Week Adjourned: 11.30.12 – Toys R Us, Generic Lipitor, Lucky Brand Jeans

Ploys R Us? Toy retail giant Toys R Us, Inc, got hit with a potential consumer fraud class action lawsuit by an angry customer who feels he was duped over the Thanksgiving weekend. Essentially, the lawsuit alleges engaged in a Toys R Us bait-and-switch scheme that lured in online shoppers with offers of valuable free gifts that turned out be small or non-existent.

Top Class Action Lawsuits

Ploys R Us? Toy retail giant Toys R Us, Inc, got hit with a potential consumer fraud class action lawsuit by an angry customer who feels he was duped over the Thanksgiving weekend. Essentially, the lawsuit alleges engaged in a Toys R Us bait-and-switch scheme that lured in online shoppers with offers of valuable free gifts that turned out be small or non-existent.

Naughty, naughty!

The backstory: William Probert, (who filed the lawsuit), claims he was lured to the Toys R Us website to purchase four Lego building sets, worth $62 and $112 each, based on an ad promising he would receive $15 Lego building set as a free gift with purchase. Instead, Probert was offered a $5 Christmas tree figurine and a $5 magnet.

The short version on the allegations: that Toys R Us used misleading sales tactics which included promising customers free gifts like a $15 Barbie clothing outfit when they purchased a $75 Barbie Doll. However, most shoppers received much cheaper incentive gifts because the company either stocked an “exceedingly limited” number of the advertised free gifts or had no intention of giving expensive gifts.

Specifically, the Toys R Us lawsuit states, “Under this business model, consumers almost always receive a ‘free gift’ of substantially lesser value than what was advertised and which served as the basis of the bargain, or no ‘free gift’ whatsoever.” And, “This business practice, thus, constitutes a modern ‘bait and switch’ scheme. Toys R Us does not honor its promises to provide the promised free gift, and indeed never intended to honor its promises.”

Statin Trouble. Heads up anyone taking Atorvastatin (generic Lipitor) manufactured and sold by Ranbaxy Pharmaceuticals. A consumer fraud class action lawsuit has been filed in the United States District Court, District of New Jersey on behalf of a class of all purchasers of certain bottles of Atorvastatin (generic Lipitor) that were manufactured and sold by Ranbaxy Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (Read more on the generic Lipitor class action lawsuit here.)

In case you missed it—which was easily done by the way—the pharmaceutical company recently conducted a limited, voluntary recall of Atorvastatin calcium tablets, (generic Lipitor). The retail-only recall concerns its 10mg, 20mg and 40mg dosage strengths, packaged in 90’s and 500 count bottles and only with respect to certain select lot numbers. Ranbaxy admitted that the product contained glass particles.

The lawsuit alleges that the defendants manufactured and sold a dangerous and defective product, violated consumer fraud laws, and otherwise acted improperly with respect to the tainted Atorvastatin. For example, when Ranbaxy learned that their product was tainted, Ranbaxy conducted a recall but it was only at the retail level. The recall by Ranbaxy did not include a notice to consumers who purchased the tainted product as to what they should do with the tainted product or what they should do if they ingested it. The limited recall also did not include a notice to consumers or retail pharmacies about how the consumers could obtain a refund of the money paid for the product. In fact, Ranbaxy has not offered a refund to consumers.

The class action seeks a total product recall, with notice to consumers about the tainted product. The lawsuit also seeks a refund of the money paid for the product. Hey Ho!

Top Settlements

Lucky Brand Jeans—Not So Lucky? Possibly not. A federal judge has preliminarily approved a $9.9 million settlement of a class action lawsuit filed against Lucky Brand Dungarees, Inc. and its marketing subcontractors. The Lucky Brand lawsuit alleged the clothing company was in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) because it sent unsolicited text spam as part of a 2008 back-to-school promotion.

The lawsuit, entitled Robles v. Lucky Brand Dungarees, Inc., Case No. 10-cv-4846, was filed by Juvenal Robles in October 2010, who represents an estimated 216,000 class members, all of whom may be eligible to receive up to $100 per claimant if the settlement receives final court approval.

The lawsuit claimed that Lucky Brand sent unsolicited spam texts to thousands of customers’ cellphones. Those messages offered $25 off Lucky jeans or offering store location services to consumers that responded with their ZIP codes.

According to the lawsuit, the Federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) prohibits companies from contacting people on their mobile phones by using an “automatic telephone dialing system” or using “an artificial or prerecorded voice” without their prior express consent. Some courts have even applied the TCPA to unsolicited text messages, or “text spam.”

Eligible class members include consumers that received the Lucky Brand text spam between August 24 and September 15, 2008. Further details on the preliminary settlement have not been made public.

And on that note—I’ll see you at the bar. Have a great weekend!

Week Adjourned: 11.23.12 – Pepperidge Farms, Bear Stearns, Medifast Diet

Here’s the weekly wrap of top class action lawsuits and settlements for the week ending November 23, 2012. Top lawsuits include Pepperidge Farms, Bear Stearns and Medifast diet claims.

Top Lawsuits

Something’s Fishy with those Fishy Crackers. Is nothing sacred? Pepperidge Farm is facing a potential consumer fraud class action lawsuit over the use of the word “natural” on the product label for its Cheddar Goldfish crackers.

Filed by Colorado resident Sonya Bolerjack, the fish cracker class action lawsuit alleges the company “mistakenly or misleadingly represented that its Cheddar Goldfish crackers are ‘Natural,’ when in fact, they are not, because they contain Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in the form of soy and/or soy derivatives.” Specifically, Bolerjack claims that the product is not natural due because it contains soybean oil. Really?

The lawsuit contends that Pepperidge Farm violated Colorado’s Consumer Protection Act by engaging in deceptive trade practices; breached express warranties including that the product is natural even though it contains GMOs; and negligently misrepresented to the public through its packaging and labeling that the product is natural even though it contains GMOs. That laundry list ought to tie things up nicely for a while.

The plaintiff is seeking certification of a class of “all United States persons who have purchased Pepperidge Farm Cheddar Goldfish crackers containing Soybean Oil, for personal use, during the period extending from November 6, 2008, through and to the filing date of this Complaint.” FYI—that was roughly, approximately, don’t quote me, around the 19th of November.

Top Settlements

Remember Bear Stearns? Not fondly, I’ll bet. They were one of the first investment houses to fall in the 2008 financial crisis. Well, a while back they agreed to pony up $294 million to settle securities and ERISA  lawsuits and this week a federal judge approved those settlements. The lawsuits were filed against The Bears Stearns Cos. Inc, certain of its former officers and directors, and the company’s former outside auditor, over allegations they misrepresented Bear Stearns’ exposure to the subprime mortgage lending crisis. No comment.

This week, a federal judge ruled that the settlements are procedurally and substantively fair (In re Bear Stearns Companies Inc. Securities, Derivative, and ERISA Litigation, MDL No. 08-md-1963, No. 08-2793, S.D. N.Y.).

So, according to the terms of the Bear Stearns settlements, US$ 275 million will be paid by current owner of The Bear Stearns Cos. JPMorgan Chase & Co. Inc., while another $ 20 million will be paid by former outside auditor Deloitte & Touche LLP. The judge also certified a class of all purchasers of Bear Stearns common stock from December 14, 2006, to March 14, 2008. I’ll bet there are a more than a few former employees who will be happy about this news.

Medifast Told to Reduce the Hyperbole—after being put on a diet of honest advertising (?), which they didn’t stick to. And, they’ve been told to avoid all unsupported claims (otherwise known as consumer fraud) about the benefits of their weight loss products for the good of their future health. Yep—this week, Jason Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Medifast Inc, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), agreed to a $3.7 million Medifast settlement resolving charges about the claims the company made about their weight loss products and programs.

Medifast-brand low-calories meal substitutes, including its most popular plan called the Medifast “5 and 1” plan that consists of 800-1,000 calories per day, are sold by Jason Pharmaceuticals. The FTC alleges the company made false and misleading claims about the success people have had with the programs, in achieving or maintaining weight loss or weight control. Notably, these claims were in direct violation of a ban imposed on the company in 1992, by the FTC. Each day the company violated the ban, it could be fined up to $16,000. And they were thinking maybe they wouldn’t get caught? Seriously?

In their case, United States of America (for the Federal Trade Commission), Plaintiff, v. Jason Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Defendant (United States District Court for the District of Columbia), Case No. 1:12-cv-01476, FTC Docket No. C-3392, the FTC claims Jason Pharmaceuticals made unsupported representations since at least November 2009. These claims implied or stated that using Medifast programs and products would allow consumers to lose 2-5 pounds per week. The company also represented that the experiences of consumer endorsers featured in the advertisements were typical, and that consumers would lose more than 30 pounds. So, we’re back to exercise and sensible eating? Not good timing, given the season.

And on that note—I’ll see you at the bar—the Turkey is calling! Have a great Thanksgiving weekend!

Week Adjourned: 11.16.12 – Time Warner, Iraq War Vets, Wal-Mart

The weekly wrap of top class action lawsuits and settlements, for the week ending November 16, 2012. Top class action news includes Time Warner, Iraq War Vets, and Wal-Mart workers comp.

Top Class Action Lawsuits

License to Steal? Depends how you define the term “Steal” – if Time Warner has its way, it will be defined as a “modem lease fee.” Not surprisingly, this seemingly minor addition to the monthly fees their customers already face is being challenged in not one but two consumer fraud class action lawsuits. The allegations involve said modem “lease” fees, and the way in which the company announced the new fees. As many as 15 million customers could be affected by the lawsuits.

In the Time Warner class action papers filed in New York and New Jersey courts, customers contend that the $3.95 fee is illegal because it’s not included in existing customer agreements, the company did not give mandatory 30-day notice and it notified customers with a “paltry postcard.”

Furthermore, while Time Warner told its customers that they could buy their own modems, it stipulated that customers could only use approved devices—all of which are the more expensive Motorola models.

“It’s just a scam to increase revenue,” said Steven Wittels, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs. The fee took effect October 15, and is projected to raise $40 million a month and more than $500 million a year in revenue for Time Warner, which is currently valued at around $19.7 billion. ChaChing!

Time Warner contends it was going to use the funds to improve its infrastructure and service. That’s a lot of infrastructure!

The suits were brought on behalf of Manhattan resident Kathleen McNally and Fort Lee resident Natalie Lenett as well as all customers in the 29 states where Time Warner operates.

Top Settlements

Iraq War Toxic Exposure Settlement. 12 soldiers who became ill after serving in the Iraq war have been awarded an $85 million settlement in their personal injury lawsuit against American military contractor Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR).

In their lawsuit, the first concerning soldiers’ exposure to a toxin at a water plant in southern Iraq, the servicemen allege that KBR was negligent. Specifically, they claim that as a result of exposure to sodium dichromate, they now suffer from respiratory diseases. Furthermore, they are deeply concerned that a carcinogen the toxin contains, hexavalent chromium, could cause cancer later in life.

Each of the dozen Army National Guardsman involved in the lawsuit was awarded $850,000 in non-economic damages and another $6.25 million in punitive damages for “reckless and outrageous indifference” to their health.

Another lawsuit from Oregon Guardsmen is on hold while until trial is completed. Additional, similar lawsuits are also pending in Texas involving soldiers from Texas, Indiana and West Virginia.

KBR was the engineering and construction arm of Halliburton during the Iraq war. Halliburton and KBR split in April 2007.

Wal-Mart Injured Workers Settlement. Wal-Mart’s back in our weekly wrap–can you guess what for? Yes—it’s employment related. Final approval of an $8 million settlement has been granted by a federal judge, ending a workers compensation class action lawsuit brought by injured Wal-Mart employees in Colorado against the retailer and its service providers. The workers compensation lawsuit was brought in March 2009. The plaintiffs alleged the retailer, Claims Management Inc (CMI) and Concentra Health Services hindered medical providers from making independent judgements on how to treat injured workers.

Under the terms of the Wal-Mart settlement,  Wal-Mart Stores and its adjuster, CMI, must pay $4 million, while Concentra in Colorado, through its insurer, will pay another $4 million. Further, each injured Colorado Walmart worker who was treated at a Concentra facility will receive $520, while those treated at other facilities will receive $50.

The settlement also stipulates that Wal-Mart and CMI provide training to adjustors who will handle future worker compensations claims in the state. And, Concentra must also provide periodic training to its marketing and sales force regarding state laws that prohibit outside interference in how care is provided.

And on that note…I’ll see you at the bar–martinis are chilling! Have a great weekend!

Week Adjourned: 11.9.12 – Hyundai, Kia, 7Up, MoneyGram

The weekly wrap of top class action lawsuits and settlements for the week ending November 9, 2012. Top lawsuits include Hyundai/Kia Motors, Snapple’s 7Up soft drink and MoneyGram scams.

Top Class Action Lawsuits

Less is More: Less truth + Less miles per gallon than advertised = More fraud. At least that’s the math on the consumer fraud class-action lawsuit filed against Hyundai Motor America, Kia Motors America and Kia Motor Company of Korea. The class action was filed after regulators announced the companies overstated the fuel economy for many vehicles they sold in the United States. Now there’s a surprise.

Hyundai Motor Corporation admitted it overstated the fuel-economy estimates after independent tests by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) showed a discrepancy. Busted!

The Hyundai/Kia fuel economy class action lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Central California, seeks to represent all consumers who own or lease Hyundai and Kia vehicles whose EPA fuel economy ratings were less than the fuel economy rating produced by the applicable federal test in that model’s year.

According to published reports, Hyundai will lower fuel-consumption estimates on most Hyundai and Kia models produced in 2012 and 2013. It will reportedly lower estimates by as much as five miles-per-gallon for its Kia Soul Eco, and by one or two miles-per-gallon for most other models.

The automaker apologized to consumers, according to published reports, and blamed the issue on what the South Korean company called “procedural errors” in its testing, which was done by a Korean lab.

The lawsuit was filed for a Seattle woman who purchased a 2012 Hyundai Accent; an Arizona man who purchased a Hyundai Genesis sedan; an Arizona woman who purchased a Hyundai Genesis sedan; and an Illinois man who purchased a 2012 Kia Sorento, all relying on the fuel-economy numbers provided by the car manufacturer.

The lawsuit contends that Hyundai, owned by Hyundai Motor Company of Korea (KSE:005380.KS), and Kia Motors America, owned jointly by Hyundai Motor Company and Kia Motor Company of Korea (KSE:000270.KS), violated California’s Unfair Competition Law, its false advertising law and its consumer legal remedy act. The lawsuit also claims that Hyundai committed a breach of express warranty, and committed fraud and negligent misrepresentation under California Common Law, among other violations.

What’s Up 7UP? A consumer fraud class action lawsuit was filed against Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc., the maker of 7UP, over allegations the company misleads consumers about the health benefits of an antioxidant used in some varieties of some of the 7UP soft drinks. Antioxidants in soft drinks? What time did you say the tooth fairy was coming?

According to report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group for food safety and nutrition, Dr Pepper Snapple Group’s advertising and packaging suggest that the 7Up beverages contain antioxidants from blackberries, cherries, cranberries, pomegranates and raspberries, rather than added Vitamin E.

According to the National Cancer Institute, antioxidants help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals, which are unstable molecules associated with cancer.

Thursday’s lawsuit, entitled Green v. Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc., was filed US District Court, Central District of California, No.12-09567. It seeks class-action status on behalf of purchasers nationwide of the products, a variety of financial damages, and a halt to the alleged misleading advertising.

David Green, a resident of Sherman Oaks, California, and the named plaintiff in the class action lawsuit, alleges he would not have bought the soft drinks had he known their antioxidants did not come from fruit.

7UP Cherry Antioxidant was launched in 2009, and is also available as a diet drink. Other products include 7UP Mixed Berry Antioxidant and Diet 7UP Mixed Berry Antioxidant.

Top Settlements

MoneyGram Scam Busted. This is quite incredible. The money transfer company MoneyGram has agreed to forfeit $100 million and has admitted to wire fraud settling one of the biggest money laundering cases ever brought by the Justice Department.

According to documents filed on Friday, November 9, 2012, MoneyGram admitted that it failed to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program. The scams involved MoneyGram agents tricking customers into wiring money to the agents, who posed as relatives promising large cash prizes. MoneyGram reportedly knew about this, and the victims of the fraud–numbering in the thousands–complained to MoneyGram. However, the company took no action to stop it, instead they processed the transactions for those agents.

Customers reported fraud that added up to at least $100 million, the Justice Department said, and the money from the settlement will be used to compensate the victims. I should hope so.

And on that note- I’ll see you at the bar—time for some real antioxidants! Have a great weekend!


Week Adjourned: 11.2.12 – OTC Medicine, Bayer Aspirin, Burger King

This week’s wrap of top class action lawsuit news includes OTC Medicine expiration dates, Bayer Aspirin, and Burger King discrimination–the top class actions for the week ending November 2, 2012.

Top Class Action Lawsuits

What’s in an Expiration Date? According to three separate consumer fraud class action lawsuits filed this week, a whole lot of questionable motivation.

Filed against Pfizer (which makes Advil), Bayer (which makes Bayer aspirin) and Johnson & Johnson (which makes Tylenol Cold Multi-Symptom medications), the drug expiration date lawsuits allege the drug makers use “unconscionable, unfair, deceptive, unethical and illegal” means to promote the sales of their products. Specifically, the lawsuits claim that the these means involve the utilization of expiration dates to get consumers to throw away products that have passed their expiration dates, even though the companies know “that if stored properly these medications can and do remain chemically stable, safe and effective long after those dates.”

According to the consumer fraud lawsuits, studies by the Food and Drug Administration, Harvard Medical School, and Johns Hopkins University have found 90% of more than 100 prescription and over-the-counter drugs were fine and could be used for as much as 15 years after their expiration dates: this excludes certain drugs like tetracycline, nitroglycerin, insulin, and liquid antibiotics.

The lawsuit claims that the purpose of the expiration dates is “[T]o increase defendants’ sales and profits because consumers have to purchase replacement medications for those they have thrown out.” The class is seeking actual and punitive damages for consumers that purchased products from Pfizer, Bayer and Johnson & Johnson.

Top Settlements

And Speaking of Drug Marketing… A $15 million settlement has been reached in the consumer fraud class action against Bayer regarding allegations of false advertising around certain combination aspirin products that were sold without FDA approval.

The lawsuit, entitled In re: Bayer Corp. Combination Aspirin Products Marketing & Sales Practices Litigation, alleges Bayer violated state consumer fraud and deceptive business practices acts, express and implied warranty statutes, and unjust enrichment laws in connection with the sale and marketing of Bayer Women’s Low-Dose Aspirin plus Calcium and Bayer Aspirin with Heart Advantage.

If you purchased Bayer® Women’s Low Dose Aspirin + Calcium or Bayer® Aspirin with Heart Advantage, you may be a member of the Bayer Heart Advantage Class or the Bayer Women’s Class (collectively referred to as the “Settlement Classes”) – and thus eligible to receive money from the settlement – depending on (1) which Combination Aspirin Product you purchased, (2) whether you purchased it for personal, family or household uses, and (3) when it was purchased. Each Settlement Class only includes purchases of specific Combination Aspirin Products during specific periods of time.

If you purchased one or more of the Combination Aspirin Products for personal, family or household uses then you are eligible to participate in one or both of the Settlement Classes described in this Notice, provided that your purchase occurred during the time periods specified for each Settlement Class.

Class Members of the Bayer combination aspirin class action settlement include US consumers who purchased one or more of the following combination aspirin products for personal, family or household use during the following time period:

Bayer Aspirin with Heart Advantage Settlement Class: Purchase Date: January 1, 2008 to July 20, 2012

Bayer Women’s Low-Dose Aspirin plus Calcium Settlement Class: Purchase Date: January 1, 2000 to July 20, 2012

To learn more about making a claim and to download forms go to the Bayer Combination Aspirin Class Action Lawsuit Settlement at BayerCombinationAspirinSettlement.com.

Convenience Food not so Convenient… A proposed settlement has been reached in a discrimination class action lawsuit pending against Burger King. The lawsuit, brought by individuals who use wheelchairs and scooters for mobility, allege that they encountered access problems at certain California Burger King leased restaurants.

Specifically, the Burger King class action lawsuit alleges individuals who use wheelchairs and scooters for mobility have been subjected to discrimination at the restaurants that allegedly contain unlawful architectural barriers to access. The Burger King ADA lawsuit sought to remove the alleged barriers, and monetary damages for Class Members denied access to restaurants on or after October 16, 2006.

The proposed settlement terms includes a total of $19 million for monetary relief, which will provide an estimated average recovery per class member of over $8,200, after deductions for attorney’s fees and costs.

Burger King Corporation and the restaurant operators deny they did anything wrong. The parties have reached a settlement of this case. It is now up to the Court approve the proposed settlement.

To find out more and to obtain claim forms for the Burger King wheelchair class action, call 1-888-569-9477.

And on that note—I’ll see you at the bar. Have a great weekend!