Week Adjourned: 3.3.17 – Paypal, AT&T, Airbags

Top Class Action Lawsuits

PayPal no pal of small charities? Maybe… The online payment processor got hit with a consumer fraud class action lawsuit this week, claiming the company’s charitable arm takes funds from donors for various causes but fails to make the donations unless the charity had set up several accounts. Nice.

The complaint was filed by Friends For Health, a nonprofit supporting the North Shore Health Center in Highland Park, Illinois, and one of 10 charities that plaintiff Terry Kass attempted to donate.

The Paypal lawsuit claims that the funds donated were never received by the charities as the PayPal Giving Fund took control of the money and donated it to organizations of its choosing. The lawsuit asserts that PayPal did this because the charities chosen by Kass hadn’t set up the requisite PayPal accounts.

Specifically, the lawsuit states “On its face, PayPal Giving Fund is an admirable endeavor; however, in practice, it falls woefully short of that mission on numerous fronts.” And: “PayPal Giving Fund is currently listing charities on its website that are not registered to receive donations, failing to inform donors that unregistered charities will not receive their donations, failing to notify unregistered charities that donations have been made to them and redirecting unclaimed donations from the intended unregistered recipient charities to organizations of their own choosing without notice to the donor or intended recipient.”

According to the complaint, while many large charities have established PayPal Giving Fund accounts, hundreds of thousands of smaller charities have not. PayPal Giving Fund platform was established by PayPal in 2013 to make it easier for their customers to donate money to their favorite charities.

If a PayPal customer’s chosen charities don’t establish accounts and fail to claim the donations within six months, PayPal doesn’t inform them that an attempted donation has been made, according to the complaint. Rather, PayPal’s charitable platform “surreptitiously” donates the money without regard to the customer’s donation wishes, the complaint states.

The case is Friends for Health: Supporting the North Shore Health Center et al. v. PayPal Inc. et al., case number 1:17-cv-01542, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. 

Text in any language… This week’s  Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) class action was filed against AT&T alleging the company has violated the TCPA by sending unsolicited spam text messages in Spanish, to people’s cellphones. No!

Filed by plaintiff Ali Gadelhak, who is not an AT&T customer, the AT&T text lawsuit claims that AT&T used an automated dialing service to deliver text messages to Gadelhak’s cellphone, knowing they were doing so and without his prior consent, which is in direct violation of the TCPA.

Gadelhak alleges the messages caused harm in numerous ways, including by diminishing the battery life of his cellular phone and wasting its data storage capacity.

“Defendant has caused plaintiff and members of the putative class actual harm, not only because consumers were subjected to the aggravation, waste of time and invasion of privacy that necessarily accompanies mobile spam, but also because consumers frequently have to pay their cellphone service providers for the receipt of such spam,” the complaint states. According to the suit, Gadelhak received a text message from AT&T on July 15 that was in Spanish and which asked him to participate in a customer satisfaction survey. Gadelhak isn’t an AT&T customer and doesn’t speak Spanish.

Gadelhak claims he responded to the text message twice, asking the sender to identify himself or herself. However, he then received more survey questions in Spanish that appeared to be automated. According to the complaint, Gadelhak’s cellphone number has been registered on the National Do Not Call Registry since May 23, 2014.

Gadelhak is seeking actual damages of up to $500 and treble* damages up to $1,500 per class member for every call that violated the TCPA. Further, Gadelhak is asking for certification of a subclass of individuals who received the text message specifically asking recipients to complete the customer satisfaction survey.

The case is Ali Gadelhak v. AT&T Corp., case number 1:17-cv-01559, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

*What the heck is ‘treble damages’, you ask? Good Q. It’s when a statute permits a court to triple the amount of the compensatory damages to be awarded; treble damages are a multiple of, and not an addition to, actual damages.

Top Settlements

Airbag settlement in the works… Here’s the blockbuster this week—this year and possibly this century—at least so far. But, not everyone is happy.

Takata Corporation agreed to pay $1 billion to settle multi-district litigation this week. In case missed this—the allegations are that the airbag manufacturer was aware of the fatal defect with its airbags but sold them anyway. At least 11 deaths have been linked to the airbags, which can explode due to a design defect.

According to the proposed airbag settlement terms Takata will plead guilty to wire fraud. However, Plaintiffs have objected to the proposed deal on the grounds that it doesn’t address the culpability of TK Holdings Inc., Takata’s US, subsidiary, and that the Department of Justice had been misled in its investigation.

Additionally, Takata has agreed to pay a $25 million criminal fine and will establish a $125 million restitution fund for people who were injured or will be injured by a malfunctioning Takata air bag inflator.

Automobile manufacturers will also benefit from the deal, with the creation of an $850 million fund to benefit for automakers who received the falsified data and reports or who purchased the potentially dangerous inflators.

The cases are United States of America v. Takata Corp., case number 2:16-cr-20810, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, and In re: Takata Airbag Products Liability Litigation, case number 1:15-md-02599, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

Good thing Takata may be putting this one behind them as they’ll need to focus on the latest airbag recall: Ford just issued a recall for about 32,000 2016-2017 Ford Edge, 2016-2017 Lincoln MKX and 2017 Lincoln Continental vehicles. The affected models have built dates between November 11, 2014 and February 15, 2017. Why? If the front driver airbag deploys, the airbag might only partially fill—or its cushion might also separate from the airbag module. Not the best situation in an accident…

According to reports, Ford will notify owners of the issue and have them return to dealerships for installation of a replacement part to correct things.


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

Week Adjourned: 5.22.15 – Starbucks, AT&T, Car Loan Robocalling

Starbucks LogoTop Class Action Lawsuits

The King of Coffee is facing a class action lawsuit alleging a bit of consumer fraud—in the guise of misleading advertising. The lawsuit alleges Starbucks advertised prices for product that are lower than those charged by baristas. That’s not very nice.

Specifically, the Starbucks lawsuit contends that the coffee brewers advertising for reduced-fat turkey bacon breakfast sandwich and sausage and cheddar breakfast sandwich include prices that are lower than that which the plaintiff, Sarah Martin, paid. The turkey bacon sandwich was advertised for $3.45 when it actually costs $3.75, while the sausage and cheddar sandwich was advertised as $3.25 when the actual price is $3.45, according to the complaint.

Apparently, there are at least seven Starbucks locations in Los Angeles county where the in store pricing is different from the advertised price. The potential class action suit alleges violations of the California statutes covering consumer protection, false advertising, unfair competition, unjust enrichment and fraud. That should about cover it.

Further, the lawsuit contends that Starbuck’s policy regarding receipts helped it conceal the alleged false advertisement. “Plaintiff and members of the proposed classes relied to their detriment on Starbucks misrepresentations regarding the price of goods,” the complaint states. “Starbucks also has the policy of asking consumers whether they would like a copy of their receipt, which makes it harder to discover the misrepresentation.”

The putative class would include any Starbucks customer who purchased items at California locations where the wrong price was advertised in the last four years.

The case is Sarah Martin et al. v. Starbucks Corp. et al., case number BC582335, in the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Los Angeles.

AT&T is in the Cross-hairs… of an unpaid overtime class action lawsuit brought by a training manager who alleges the company is in violation of California labor law and the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Specifically, the AT&T lawsuit contends that the telecommunications giant intentionally misclassified the workers as being exempt from overtime requirements in order to avoid giving them the extra pay they were entitled to under state and national employment laws.

Filed in the US District Court for the Central District of California, plaintiff Wendell Watson alleges that despite assigning the trainers their work and being aware that they often worked longer than 40 hours a week, AT&T refused to pay overtime to training specialists nationally.

Here’s the skinny, according to a statement issued by attorney’s representing the plaintiff:  AT&T employees involved in designing company trainings often work nights and weekends interviewing experts at the company and then passing the information on to instructors. In the lawsuit, Watson, an AT&T training design manager since 2001, states that the workers not only did not receive overtime but also regularly worked more than five consecutive hours without a required half-hour meal break or a second break after working for 10 hours.

The lawsuit also states that “In addition, the California plaintiff and California class members regularly work and have worked without being afforded at least one 10-minute rest break, in which they were relieved of all duty, per four hours of work.”

AT&T is also being accused of failing to provide accurate wage statements, such that workers were not able to determine how much and for what hours they were being paid. Not an uncommon complaint these days, sadly.

The case is Walton v. AT&T Inc., case number 2:15-cv-03716, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

Top Settlements

Here’s some good news to help your Friday along… A $10.2 million settlement has been agreed between the plaintiffs in a robocall class action lawsuit and JPMorgan Chase Bank NA. The bank allegedly made unsolicited robocalls to more than 2 million customers’ cellphones, in violation of the Telephone Consumer protection Act (TCPA).

According to the robocall agreement, if approved, Chase will pay $10.2 million into a non-reversionary settlement fund, with approximately $45 to $55 to be paid to each of the 2.2 million class members.

Filed by plaintiff Sheila Allen in November 2013, the lawsuit contends JPMorgan Chase and Chase Auto Finance Corp. violated the TCPA by placing approximately 80 calls to Allen’s cellphone from July 2013 through to November 2013.

Allen alleges that the robocalls left voicemails telling her to call back certain numbers to discuss her account, even though she had no auto loan with Chase and never provided her phone number to the bank in connection with any car loan.

Despite Allen contacting Chase repeatedly, requesting the phone calls stop, nothing changed. Further, she contends she was not provided with any instructions on how to opt out of the automated calls, nor was she given the opportunity to opt out.

The case is Sheila Allen v. JP Morgan Chase Bank N.A., case number 1:13-cv-08285 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. 

Hokee Dokee—That’s a wrap folks…See you at the Bar!

Week Adjourned: 4.10.15 – Popular Wines, Cruise Texts, AT&T

Sutter HomeTop Class Action Lawsuits

Have your hangovers been getting worse recently? Ok—you don’t have to answer, but maybe—just maybe—it’s not only you… A defective products class action lawsuit has been filed against 28 California wineries alleging that they produced wine which contains dangerously high levels of arsenic, in violation of California law. Nothing like a bit of poison to help the relaxation process.

Don’t know how the ball got rolling, but someone/entity had a total 1,306 different types of wine tested by BeverageGrades in Denver. The results showed that 83 wines had dangerously elevated levels of inorganic arsenic. Two additional labs confirmed the results. According to the arsenic in wine lawsuit, some of the wines contained arsenic levels in excess of the safe daily intake limit by 500%. Oh great.

And the news gets worse, because the majority of the wines listed in the complaint are inexpensive white or blush varieties, including Moscato, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc. Popular brands named in the lawsuit include Franzia, Sutter Home, Wine Cube, Cupcake, Beringer and Vendange.

The lawsuit is seeking “injunctive relief, civic penalties, disgorgement and damages.”

Time to take up cocktails.

“All aboard whose coming aboard”…The operators of two cruise lines were hit with a Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) class action lawsuit, alleging they’ve been sending unsolicited text messages to thousands of people’s cellular phones. And that’s not annoying, right?

Consolidated World Travel Inc., which does business as both Holiday Cruise Line and Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line, is the named defendant in the suit, which was filed by plaintiff Jason Huhn. The cruise text complaint alleges the Florida-based company sent Huhn an automated text message on his cellphone in March 2014 offering a free cruise. Free cruise? Really?

Huhn alleges the company never asked him for his consent to send him advertisements. “Defendants sent similar text messages to thousands of individuals nationwide using an automatic dialing system and without the consent of those individuals,” the complaint states. “At no point did plaintiff consent to receiving such text messages. At no point did plaintiff enter into a business relationship with defendants.”

According to the complaint, CWT sends automated text messages to individuals advertising a “free cruise” and providing a phone number that an individual must call to redeem the cruise. When the number in the text message is called, the caller is connected with a company identifying itself as “Travel Services.” The operator explains that he or she sees the caller is calling about a free cruise, and immediately “transfers” the caller to “Holiday Cruise Line,” the complaint states.

The lawsuit also names the cruise line’s Tampa-based marketing firm, Elite Marketing Inc., as well as CWT owner James H. Verrillo as defendants. 

Top Settlements

Who said what you don’t know can’t hurt you? Well, Expose did sing it but…who knew about this? AT&T must pony up $25 million to resolve claims by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that the phone carrier failed to adequately safeguard personal data of approximately 300,000 customers. The data was stolen from call centers in Mexico, Colombia and the Philippines. Read: massive data breach.

According to the FCC, employees at call centers used by AT&T in the three countries accessed records belonging to roughly 280,000 U.S. customers without authorization. Those records were accessed without authorization, in order to obtain names, full or partial Social Security numbers and other protected account-related data. Terrific.

FYI—Those data are also known as customer proprietary network information, which require requests for handset unlock codes for AT&T mobile phones.

The FCC alleged in its complaint that the call center employees provided that data to unauthorized third parties, which included an entity that went by the alias El Pelon in Mexico, who appeared to have been trafficking in stolen or secondary market phones that they wanted to unlock. That entity allegedly used the information to make more than 290,000 unlock requests through AT&T’s website. Ringing any bells?

According to the terms of the settlement, AT&T, in addition to the $25 million penalty for the alleged violations of Sections 222 and 201 of the Communications Act, must also improve its privacy and data security practices by appointing a senior compliance manager who is a certified privacy professional, conducting a privacy risk assessment, implementing an information security program, preparing an appropriate compliance manual and regularly training employees on the company’s privacy policies and the applicable privacy legal authorities. You think? 

Hokee Dokee- That’s a wrap folks…See you at the Bar!

Week Adjourned: 10.10.14 – Mazda, Toyota, AT&T

Looking like The Year of Defective Automotive Recalls and Lawsuits… it’s the week’s top class action lawsuits and settlements.

mazda 3Looking like The Year of Defective Automotive Recalls and Lawsuits…

Top Class Action Lawsuits

It’s getting hard to stay on top of the number of defective automotive lawsuits, and math was never my strong suit…but suffice to say there are many. Added to the list this week is a putative class action filed against Mazda Motor Company, alleging the automaker hid knowledge that Mazda 3 and Mazda 6 vehicle models have defective dashboards that melt when exposed to sunlight and subsequently give off a chemical odor and become reflective, posing a risk of temporary blindness in drivers. Talk about a one-two punch. Like I said, math is not my forte but even the most basic understanding indicates that selling a product that can injure or kill your customers can’t add up to good business.

According to the lawsuit: “Mazda’s conduct violates multiple state consumer protection statutes. On behalf of themselves and the proposed classes, plaintiffs seek to compel Mazda to warn drivers about the known defect and to bear the expense of replacing dashboards that Mazda should never have placed in the stream of commerce in the first place.”

Filed in California federal court by lead plaintiffs Danielle Stedman, Jody Soto and Gary Soto, the lawsuit claims Mazda refuses to cover repair costs for the melting dashboards in their vehicles because their cars were no longer under warranty. However, the allege that had they known about the defect prior to purchasing their vehicles, they would not have bought those cars in the first place. The consumers say the automaker failed to properly inform them about the defect.

The plaintiffs claim Mazda knew or should have known when it sold the defective vehicles that the dashboards would deteriorate when exposed to sunlight and “predictably high” summertime temperatures, presenting unsafe condition for drivers.

Like all other automobile manufacturers, Mazda has known “for decades” that dashboard reflections can impair drivers’ visions and make it difficult for them to see pedestrians or objects on the road, according to the suit. The information has been even been readily available through research published by the University of Michigan in 1996, the lawsuit states.

The complaint further claims that Mazda has had “extensive experience” working with the materials used in the dashboards and has personnel who specifically evaluate the durability of new vehicle parts, the company knew or should have known about the defect.

“Mazda thus had exclusive and superior knowledge of the dashboard defect and actively concealed the defect and corresponding danger from consumers who had no way to reasonably discover the problem before buying and driving their vehicles,” the complaint states.

The lawsuit seeks certification of a nationwide class of all people who owned or leased one of the defective vehicles, in addition to a separate Florida class of vehicle owners and lessors.

The suit is Stedman et al v. Mazda Motor Corporation et al, case number 8:14-cv-01608, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

And here’s a little more light reading…Toyota also got hit with a defective automotive class action lawsuit this week, filed by an Arkansas man, alleging its 2005-2009 Tacoma trucks are prone to experiencing excessive rust corrosion. Specifically, the lawsuit claims that the trucks were made with frames that are inadequately protected from rust corrosion, consequently, the frames corrode from rust, rendering the vehicles unstable and unsafe to drive. Refer to Math 101 at the top of the article.

The vehicles that experience excessive rust corrosion are essentially worthless, according to the complaint (U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas case number: 1:14-cv-02208.) Lead plaintiff, Ryan Burns, alleges Toyota has, for quite some time, been aware of the alleged defect in the Tacoma vehicles’ frames, and despite this knowledge, has failed to disclose the existence of the defect to him and other class members at the time of sale, has not issued a recall to inspect and repair the vehicles and has not offered to reimburse owners for costs incurred to identify and repair the defect.

The lawsuit contends that earlier this year, Burns took his Tacoma in for service because the fan on the vehicle was coming into contact with the fan shroud. “Shortly thereafter, plaintiff was informed that the frame on his Tacoma vehicle was rusted out and that the vehicle was unsafe to drive,” the complaint states.

Burns alleges he was advised that the frame on his 2005 Tacoma had severely rusted and that it would cost approximately $10,000 to repair. “In… March 2008, after receiving numerous complaints that frames on approximately 813,000 model year 1995 to 2000 Tacoma vehicles had exhibited excessive rust corrosion, Toyota USA initiated a customer support program extending warranty coverage on the vehicles’ frames for frame perforation caused by rust corrosion,” the complaint states. “The program extended warranty coverage on concerned vehicles to 15 years with no mileage limitations.”

Allegedly, the terms of the program are that once confirmation of perforation of the frame due to rust corrosion has been determined, Toyota would either repair or repurchase the vehicle. Burns claims Toyota subsequently altered the customer support program to include 2001-2004 Tacoma models, with the exception that there was no buy-back option.

“In November 2012, Toyota USA recalled approximately 150,000 Tacoma vehicles to inspect and replace the spare-tire carrier on vehicles sold in 20 cold weather states,” the complaint states. “The recall was issued to prevent the spare-tire carrier from rusting through and resulting in the spare tire dropping to the ground.”

The lawsuit contends Toyota violated the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and breached its express and implied warranty under Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. “Toyota USA knew, or should have known, that the frames on…Toyota vehicles were not coated with adequate rust corrosion treatment,” the complaint states. Consequently, Toyota has been unjustly enriched at the cost of class members whose vehicles were damaged, according to the lawsuit. You think?

Burns is seeking class certification, compensatory damages, an order requiring Toyota to repair or replace the frames on the Tacoma vehicles and pre- and post-judgment interest.

I’m not a fully paid up member of the Cycling Taliban, but seriously, these recalls are almost enough to get me back in the saddle.

Top Settlements

Ah—One Ringy-Dingy…that will be $45 million please. Oh yes—AT&T is busted. They have agreed to a settlement in a Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) class action alleging the company violated the TCPA by placing calls using an automatic telephone dialing system and/or an artificial or prerecorded voice message to cellular telephone numbers without the prior express consent of the call recipients. Phew..that was a mouthful. Like the automated telephone calls themselves…

The lawsuit is led by plaintiff Joel Hagerman. Hagerman brought the suit in April 2013, (U.S. District Court for the District of Montana case number: 1:13-cv-00050). According to the terms of the settlement, the size of the per-call payment shall be determined on a pro rata basis of up to $500 per call, after the attorneys fees and costs, any incentive award to named plaintiff and any settlement administration costs are deducted from the settlement fund and the settlement administrator reviews all claim forms to determine a final number of claimants.

Specifically, the settlement states: “A class member shall receive payment for each call he or she received from [AT&T] or from an OCA acting on behalf of [AT&T] during the class period by submitting a short claim form.”

No more info than that at the moment—so stay tuned.

In the meantime…Time to adjourn for the week. Have a fab weekend–and HappyThanksgiving to all you Canucks out there. See you at the bar!


Week Adjourned: 3.15.13 – Timeshares, Asbestos, AT&T

The weekly wrap on top class action lawsuits and settlements for the week ending March 15, 2013. Top class action stories include timeshares, AT&T and another large asbestos settlement.

Festiva 2Top Class Action Lawsuits

Owners call “Time Out” on Timeshare! Owners are calling out Celebration World Resort’s Timeshare deceptive practices. Yep—a deceptive practices class action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of timeshare owners at Festiva’s Orlando Resort, formerly known as Celebration World Resort, alleging that the resort’s developers and managers have engaged in unfair and deceptive practices in the sale of timeshare upgrades and reservation point allocation.

The resort timeshare class action lawsuit, Reeves, et al. v. Zealandia Holding Company Inc., et al., cause no. 13-CA-866-MF, was filed March 1 in the 9th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida, in Osceola County.

Here’s the skinny: According to the class action lawsuit, beginning in 2004, approximately 900 parties purchased timeshare interests in Celebration World Resort Owners Association, located in Kissimmee, FL, from B.L. Vacation Ownership Inc. Between 2008 and 2011, representatives of B.L. Vacation Ownership sold upgrades to existing timeshare owners that would increase the number of points they had to apply to timeshare reservations.

After the homeowners purchased the upgrades, B.L. Vacations sold the resort to Festiva Hospitality Group, now known as Zealandia Holding Co., and the resort’s name was changed to Festiva’s Orlando Resort. After the sale, the lawsuit alleges, the reservation point system was changed and the upgrades that had been purchased by the timeshare owners were not honored. Nice.

The lawsuit names the Orlando Homeowners Association, B.L. Vacation Ownership Inc., Zealandia Holding Co. and its subsidiary and affiliate companies, and RCI LLC as defendants. The suit alleges that one or more of the defendants:

Violated the resort’s declaration of covenants by improperly reallocating reservation points

Violated the resort’s declaration of covenants for failing to give proper notice of the reallocation

Breached the fiduciary duty owed to the timeshare owners

Violated Section 721.18(5) of Florida’s timeshare law

So—be interesting to see how this is resolved…

Top Settlements

Another Big Asbestos Settlement this week. A construction worker who, is not named, and who developed a highly aggressive cancer after his exposure to asbestos, has resolved his lawsuit against the defendant companies for $7.5 million prior to trial. The plaintiff brought suit against several of the companies that manufactured the materials. The defendants severally denied liability.

Heads up all you construction workers out there: In the 1970s and 1980s, the plaintiff was a construction worker helping install underground water and sewer lines beneath the Sacramento Valley city of Chico. His job involved working with pipes made from a concrete-asbestos compound, which he would cut with a gasoline-powered saw. The cutting generated an enormous amount of cement-asbestos dust, which left the plaintiff covered head to toe by the end of the day. The plaintiff was later diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, an aggressive form of cancer, also rare except where attributable to asbestos exposure.

The plaintiff filed suit in the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, seeking damages on a defective product liability action. The plaintiff sought recovery of medical expenses, lost wages, and non-economic recovery. The defendants named were several companies who manufactured, sold or delivered the asbestos-containing pipes the plaintiff worked with, including Parex USA, Westburne Supply, John K. Bice Co., Los Angeles Rubber, Hajoca Corp., Hanson Permanente Cement, Keenan, Properties, J-M Manufacturing, Certainteed Corp., Ferguson Enterprises, Grinnell Corp., Amcord, Ameron International and Calportland.

One Ringy Dingy—for anyone out there who received pre-recorded messages from AT&T: There is a proposed Settlement in a class action pending in the US District Court for the Western District of Washington. The class action lawsuit concerns the alleged failure by AT&T Corp. to comply with the law in its delivery of a pre-recorded telephone message between July 30, 2008, and May 29, 2012.

If you received the pre-recorded message during that time you may be eligible to receive a payment from the AT&T class action Settlement.

This lawsuit alleges that AT&T Corp. did not comply with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) and the Washington Automatic Dialing and Announcing Devices Act (“WADAD”) in its program to deliver the following pre-recorded message (the “Calling Program”) between July 30, 2008, and May 29, 2012:

“Hi this is AT&T calling with an important message regarding your recent long distance calling. This call is to alert you that someone in your household recently made one or more international calls which will appear on your next AT&T bill at a non-discounted rate. Thank you for using AT&T. Our number is 800-235-9920.”

No judgment has been made, and AT&T Corp. has not agreed with the allegations or admitted any wrongdoing, but the parties have agreed to resolve the lawsuit with a Settlement that would provide payment to Class Members.

Class Members in the Settlement are:

All persons within the United States who between July 30, 2008, and May 29, 2012 received a telephone call pursuant to the Calling Program who had not selected AT&T Corp. as their presubscribed long distance carrier at the time of the call, plus all California residents who received a call under the Calling Program and were on AT&T’s internal do-not-call list at the time they received the call.

If you are a member of the Settlement Class and received a pre-recorded message as identified above, you may be eligible to receive (a) a cash sum of $135 if you were NOT a resident of the State of Washington at the time you received the pre-recorded message, or (b) a cash sum of $270 if you were a resident of the State of Washington at the time you received the pre-recorded message.

The Court will determine whether to approve the Settlement at a Fairness Hearing scheduled to take place on March 8, 2013.

Ok—that’s a wrap. See you at the bar. Happy weekend everyone!

Week Adjourned: 3.25.11

Top Class Actions

Faulty Wiring? There were some interesting suits this week. Among them—this one against AT&T, filed by an 82-year old woman who alleges that the $9.99 she pays every month for an Inside Wire Protection Plan” is a service she doesn’t need and can’t use because she lives in an apartment building in which she doesn’t own the interior telephone wires. Therefore, she has no legal responsibility for maintaining them and therefore she should not have to pay the $9.99 demanded by AT&T. Who knew? 

But that seemingly small monthly charge adds up to about $120 a year, and it’s being paid by thousands of AT&T customers across the US, who are in similar situations to Gloria Girton.

Consequently, Ms. Girton has filed a class action in the US District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina to end AT&T’s unlawful practice of wrongfully billing for such plans nationwide. Outside of North Carolina, they are known by such names as “Wire Pro,” “Inside Wire Maintenance,” and “Home Wire Protection.”

AT&T is illegally charging many of its land line customers who live in multi-tenant facilities for unnecessary wire insurance, the plaintiff’s lawyers state. “The company knows from prior litigation and its own internal investigations that this charge is improper, yet it continues to charge building tenants like Gloria for these worthless plans through deceptive sales actions that defraud and rob them of their hard-earned financial resources. We believe she and the class have sustained damages of at least $10 million and very likely much more,” says plaintiff’s counsel.

The complaint asks for the certification of two classes, a North Carolina class and a nationwide class, each comprised of all residents of residential or commercial property who had an AT&T account at any time in the past four years and were not responsible for the maintenance of their residence’s interior wire, but were charged a fee for an Inside Wire plan. You go Gloria! 

Top Settlements

Press Brake Operator Verdict. A laborer in Florida has won his personal injury case with the jury awarding him a $3.3 million verdict. What happened? Sadly, he who suffered amputation of all the fingers on his right hand—which is the hand he wrote with. It was a workplace accident, involving a mechanical press in 2005.

Phiteau Dalien had his hand caught in a vintage 50-ton mechanical press brake he was operating for List Industries Inc. As a result his hand was crushed and he and he had to have his fingers amputated. He was 33 years old at the time. He underwent a subsequent surgery to build a partial thumb, and he may need another operation to try and rebuild his other fingers.

In his suit, Dalien alleged that the outdated machine he was operating for List Industries lacked safety features and that a language barrier prevented him from being properly trained. List Industries claimed the accident was caused by operator error. Of course they did. But the jury wasn’t buying. 

Getting Royally Stiffed? Not any more for about 25,000 landowners in Pennsylvania. They brought a class action brought against Texas-based Range Resources in 2008 over allegations that the company was miscalculating their royalty payments associated with the company’s current drilling in the Marcellus Shale region of the state. Land which these people presumably own. The suit also alleged that Range Resources improperly withheld management fees from royalties and failed to account to landowners for money it had collected from selling oil and residual by products of gas processing. 

A  settlement has now been approved by a federal judge and the terms dictate that Range Resources, will pay the landowners roughly $1.3 million now and subsequently increase the royalty payment to a maximum of $16.6 million over the next five years, according to court documents. Well Done.

Okee dokee—that’s it for this week. See you at the bar.

Week Adjourned: 2.4.11

Top Class Actions

Phantom of the iPhone. Do you have a phantom AT&T account? It seems for every new technological gadget that requires connectivity—there’s an opportunity to take advantage. Most recently, AT&T Mobility got hit with a potential class action lawsuit over allegations associated with iPhone and iPad accounts. The suit claims that “AT&T’s bills systematically overstate the amount of data used on each data transaction involving an iPhone or iPad account.” And, the suit alleges that AT&T bills customers on data transactions even when customers have disabled their phones. Doesn’t a transaction require more than one party?—one party in the know?

The named plaintiff, Patrick Hendricks, claims that AT&T’s overbilling “was discovered by an independent consulting firm retained by plaintiff’s counsel, which conducted a two-month study of AT&T’s billion practices for data usage, and found that AT&T systematically overstated web server traffic by 7 percent to 14 percent, and in some instances by over 300 percent. So, for example, if an iPhone user downloads a 50 KB website, AT&T’s bill would typically overstated the traffic as 53.5 KB (a 7 percent overcharge) to as high as 150 KB (a 300 percent overcharge),” the complaint states.

Here’s the kicker—Hendricks also alleges that “Not only does AT&T systematically overbill for every data transaction, it also bills for phantom data traffic when there is no actual data usage initiated by the customer. This was discovered by the same independent consulting firm, which purchased an iPhone from an AT&T store, immediately disabled all push notifications and location services, confirmed that no email account was configured on the phone, closed all applications, and let the phone sit untouched for 10 days. During this 10-day period, AT&T billed the test account for 35 Continue reading “Week Adjourned: 2.4.11”

Week Adjourned: 8.13.10

Top Class Actions

No Answer for No Answer Charges? A couple of major players in the telecommunications game got hit with class actions this week. First up—AT&T. The suit alleges violations of federal truth-in-billing laws, false advertising and deceptive trade practices under New York law, and breach of contract, among other things. 

Lead plaintiff, Los Angeles resident Kenneth Thelian, claims he was charged $12.90 partly for calls that he did not answer. He allegedly complained to AT&T who reversed $8 of the charges, but the company representative “did not adequately explain why these charges were incurred.”

Thelian faced a further $15.81 in roaming charges while traveling in Montreal, Canada in August 2005, again for calls he did not answer. Then, in February and March of 2007, Thelian was billed $92.72. “The bill did not indicate which of these charges were for calls that he did not answer while traveling abroad,” the suit alleges. 

So, maybe time to be checking those phone bills…

And, second up—T-Mobile. This class action alleges that the company puts limits on its unlimited data plan. Ummm. who would have thought…

The suit claims that advertisements for T-Mobile’s “Unlimited Web & E-mail” plans, offered for both Blackberry and other brands of smartphones, promise the consumer access to Continue reading “Week Adjourned: 8.13.10”

Week Adjourned: 3.12.10

Uhh...but did you pay your taxes?Top Class Actions

Net Taxes Paid? Well, seems like they shouldn’t a been.  AT&T is facing a class action lawsuit—and no you’re not experiencing déjà vu—this lawsuit is over allegations that the Internet access fees the company charges its smart phone customers is in violation of the law.  

Apparently, the boffins that make law up on the hill had a flash of wisdom years ago, and made it illegal for taxes to be collected on internet access service. Of course, there were no such things as smart phones when the Internet Tax Freedom Act came into being in 1998. Nevertheless, it has been updated several times and suffice to say is good until 2014. 

Apparently, the suit states that AT&T’s Internet access tax is listed as a separate line item on monthly bills. Naughty, naughty. Actually, really naughty—one media report states that “AT&T says in a court filing that 40 class-action suits have been filed in 37 separate districts.”

If you had to pay tax for internet access on top of all the other charges tacked on to your phone package, would you bother with the service?

Top Settlements 

Dying to lose weight? Be careful what you wish for. Very sadly, a young woman who signed up to shed the extra pounds through LA Weight Loss Centers Inc, subsequently died from liver failure as a result of taking some diet supplements that had not been tested or regulated by the FDA, but were apparently recommended by the ‘professionals’ at LA WLC. 

Pamela Hoppe’s sister brought a lawsuit against LA WLC on behalf of Pamela’s estate. The suit was settled out of court for $700,000, half of which will be split between Pamela’s two surviving children. 

Freight Co. Older and Wiser Now, Too? This case reminds me of that wonderful film “Up in The Air”…the story line part…not George Clooney, sadly. Mr. Donald Wayne Smith was laid off by his employer, Central Freight Lines Inc, after 45 years of service. He was a dockworker, and 62 years old at the time he was laid off. That should have made finding another job a piece of cake…Not. 

And so, Mr. Smith sued his ex-employer alleging age discrimination. In his suit, Mr. Smith alleged that during his last months of employment he received a disproportionate number of disciplinary write-ups and that the company changed its layoff guidelines. Ummm. 

And he claimed that new guidelines were introduced that exempted part-time and supervisory employees, to ensure he was laid off while younger workers with worse work records remained employed. 

But wait—Central Freight was just cutting costs—it was a legitimate business decision they argued. Wouldn’t it cost the company less in the long run to keep their experienced employees on who don’t make mistakes—or likely make fewer mistakes? 

Well, anyway, unlike Up in the Air, this story has a happy ending. Mr. Smith won his suit and was awarded $257,500.

That’s it for this week—see you at the Bar!

Week Adjourned: 1.29.10

Citizens Bank under fire for Overdraft FeesTop Class Actions 

Citizen of your Wallet? It seems that no amount of bad PR or more importantly, federal regulations, are effective deterrents against bad business practices by banks. This week, a potential class action lawsuit was filed against Citizens Bank alleging that customers have been unfairly charged overdraft fees. Sound familiar? It should. This is just one in a spate of similar lawsuits involving overdraft fees—including a class action against Bank Atlantic, in November 2009. 

In this particular lawsuit, Citizens Bank could be on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars it allegedly unlawfully charged its customers by manipulating debit transaction postings to generate overdraft fees. In other words, CB seemingly put its customers into debt deliberately so it could charge overdraft fees. You do that to enough customers and presto—you’re rich—possibly even rich enough to afford those six figure senior management bonuses. 

And the kicker? The fees were imposed under the guise of an ‘overdraft protection plan’ that the lawsuit alleges customers were not allowed to opt out of. I guess the epitaph to this could be—they don’t have your back—they have your wallet. 

Top Settlements

If you Leave me Now, You’ll Pay an Early Termination Fee… (ok, so I’m not a lyricist) Keeping on the theme of Continue reading “Week Adjourned: 1.29.10”