Week Adjourned: 7.26.14 – Kia, Lexus, Johns Hopkins

The week’s top class action lawsuits and settlements. Top lawsuits include Kia, Lexus and Johns Hopkins.

Kia Logo2Will 2014 be remembered as the year of the Car Recall?

 Top Class Action Lawsuits 

So, who’s lost count of how many defective auto recalls we’re up to now? Here’s a couple more…this time it’s Kia and Lexus…

Surprise! Kia Motors America Inc. got hit with a defective products class action lawsuit this week, filed in California federal court over allegations the car maker failed to disclose a defective brake switch in certain models. The defect can cause the brake light to fail to illuminate and cruise control to remain on, increasing the risk for accidents. Ok—that could be dangerous.

The Kia lawsuit, filed by lead plaintiff William Precht, claims that Kia was aware of the brake switch defect for years, and went as far as to initiate recalls for a number of different models in 2009. The company also initiated recalls in May 2013 which did not include its 2011 Sportage, 2008-2010 Optima and 2008-2011 Sedona vehicles, despite the fact that those models were also affected. Kia allegedly expanded the recall to include the vehicles in November 2013 but did not notify consumers, the complaint states.

According to the lawsuit, “Defendant does not dispute the safety risk caused by the brake switch defect, yet it has not effectuated any purported recall of the class vehicles and has left class members with an acknowledged safety risk and unreimbursed repair bills.”

The backstory—Precht alleges he purchased a new Sportage vehicle in 2011, but began having difficulty engaging the car’s automatic transmission during the winter of 2013. Precht alleges he was repeatedly unable to put the car in gear even after depressing the brake pedal, causing the anti-lock brake and front-wheel drive slippage icons to illuminate on the dash. He claims he was forced to manually access an override in order to place the vehicle into drive again.

According to the complaint, Precht took the car to an authorized Kia repair facility for assistance, only to be told that such repairs were not covered under the warranty, causing him to pay $140 to have the defect repaired.

The lawsuit alleges Kia knowingly hid from consumers that the vehicles’ brake switch contained a defect that leads to brake light failure, cruise control not cancelling with depression of the brake pedal, the push button start not functioning and the shift interlock remaining stuck in park so the vehicle cannot be moved.

The complaint states that once the defect occurs in the cars, it poses a safety risk to both driver and passengers, with the brake light failure increasing the risk of rear-end collision, and the failure of cruise control failure increasing the risk for a front-end collision. Further, if the push button start doesn’t function, the car cannot be shifted into drive or reverse from park, leaving individuals stranded, the lawsuit states.

The defect typically manifests itself shortly after the vehicles’ warranties expire, the suit claims, resulting in the automaker refusing to cover repair costs of an issue it hid from consumers.

The lawsuit is seeking certification of a nationwide class of owners and lessees of the affected models, as well as a Florida subclass, and includes claims for state law violations, breach of warranty and negligence.

The suit is Precht v. Kia Motors America, Inc., case number 8:14-cv-01148, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

Lexus—what’s their tagline—something about the relentless pursuit of perfection? They are also facing a defective products class action lawsuit filed by two independent Lexus owners who allege the luxury vehicle company, and its parent, Toyota Motor Corp, sold defective vehicles with interiors that are unable to withstand the Florida heat. Are you kidding?

Nope. The Lexus lawsuit, contends that the dashboards and other, similar interior components of their Lexus vehicles grew sticky, oily, shiny, cracked and otherwise degraded in appearance when exposed to the natural heat and humidity in Florida. Yuk.

The skinny—Daniela Perez and Jesus del Rio allege that Lexus was aware of the problem with the dashboards but refused to make repairs in the affected vehicles once the warranties expired. While Toyota sent out a service bulletin to its dealerships in 2011, alerting dealers to the defect and instructing them to make repairs on the burned dashboards, the dealerships refused to repair damages in vehicles that are no longer covered by the Lexus comprehensive warranty.

Further, Perez and del Rio allege that the vehicles were marketed as being suitable for the climate in Florida yet the product disintegrated in the heat under normal conditions in the vehicles, “These vehicles are marketed as luxury vehicles and as the product of Lexus’ never-ending ‘pursuit of perfection,’” the plaintiffs alleged in the suit, and they state that the dealerships refused to do anything about it. The complaint names two Lexus dealerships, Lexus of Kendall, which serves Miami, Coral Gables and South Florida, and Scanlon Lexus of Fort Myers. It also names Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc.

The case is Daniela Perez et al. v. GFB Enterprises LLC d/b/a/ Lexus of Kendall et al., in the Circuit Court of the 11th Judicial Circuit In and For Miami-Dade County.  

Top Settlements

This is just bad all round. A $190 million settlement has been awarded against Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore in settlement of a medical malpractice class action lawsuit that alleges a gynecologist secretly photographed his patients. I don’t know—I’m thinking malpractice doesn’t quite get to the heart of this one.

The Johns Hopkins lawsuit, with more than 9,000 plaintiffs, claims that Dr. Nikita Levy used hidden surveillance cameras on his patients, including one hidden in a camera pen.

Levy, an obstetrician-gynecologist, was employed at Johns Hopkins from 1988 to 2013. The lawsuit claimed that the hospital should have been award of what Levy was doing, and that they failed to supervise him properly or investigate him.

In February 2013 Levy was fired from the hospital and just 10 days later he committed suicide.

Ok – Folks –time to adjourn for the week.  Have a fab weekend –see you at the bar!


Week Adjourned: 7.18.14 – Subaru, Kroger, Ralph’s, Sony PlayStation

Top class action lawsuits and settlements for the week…top stories include Subaru, Kroger, Ralph’s and Sony PlayStation.

Subaru Forester 2014Top Class Action Lawsuits 

Suing Subaru… that’s right folks…if you own or lease certain Forester, Legacy, Outback, Impreza and Crosstek models you can join a Subaru class action lawsuit alleging the company knowingly sold vehicles containing a defect that causes the cars to consume excessive amounts of oil. Also known as consumer fraud…

According to the complaint, filed by Lead plaintiffs Keith Yaeger and Michael Schuler, Subaru concealed from consumers the fact that certain Forester, Legacy, Outback, Impreza and Crosstek models have defective piston rings that prevent the engine from maintaining the proper level of oil and cause an abnormal amount of oil consumption, leading to engine failure and increasing the risk of accident.

“Not only did Subaru actively conceal the material fact that particular components within the class vehicles’ engines are defective, they did not reveal that the existence of the defect would diminish the intrinsic and resale value of the class vehicles and lead to the safety concerns described herein,” the lawsuit states.

Yaeger and Schuler bought new Subarus in 2012 and 2013 respectively, after which they independently noticed their new vehicles were consuming engine oil at an “unacceptable” rate. They were forced to add oil to their cars between Subaru’s recommended engine oil change intervals in order to avoid engine failure, the complaint states.

Further, the lawsuit states that both plaintiffs took their vehicles to their Subaru dealerships for repairs, but despite extensive servicing, the Subarus continued to burn through oil rapidly.

The plaintiffs allege Subaru has known of the oil consumption defect in model years 2011-14 Subaru Forester 2.5L, 2013 Legacy 2.5L, 2013 Outback 2.5L, 2012-13 Impreza 2.0L and 2013 XV Crosstek 2.0L vehicles, for some time, through numerous complaints received from dealers and consumers through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Regardless, the lawsuit states, Subaru actively concealed the defect from consumers. The company has also “routinely refused” to repair the vehicles without charge, according to the complaint.

Subaru updated its online information to acknowledge that certain vehicles run through oil quickly, but has not recalled the vehicles to repair the defect, offered its customers a suitable repair or replacement free of charge or offered to reimburse customers who have paid to repair the cars, the lawsuit states.

The putative class alleges violations of New Jersey and California consumer protection laws, breach of express warranty, common law fraud and more. The complaint asks the judge to certify a nationwide class of current or former owners or lessees of the affected vehicles, in addition to California, Florida and New Jersey state subclasses.

The lawsuit is Yaeger et al. v. Subaru of America Inc. et al., case number 1:14-cv-04490, in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.

Got it? 

Overworked and underpaid… The grocery chain Kroger Co. and several of its units are facing a wages and overtime class action lawsuit filed by its delivery drivers in California. According to the putative class in the Kroger lawsuit, the workers weren’t fully paid for the many overtime hours they worked. Know this story?

Defendants Kroger and its units Ralphs Grocery Co., Foods Co. and two Food 4 Less entities allegedly failed to pay more than 1,000 drivers, dispatchers and delivery-support staff wages and overtime, while requiring them to work extra hours the complaint states.

Lead plaintiff, Jesse Blanco, alleges the stores “routinely required plaintiffs to work more than eight hours per day and, in some instances, more than twelve hours per day, and more than forty hours per workweek and, in some instances, seven days for extended, ongoing time periods.” Further, Blanco claims the companies cut wages by rounding time; “failed and refused to pay overtime”; and cheated the workers of meal and rest breaks required by California law.

FYI—the putative class includes all hourly delivery drivers, dispatchers and support staff employed by the stores in the four years leading up to the complaint. The plaintiffs are asking for a permanent injunction, compensatory damages and a variety of penalties. Yeah Baby! 

Top Settlements

Sony singing the “I will pay you” blues…to the tune of $15 million—at least according to a preliminary settlement reached in the pending data breach class action lawsuit. If approved, the settlement would see $15 million in games and online currency made available to class members as well as identity theft reimbursement. The lawsuit was brought by PlayStation Network (PSN) users affected by a massive 2011 Sony Corp. data breach.

Eligible class members include all persons residing in the US who had a PlayStation Network account or sub-account, a Qriocity account, or a Sony Online Entertainment account at any time prior to May 15, 2011, when it was revealed that hackers had broken into Sony’s network and obtained data on as many as 31 million account holders.

According to the Sony settlement agreement, Sony will provide affected consumers with “various benefits,” depending on the type of accounts they had and if they can prove that their data was misused, to resolve the dispute over the 2011 breach.

Following the discovery of the data breach, Sony offered its PSN users free identity theft protection, among other benefits. However, under the terms of the settlement agreement any class members who didn’t take that deal can choose two items from a mix of games, online display themes and a three-month subscription to Sony’s PlayStation Plus service, with a cap set at $6 million.

For those class members who did take Sony’s initial package, they will receive one of the items, with a cap set at $4 million. Class members who weren’t part of PSN but had accounts for a different Sony gaming service will get $4.50 of in-game currency, with a $4 million cap.

Sony agreed to reimburse up to $2,500 per class member for the identity theft claims, up to $1 million. It also allowed users to transfer any unused online currency into cash and give some class members a one-month subscription to its music streaming service.

Sony customers that fall within the class definition will be automatically bound to the settlement unless they opt out. Class members who wish to opt out from the settlement class have 21 days prior to the date of the final fairness hearing in May to notify the court of their intention to opt-out.

The case is In re: Sony Gaming Networks and Customer Data Security Breach Litigation, case number 3:11-md-02258, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.

Ok FolksWe’re Done HereHave a wonderful weekendwe’ll see you at the bar!

Week Adjourned: 7.11.14 – Kindred Healthcare, Suave, Overdraft Fees

The week’s top class action lawsuits and settlements. Top lawsuits include Kindred Healthcare, Suave and Comerica Overdraft Fees.

Kindred HealthcareTop Class Action Lawsuits

Kindred Healthcare, is not taking care of its own… according to California wage and hour class action lawsuit filed this week. You probably know the song sheet by heart by now—but permit me a wee refresher. KH and its affiliates, Professional Healthcare at Home, LLC and NP Plus, LLC are accused, by its caregiver employees in California, of failing to pay minimum wage and overtime (really?), and violating meal and rest period laws.

FYI—Kindred is one of the largest post-acute health service providers in the US.

Ginger Rogers, (not making that up) one of the named plaintiffs in the Kindred Healthcare class action, said “I believe they didn’t pay me all my wages when I was assisting a Kindred client in her home. And when I went to care for another client in a facility, I had to work long shifts without any meal or rest breaks.” Emma Delores Hawkins, another named plaintiff, was allegedly denied overtime pay for work performed, according to the complaint.

This one’s just out the gate. It will be interesting to see how it grows…

Top Settlements 

Now it’s Unilever’s turn to have a bad hair day. The chemical manufacturer and maker of Suave Professionals Keratin Infusion 30-Day Smoothing Kit and defendant in a defective products class action lawsuit, received final approval of a $10.2 million settlement, which some of the plaintiffs thought to be too low. But—as the judge pointed out—they are free to drop out and file their own lawsuits. The class action alleged that Unilever PLC’s Suave Keratin hair products caused consumers to suffer hair loss and/or scalp injury. Really not the desired effect, I’m betting.

The backstory—the Suave lawsuit was filed in August 2012, claiming Unilever made false and misleading statements about the safety of the Suave Professionals Keratin Infusion 30-Day Smoothing Kit, which was recalled in May 2012. Specifically, the complaint asserts that Unilever failed to inform consumers that the hair product posed an unreasonable risk of hair and/or scalp injury. The lawsuit is Sidney Reid, et al. v. Unilever United States Inc., et al., Case No. 1:12-cv-06058, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.  

Under the terms of the Suave Keratin settlement, a Reimbursement fund of approximately $250,000 and an Injury fund of about $10 million will be created. The Injury Fund will compensate Class Members who were injured by the Suave Keratin product for medical expenses and emotional distress associated with their Smoothing Kit injuries. Class Members who suffered Smoothing Kit injuries may submit a claim for reimbursement ranging from $40 to $25,000, depending on the extent of their injuries and proof of their treatment expenses.

Class Members who did not suffer an injury from the Smoothing Kit are eligible for a reimbursement of up to $10.

Keratin Suave class members include all persons who purchased the Suave Professionals Keratin Infusion 30-Day Smoothing Kit in the United States for personal or home use before February 17, 2014.

For detailed information about the settlement, and filing a claim, visit www.Suave30DaySmoothingKitLawsuit.com. 

We haven’t seen one of these in a while… Final approval has been granted in the $14.5 million settlement of consumer fraud class action involving overdraft fees charged by Comerica Bank NA. The class action involved people who had been charged overdraft fees on their Comerica Bank accounts between 2004 and 2010. The Comerica overdraft class action lawsuit alleged the bank posted debit card transactions in dollar amounts ordered from highest to lowest so as to maximize the number of overdraft fees it could levy against its customers.

According to the lawsuit, rather than declining transactions that would put a customer into overdraft, Comerica authorized the transactions, subsequently processing them in an order that would increase the banks’ overdraft revenue.

Eligible class members include anyone who held a Comerica bank account in Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan or Texas and incurred one or more overdraft fees as a result of Comerica’s non-consecutive posting of transactions between 2004 and 2010. Specific class periods vary by state.

The Class Periods by state are:

• For Settlement Class Members who opened accounts in Arizona, the period from February 18, 2004 through August 15, 2010.

• For Settlement Class Members who opened accounts in California, the period from February 18, 2006 through August 15, 2010.

• For Settlement Class Members who opened accounts in Florida, the period from February 18, 2005 through August 15, 2010.

• For Settlement Class Members who opened accounts in Michigan, the period from February 18, 2004 through August 15, 2010.

• For Settlement Class Members who opened accounts in Texas, the period from February 18, 2006 through August 15, 2010.

Eligible class members must have had two or more Overdraft Fees caused by debits posted to their accounts on a single day during the time period listed above. For further information on the Comerica class action lawsuit settlement, and to download forms, visit: http://comericabankoverdraftsettlement.com/Home.aspx

The case is Simmons v. Comerica Bank NA, Case No. 10-cv-22959, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. It is part of multidistrict litigation known as In re: Checking Account Overdraft Litigation, Case No. 1:09-md-02036-JLK, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

Ok Folks—We’re Done HereHave a wonderful weekendwe’ll see you at the bar!

Week Adjourned: 7.4.14 – Adobe, Fluidmaster, J. Crew

The week’s top class action lawsuit and settlement stories–4th of July edition! Top stories include Adobe Creative Cloud, Fluidmaster and J. Crew.

Adobe Creative CloudTop Class Action Lawsuits

Heads up all you Designers and Creatives out there…Adobe Creative Suite billing may just be a little too creative. Adobe got his with a consumer fraud class action lawsuit this week alleging the software maker charges an illegal termination penalty for cloud subscription access to its blockbuster applications such as Photoshop and Illustrator.

Filed by Scotty Mahlum, in California Federal Court, the Adobe lawsuit alleges that Adobe’s early termination fee, which can add up to hundreds of dollars, violates California’s Unfair Competition Law and Consumers Legal Remedies Act. It sure seems to be a blatant cash grab—opinion here…

“[The fee] is designed to maintain recurring revenue by preventing subscribers from cancelling, rather than to compensate for any damages sustained by [Adobe],” Mahlum said. [If Adobe] “has suffered any damage upon early cancellation, the ETFs are not a reasonable measure or approximation of such damages.”

According to the complaint, a monthly subscription for access to Adobe’s complete cloud suite is $49.99 or $9.99 per month for access to individual programs. But if consumers end their contracts early, Adobe charges them 50 percent of the remaining value of the contract. “Because Adobe has no expenses after a subscriber downloads Creative Cloud Software to a computer, 50% of the remaining contract obligation is a windfall for Adobe,” the lawsuit states.

The Creative Cloud programs include Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Premiere, After Effects, Audition, Dreamweaver and other programs.

The subscription contract is a take-it-or-leave-it proposition and gives consumers no opportunity for term negotiation, the Adobe lawsuit contends. Mahlum alleges Adobe phased out the option to buy copies of the software outright in the spring of 2013 and that he signed up for a complete plan in October but canceled it in March.

Mahlum seeks a permanent injunction against collection of the ETFs and wants the company to pay back all ETFs it has collected from the class, which he says should include all current or former subscribers in the U.S. who were charged the fee.

In a December earnings report, Adobe revealed it had ended the 2013 fiscal year with 1.4 million Creative Cloud paid subscriptions, an increase of 1.1 million over the course of the year. The lawsuit contends that Adobe’s revenue from the cloud model jumped from $160 million in the second quarter of 2012 to $255 million in the second quarter of 2013.

The case is Mahlum v. Adobe Systems Inc., case number 5:14-cv-02988, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

It would appear there’s Nothing Fluid about this Crap… at least according to some very pissed off consumers who filed consumer fraud class-action lawsuit against Fluidmaster Inc., this week. The lawsuit claims that the plumbing product and toilet repair company knowingly sold defective toilet connectors that spontaneously broke, causing millions of dollars in property damage at homeowners’ expense. Nice!!!

The Fluidmaster complaint, filed April 24, 2014, in the US District Court for the Central District of California, states that Fluidmaster elected to sell faulty plastic toilet connectors even when it was mechanically and financially feasible for the company to sell an existing, safer alternative design. According to the lawsuit, more than a million defective toilet connectors were sold in the US. Ok—that’s a lot of folks. That’s a lot of damage.

Apparently, upon realizing that its plastic toilet connectors were routinely cracking, leaking and causing significant damage, Fluidmaster responded by lowering its 10-year warranty to five years, according to the lawsuit. The complaint’s two named plaintiffs experienced massive property damage after their Fluidmaster toilet connectors spontaneously failed. One of the plaintiffs, Brian Kirsch, received a call while on vacation from his garbage collector informing Kirsch that water was spilling from an upstairs window of his home and raining into his garage. Kirsch’s home had to be gutted and completely renovated while he and his family were displaced.

Due to the material and design of the toilet connector, the plastic was susceptible to bending with weight and pressure over time, according to the suit. The complaint also cites the company’s poor instructions and warnings that failed to provide the customer with sufficient information to safely and properly install the connectors.

After reducing the product’s warranty, Fluidmaster began to redesign the toilet connector in mid-2011, marketing and selling a new, reinforced connector. According to the complaint, the company never publicized that the product was redesigned and did not recall the defective products from its distribution networks. It also did not notify property owners that the defective products could spontaneously fail and should be replaced, keeping the defective products in use, according to the complaint. That’s just plain shitty (couldn’t resist!)

Top Settlements

J. Crew to pony up for Illegal Zip Code Collection….Yup—a preliminary settlement has been approved in a zip code collection class action lawsuit pending against J. Crew Group Inc. The lawsuit alleged the retailer unlawfully collected customers’ ZIP codes during credit card purchases and used the information to send unsolicited marketing materials to those customers.

According to the terms of the J. Crew settlement, J Crew will provide $20 vouchers to eligible class and a $3,000 award to the class representative, lead plaintiff Lauren Miller, who alleged the company began sending her unsolicited junk mail after she made two credit card purchases in 2011 and 2012. Prior to providing her ZIP code during those transactions, she hadn’t received any promotional materials, according to the complaint.

Miller had urged the judge to approve the settlement earlier in the month, telling the judge that the settlement sufficiently covered the damages stemming from J. Crew’s allegedly improper ZIP code collection.

“The action seeks to redress J. Crew’s alleged unlawful invasion of its customers’ privacy and its alleged violation of the laws of the commonwealth of Massachusetts designed to protect consumers’ rights to be free from intrusive corporate data collection and marketing. The settlement substantially achieves this goal,” Miller said in a memorandum.

The settlement will put to bed claims of the proposed class of Massachusetts customers who used a credit card at the retailer’s stores after June 20, 2009, and whose ZIP code was subsequently recorded. J. Crew denies any wrongdoing.

The class action is Miller et al v J. Crew Group, case number 1:13-cv-11487, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

Ok FolksHappy Fourth of JulyHave a wonderful weekendand we’ll see you at the bar!