Week Adjourned: 3.14.14 – McDonald’s, Geico, Suave Professionals

The week’s top class action lawsuits and settlements including top stories from McDonald’s, Geico and Suave Professionals Hair Care.

I'm Hatin' McDonald's Happy Meals

Top Class Action Lawsuits


Mickey D’s served up a supersized set of wage and hour class action lawsuits…Yup McDonald’s workers in California, Michigan and New York this week filed wage and hour class action lawsuits in federal and state courts claiming the fast food giant is systematically stealing employees’ wages by forcing them to work off the clock, shaving hours off their time cards, and not paying them overtime among other practices

In three California wage and hour suits, workers claim that McDonald’s and its franchise owners failed to pay them for all time worked, failed to pay proper overtime, altered pay records and deprived them of timely meal periods and rest breaks. A fourth case makes similar claims on behalf of a statewide class of workers in McDonald’s corporate-owned restaurants, who are adding their claims to a lawsuit for unpaid wages, penalties, and other relief that is already pending against McDonald’s in Los Angeles Superior Court.

In two Michigan lawsuits, filed against McDonald’s Corp., its U.S. subsidiary and two Detroit-area franchisees, workers assert McDonald’s regularly forces workers to show up for work at a scheduled time but then has them wait without pay until the store gets busy enough, and that it routinely violates minimum wage laws.

The lawsuits contend that, using McDonald’s franchisor standards and corporation-provided software, McDonald’s franchisees closely monitor the ratio of labor costs to revenues. When it exceeds a corporate-set target, managers tell workers arriving for their shifts to wait for up to an hour to clock in, and sometimes direct workers who have already clocked in for scheduled shifts to clock out for extended breaks until the target ratio is again achieved. Workers are not paid for these wait times, and McDonald’s Corporation knowingly tolerates this practice, in violation of federal labor law.

The lawsuits also allege that McDonald’s forces its low-paid workers to buy their own uniforms. Because McDonald’s restaurants pay at or near the minimum wage, this drives some workers’ real wages below the legal minimum, in violation of federal labor law.

The case filed in New York federal court seeks to redress McDonald’s blatant failure to compensate and reimburse workers at its New York stores for the time and cost of cleaning uniforms which McDonald’s requires them to wear and to keep clean.

The plaintiffs contend that McDonald’s failure to reimburse employees for uniform cleaning violates the New York state requirement to pay workers weekly for uniform maintenance and often also violates both federal and New York state state minimum wage laws.

FYI McDonald’s reportedly brought in nearly $5.6 billion in profits last year, so why the problem with paying its employees?

Geico policy of bad faith? A Geico class action lawsuit, alleging bad faith insurance has been filed against the auto insurance giant in New York federal court. The lawsuit claims the insurer “deliberately and systematically” misrepresented information about the plaintiffs’ accident histories and risk tiers to stop them from going to competitors. Really?

The New York class action alleges Geico either assigned “at-fault” status to policyholders who bore no reasonability for the accidents or misclassified their risk tiers.

“As a result of Geico’s misclassification schemes, plaintiffs and the class have had difficulties purchasing insurance from other insurance companies, have been captive to Geico, and have paid inflated premiums,” the lawsuit states. Well, that’s the last time I believe a cute little gecko.

But let’s not stop there—a second bad faith class action was filed against a unit of Geico Corp, alleging the company has been arbitrarily denying personal injury protection claims for years. The Geico lawsuit claims the defendant uses software that reduces or eliminates claims payments without “reasonable basis or justification.”

Filed in Delaware Chancery Court, by plaintiff Yvonne Green, the complaint states that the only factors taken into consideration by the fully automated PIP claims-processing system Geico General Insurance Co, uses are the date of an accident and the date and geographic location of medical treatment.

“By employing these rules to deny benefits, Geico violates Delaware law and breaches its contractual and legal obligations,” the lawsuit states. “The only justification for Geico’s conduct is to contain Geico’s costs and to maximize Geico’s profits.”

The lawsuit, (Green v. Geico General Insurance Co., case number 9431), further claims Geico makes no effort to determine what a reasonable fee ought to be for a specific doctor providing a particular treatment but has a computer system that sets a “hidden cap” at the 80th percentile of what the insurer has been charged by other medical providers. Instead, price recommendations are generated by the software based on a provider’s location. However, it doesn’t consider other factors such as a doctor’s level of expertise, inflation, rent or cost of staff, the lawsuit states.

Green further alleges that claims for certain passive treatments that occur eight weeks after an accident are automatically denied without any review by an actual agent.

“Geico uses this rule even though it has information that treatment and healing times for injuries vary,” the lawsuit states. “Further, Geico enforces this rule without making any inquiry into facts or treatment.”

Green is basing her complaint on her 2011 car accident in which she sutained injuries. She alleges her PIP benefits were denied despite having submitted records detailing her injuries and that they were related to the crash, and that her treatment was reasonable.

The lawsuit seeks to represent a proposed class of plaintiffs who, three years prior to the filing and up to the date of final judgment, had claims on Delaware policies that were either reduced or denied under similar circumstances, according to the complaint.

Top Settlements

Get a little more than you bargained for with Suave Professionals Keratin Infusion 30-Day Smoothing Kit? Like scalp injuries? If so, you may be interested to know that a settlement has been reached in the defective product personal injury class action lawsuit pending against Unilever United States, Inc. (“Unilever”) and two other companies (collectively, “Defendants”). The Suave lawsuit represents customers who purchased or used the Suave Professionals Keratin Infusion 30-Day Smoothing Kit (“Smoothing Kit”) in the United States before February 17, 2014. FYI—the kits must have been purchased for personal or household use.

The allegations are that Unilever misled consumers into purchasing and using the Smoothing Kit by making false and misleading statements concerning the safety of the Smoothing Kit, and by failing to disclose that the Smoothing Kit posed an unreasonable risk of hair and/or scalp injury when used by consumers in accordance with the product warnings and instructions, or when misused by consumers in ways that were foreseeable. All Defendants deny that they did anything wrong and deny that the Smoothing Kit posed an unreasonable risk of harm to consumers. Of course.

The settlement includes a one-time reimbursement of up to $10 and/or reimbursement for the costs of treating class members who suffered bodily injury to their hair or scalp, and who does not timely request exclusion.

For complete details on how to file a claim, visit: http://suave30daysmoothingkitlawsuit.com/info/claim.

Ok Folks, That’s all for this week. See you at the bar!

Week Adjourned: 12.21.12 – Green Giant, Hurricane Sandy, Dillard’s Stores

The weekly wrap of top class action lawsuit and settlement news for the week ending December 21 2012. Top stories include Green Giant, Hurricane Sandy insurance claims and Dillard’s department stores.

logoTop Class Action Lawsuits

Ho-Ho-Ho are Those GMO’s? Nothing fresh about this old chestnut. Yet another in the rash of false labeling and misleading advertising consumer fraud class action lawsuits was filed this week against General Mills’ alleging its Green Giant 100% Natural Valley Fresh Steamers frozen vegetables are not 100% natural as claimed on the product labeling.

Ok. Here’s the dope. Filed by Elizabeh Cox, the Cox v. General Mills Inc., Case No. 12-cv-06377, consumer fraud lawsuit alleges the Valley Fresh Steamers contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the form of corn, soy, corn derivatives and soy derivatives, thereby making the product labeling false or misleading.

In the Green Giant Class lawsuit, Cox claims she bought several of Green Giant 100% Natural Valley Fresh Steamers frozen vegetables in September, including Green Giant 100% Natural Valley Fresh Steamers Roasted Red Potatoes, Green Beans & Rosemary Butter Sauce and Green Giant 100% Natural Valley Fresh Steamers Broccoli, Carrots, Cauliflower & Cheese Sauce. Cox is claiming damages and harm which resulted from the misleading labeling because the product is not what is advertised. Specifically, the lawsuit states, “The harmful impact upon members of the general public who purchased and used the product outweighs any reasons or justifications by defendant for the deceptive labeling and advertising practices employed to sell the product that misleadingly claims to be ‘100% Natural.’”

The Green Giant class action lawsuit is brought on behalf of anyone who purchased Green Giant Valley Fresh Steamers containing corn or soy ingredients from October 22, 2008 through the present. Sign me up!

A Basement is a Basement is a….? You knew it had to happen. And it likely won’t be the only one. This week, a bad faith insurance class action lawsuit was filed against nine insurance companies, including Fidelity, Travelers and State Farm Insurance, over the definition of a basement related to insurance claims filed for damages caused by Hurricane Irene in 2011 and superstorm Sandy in late October. The lawsuit includes claims for Sandy in an effort to avoid improper insurance claim denials similar to those from Irene. Unbelievable.

At the heart of the Hurricane Sandy basement lawsuit is the issue of whether or not ground-floor units have been properly classified as basement units. Here we go. According to the lawsuit, the SFIP defines a basement as “any area of the building, including any sunken room or sunken portion of a room, having its floor below ground level (subgrade) on all sides.” The SFIP offers limited coverage for damages in basements, according to the lawsuit. Patrick Donnelly, from Jersey City, had flood insurance through WYO with New Jersey Re-Insurance Company and had a claim denied after Hurricane Irene because his ground floor was identified as a basement.

Part of the problem is that homeowners have a limited understanding of what a basement is under the terms of their policy. So, you might think you know your ground floor apartment is not basement—or vice-versa—but you don’t. Got that?

No? Well, you’re not alone. The lawsuit will represent everyone in New Jersey insured by the companies named in the lawsuit. Further, the lawsuit contains sub-classes specifically focused on Jersey City and Hoboken property and business owners.

Top Settlements

Dillard’s Disability Woes End in Settlement. Finally—some good news to end the year on! Well almost end the year on. A $2 million settlement has been reached in an employment class action lawsuit pending against department store chain Dillard’s Inc. The Dillard’s class action lawsuit contends that the retailer is in violation of federal disability laws by requiring workers seeking sick leave to disclose private medical conditions.

Dillards is under investigation by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for firing a worker in El Centro in Southern California’s Imperial Count. The worker alleged she was fired in 2006 after refusing to reveal her exact medical problems to a manager who would not accept her doctor’s note when she requested sick leave.

According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, the EEOC alleges that in 2005 Dillard’s implemented a nationwide policy requiring those asking for excused absences for illness to not only give a doctor’s note but also disclose the medical condition they were being treated for. This affected thousands of workers, the EEOC claims, and is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which is meant to protect workers from being forced to disclose private medical information.

The EEOC has said it also investigated complaints that Dillard’s fired workers for taking more sick leave than the maximum number of days allowed by the retailer, which also violates federal disability discrimination laws.

As part of the settlement, Dillard’s has also agreed to hire a consultant to review and revise its employment policy.

I’ll drink to that! And on that note-Happy Holidays!

Week Adjourned: 4.20.12 – Purina Dog Treats, FEMA Trailers, Allstate Insurance

The weekly wrap on top class action lawsuits and settlements for the week ending April 20, 2012. Top stories include Purina dog treats, Allstate Insurance and Hurricane Katrina FEMA trailers.

And this week—it’s business behaving badly…

Top Class Actions

If you have a dog, read this… A $5 million defective products class action lawsuit has been filed against Nestlé Purina Petcare Co, alleging the company’s Waggin’ Train Yam Good chicken-wrapped treats causes kidney failure in dogs.

The Waggin’ Train Yam Good dog treats lawsuit, filed by Dennis Adkins from Illinois, claims his 9-year-old Pomeranian dog became sick and died from kidney failure three days after eating Waggin’ Train Yam Good chicken-wrapped treats. Adkins said he didn’t give his dog more than the recommended one treat per day, and his other dog did not eat the treats and didn’t get sick. Walmart, where the dog treats were sold, is also a defendant in the lawsuit.

As reported by Reuters Legal, in 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a cautionary warning to consumers about a potential link between dog illnesses and chicken jerky-based products imported from China. None of the products were recalled, and no specific brands were mentioned in the FDA warning. Unbelievable? No, sadly not.

Top Settlements

The fallout from Hurricane Katrina just goes on and on…this week, a $14 million settlement was reached in the defective products Hurricane Katrina FEMA trailer class action brought by victims of Hurricane Katrina against 21 companies who manufactured those infamous FEMA trailers.

The companies manufactured government-issued trailers for storm victims after Hurricane Katrina, and the FEMA trailer lawsuit claims that those trailers contained hazardous materials. As a consequence, the occupants were exposed to toxic fumes.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs told media on Tuesday that the trailer manufacturers or their insurers will pay a total of $14.8 million to resolve the claims without any admission of wrongdoing. The proposed settlement could benefit tens of thousands of Gulf Coast residents who lived in the travel trailers, which were provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) after hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, the Associated Press reports.

Early Bird Renewals Catch Bad Faith Insurance Settlement at Allstate. A proposed settlement has been reached this week in a bad faith insurance class action that accuses Allstate of deceptive business practices.

What did they do, you ask? Well allegedly, Allstate Insurance Company and Allstate Indemnity Company (collectively “Allstate”) sent their motor vehicle insureds deceptive motor vehicle insurance renewal bills in order to induce Allstate’s insureds to pay their renewal premium in full a month before the were premiums were actually due.

If you are affected by this potential settlement, you can find out more here. If you have received a Notice, Allstate’s records indicate you are a member of the class.

The Court has given its preliminary approval to the Settlement, and has ordered that a Notice be sent to all Settlement Class Members. Under the terms of the settlement a sum of $2,727,555 would be provided to pay for claims to those class memers who submit valid claims. The payment amount will consist of 30 days of interest at an annual rate of 7 percent simple interest on the payments of the stated “pay in full” amounts that you made on or before the “due date” indicated on the bill.

The judge presiding over this case has deemed that everyone who fits this description is a class member: all Allstate California motor vehicle insureds who from January 1, 2002 through December 31, 2005 received Allstate motor vehicle insurance renewal bills indicating a “due date” for payment approximately one month before the date the policy was to renew, and who paid the stated “pay in full” amount on or before the “due date” on the bill.

And on that happy note—that’s a wrap. I hear the ice-cubes calling my name…