Week Adjourned: 1.27.17 – Charles Schwab, Jimmy Choo, Telemarketers

Top Class Action Lawsuits

Charles Schwab caught with their hands in your pockets? Maybe. At least according to a class action filed this week alleging violations of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”). It was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California against the Charles Schwab Corporation (“Schwab”) and certain of its subsidiaries on behalf of the participants in the 401(k) plan Schwab offered to its employees.

Short story: the complaint claims that Schwab included among the plan’s investment options certain mutual funds and collective trusts that were affiliated with Schwab, which allowed Schwab and its subsidiaries to collect unreasonable and excessive fees from its employees’ retirement savings. The complaint further alleges that Schwab imposed improper charges through a self-directed brokerage program, and used for its own purposes unallocated cash belonging to the 401(k) plan.

Specifically, the complaint alleges that Schwab’s conduct violated the fiduciary duties and prohibited transaction rules imposed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”).

Heads up—participants in the Schwab 401(k) Plan may be members of the class.

Top Settlements

Jimmy Choo to pay YOU—possibly. A $2.5 million settlement has been agreed by Jimmy Choo, potentially ending a privacy class action lawsuit alleging the luxury shoe manufacturer printed its customers’ sensitive data on credit card receipts, putting them at risk of identify theft, in violation of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA).

Filed by Plaintiff Kerri C. Wood in October 2015, the Jimmy Choo lawsuit claims the defendant printed credit and debit card expiration dates and other sensitive information such as home addresses, phone numbers and cashiers’ names on its store receipts, in violation of FACTA.

Wood alleged that despite having had years to ensure it was in compliance with the FACTA amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, Jimmy Choo deliberately chose not to comply.

According to the terms of the proposed Jimmy Choo settlement, Jimmy Choo would set up a $2.5 million fund to compensate opt-in class members who received point-of-sale credit or debit card receipts from a Jimmy Choo store containing a card expiration date between October 27, 2013, and November 2, 2013.

The estimated number of Jimmy Choo customers affected is 135,588. Depending on the exact number of the settlement class, each member could receive between $75 and $175 as compensation. Nice one.

The case is Kerri C. Wood v. J Choo USA Inc., case number 9:15-cv-81487, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

Meanwhile, back at the Call Center… Frontier Communications Corp agreed an $11 million settlement proposal this week, potentially ending a Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).

The lawsuit was filed by Diana Mey in 2013. In the complaint, Mey claims that she and thousands of others received automated telemarketing calls that were commissioned by Frontier and placed to them by Virido on the Five9 predictive dialer pursuant to a contract between Frontier and Virido using a list of telephone numbers that Frontier provided.

Under the terms of the proposed agreement, each member of the settlement class will get a base payment of $90. The balance of the fund will then be divided on a per-call basis to class members who received multiple calls.

The settlement class consists of any person or entities who received a cellphone call placed by means of what the plaintiff contends was an automatic telephone dialing system, or who received two or more calls in a 12-month period on a number that had been on the National Do Not Call Registry for more than 30 days at the time of the calls.

In court document presented by Mey, there is a proposed class of individuals and entities that own 36,219 unique telephone numbers that have been identified as having received allegedly unlawful calls from Frontier.

Mey also pointed out that the proposed payments to potential class members exceed those handed out in other TCPA pacts that have been given court approval. She specifically cited four settlements reached since 2010 that have offered claimants payments ranging from $15 to $61.49. 

Ok…That’s a wrap for this week. See you at the bar!

Week Adjourned: 1.20.17 – Walmart, Apple, J&J

Top Class Action Lawsuits

What are a few screws worth these days? A lawsuit—that’s what! Walmart is facing a class action lawsuit brought by customers who allege the big-box retailer is negligent in its in-store assembly of bicycles, a free service offered at all Walmart stores where bikes are sold.

Filed in Florida federal court by plaintiff Boyd Johnson, the Walmart lawsuit claims that Johnson purchased a semi-assembled Roadmaster Granite Peak bicycle from a Walmart in Pompano Beach, Florida. He had the bike assembled completely by store employees upon purchase. However, shortly after bringing the bike home and taking it for a ride the handle bars allegedly slid down due to an improperly installed bolt, causing him to lose control and fall to the pavement, injuring his face, shoulder and right side of his body.

Walmart began using its own employees to assemble bikes in 2014. Prior to that, the company had used third party vendors to do full assembly of the bikes. Walmart employees also assemble patio furniture and other products in-store, according to the complaint.

The employees that now carry out the bike assembly received “inadequate training,” according to complaint, and carry out the assembly of a bike with no assembly checklist, which are “crucial to maintaining safety standards” and readily available.

“Walmart has already been sued on the subject of improper bike assembly, yet injuries are still occurring due to the continuance of careless and sloppy in-house assembly of their bikes,” the lawsuit states. “The public should expect Walmart’s bike assemblers to be trained in bike assembly and require inspections before placing the bikes in the stream of commerce.”

According to the complaint, Wal-Mart’s bike assemblers are allegedly not properly trained or certified, which has led to the “negligent and reckless bike assembly procedures” that ultimately injured Johnson and likely other consumers, the suit states. The retailer could have provided that training and certification for less than $30 per employee.

Further, the complaint states that the Walmart bike assemblers are under such “pressure to assemble bikes as fast as they can” in order to meet customer demands that they can’t conduct inspections of the bicycles they assemble before handing them off to customers.

“They do not have time to properly inspect the bikes after assembly and fail to inspect even the most basic safety features, such as making sure that bolts are properly tightened or that brakes and tires are properly installed,” the complaint states. Yes, no, that’s not good.

The lawsuit claims negligence and breach of warranties and is seeking certification of a class of Florida and national consumers who purchased a bike from Wal-Mart that was improperly assembled. The suit also asks that Walmart be enjoined from continuing its allegedly negligent practices among other things.  The case is Johnson v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., number 0:17-cv-60116, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

Here’s hoping everyone rides off into the sunset happily ever after on this one.

Unsafe Apples? This is interesting…A proposed unfair business practices class action lawsuit has been filed against Apple alleging the tech giant doesn’t install a “lock-out-device” on iPhones to prevent California motorists from texting while driving, putting profits ahead of customer safety.

Filed in California state court the complaint represents proposed class plaintiff Julio Ceja who claims that Apple has been granted a patent by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2014 for the “lock-out-device” technology. However, Ceja claims the company has failed to modify iPhones with the device for fear of losing market share to other phone makers, to the detriment of public safety. According to the lawsuit, Apple has had the technology to prevent texting and driving since 2008.

The Apple complaint alleges unlawful, unfair and fraudulent business acts and practices by Apple. The suit seeks to block the company from selling iPhones in California that do not have the disabling lock-out device. Additionally, the suit seeks a court order that Apple update its existing iPhones with this technology.

BTW—if you were wondering how much Apple makes on sales of its iPhones—the complaint notes that the company generated $8.5 billion in profit from smartphone sales in the third quarter of 2016 alone, and an average of 586,000 iPhones per day in 2016.

Do here’s the math as it relates to texting and driving accidents:

“With 26 percent of these accidents being caused by motorists using their cellphones, and Apple’s 40 percent market share, this translates into at least 52,000 automobile accidents in California being caused by Apple’s iPhones each year,” the complaint states.  Wow.

Ceja, who lives in Orange County, CA, was waiting at a stoplight when a driver distracted by her iPhone struck him from behind, causing damage to his car and injuring his back, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit describes the proposed class as “all California residents whose safety has been put at risk as a result of Apple’s failure to install ‘lock-out devices’ on their iPhones,” starting from the time Apple began selling iPhones in the state, in 2007, to present day.

The case is Julio Ceja v. Apple Inc., case number BC647057, in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles.

Don’t think there’s any likelihood of driving off into the sunset with this baby—with or without the device.

Top Settlements

Asleep at J&J? Heads up if you bought Johnson & Johnson (J&J) bath and bedtime products: J&J is seeking final approval of a $5 million settlement of a consumer fraud class action lawsuit pending against it for alleged false advertising of certain bedtime and bath products. If you’re eligible—you could be in for a wee pay day.

The back story: The original lawsuit was filed by a mother in Illinois in July 2015, and combined with other similar lawsuits, which claimed Johnson & Johnson had violated Illinois’ Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act by labeling and advertising its bedtime bath products as “clinically proven” to help babies sleep better, even though the products had not been shown to have that effect.

The class covers consumers who purchased J&J bedtime products for home use within the United States or any U.S. territories from July 1, 2010, through August 31, 2016.

The agreement received preliminary approval in August 2016. According to the terms, J&J would pay $5 million and revise the language on its packaging of its bedtime bath products.

The case is Leiner v. Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies, Inc., case number 1:15-cv-05876, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Illinois.

Well folks –that’s a wrap for this week. See you at the bar.

Week Adjourned: 1.13.17 – Anheuser-Busch, TD Bank, Harmless Harvest

Top Class Action Lawsuits

Wage & Hour Lawsuit Brewing... Another year, another unpaid overtime class action lawsuit, likely one of many to come. This lawsuit has been brought against Anheuser-Busch (AB) alleging the brewer fails to provide proper rest breaks and adequate compensation for overtime for its delivery and store merchandise employees.

Filed by former temporary employee Jose Hernandez, the lawsuit claims that Hernandez’s wage statement did not differentiate between hours paid at the regular pay rate and those paid at an overtime pay rate. The lawsuit further claims that his total pay didn’t take into account the overtime he had worked.

Allegedly, AB also systematically denied its delivery and store merchandising workers their breaks and didn’t pay them for that time.

According to the allegations, Hernandez worked as a temporary employee setting up retail displays from August to October 2016, at a pay rate of $10.50 per hour. However, while working for AB, he was required to work through what was supposed to have been state-mandated break time. The defendant allegedly did not always pay Hernandez properly for the overtime and double time he was supposed to have earned, in violation of California labor law.

The hours worked in each pay period as listed on his wage statements didn’t add up to the total hours he had actually put in, and the company didn’t always compensate him for the overtime he worked, Hernandez claims.

Heads up – Hernandez is looking to represent a class of delivery and merchandising employees for Anheuser-Busch’s California business who received itemized wage statements, worked more than 3.5 hours without a break, or worked more than eight hours in a day from January 2013 to the present, according to the complaint.

The case is Jose Hernandez v. Anheuser-Busch LLC et al., case number BC646330, in the Superior Court for the State of Los Angeles, County of Los Angeles. 

TD Facing OD Charge Lawsuit… OD as in “overdraft”. Like the banks aren’t making enough money. TD Bank got hit with a potential class action lawsuit alleging it “unlawfully” applies overdraft fees that penalize customers who don’t replenish their overdrawn bank accounts within 10 days. Read on…

Filed on behalf of Shaina Dorsey, the TD Bank lawsuit contends that the sustained overdraft charge of $20 is imposed on customers’ accounts after an initial charge of $35 for the overdraft itself, and exceeds the limit permitted by the National Bank Act.

“Unlike an initial overdraft fee, the Sustained Fee for Overdrawn Accounts is an additional charge to a customer for which the bank has provided nothing new in the way of services,” the lawsuit states. “The charge is based solely on the alleged indebtedness to the bank remaining unpaid by the customer for a period of time.”

According to the complaint, Dorsey’s checking account went into “overdraft” status in August 15, 2016 and remained that way until September 8, 2016. The $20 fee on August 26, 2016 was in addition to six other fees totaling $210 “for transactions that created her ‘overdraft’ status in the first place.” Ouch!!

The class action suit claims that the fees are technically interest charged at an illegal rate and, when factoring for the legally permitted rates, are tens of times greater than what could be imposed.

The lawsuit seeks plaintiffs who use TD Bank and were charged with the extended overdraft charges.

Go get ‘em!

Top Settlements

Harmless Harvest Harvesting Bucks Unfairly? The beverage company agreed to pay a $1 million settlement to end a pending consumer fraud class action lawsuit it’s facing over alleged false advertising.

FYI—the Harmless Harvest lawsuit claimed that the coconut water product packaging contained false and misleading statements that its Harmless Harvest 100% Raw Coconut Water (later renamed Harmless Coconut Water), Harmless Harvest 100% Raw Coconut Water Dark Cacao, Harmless Harvest 100% Raw Coconut Water Cinnamon & Clove, and Harmless Harvest 100% Raw Coconut Water Fair Trade Coffee were falsely labeled as “100 percent Organic” and “Raw”.

Under the terms of the proposed agreement, Harmless Harvest has agreed to have an independent third-party consultant watch over them for a period of two years from the effective date of the settlement. The consultant’s role  will involve reviewing product labels for ongoing accuracy (as they can’t do this in-house?) and provide reports to class counsel.

About the money…the company also agrees to bear the cost of the consulting fees. The company has also agreed to pay incentive awards to the named plaintiffs, totalling $20,000.

The proposed settlement class includes “all persons in the United States who made retail purchases of one of more of Harmless Harvest’s coconut water products in the United States at any time from September 30, 2011, through the date of Preliminary Approval.”

Don’t get excited just yet – the proposed settlement requires final court approval. The case is “Raw” Coconut Water Class Action Lawsuit is Guoliang Ma, et al. v. Harmless Harvest Inc., Case No. 2:16-cv-07102, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

We will keep you posted so watch this space for updates.

Well folks –that’s a wrap for this week. See you at the bar.

Week Adjourned: 1.7.17 – St. Ives Scrub, DuPont Dumping, Milk Pricing

Top Class Action Lawsuits

Lawsuit Claims Scrub the Advertising…not your skin. The makers of St. Ives Apricot Scrub are facing a consumer fraud class action lawsuit that claims the facial cleansing product damages users’ skin.

Filed by Kaylee Browning and Sarah Basile in the U.S. District Court in California against Unilever, the parent company of St. Ives, the lawsuit claims that advertising for the product states it will give people softer skin. However, the plaintiffs claim the product is “unfit” to use. They state in the lawsuit that the scrub contains crushed walnut shells, which make the product completely unsuitable to be used on one’s face.

The St. Ives scrub lawsuit cites a 2015 quote in a New York Magazine article by a dermatologist who said: “[l]arge, hard, and sandlike rocks” like those in St. Ives Apricot Scrub are “too abrasive for the face’s thin skin.”

Citing another quote from that same article, the lawsuit contends that abrasive scrubs create “micro-tears” in the skin, and that this damage makes the skin “more vulnerable to environmental damages, pollution, and sun damage.”

The plaintiffs claim that Unilever has known about these issues, as it advertises the product as being “dermatologist tested.” Yet despite knowing this, Unilever does not disclose that the product causes skin damage or that it is not actually recommended by dermatologists, the plaintiffs claim.

Further, the plaintiffs assert that Unilever’s representation that St. Ives Apricot Scrub is “non-comedogenic,” i.e. that it does not tend to clog pores is false, as several of the product’s ingredients are allegedly highly comedogenic.

The named plaintiffs seek to represent a nationwide Class consisting of all persons in the U.S. who purchased St. Ives Apricot Scrub. They also propose to represent two subclasses, each from their respective home states of California and New York.

The lawsuit is Kaylee Browning, et al. v. Unilever United States Inc., Case No. 8:16-cv-2210, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

Top Settlements

Chemical Dumping Victim Awarded $10.5M. DuPont’s losing—to the tune of millions. $10.5 million in punitive damages has been awarded to a man who alleges DuPont’s C8 chemical dumping caused his cancer. This punitive award is the largest punitive to date in the multidistrict litigation (MDL).

The jury awarded the $10.5 million on top of $2 million in compensatory damages, to Kenneth Vigneron as well as his attorney’s fees. Vigneron claims that DuPont’s decades long practice of dumping Teflon ingredient C8 into the air and water from their factory on the Ohio river in West Virginia, has caused a cancer cluster in a number of Ohio water districts.

Verdicts from two earlier trials favoring the plaintiffs in the MDL are on appeal. The next trial is set to begin January 17, with 11 more trials set for later in the year in four different cities.

The cases are In re: E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co. C-8 Personal Injury Litigation, case number 2:13-md-02433, and Vigneron v. DuPont, case number 2:13-cv-00136, both in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.

Consumers Getting Milked? At a loss for words on this one—well at least polite words. A $52 million settlement has been reached in an antitrust class action lawsuit pending against several milk producers alleging they conspired to fix milk prices.

According to the complaint, the defendants, namely National Milk Producers Federation aka Cooperatives Working Together (CWT), Dairy Farmers of America Inc., Land O’Lakes Inc., Dairylea Cooperative Inc. and Agri-Mark Inc., participated in an agreement to prematurely slaughter the dairy cows in their herds and, as of April 1, 2009, they agreed not to re-enter the dairy farming business for at least one year. Who does this?

“The principle purpose and effect of this contract, combination and conspiracy has been to reduce the supply of milk, eliminate competition, and significantly reduce the number of dairy farmers competing in the market in order to increase the price of raw farm milk,” the lawsuit states.

Under the terms of the proposed milk pricing antitrust settlement, which requires final court approval, a total of $52 million in compensation will be made available to Class Members. The actual amount of compensation each Class Member can expect to receive depends on how much milk was purchased for their household, and how many total claims are filed.

Eligible class members include consumers who purchased milk or other milk products including half & half, cream cheese, sour cream, cottage cheese, yogurt or cream, since 2003 while living in one of these states: Arizona, California, District of Columbia, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Consumers must have bought the milk products from a grocery store or other retailer and not directly from the defendants.

Well folks –that’s a wrap for this week. See you at the bar.

Week Adjourned: 12.31.16 – Wells Fargo, Behr Paint, Volkswagen

Top Class Action Lawsuits

All is not Well at Wells Fargo? Not by a long shot. Employees from Wells Fargo Bank have filed an employment class action lawsuit alleging they were pressured into unethical sales conduct under threat of retaliation if they failed to cooperate.

Specifically, the Wells Fargo employees claim they were forced to inflate sales figures by opening new customer accounts that customers had not agreed to and to open accounts for non-existent customers. Further, the lawsuit claims that employees who did not engage in this alleged behavior were threatened with discipline or termination. Employees who did participate were rewarded, the lawsuit claims. Read on…

The alleged misconduct involved Wells Fargo employees having to set up a target of eight accounts, or “solutions,” per customer, which is far greater than the industry standard of three accounts per customer. The employees allege that these sales goals were impossible to meet without engaging in underhanded behavior.

The Wells Fargo lawsuit asserts that Wells Fargo’s motive was to increase its stock price by setting unrealistically high sales goals for its employees.

Wells Fargo allegedly aggressively and unlawfully encouraged sales misconduct among its employees by threatening retaliation against workers who refused to engage in the sales misconduct. Those employees were allegedly “routinely counseled, warned, written up, demoted, placed on performance improvement plans, forced to quit, denied promotions, or fired as a result of not meeting sales goals, even though they could have easily met such goals by engaging in Sales Misconduct,” according to the complaint.

The plaintiffs seek to represent a Class encompassing all current and former U.S. employees of Wells Fargo who were subject to the sales goals described in the lawsuit and who were not terminated for engaging in sales misconduct.

Several subclasses have also been proposed in this action, which would represent employees who suffered adverse employment actions for failing to reach sales goals, who reported their concerns about the alleged unlawful sales conduct, or who had their employment terminated or who were let go for reporting or refusing to engage in the alleged misconduct.

The plaintiffs are seeking an award of damages, including two times the amount of back pay for alleged violations of the Dodd-Frank Act and treble damages as applicable under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO. They also seek reinstatement for eligible Class Members under the Dodd-Frank Act.

Not Painting a Pretty Picture…And another employment suit filed this week—this one by employees of Behr Paint, alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and California labor law. The defendants are Behr Process Corp., Behr Paint Corp. and Masco Corp.

According to plaintiff Ryan McBain alleges he was employed as a field representative by the defendants and assigned to different Home Depot stores. He claims his responsibilities were answering customer inquiries, replenishing stocks and maintaining store displays. He alleges he was required to prepare time-consuming reports and shuttle between stores and was misclassified as exempt from overtime pay and was not provided with proper meal and rest periods.

In the Behr lawsuit, McBain claims the defendants failed to adequately compensate him for his work as a field representative. The lawsuit also claims that the defendants allegedly failed to keep accurate payroll records of hours worked, meal periods taken, and overtime worked by their employees, refused to pay any overtime compensation to employees for hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week and refused to provide adequate meal and rest periods.

The plaintiff is seeking a trial by jury and seek judgment in his favor, designate collective action, declare misclassification of class members, unpaid wages, liquidated damages, civil penalties, unpaid wages from meal/rest periods not taken, reimburse business expenses, interest, costs and expenses of action, attorneys’ fees and other relief as the court deems just.

FYI – The case is U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California Case number 3:16-cv-07036.

Top Settlements

Meanwhile, North of the 49thVW managed to reach a $2.1 billion settlement in the Canadian class action pending over the so-called Volkswagen and Audi defeat devices that temporarily reduced vehicle emissions enabling the diesel engines to pass regulatory emissions tests.

Additionally, the settlement terms stipulate that Canadian owners of diesel-equipped vehicles made by Volkswagen AG will be able to sell their cars back to the auto maker.

The settlement will cover approximately 105,000 Canadians who bought Volkswagen or Audi vehicles equipped with 2.0-liter diesel engines between 2009 and 2015. Each class member will receive $5,100 to $8,000 in compensation. Class members who decide to sell their vehicles back to Volkswagen Canada will receive a payment in addition to the value of their car.

The settlement is expected to receive final approval from Ontario Superior Court and the Superior Court of Quebec pen in March, 2017, after which class members will receive payouts.

The settlement is valued at $2.1-billion if all eligible owners apply and receive the full amount they are entitled to and all eligible vehicles are traded in. It will be among the largest amounts paid out in a class-action suit in Canada.

That’s a wrap for 2016!!! Happy New Year – to you and yours. See you at the bar.