.

Time to Foreclose on Dodgy Foreclosures. At least that’s what 16 Nevadans and fellow potential class members are aiming for. They filed a foreclosure class action lawsuit against five companies hired by banks and lenders to handle the foreclosures on properties owned by the plaintiffs and against one additional defendant who purchased property through the foreclosure process. The case was filed as a class action lawsuit because it is estimated that there are thousands of potential plaintiffs who were victims of these foreclosure companies.

The defendants named in the Nevada foreclosure class action lawsuit are: Quality Loan Service Corporation; Appleton Properties, LLC; MTC Financial, Inc. dba Trustee Corps; Meridian Foreclosure Service dba MTDS, Inc. dba Meridian Trust Deed Service; National Default Servicing Corporation; and California Reconveyance Company. Ringing any bells?

The specific allegations include illegal debt collection activities and deceptive trade practices by the defendants against the plaintiffs during the foreclosure process as the defendants were not licensed or registered in the State of Nevada to carry out the foreclosure process.

The plaintiffs are Nevadans who not only lost their houses in one of the hardest hit real estate markets, but were also adversely affected by foreclosure companies that did not follow the law during the foreclosure process.

The lawsuit alleges that the debt collection activities of the defendants are and/or were illegal and improper because each of the defendants did not hold a license to engage in debt collection activities in the State of Nevada and each also failed to register as a foreign debt collection agency with the Nevada Financial Institutions Division.

The illegal and improper debt collection activities include the issuance of debt-related notices, demands, collection communications and/or foreclosure sales and processes. In addition, the plaintiffs also claim deceptive trade practices, consumer fraud, unjust enrichment, trespass, quiet title and in two instances, elder abuse.

Plaintiffs are asking for compensatory and consequential damages in excess to $10,000, disgorgement of any amounts paid to defendants for their respective illegal and improper debt collection activities, attorney’s fees and injunctive relief.

Go get’em and good luck!

Top Settlements

$200M Motorola Proposed Settlement. A $200 million settlement has been reached with Motorola Solutions Inc, bringing to an end a securities lawsuit filed in 2007 by company shareholders. Motorola has denied any wrongdoing.

The securities lawsuit alleged the electronics manufacturer had artificially inflated its stock by making misrepresentations about the company’s projected revenues for the third and fourth quarters of 2006.

Lead plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Macomb County Employees’ Retirement System and St. Clair Shores Police and Fire Pension System.

Lawyers representing all plaintiffs said the settlement represents an extraordinary recovery for investors in a case where there was no financial restatement or (Securities and Exchange Commission) investigation.

If you were a Motorola shareholder between July 19, 2006, and January 4, 2007, you may be eligible for a recovery.

According to the terms of the Motorola proposed settlement, the plaintiffs’ attorneys are seeking fees of 27.5 percent of the settlement, or $55 million, and expenses of up to $4.95 million.

OK—they’re buying—that’s a wrap for this week. See you at the bar!