Week Adjourned: 1.10.14 – Target Data Breach, Carfax, JP Morgan Chase

The week’s top class action lawsuits and settlements. Top stories include the Target Data Breach lawsuit, Carfax, and more from Mr. Madoff…

Target LogoTop Class Action Lawsuits

Target targeted, by a computer virus and now a class action lawsuit. In case you hadn’t heard—the US’s second largest retailer got hit with a massive data breach just before Christmas—which latest reports indicate could affect as many as 70 million customer’s credit and debit cards.

Filed in California federal court by lead plaintiff Lisa Purcell (“Plaintiff”), the Target lawsuit seeks to represent all those similarly situated to obtain damages, restitution and injunctive relief for the Class. “The information Target lost, including Plaintiff’s identifying information and other financial information, is extremely valuable to thieves. As the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) recognizes, once identity thieves have personal information, they can drain your bank account, run up your credit cards, open new utility accounts, or get medical treatment on your health insurance,” the lawsuit states.

According to a statement issued by Target, the so-called track data was stolen in real time as payment cards were swiped in its stores between November 27, the day before Thanksgiving, and December 15.

The Target lawsuit states “Investigators believe the data was obtained via software installed on machines that customers use to swipe magnetic strips on their cards when paying for merchandise at Target stores.” And “The thieves may also have accessed PIN numbers for affected customers’ debit cards, allowing the thieves to withdraw money from those customers’ bank accounts. Thieves could not have accessed this information and installed the software on Target’s point-of-sale machines but for Target’s negligence, and that Target failed to implement and maintain reasonable security procedures and practices appropriate to the nature and scope of the information compromised in the data breach.”

Among the allegations is the clam that Target was negligent in its failure to implement and maintain reasonable security procedures and practices appropriate to the nature and scope of the information compromised in the data breach. Further, “Target unreasonably delayed informing anyone about the breach of security of Class Members’ confidential and personal information after Target knew the data breach had occurred,” the lawsuit states.

FYI—investigations into the breach are reportedly underway by the US Secret Service and two states’ attorneys general.

Carfax taking some Flak. An antitrust class action lawsuit has been filed against Carfax, alleging the company impairs competition through its exclusive and illegal alliances with Autotrader.com, and Cars.com, as well as with the majority of the automobile manufacturers’ certified pre-owned programs. The lawsuit further alleges that, as a result, automobile dealers are forced to conduct business with CARFAX at grossly inflated prices only to have CARFAX spend these inflated revenues on ads that disparage dealers as dishonest and untrustworthy.

The lawsuit, entitled Maxon Hyundai Mazda et-al. vs. Carfax, Inc, currently has approximately 500 dealer plaintiffs signed up, a number that is expected to increase as the suit progresses.

Top Settlements

More from Madoff… Ok—here’s one for the record books—a settlement for the Class of BLMIS/Madoff customers has been reached affecting (“Class Action Settlement”) all potential claims against JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. and its parents, subsidiaries and affiliates (“JPMorgan”). The proposed Class Action Settlement will be contemporaneously presented by motions for approval to both United States District Court Judge McMahon and to Bankruptcy Court Judge Lifland. The filed case number is 11-cv-7866 (VM) (U.S. Dist. Ct., S.D.N.Y.).

The settlement of this Class Action is one part of a multi-part resolution of Madoff-related litigation against JPMorgan involving simultaneous, separately negotiated settlements, which include the Class Action Settlement in the amount of $218 million, the SIPA Trustee’s Avoidance Action settlement in the amount of $325 million, and a resolution with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York that includes a civil forfeiture in the amount of $1.7 billion.

The payments by JPMorgan in connection with these agreements will total $2.243 billion and will benefit victims of Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.

Ok Folks, That’s all for this week. Happy New Year! Here’s to a peaceful and prosperous 2014 for all.

Week Adjourned: 12.20.13 – Snooki Diet, Major Bank Credit Card Fees x 2

The week’s top class action lawsuits and settlements. Top class actions for the week include Snooki’s would-be diet wonder and major bank credit card fees.

Snooki ZantrexTop Class Action Lawsuits

Is Snooki snookered? And maybe those of us using Zantrex? Christmas is not a good time to get the news that your diet pills may be snake oil. But, really, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Snooki, of “Jersey Shore” fame, is facing a federal consumer fraud class action lawsuit over allegations she promoted the diet pill Zantrex knowing that the pills don’t work. http://www.bigclassaction.com/lawsuit/snooki-zantrex-diet-pills-consumer-fraud-class.php

Basic Research LLC, Zoller Laboratories, three of their officers, and Nicole Polizzi aka Snooki are named as defendants by lead plaintiff Ashley Brady, who claims Zantrex combines caffeine with herbs that are “unsafe and ineffective for weight control or appetite suppression.” Brady further alleges that the three officers have been ordered to cease and desist selling fraudulent weight-loss products.

So re: the Snooki Zantrex lawsuit, here’s the skinny—(couldn’t resist that one) Brady alleges she bought a bottle of Zantrex-3 in 2010 after reading the label’s claims stating the drug would provide “546% More Weight Loss Than America’s #1 Selling Ephedra-Based Diet Pill,” and that it would make her lose weight “without diet and exercise.” (OK, what’s your first clue.)

According to the lawsuit, “Snooki represents … that Zantrex is safe and effective for weight loss and fat loss,” the lawsuit states. “These representations are false, misleading and deceptive because … Zantrex is neither effective nor safe for weight loss nor fat loss.” The complaint states that Snooki is the face of the Zantrex brand, promoting it on her websites, on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, and in celebrity gossip magazines.

Basic Research bills itself as “one of the largest ‘nutraceutical’ companies in the United States, with annual sales revenues in excess of $50 million,” the lawsuit states. Further, all three officers have come under fire for similar fraudulent schemes in the past. Defendant Dennis W. Gay is a principal and director of both Basic Research and Zoller; the FTC enjoined him in a similar case weight-loss fraud in 2006, according to the lawsuit. Additionally, defendant Daniel B. Mowrey was also enjoined from this conduct by the FTC’s 2006 injunction, and defendant Mitchell K. Friedlander, with Basic Research received a cease-and-desist order from the US Postal Service in 1985, also involving allegedly fraudulent weight-loss products, and a second USPS order involving bogus breast enlargement products, according to the lawsuit.

What’s that expression—“it’s the company you keep.”

Ho Ho Ho Baby!

What is this? Instant Replay? Almost. Following on the heels of a huge settlement by Visa and Mastercard in an antitrust lawsuit brought by thousands of small businesses across the US, (see below), a consumer banking class action lawsuit has just been filed against four major banks alleging they conspired to fix “interchange fees,” attached to the use of those same banks’ credit cards.

Those additional fees have cost consumers billions, according to the allegations. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Not to sound cynical, but the list of defendants shouldn’t’ come as a surprise. They are JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp., Capital One FSB and HSBC Bank USA NA. The allegations are that they conspired with credit card companies to arrange or ‘fix’ the swipe fees charged to customers when they use their credit cards. The credit care fee lawsuit contends this has cost cardholders (you and me)—are you ready for this—over $54 billion in illegal credit card and bank fees annually. That would fund a few retirement but not ours apparently. No surprise, the class action claims this “price fixing” is in violation of the Sherman Act and the California Business and Professions Code.

Filed by Melvin Salveson, Edward Lawrence, Dianna Lawrence and Wendy M. Adams, the potential class action seeks to represent a nationwide class of Visa and MasterCard holders.

The plaintiffs claim that they each purchased “thousands of dollars’ worth of goods and services and paid related Interchange Fees on Visa and MasterCard transactions at prices inflated by the Defendants’ price-fixing conspiracy over many years.” Further, because of these fees, the plaintiffs contend, they have purchased products at artificially inflated prices. According to the lawsuit, “This price-fixing conspiracy is ongoing and additional overcharge dollars are being extracted from Cardholders pursuant to the conspiracy every time they swipe their Visa and MasterCard payment cards.”

And—yes—there’s more—all this collusion has also resulted in a loss of competition from other cards, in that merchants were prevented, allegedly, from telling their customers that there were cheaper options when making a purchase

Entitled Salveson, et al. v. JPMorgan Chase & Co., et al., Case No. 13-cv-05816, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, the lawsuit claims “In furtherance of the conspiracy, Defendants and their co-conspirators also agreed to and have collectively imposed restraints on competition, such as so-called ‘Exclusionary Rules,’ ‘No Discount Rules,’ ‘No Surcharge Rules,’ and ‘Honor All Cards Rules,’ as well as Anti-Steering and other restrictions imposed upon merchants to the detriment of Cardholders,” the lawsuit states. The effect of these rules is such that merchants are prevented or prohibited from informing customers about the true costs associated with different forms of payments and from offering consumers an option to use a credit card with lower fees.

Specifically, “Through their common control of both Visa and MasterCard, Defendants and their co-conspirators have stifled competition between Visa and MasterCard and have thwarted competition from smaller competitor networks such as American Express and Discover,” the class action lawsuit states. “This reduction in competition among general purpose payment card networks has resulted in higher Interchange Fees, hindered and delayed the development and implementation of improved network products and services, and has lessened consumer choice.”

So these allegations, if proved true, would go along way to explaining how Visa and Mastercard can afford to pony up $5.7 Billion to settle an antitrust class action…but not everyone is happy with this settlement…

Top Settlements

Visa & MasterCard Pay Up… A settlement has been approved in a credit card fees class action lawsuit, by a United States federal judge. The settlement is for an estimated $5.7B, between Visa Inc (NYSE:V) and MasterCard Inc . The lawsuit was brought by thousands of retailers who alleged the credit card companies fixed fees that are charged to merchants every time their customers made use of their debit or credit cards. Additionally, the lawsuit claimed that Visa and Mastercard prevented merchants from informing customers about other forms of payments that were considerably cheaper.

The judge’s approval came amidst objections from literally thousands of retailers who were complaining that this amount was inadequate. It is believed that this settlement is the largest in any United States antitrust class action.

The class action was initially brought against Visa, then Mastercard in 2005, with both companies accused of fee fixing. A fairness hearing was held in September. The original settlement amount was $7.2B but was reduced to $5.7B after thousands of merchants dropped out of the settlement deal. The updated Visa and MasterCard settlement provides for cash payments to merchants across the country and also permits then to start charging customers and additional fee whenever a Master or a Visa card is used.

The National Retail Federation’s general counsel, Mallory Duncan said in a statement that his organization which had opposed this deal was now reviewing the ruling that they are expecting to file an appeal.

Ok Folks, That’s all for this week. Happy Holidays, be safe, and we’ll see you at the bar in time for a toast to 2014!

Week Adjourned: 11.15.13 – Kia Soul, Garnier Fructis, Miley Cyrus, Starbucks

The week’s top class action lawsuits including Kia Soul, L’Oreal Garnier Fructis, Miley Cyrus jewelry and Starbucks coffee.

Kia SoulTop Class Action Lawsuits

An Explosive Situation… Heads up to Kia Soul owners and anyone leasing the 2010-2013 models. Kia Motors is facing a defective automotive class action lawsuit alleging that some of its vehicles have fuel tank placements that place vehicle occupants at risk for fire in the event of collision. The specific models cited in the consumer fraud class action lawsuit are the 2010-2013 Kia Soul.

The Kia Soul class action lawsuit contends that there was a scenario in Texas, in which a Kia Soul exploded in a collision, and as a result of the defective gas tank design all three passengers in the rear compartment of the car burned to death.

Filed in California federal court, the lawsuit, entitled Constance Sims, et al. v. Kia Motors America Inc. et al., Case No. 13-01791, in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, alleges that Kia Motors America Inc, falsely misrepresented some of its vehicles as being constructed with “world-class quality.”

The design of certain Kia vehicles has the gas tank located directly under the rear seat. Further, the lawsuit alleges there are no means of protecting or reinforcing the fuel tank with reinforcing straps or a whole-tank shield, which is a practice commonly used by other automakers.

Therefore, the lawsuit contends, Kia passengers are unknowingly put at risk in certain types of collisions. Plaintiffs allege that placing the fuel tanks under the rear seat “increases the risk that the gas tank will dislodge and ignite in a major collision.”

The Kia defective automotive lawsuit also alleges the fuel pump cover is placed directly under the rear seat cushion, in order to allow mechanics easier access in the event of problem: mechanics would not necessarily have to remove the entire gas tank. However, should the gas tank become dislodged, the covering is plastic, “increasing the likelihood of a ‘blow torch’ [sic] fire in the rear compartment,” the lawsuit states.

The plaintiffs are seeking to represent anyone who purchased, leased and/or currently own or lease a Kia vehicle model that has a gas tank that is not properly secured or is covered by a plastic fuel pump service cover. They are also seeking damages for violations of the state Consumer Legal Remedies Act, Unfair Competition Law, false advertising, breach of implied warranty and fraudulent concealment.

Having a Bad Hair Day? Wait till you read this… L’Oréal is facing a defective product class action lawsuit over claims that it failed to warn customers that Garnier Fructis Sleek and Shine Anti-Frizz Serum has, as its main ingredients, cyclopentasiloxane and dimethiconol, which are flammable. According to the class action, the anti-frizz serum can catch fire at temperatures above 171 degrees and can cause substantial risk of burns to face, head and neck. One teenager has suffered significant burns to her face and scalp.

The Garnier Fructis lawsuit has received certification by strict Court Judge Christina A. Snyder of the Central District of California. The class action alleges that L’Oréal USA Inc, and L’Oréal USA Products Inc., failed to label the frizz-reducing product as combustible or flammable near flame, ignition or high-heat-producing styling appliances, and misrepresented the product as safe to use with such implements, according to court documents.

Filed by plaintiffs Jill Guido and Catherine Altamura of California; Natalie Lefebvre of Texas; and Lisa Pearly of New York, the lawsuit seeks to represent any person who purchased the Serum during the period from February 4, 2008, to the present. According to court documents, during the class period, L’Oréal sold some 9.9 million units of Garnier Fructis Sleek and Shine Anti-Frizz Serum in the US. So—heads up ladies… and gents.

Top Settlements

All that Glitters is not Gold…and now there’s a settlement as a result. That’s right folks. A settlement has been reached in the consumer fraud class action lawsuit alleging that Miley Cyrus-branded jewelry manufactured by BCBG Max Azria Group Inc., and sold through Wal-Mart stores, contained cadmium.

The lawsuit, entitled Canamore v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Case No. CV-2010-534, claims that had the plaintiffs known the Miley Cyrus jewelry contained cadmium, they would not have purchased it.

The Miley Cyrus jewelry lawsuit was filed on July 2, 2010. Defendants have denied and continue to deny any and all allegations of wrongdoing and liability. The Court has not decided which side is right.

FYI—you are a Settlement Class Member if you purchased Miley Cyrus-branded jewelry from a Wal-Mart retail store after July 1, 2005. A Final Approval Hearing will be held on December 30, 2013. There’s a little light reading with this one, so to find out your options, download forms, etc., visit: http://www.canamoresettlement.com.

Were you Scooped by Starbucks? If so, you may be entitled to some dosh. A proposed settlement has been reached in a consumer fraud class action lawsuit pending against Starbucks. The global coffee company has agreed to reimburse consumers who purchased less than one pound of scooped (not pre-packaged) Starbucks coffee beans between December 9, 2007 and November 7, 2011. The beans may have been purchased from any company-owned Starbucks store in the United States, other than half-pound purchases during January to March 2008 of coffee that had half-pound prices posted on menu boards during that time.

Among the allegations in the Starbucks consumer fraud class action, is that Starbucks (“Starbucks” or “Starbucks Coffee Company” or “Defendant”) failed to disclose to certain Starbucks customers who bought Starbucks scooped coffee beans in amounts less than 1 pound that the price was greater per pound than the amount charged for purchases of 1 pound of Starbucks coffee beans, according to the Starbucks settlement website.

According to the terms of the proposed settlement, Starbucks would provide a common settlement fund of $1,733,025.71, inclusive of settled claims, administrative expenses, attorneys’ fees, and costs. Starbucks would credit the My Starbucks Rewards accounts of Class Members who are My Starbucks Rewards Members in an amount calculated by multiplying $0.45 (an estimate of the weighted average Upcharge of all transactions by Class Members in the Class Period) by the number of Covered Purchases on each My Starbucks Rewards Member’s account identified in Starbucks’ business records or $5.00, whichever is more.

For consumers who are Starbucks Class Members but who are not My Starbucks Rewards Members, claims forms can be accessed online at: https://scoopedcoffeesettlement.simpluris.com/pages/ClaimForm.aspx or by downloading a claim form from the settlement website at www.starbucks.com/scoopedcoffeesettlement that can be printed out and mailed to Simpluris, Inc. P.O. Box 26170, Santa Ana, CA 92799.

Again, if you think you’re affected by this settlement there’s a little light reading involved, which you can access at www.starbucks.com/scoopedcoffeesettlement.

Ok Folks, That’s all for this week. And have a good weekend.

 

Week Adjourned: 11.1.13 – iMac, Trump U, Verizon

The week’s top class action lawsuits and settlements. Top stories include iMac faulty screens, Trump University and Verizon overtime class actions.

.appleTop Class Action Lawsuits

More Bad Apples! It seems Apple just can’t stay out of the news – but is publicity really good publicity in this case? The tech Wunderstar is facing a defective products class action lawsuit over allegations that iMacs sold with 27 inch screens have faulty displays.

Filed by Corbin Rasmussen, the Apple lawsuit contends that half of Rasmussen’s iMac display failed after only 18 months. The lawsuit further claims that Apple wanted $500 to fix the problem.

Rasmussen alleges this is not an isolated incident, that the problem with the iMac screen is widespread, and that Apple refuses to address the problem. Rasmussen alleges Apple misled consumers by selling them iMacs with displays that failed prematurely.

The iMac screen lawsuit states that hundreds of consumers who purchased 27-inch iMac had half the display fail just months after their warranties expired. It also alleges that when Apple updated the iMac line in 2011 it failed to make any changes to the display or video card in order to prevent the issue from affecting future iMac buyers.

Rasmussen alleges Apple’s marketing led him to believe the iMac was “designed for a long productive life,” and that 18 months of usability he experienced fails to live up to that claim.

The class action seeks to represent Rasmussen and all those similarly situated who purchased 27-inch iMac in the US before December 2012. The suit targets iMacs that used LG’s LED backlit display.

And, Speaking of Bad Apples… Donald Trump is facing consumer fraud class action lawsuit brought by a California businessman who alleges he was duped into spending $35,000 on essentially bogus programs at Trump University.

Filed in the Southern District of California, Plaintiff Art Cohen seeks to represent other buyers of the programs in a class-action lawsuit against Trump.

According to the Trump University lawsuit, Cohen learned about Trump University in 2009 through a newspaper ad. He alleges he received a “special invitation” from Trump, by mail, to the school which included two VIP tickets to a free seminar. Cohen subsequently took programs which, he alleges he would not have paid for had known he wouldn’t have access to Trump’s real estate investing secrets. He further alleges that Trump had “no meaningful role” in selecting the instructors and that Trump University was not a “university.”

“Trump did not fulfill the promises he made to student-victims around the country — he did not teach students his coveted real estate investing ‘secrets’ at the Live Events, he did not contribute in any meaningful way to the curriculum for the Live Events, and he did not handpick the Live Event seminar instructors and mentors who ‘taught’ student-victims at three-day Live Events and Elite mentorship programs — both of which were upsells from the free introductory Live Event called the ‘Preview,’” the 34-page complaint claims.

Cohen is not alone in his complaints against Trump University. According to the lawsuit, nearly a dozen state attorneys general and the US Department of Justice have received “numerous” complaints about Trump’s institution. In August, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a lawsuit against Trump and the Trump Entrepreneur Institute, formerly known as Trump University LLC, for allegedly engaging in deceptive and illegal conduct.

I wonder if The Donald should be teaching courses in “Dodging Consumer Fraud Lawsuits” instead…

Cohen is seeking damages and equitable relief on behalf of himself and the class, including, but not limited to, treble their monetary damages, restitution, injunctive relief, punitive damages, costs and expenses, including attorneys’ fees.

Top Settlements

Guess the Employees have been Heard Now! Verizon Communications has been ordered to pay $7.7 million to settle an unpaid overtime class action lawsuit brought by its retail employees.

The wage and hour class action alleged the wireless carrier was in violation the Fair Labor Standards Act and state wage laws, because it refused to its workers overtime and bonuses.

The Verizon settlement, approved by U.S. Magistrate Judge Maria Valdez, will end the Verizon unpaid overtime class action lawsuit which was filed over two years ago.

Ok Folks, That’s all for this week. Have a good one—see you at the bar !

Week Adjourned: 10.25.13 – Unpaid Overtime, Hershey’s, Honda

Top Class Action Lawsuits for the week: Honda Defect Settlement, Hershey’s workers and BJC Healthcare unpaid overtime.

Punch Time ClockTop Class Action Lawsuits

Paycheck Rounding Error? Seems unpaid overtime is a popular theme these days. This week, a new unpaid overtime class action lawsuit was filed in the City of St. Louis on behalf of current and former nurses and medical professionals employed by BJC Healthcare System for violations of Missouri’s wage and hour laws and other violations of Missouri law. The lawsuit seeks unpaid overtime and straight-time wages resulting from BJC’s wage and hour practices. The lawsuit is entitled Speraneo v. BJC Health System Inc., d/b/a BJC Healthcare.

The BJC class action lawsuit alleges that BJC failed to properly pay employees for all time worked through its time recording policies and failed to pay overtime compensation to employees working over forty hours per week.

BJC’s timekeeping rounds down the amount of time employees work to the nearest quarter hour, despite having the exact times employees clocked into work and having computerized documentation of exact work times. This practice deprived employees of pay for compensable work time in violation of established work time regulations.

BJC automatically deducts time for meal breaks resulting in employees, such as nurses, not being paid for time actually worked. The lawsuit alleges that BJC knew that its employees, such as nurses, worked during the automatically deducted break time and as a custom and practice failed to pay employees for such compensable work.

The lawsuit also alleges that BJC failed to properly compensate employees for shift differential bonuses and pay overtime compensation at statutorily required rates of pay.

Top Settlements

A sweet ending for Hershey employees? Seems that way—if a preliminary $500,000 settlement gets the green light. The preliminary settlement has just been approved in a California unpaid overtime and wage and hour class action lawsuit pending against Hershey.

The Hershey lawsuit alleges that the class members are owed wages including unpaid overtime and minimum wage pursuant to several sections of the California labor law and are owed premium pay for missed meal and rest periods also pursuant to various Labor Code sections. The lawsuit further claims that the class is entitled to “waiting time” penalties, and penalties for non-compliant wage statements and payroll records pursuant to various Labor Code sections, and that they are entitled to reimbursement for business expenses.

The lawsuit is brought by Shelley Rodrigues on behalf of herself and other similarly situated who were or are employed as retail sales merchandisers, as well as all other current and former hourly-paid or non-exempt merchandisers or person who held similar job titles and/or performed similar job duties in California.

The settlement class is defined as all current and former hourly part-time retail sales merchandisers employed by the Hershey Company in California at any time between July 23, 2008 and June 3, 2013, the Class Period.

Time for Honda to Feel the Burn? This is a biggie…Honda looks as if it’s ready to pony up some cash over a defective automobile class action lawsuit pending against it. The Japanese automaker was sued over allegations it made over 1.59 million vehicles that burn oil excessively and also require frequent spark plug replacements. That’s convenient.

The Honda lawsuit, filed in March 2012, alleges the Honda vehicles had a “systematic design defect that enables oil to enter into the engine’s combustion chamber.” The alleged defect led to “premature spark plug degradation and engine malfunction,” court documents state.

The lawsuit claims that Honda was aware of the problem but failed to notify consumers, allegations Honda denies, despite having issued a technical service bulletin notifying its technicians to check for the defect. The auto maker did not issue a recall because a safety issue was not discovered.

The preliminary Honda class action settlement includes all US purchasers and lessees of 2008-12 Accord, 2008-13 Odyssey, 2009-13 Pilot, 2010-11 Accord Crosstour and 2012 Crosstour vehicles equipped with six-cylinder engines that have variable cylinder management. Accord vehicles with four-cylinder engines are not included in the settlement.

Settlement terms include Honda extending the powertrain limited warranty for up to eight years after the original sale or lease of the vehicle. The preliminary settlement approval was given October 9, 2013, and the final fairness hearing is scheduled for March 21, 2014.

Ok Folks, That’s all for this week. Have a good one—see you at the bar!

 

Week Adjourned: 10.11.13 – Toyota Prius, United MileagePlus, Motel 6

The week’s top class action lawsuits and settlements…Top stories include Toyota Prius, United Airlines MileagePlus, and Motel 6.

toyota prius v wagonTop Class Action Lawsuits

Prius Brakedown? Toyota’s making headlines again this week, over a national consumer fraud class action lawsuit, alleging consumer fraud related to its Pre-Collision System (PCS) in its high-end Prius Five vehicles.

The Prius lawsuit states that Toyota represents in its marketing materials and owner’s manual that the PCS employs radar to sense an unavoidable frontal collision, and then if needed, automatically applies the brakes to prepare for the accident. The PCS is part of an advanced technology package option that usually sells for over $5,000. The PCS option is believed to make up approximately $1,000 of that cost. Whoa Nellie!

The lawsuit claims that purchasers did not receive what Toyota represented with the PCS. Specifically, in vehicle testing by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS), the Toyota Prius was one of only two models that failed to get any rating, leading the IIHS to state: “The Toyota Prius V wagon, which claims to have autobrake, had minimal braking in IIHS tests and currently fails to meet NHTSA criteria for forward collision warning. It doesn’t qualify for an IIHS front crash prevention rating.” Ok—now you have me.

The lawsuit is Lee v. Toyota Motor Sales, USA Inc, in the United States District Court of California, and is seeking to force Toyota to reimburse owners for the cost of the PCS and to force Toyota to discontinue marketing that the PCS provides automatic braking. Go get’em!

So That’s What MileagePlus Means… United Airlines got hit with a potential deceptive business practices class action lawsuit this week. Filed by two Jersey City, NJ residents, the lawsuit claims the airline uses an algorithm that modifies the number of miles needed for an award, depending on the number of frequent flyer miles the person has. Umm.

The federal United MileagePlus lawsuit was filed by Robert Gordon and Melissa Chan who claim United Airlines attempted to charge each of them different amounts of miles for the same hotel room last year when they were booking a trip together. Both are members of United’s MileagePlus rewards program. (who isn’t?)

According to the lawsuit, in August 2012, Gordon tried to use his miles to book a three-night stay at a hotel in Japan. Using United’s website, he was informed it would cost him 40,750 miles, which exceed the amount of points he had in his account, but was fewer than 41,733 miles in Chan’s MileagePlus account.

According to the lawsuit, Chan subsequently decided to book the same room for same dates using her miles instead. However, when she tried to do so only several minutes later, United’s website required her to use 44,500 miles, or 3,750 miles more than what it attempted to charge Gordon. To book the hotel room, Chan had to pay $26.10 to buy the additional miles that United charged her.

The lawsuit states that Gordon then called United, but was told the airline uses an algorithm that modifies the number miles needed for an award, depending on the number of miles the person has. They claim United was deceptive in not disclosing this alleged practice. Well, this ought to be interesting….

Top Settlements

Motel 6 Checking Out of Unpaid Overtime Class Action Lawsuit…Actually, they’ve settled, tentatively, for a reported $890,000. Announced this week, the proposed Motel 6 settlement could end the pending wage and hour class action lawsuit entitled Monica Gould et al v. Motel 6 Inc. et al, case No. 2:09-cv-08157 in the United States District Court for the Central District of California Central Division.

The lawsuit was brought by past and present Motel 6 employees who allege the company denied them meal and rest breaks, failed to pay wages upon termination and neglected to provide properly itemized wage statements.

Specifically, the wage and hour lawsuit, brought in 2009, claims Motel 6 is in violation of the California Labor Code, the Business & Professions Code, the Wage Order and the Private Attorneys General Act of 2004.

Motel 6 and G6 Hospitality Inc, the two defendants in the class action, deny any and all liability, but have agreed to settle. The class includes all current and former nonexempt employees employed by Motel 6 between March 25, 2006, and July 17, 2013, an estimated 18,280 members. Previously, Motel 6 and G6 Hospitality, which were formerly known as Accor North America, settled another class action in March 2006, reducing the current class to its present size, court documents indicate.

The final settlement hearing is scheduled for November 4, 2013.

Good Night Irene!

Ok Folks, That’s all for this week. Have a good one—see you at the bar!

 

Week Adjourned: 10.4.13 – Yahoo, LG Washers, Citizens Financial Group, Vytorin

The latest class action lawsuit news for the week ending October 4, 2013. Top class actions include Yahoo, LG Washers, Citizens Financial and Merck’s Vytorin

Yahoo LogoTop Class Action Lawsuits

Oh Yoo-Hoo Yahoo! This One’s for You! Yahoo following in Google’s footsteps? Umm, maybe…Yahoo got hit with a proposed Internet Privacy class action lawsuit this week, in case you missed it.

The Yahoo privacy lawsuit alleges Yahoo illegally reads, copies and analyzes emails in direct violation of California’s Invasion of Privacy Act and the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

Specifically, John Kevranian and Tammy Zapata, named plaintiffs in the action, allege Yahoo accesses Yahoo Mail users’ emails in order to make money on targeted advertising, profiling, data collection and other services.

According to the lawsuit, entitled Kevranian et al. v. Yahoo Inc., case number 5:13-cv-04547, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Yahoo put in place a new email system which became the default interface for all Yahoo users in May 2011. At the time, Yahoo said the system could “look for keywords and links to further protect you from spam, surface photos and in time, serve users with Internet-based advertising,” the lawsuit states. After a short grace period, all Yahoo email users were switched to the new version. Any of this sounding familiar?

Short version: The lawsuit states that Yahoo told its email account holders that the new email search capability looks for patterns, keywords and files in users’ communications, and that the automated system would scan and analyze all incoming and outgoing email, instant messages and other communications content sent and received from a user’s account in order to personalize his or her experience. “In employing the above described device, plaintiffs and the class allege that Yahoo intentionally intercepts and reviews the content of their electronic communications for financial gain.”

Not surprisingly, the plaintiffs allege “Yahoo’s acquisition and use of content from plaintiffs’ and class members’ email sent to Yahoo Mail users, and those emails sent from Yahoo Mail users to plaintiffs and class members, is not necessary to the transmission of email or to the operation the electronic communication service known as Yahoo Mail,” the lawsuit states.

Might be time to start writing more interesting emails…

LG Spinning Washer Efficiency Claims? And now—from “dirty laundry” to clean—or not…LG Electronics USA Inc. and Sears Holdings Corp got hit with a defective products class action lawsuit this week, alleging the companies manufactured and sold defective washing machines.

The LG defective washer class action lawsuit, entitled Laury Smith v. LG Electronics USA Inc., et al., Case No. 4:13-cv-04361, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California alleges the defendants misrepresented LG’s top-loading washing machines as being “high efficiency” , claiming the machines featured “extra high” spin speeds of 1,050 to 1,100 revolutions per minute. The lawsuit contends, however, that the machines tended to fall apart at high speeds. That’s useful!

The defective washing machines named in the class action are LG models WT5001CW, WT5101HV and WT5101HW; and Kenmore Elite brand models 29002, 29272 and 29278.

And the laundry list of charges (ok—that’s bad) are… unjust enrichment, breach of warranty, violation of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act, Unfair Competition Law, the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act and California’s False Advertising Law. Got all that?

Top Settlements

Who Knew? Even Bankers get Screwed on Unpaid Overtime…This week, an $11.5 million settlement was proposed in an unpaid overtime class action lawsuit pending against RBS Citizens Financial Group Inc. The lawsuit is brought by employees against the financial institution and two of its subsidiaries alleging they failed to adequately compensate employees for overtime pay.

All six of the complaints, which have been consolidated into one lawsuit, entitled Cuevas v. Citizens Financial Group, Inc. et al., 1:13-cv-03871, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, alleges RBS violated federal and state laws throughout New England and the Northeast and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

One of the lawsuits, filed by Kevin Martin in Pennsylvania in 2010 on behalf of all nonexempt employees working at Citizens Bank retail branches and its two subsidiaries, RBS Citizens NA and Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania, alleged Martin worked in excess of 40 hours per week but RBS prevented him from recording the additional work hours. Martin also alleged he was required to work through his breaks without pay, and that the institution erased or changed his recorded time to reduce his reported overtime hours.

The class or collective members involved in the litigation include some 5,827 employees such as assistant branch managers or hourly employees. Under the proposed settlement terms, the payout will cover class members’ payments, attorneys’ fees, litigation costs and enhancement awards, with assistant branch managers averaging an award of $2,000 and hourly employees averaging an award of $850.

Additionally, the 10 plaintiffs named in the action and who initiated the six lawsuits, will each receive $7,500. A further 36 people who testified at or provided a deposition for one of the case’s three-week jury trial will receive $1,500. Well done!

Big News for Vytorin. This one’s definitely a biggie…: A $688 million Vytorin settlement has been approved by a federal judge effectively ending claims that Merck & Co. Inc. and its subsidiary Schering-Plough Corp. concealed test results on the efficacy of their anti-cholesterol drug Vytorin.

Back in 2008, New York Attorney-General Andrew Cuomo began investigating whether Vytorin’s marketing campaign violated the state’s laws regarding false advertising. Specifically, officials were concerned that, despite results from a study that found Vytorin was no more effective than generic drugs.

This whopper of a settlement was initially proposed in February—interestingly—just prior to the class action’s trial date. Neither Merck nor Schering-Plough admits any wrongdoing—why would they?

The settlement will end claims against the companies for the vast majority of the class, except for 187 plaintiffs who opted out, according to court papers.

Ok Folks, That’s all for this week. Have a good one—see you at the bar !

 

 

Week Adjourned: 9.27.13 – GoGo Wifi, Reserveage, Truvia Sweetener

The week’s top class action lawsuits and settlements for the week ending 9.27.13. Top class actions include GoGo Wifi, Reserveage, Truvia Sweetener

gogo inflight wifiTop Class Action Lawsuits

Internet Charges-A-GoGo! Hello! Gogo LLC, an inflight Internet service provider, is facing a consumer fraud class action lawsuit alleging the company misleads consumers about its charges. Gogo, for those of us not wireless wired at 41,000 feet, provides in-flight Internet and wireless in-cabin digital entertainment services.

The GoGo lawsuit, filed by Kerry Welsh, president of WelCom Products, which produces folding hand trucks, claims that on August 7, 2011 Welsh paid $39.95 for up to 30 days Internet usage on any airline. However, Welsh contends that after the 30 days term ended on September 7, he was charged $39.95 every month until at least December 2012, even though he did not use the service.

In the class action, Welsh alleges he “received no communications from Gogo on a monthly basis notifying him of the recurring charges.”

Welsh, filed the lawsuit on behalf of class members who were “were misled to believe they were purchasing only a one-month pass, but were in fact charged every month thereafter.”

The lawsuit states that “every other class member purchased in-flight Internet serve from Gogo prior to December 31, 2012, using a registration website that had representations about the monthly cost of the service but had no representations about the recurring nature of charges for the service.” While the Gogo website now states that monthly services charges will be recurring, “… it did not do so in 2011,” the lawsuit states.

Were you overcharged for inflight Internet access?

Anti-Aging? Um, not so much… Anti-honest? Very possibly, according to a consumer fraud class action filed against Reserve Life Organics LLC (d/b/a Reserveage Organics). According to the lawsuit, the company makes false and misleading statements regarding the health benefits of its anti-aging products. (No!)

The Reserveage lawsuit, entitled Kathleen Hold v. Reserve Life Organics, Case No. 3:13-cv-02206, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, claims that the Reserveage product made by Reserveage Organics does not contain resveratrol, an ingredient derived from French red wine grapes. Instead, the lawsuit asserts, the product actually contains Japanese Knotweed, a cheaper, more readily available source of resveratrol (couldn’t you just drink red wine instead?)

Filed by plaintiff Kathleen Holt, the lawsuit states that Reserveage deceives consumers into paying a premium for health supplements that contain very little of the advertised resveratrol, an ingredient that allegedly has anti-aging capabilities. Holt also claims Reserveage Organics does not admit that the products contain substantial amounts of magnesium stearate, an additive that is allegedly hazardous to human health by adversely affecting the immune system.

Specifically, the lawsuit states, “The main ingredient in resveratrol, and the main ingredient providing substantial resveratrol, is nonorganic Japanese Knotweed, not French red-wine grapes, (!) which is a much cheaper and more plentiful source of natural, as opposed to organic, grape-based resveratrol.” Further, “In addition, despite defendant’s claim of ‘From the Heart of France,’ plaintiff believes that defendant’s Japanese Knotweed is sourced from China.”

The consumer fraud class action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of the plaintiff and all California residents who purchased Reserveage resveratrol products within the last four years. The lawsuit contends that the company’s marketing violates California’s False Advertising Law and Unfair Competition law, among other claims.

I think direct application of red wine grapes—ingested in the form of wine—should be put to the test…

Top Settlements

A sweet deal for consumers? Maybe. A $5 million proposed settlement has been agreed by Cargill Inc, potentially ending a consumer fraud class action lawsuit alleging the food manufacturer misled consumers into believing its Truvia stevia sweetener is “natural.”

According to the consumer fraud lawsuit, entitled The Truvia False Advertising Class Action Lawsuit is Martin, et al. v. Cargill Inc., Case No. 13-cv-2563, U.S. District Court of Minnesota, the main ingredients in Cargill’s Truvia stevia sweetener are “highly processed” and/or derived from GMOs.

If approved, the Truvia settlement would distribute the $5 million in settlement funds among eligible class members as cash or vouchers. Class Members will be eligible to claim a cash refund or voucher based on the amount of money they spent on Truvia products during the Class Period.

Lead plaintiffs Molly Martin and Lauren Barry asked the Court to preliminary approve the proposed settlement. Eligible class members include consumers who purchased 40-count and 80-count packages of Truvia Natural Sweetener packets, and any size of the Truvia Natural Sweetener spoonable jars and baking blends, from July 1, 2008 onwards.

A Preliminary Approval Hearing is set for October 23, 2013.

Ok Folks, That’s all for this week. Have a good one—see you at the bar !

 

 

Week Adjourned: 9.13.13 – Dialysis Deaths, Auto Worker Severance Pay, Cipro

The week’s top class action lawsuits and settlements including Fresenius Granuflo Dialysis lawsuits, Auto Workers denied severance, and Cipro anti-trust partial settlement.

Fresenius Allegedly Failed to Warn, Say GranuFlo LawsuitsTop Class Action Lawsuits

Dialysis Death Lawsuit Update. The lawsuits continue against Fresenius Medical Care, the maker of Granuflo and Naturalyte. This week, they found themselves facing a wrongful death class action lawsuit filed by the widow of Earin Blossom. The potential class action, filed in the Northern District of California, alleges the makers of Granuflo and Naturalyte, and their subsidiaries “failed to exercise reasonable care in manufacturing and selling defective dialysis products known as Granuflo and and Naturalyte.”

Tina Nunn, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of herself, her late husband, and those similarly situated, alleges that the dialysates caused fatal complications and sudden death, and caused her husband to incur substantial medical expenses prior to his death.

According to court documents, Earin Blossom began hemodialysis treatments in November 2010. During the course of those treatments, which took place three times a week at a Fresenius dialysis clinic in Fremont, he received both Granuflo and Naturalyte additives. Then, on April 6, 2011, just a few hours after completing a dialysis treatment at the clinic, Blossom suffered a massive heart attack and died.

The lawsuit alleges that Blossom’s metabolic alkalosis, cardiac arrest and subsequent demise were a direct and proximate result of his use of Granuflo and/or Naturalyte. The lawsuit also claims that the defendant knew its products resulted in excess bicarbonate levels in patients, often leading to metabolic alkalosis, a dangerous condition associated with heightened risks for heart attack, cardiac arrhythmia and sudden death.

Both Fresenius Medical Care products—Naturalyte and GranuFlo—are used in the treatment of acute and chronic renal failure during hemodialysis. The concentrate is formulated to be used with a three-stream hemodialysis machine, which is calibrated for acid and bicarbonate concentrates, according to the FDA safety recall initiated in March 2012. The recalled Naturalyte Liquid Acid Concentrate and Naturalyte GranuFlo (powder) Acid Concentrate was manufactured and distributed from January 2008 through June 2012.

An internal memo issued by Fresenius on November 4, 2011 warns that the GranuFlo and NaturaLyte products could lead to a greater risk of cardiac arrest and other heart problems. The memo, which was anonymously leaked to the FDA earlier this year, warned doctors working in Fresenius dialysis centers only that 941 dialysis patients suffered cardiac arrest in 2010 from GranuFlo use. Dangerously high biocarbonate levels would put their patients at a risk of cardiac arrest up to six times higher than that of patients using competing products.

No comment.

Top Settlements

Auto Workers Get $6M. And justice for all…all employees that is—and in this particular case it takes the form a $6 million settlement of a California labor law class action lawsuit alleging discrimination and unfair dismissal. Brought by former employees of Freemont-based New United Motors Manufacturing, Inc. (NUMMI), California’s last auto plant, the lawsuit, alleged that employees who were on disability at the time of the plant closure, were denied the severance benefits.

Specifically, the NUMMI workers’ lawsuit alleged that employees who were on disability in the period between October and the plant’s closure on April 1st did not receive benefits and services offered to employees who were not on disability during that same period. Those benefits and services included a severance package including a base payout with an additional retention bonus determined by years worked at the plant. The plant employees working between October 1st and April 1st were also offered transitional services, including access to a one-stop center, career and educational fairs, and skills assessments.

The plaintiffs also claimed that they, being on leave due to their disabilities and/or NUMMI’s refusal to accommodate their disabilities, were unjustly denied the bonus enhancement and transitional services. Further, the workers alleged in their complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that they were physically capable of returning to work during the severance period, but were denied reinstatement. The EEOC issued “right to sue” letters to several NUMMI workers, while retaining the right to continue its investigation.

While the EEOC charges were pending, a group of former employees filed a federal lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. The plaintiffs filed claims for declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as damages for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, The Fair Employment and Housing act, the Unfair Business Practices Act, and California’s Public Policies.

The plaintiffs sought reformation of the severance agreement, restitution, lost compensation and other employment benefits and compensatory and punitive damages, and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs for the defendants’ violations of their rights. Defendants named in the suit included New United Motors Manufacturing, Toyota Motor Corporation and Toyota Motor Sales. A class certification was later granted. Prior to the EEOC’s filing its own lawsuit, the matter was resolved via settlement for $6 million. As a part of the settlement, NUMMI entered into a conciliation agreement with the EEOC.

Floxed But Not Fleeced? Last—but certainly not least—the 900lb gorilla—Bayer—reached a partial settlement in an antitrust class action lawsuit involving the prescription antibiotic Cipro. The lawsuit claims Bayer Corporation, Barr Laboratories, Inc., Hoechst Marion Roussel, Inc., Watson Pharmaceuticals, Inc., and The Rugby Group, Inc. violated antitrust and consumer protection laws by agreeing not to compete with each other, and by keeping lower-cost generic versions of Cipro off the market. This settlement is with Bayer Corporation only; the case against the other manufacturers continues.

FYI—neither the case nor the settlement is about the safety or effectiveness of Cipro. Bayer has paid $74 million into a settlement fund that will compensate consumers and third-party payors (Class Members) who paid or reimbursed for Cipro in California between January 8, 1997 and October 31, 2004. Cipro purchasers not eligible for settlement payments include: (1) anyone who received Cipro through the MediCal Prescription Drug Program, (2) anyone who purchased Cipro to resell it, (3) government entities, (4) the manufacturers and related entities being sued, and (5) all purchasers of Cipro who paid a flat co-payment and who would have paid the same co-payment for a generic version under their health insurance policy.

Individual payments will be based on the total number of valid claims filed and how much the Class Member paid or reimbursed for Cipro. Attorneys’ fees not to exceed one-third of the fund, litigation costs, and other fees and expenses will be deducted prior to distribution. Full details about the settlement can be found in the Settlement Agreement, which is available at www.CiproSettlement.com.

Class Members must submit a claim form by March 31, 2014 in order to get a payment. The claim form and instructions on how to submit, together with complete details of the settlement are available at www.CiproSettlement.com.

Ok Folks, That’s all for this week. Have a good one—see you at the bar!

 

 

Week Adjourned: 9.6.13 – Alpha Centurion, Bad Berries, Merrill Lynch, JP Morgan

The week’s top class action lawsuits and settlements, for the week ending September 13, 2013. Top stories include Alpha Centurion, Bad Berries, Merrill Lynch, JP Morgan

Alpha CenturionTop Class Action Lawsuits

Security Co. Securing 20% off Top of Employee Pay Advances? Alpha Centurion security company is facing a consumer fraud class action lawsuit filed by a former employee who alleges the company violated federal law by levying a large finance charge on workers who request an advance on their pay. According to the lawsuit, defendants are unlawfully imposing a 20 percent finance charge on employees’ pay advances. Yikes!

Filed by Jonathan J. DiBello, in the US District Court in Philadelphia, the lawsuit names Alpha Centurion, which provides security guards to private and governmental entities, as well as the company’s owner and chief executive, Joanna Small, and its chief of operations, Patrick A. Panetta, who are husband and wife, as defendants. DiBello, worked for Alpha Centurion from December 2006, first as a security guard and later as a field supervisor.

According to the Alpha Centurion lawsuit, the defendant pays its employees once every two weeks. However, it has a policy of allowing its employees to obtain advances on their wages but only if the employee agrees to a 20 percent finance charge.

In the lawsuit DiBello questions whether a pay advance fee is usurious interest, whether liability arises under the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act for the collection of an unlawful debt, whether the company is liable for failing to make material disclosures under the Truth-in-Lending Act, and whether Alpha Centurion is liable under the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law for failing to pay employees their full wages.

According to the lawsuit, on an annualized basis, the 20 percent finance charge equates to an interest rate of 1,042.85 percent A.P.R. on a seven-day loan or 521.42 percent on a 14-day loan.

DiBello paid the 20 percent finance charge on every advance he took, according to the lawsuit, which was automatically deducted from his paycheck. Over a one-year period, provided that DiBello took a $200 advance each pay period, the plaintiff would have paid an aggregate finance charge of $1,040, nearly all of which would be usurious interest, the complaint alleges.

DiBello seeks to represent a class of plaintiffs consisting of all present and former Alpha Centurion employees who took pay advances within four years prior to the filing of the civil action.

The company is believed to regularly employ between 100 and 200 workers, many of whom have apparently taken pay advances. “A class action is a superior means to fairly and efficiently adjudicate this dispute,” the suit reads. “Without a class action it is unlikely anyone would ever obtain a recovery.”

Alpha Centurion has made “usurious payday advances” for years, the suit states, although to date no employee has ever brought an individual action to recover the interest charges. No kidding. Even the big banks wouldn’t try for that. Although…

Berry Bad? OK—you’re not going mad—this is the second food poisoning class action filed against Townsend Farms Mixed Berries. The class action lawsuit was filed against an Oregon-based fruit grower this month, alleging the plaintiff had to seek medical care after consuming a frozen berry mix tied to hepatitis A outbreaks in Colorado and other western states.

This mixed berries lawsuit, was filed by Suzanne Faber, who alleges she sought a hepatitis A vaccination after consuming The Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend of berries she purchased from a Costco at 5050 N. Nevada Ave. in Colorado Springs. She does not specify whether she contracted hepatitis A. The mixed berries have since been removed from Costco stores.

The Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend was responsible for sickening 161 people in Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Hawaii, Washington, and California, according to a September 13 public health notice by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The mixed berries and pomegranate seeds were sold at Costco stores beginning in early 2013 and subsequently removed in May, when the CDC announced the finding of Hepatitis A contamination. Costco also issued a product recall and warned customers against consuming the berries.

Hepatitis A is a chronic liver disease that causes fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and a yellowing of the eyes and skin, among other symptoms. The disease is associated with foods tainted with fecal matter, and the illness can last from several weeks to several months. In some cases hepatitis A can be fatal.

According to the CDC, 70 consumers required hospitalization after contracting the disease. No deaths were reported.

Purely Pomegranate Inc, is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit, as the Hepatitis A contamination was linked to a shipment of pomegranate seeds Townsend Farms received from Purely Pomegranate, which had, in turn, been imported from a producer in Turkey.

The class seeks to represent anyone who ate the tainted berries and contracted hepatitis A or underwent testing or vaccination for the disease. People who came into close contact with sickened consumers are also eligible.

Top Settlements

Cough it up Boys. A $39 million settlement has been reached in the gender bias class action lawsuit pending against Merrill Lynch, now owned by Bank of America Corp (BoFA). The lawsuit was brought by female brokers who claimed they were paid less than men and deprived of handling their fair share of lucrative accounts. Approximately 4,800 current and former female financial advisers and trainees at Bank of America and Merrill are eligible for this settlement.

According to a report by Reuters.com, the gender bias class action settlement was disclosed less than two weeks after news that the bank reached a $160 million settlement with hundreds of black Merrill Lynch & Co. brokers who alleged racial bias in pay, promotions and how large accounts were allocated.

The lawsuit, entitled The gender case is Calibuso et al v. Bank of America Corp et al, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, No. 10-01413, alleged that female financial advisers and trainees were intentionally discriminated against by Bank of America and Merrill because the defendants favored male brokers when awarding pay, allocating client accounts and referrals, and providing professional and marketing support.

According to court papers, such practices created a “cumulative advantage” effect that perpetuated and widened earnings disparities by gender. Bank of America was also accused of retaliating against female brokers who complained of bias.

Under the terms of the settlement agreement, BoFA will retain an independent monitor to oversee improvements to its practices. Additionally, it must hire a consultant to study how it “teams” brokers and how its teaming practices affect the allocation of accounts.

Bank of America is based in Charlotte, North Carolina, and said it ended June with nearly 15,800 financial advisers.

$300 Million Happy Ending. Yup—$300 million is the proposed force placed insurance settlement amount in a federal class action lawsuit pending against JPMorgan Chase & Co, and Assurant. The lawsuit alleged the defendants were overcharging homeowners for forced-placed insurance.

Under investigation by attorneys representing the plaintiffs since 2010, the lawsuit was filed in June 2012 on behalf of borrowers with forced place insurance policies as of June 2008. The lawsuit alleged the banking and insurance firms enriched themselves by more than $1 billion over five years, by forcing insurance on homeowners who declined to purchase insurance themselves.

If approved, the settlement would see Chase and Assurant pay 12.5 percent cash refunds to class members who paid the premiums of the force placed insurance and a 12.5 percent credit to class members who were charged the premiums but never paid them. This applies even if the borrowers already lost their homes.

Additionally, Chase has agreed to stop allowing its insurance agents to collect commissions from making force-placed insurance policies.

Well Done!

Ok Folks, That’s all for this week. Have a good one—see you at the bar!