Week Adjourned: 8.4.17 – Wells Fargo, Benicar, California Overtime

Top Class Action Lawsuits

Not all well at Wells? These folks just cannot stay away from the court room. This week, Wells Fargo & Co got hit with a consumer fraud class action lawsuit brought by customers who allege the bank forced them into paying for unnecessary auto insurance, which, in some cases, drove customers so far into a financial difficulty their vehicles were repossessed. Nice

Here’s the back story: According to the proposed nationwide class action, the bank fraudulently collected millions of dollars from “unsuspecting customers who were forced to pay for auto insurance they did not need or want,’’ pushing almost 250,000 of them into delinquency and resulting in almost 25,000 vehicle repossessions.

Filed by Indianapolis consumer, Paul Hancock, the Wells Fargo lawsuit claims Wells Fargo received kickbacks from National General Holdings Corp., through shared commissions on the policies. According to The New York Times, Wells Fargo stopped sharing in commissions from the insurance sales in February 2013.

The lawsuit alleges that when customers took out Wells Fargo loans to purchase vehicles, the bank and the insurance company either didn’t check whether clients already had coverage or ignored the information. The bank then created collateral protection insurance policies for customers, and Wells Fargo then added premium charges to customers’ auto loan bills, often without notifying them, according to the lawsuit.

According to Bloomberg, Wells Fargo has said it may have pushed thousands of car buyers into loan defaults and repossessions by charging them for the unwanted insurance. The bank said an internal review of its auto lending found more than 500,000 clients may have unwittingly paid for protection against vehicle loss or damage while making monthly loan payments, even though many drivers already had their own policies.”

Wells Fargo discontinued the insurance program in September 2016 after finding errors. Hancock alleges Wells Fargo placed a CPI loan on a vehicle he bought in February 2016, charging him $598. Hancock “repeatedly contacted Wells Fargo to inform them that he had the required insurance through an auto insurance policy from Allstate,’’ according to the complaint.

Not only did Wells Fargo fail to credit Hancock’s account for the improper charge, they also failed to refund the money. In fact, Wells Fargo kept charging him for the policy and he was charged a late fee, Hancock claims.

The lawsuit is Hancock v. Wells Fargo & Co., 17-cv-04324, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).The lawsuit is Hancock v. Wells Fargo & Co., 17-cv-04324, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

Top Settlements

Benicar Settlement. This should lower the collective blood pressure a wee bit. This week a $300 million settlement was agreed potentially ending multi-district litigation (MDL) against the makers of the Benicar, Forest Laboratories Inc., and Daiichi Sankyo Inc., and about 2,300 plaintiffs. The lawsuits alleged the blood pressure drug caused gastrointestinal injuries.

The settlement addresses claims filed collectively in state and federal court. The plaintiffs alleged personal injury stemming from defective design of Benicar (known generically as olmesartan), which is also in blood pressure products Benicar HCT, Azor and Tribenzor. 

The hypertension drug is used to lower high blood pressure. It is in a class of drugs known as angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARB). In 2013, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning for patients stating that Benicar could cause sprue-like enteropathy, a condition that includes severe and chronic diarrhea. The agency mandated that Benicar warning labels be changed to include the condition. According to the FDA, sprue-like enteropathy has not been linked with other ARB medications.

The FDA’s action was based on adverse event reports of serious cases of late-onset diarrhea associated with Benicar use. Court documents state that an estimated 1.9 million patients received a prescription for Benicar or a similar drug in 2012 alone.

The litigation had been underway for more than two years. The plaintiffs alleged that not only did Daiichi design the drug in a defective manner but also that it failed to warn users that it could cause chronic diarrhea, nausea, malnutrition, dehydration and weight loss. Daiichi and Forest were jointly accused of promoting Benicar.

According to the terms of the Benicar agreement, the funds will be triggered when 95 percent of all eligible litigants and claimants opt in to the settlement under certain conditions. Patients who have not yet filed a claim and wish to be eligible to receive settlement funds, must have a retainer agreement in place with an attorney by August 23, lawyers told the court.

The case is In Re: Benicar (Olmesartan) Products Liability Litigation, case number 2606, in the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation.

Here’s a nice little payday… to the tune of 3.75 million. Yup, this week, Kellogg Brown & Root LLC agreed to settle a California overtime and labor law class action lawsuit brought by construction workers who allege the company shorted them on meal periods as well as wages. 

The 137 plaintiffs had worked on the Molycorp Mountain Pass rare earth facility in Mountain Pass, California. Under the terms of the proposed settlement, each class member will receive roughly $138 per qualifying work week of they worked during the class period of June 16, 2010, to Friday July 27, 2017. If all potential class members participate in the settlement, the average payout will be $3,100. The proposed settlement requires KBR to pay at least 50 percent of a $3.75 million settlement to participating claimants.

Named plaintiff David L. Totten will receive an award of $20,000. According to the construction worker overtime settlement, another $25,000 will be distributed to plaintiffs.

In the complaint Totten alleged that he and other nonexempt workers at the Molycorp facility who worked on a project to build a salt recovery plant were required to park their vehicles in a designated lot and take company vehicles to and from the work site without being paid for that travel time. Further, the suit alleged the workers were not paid overtime or for second meal periods for workers’ scheduled on 10-hour shifts. The project wrapped up in January 2014.

A final settlement hearing is scheduled for December. The case is David L. Totten v. Kellogg Brown & Root LLC et al., case number 5:14-cv-01766 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.



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

Week Adjourned: 6.8.12 – Catalina Restaurants, NobelTel, Hilton LAX

Weekly wrap of top class action lawsuits and settlements, for the week ending June 8, 2012; top stories include Catalina Restaurant Group, NobelTel, and Hilton LAX hotel

Top Lawsuits

Overtime Violations on the Menu at Catalina. First up this week, an overtime  class action lawsuit. This one filed against Catalina Restaurant Group Inc. and JoJo’s California Family Restaurants, Inc. (“Catalina”) for alleged wage and hour  violations.

Specifically? Violations of California labor laws in regards to overtime pay and requiring their employees to work off-the-clock without being paid for all their hours worked. McDermott, et al. vs. Catalina Restaurant Group Inc. and JoJo’s California Family Restaurants, Inc., was filed by attorneys at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik, who are representing the plaintiffs.

According to the class action lawsuit, the restaurant “did not have in place an immutable timekeeping system to accurately record and pay Plaintiff and other California Class Members for the actual number of hours these employees worked each day, including overtime hours worked.” Specifically, the lawsuit claims that Catalina “consistently did not allocate enough labor hours such that there was not enough time for Plaintiff and California Class Members to complete their required duties.” As a result, the Complaint alleges Plaintiff and California Class Members were forced to clock out of Catalina’s timekeeping system, but were still required to perform additional work for Catalina for which they were not compensated for.

Furthermore, the complaint also alleges that the Plaintiff and California Class Members received non-discretionary quarterly bonuses from Catalina, but Catalina failed to include this extra bonus compensation in the regular rate of pay for the purposes of calculating the correct overtime pay rates owed to these employees. The failure to include the bonus compensation in the regular rate of pay for overtime purposes, according to the complaint, “has resulted in a systematic underpayment of overtime compensation” to the Plaintiff and members of the California Class.

The Complaint further claims that as a result of Catalina’s failure to record all hours worked by members of the California Class and Catalina’s failure to pay these employees the correct overtime rate, Catalina “failed to provide the Plaintiff and the other members of the California Class with complete and accurate wage statements which failed to show, among other things, the correct number of all hours worked and the correct overtime rate for overtime hours worked.”

Founding partner of Blumenthal, Nordrehaug, & Bhowmik, Norman Blumenthal asserts, “when employers exclude non-discretionary bonuses from the regular rate of pay when calculating their employee’s overtime rate, they are violating the law.”

Top Settlements

Ignobel NobelTel? A settlement has been proposed in the of a consumer fraud class action lawsuit captioned Sabaj et al. v. NobelTel, LLC et al. (aka, NobelTel Prepaid Calling Card class action lawsuit)

It could affect you if you purchased prepaid calling cards that were sold, serviced or distributed in California by Nobel, Inc., Nobel, Ltd., NobelCom, LLC, and NobelTel, LLC (“Defendants”), or if you purchased any prepaid calling services sold online and submitted a California billing address through www.nobelcom.com and www.enjoyprepaid.com, between April 8, 2006 and May 24, 2012 (“Nobel Prepaid Calling Cards”). If you made such a purchase, you may be a member of the Settlement Class. (This is only a summary legal notice. A detailed notice is available at the websites and toll free number listed below.)

What Is The NobelTel Lawsuit About?

The consumer fraud lawsuit claims that the Defendants did not inform consumers sufficiently about the applicable rates and charges for their prepaid calling cards and services, failed to deliver minutes voice prompted by the cards, and violated California consumer protection laws. Defendants deny they did anything wrong.

Am I Affected By The NobelTel Settlement?

You are a member of the Class if you purchased a prepaid calling card issued by Nobel, Inc., Nobel, Ltd., NobelCom, LLC, and NobelTel, LLC in California between April 8, 2006 and May 24, 2012. A list of eligible calling cards is available on the websites listed below.

You are also a member of the Class if you purchased any prepaid calling services sold online between April 8, 2006 and May 24, 2012 and you provided a California billing address through www.nobelcom.com and www.enjoyprepaid.com.

What Benefits Does The NobelTel Settlement Provide?

Defendants will provide 400,000 $5.00 calling card Settlement Personal Identification Numbers (“Settlement PINs”). These Settlement PINs can be used to make international and domestic calls, originating from California, to any place in the continental United States and to 879 foreign locations. A complete list of locations is available on the websites below. If you purchased Nobel Prepaid Calling Cards online, you may be entitled to receive one (1) Settlement PIN for up to the first $40 in Nobel Prepaid Calling Cards purchased, and an additional Settlement PIN for every $40 increment thereafter. If you purchased Nobel Prepaid Calling Cards in a physical store in California, you may be entitled to receive one (1) Settlement PIN for up to the first $20 in Nobel Prepaid Calling Cards purchased, and an additional Settlement PIN for every $20 increment thereafter, up to a maximum of six (6) Settlement PINs.

How Do I Make a Claim in the NobelTel Settlement?

If you purchased prepaid calling services sold online through www.nobelcom.com and www.enjoyprepaid.com, you will automatically receive the Settlement PIN(s) at the e-mail address you provided to Defendants without having to submit anything.

If you purchased a prepaid calling card in some other manner, you must submit a Refund Form to receive the Settlement PIN(s) by mail no later than November 20, 2012 to February 18, 2013.

What Are My Other Legal Rights?

Remain in the Settlement: You will be bound by the terms of the Settlement and give up your right to sue Defendants. To receive the Settlement PIN(s) see the instructions above.

Get out of the Settlement: If you wish to keep your right to sue Defendants, you must exclude yourself by August 13, 2012.

Remain in the Settlement and Object: If you stay in the Settlement, you can object to it by August 13, 2012. You give up your right to sue and are bound by all Court orders even if your objection is rejected.

A hearing in the case, Sabaj et al. v. NobelTel, LLC et al. Case No. BC435467 will be held on September 13, 2012 to consider whether to approve the Settlement and a request for attorneys’ fees and expenses up to $500,000.

Umm… the phone card that never runs out…

Hilton Settlement–No not with Paris, This one’s in LA…The Hilton Los Angeles Airport Hotel has agreed a $2.5 million settlement in the wage and hour  class action brought by 1,200 of its hotel workers. The Hilton lawsuit alleged that the hotel withheld wages, failed to pay overtime and failed to provide meal and rest breaks.

Filed in 2008, the unpaid overtime class action covers all hourly workers who worked at the hotel from 2004 to 2011.

Other allegations included in the employment lawsuit were that the Hilton LAX did not pay its employees for time spent preparing for work and putting on and taking off work uniforms that were required to be left at the hotel. And, that plaintiffs were required to fill out time sheets saying they took breaks whether they truthfully did or not.

Well – someone had to pay for Paris’ exploits…

Ok – that’s a wrap. See you at the bar. Happy Friday Folks.

Week Adjourned: 5.11.12 – Overtime Pay, Smoking Dishwasher, Ormat

A wrap up of the week’s top class action lawsuits and settlements for the week ending May 11, 2012. Top stories include unpaid overtime, smoking dishwashers and Ormat green energy.

Top Class Actions

Holy Catfish Batman!—what’s that smoking thing in the kitchen? A defective dishwasher, perhaps? We’ll find out, as a defective products class action lawsuit has been filed against Whirlpool, the manufacturer of Kitchenaid, Sears Kenmore, Maytag and Whirlpool dishwashers, alleging that certain models of dishwashers have a design flaw that can cause the control circuit board to fail. Greg Adams, who filed the defective dishwasher lawsuit, alleges this happened to him.

Adams claims that on December 8, 2011, he started his dishwasher only to smell burning plastic and see smoke coming from his dishwasher, sometime shortly afterward. To stop the dishwasher, he tried to pull on the door handle, but said he burned his hand on the front panel, which had become extremely hot. In the end, Adams was forced to shut the power off, to prevent further catastrophe, and protect his family. (You know this puts a whole new spin on the benefits of take out.)

According to NBCnews.com, research suggests more than 600 people across the country have come forward on kitchenaid.com. Their products were manufactured by whirlpool, which produces Kitchenaid, Sears Kenmore, Maytag and Whirlpool dishwashers. So why no recall? Well, a recall is one of the things the lawsuit seeks to achieve. Why is this so hard?

Unpaid, unhappy and unafraid… drug sales reps from Medimmune Biologics filed an employment class action lawsuit this week, against the drug company alleging unpaid overtime wage and hour violations. Sound familiar? Novo Nordisk,  and Merck are also facing unpaid overtime suits by their sales reps. An industry-wide practice perhaps? Possibly. That is the $65 million question—and hinges on the definitions of ‘exempt’ and ‘non-exempt’.

According to the Medimmune wage and hour class action lawsuit, Medimmune Biologics violated California overtime laws by failing to pay drug sales representatives for overtime hours worked. Under California law, companies are required to pay all non-exempt employees overtime compensation whenever the employees work more than eight hours in a day or forty hours in a week.

The primary requirement to satisfy the outside salesperson exemption and thus not pay overtime under California law and the Fair Labor Standards Act is that the sales representatives are actually making sales. In the Medimmune Biologics overtime class action lawsuit, the drug sales representatives allege that they were not actually involved in making sales but rather promoting prescription drugs to physicians, doctors and other specialists. At most, the physicians the sales representatives promote the drugs to can agree to prescribe the medicine to patients as needed, but cannot actually buy the prescription medicine from the sales representatives directly.

Notably, all the pharma sales rep unpaid overtime class action lawsuits allege that the pharmaceutical sales representatives should be paid overtime compensation for working more than eight hour days under the California Labor Code and/or forty hour weeks under the Fair Labor Standards Act based on the contention that the drug sales representatives do not qualify for the outside salesperson exemption because they are not actually making sales. Incidentally, sales reps who filed unpaid overtime class actions against Schering Plough won.

Top Settlements

Green Energy Co. about to Hand Over Some Green? We have a potential settlement in the Ormat Technologies securities class action this week.

So here’s the not-so-skinny skinny:

To anyone who purchased or otherwise acquired Ormat Technologies Inc securities between May 7 2008 and February 24, 2010, inclusive, who incurred damages (the “class”):

You are hereby notified that this Class Action is pending and that a Settlement of it for Three Million One Hundred Thousand Dollars ($3,100,000) has been proposed. A hearing will be held on October 1, 2012, to determine: (i) whether the Settlement and Plan of Allocation should be approved by the Court as fair, reasonable, adequate, and in the best interests of the Class; (ii) whether Co-Lead Counsel’s application for an award of attorneys’ fees and the reimbursement of expenses should be approved; (iii) whether the Court should grant Lead Plaintiffs reimbursement of their reasonable costs and expenses (including lost wages) directly related to their representation of the Class; and (iv) whether the Court should approve the release of Released Claims against any and all Released Persons and dismiss the Litigation with prejudice.


To participate in the Settlement, you must submit a Proof of Claim no later than September 24, 2012. As more fully described in the Notice, the deadline for submitting objections to the Settlement and requests for exclusions from the Class is September 10, 2012. Further information may be obtained by visiting gcginc.com/cases/ormat.

Got that?

Good. See you at the bar. And—Happy Mother’s Day!


Week Adjourned: 6.17.11

Top Class Actions

Logistical Error? Nothing like a lawsuit to improve your company’s standing—or attract quality employees—as FTDI West is about to find out. The company, located in California and Florida, got hit with an unpaid overtime class action lawsuit this week.

The gist of the lawsuit is labor code violations, well, that’s a no-brainer. Specifically, the lawsuit states that FTDI West Inc, violated: Sections 226.7 and 512 of the California Labor Code by failing to provide adequate meal breaks to employees involved, section 226.7 of the California Labor Code by failing to provide adequate rest breaks to employees involved, Section 510 of the California Labor Code by failing to pay proper overtime wages, Sections 203 and 226 (a) of the California Labor code by providing involved employees paystubs not in compliance with California law and not paying “waiting time” penalties, as well as two other causes of action as related to Business and Professions Code Section 17200 and the common law tort of unjust enrichment.

The overtime claims asserted deal with non-payment of “double time” wages. Double time wages are due for any work over 12 hours in a workday or any work beyond eight hours on any seventh consecutive day of a workweek.

The lawsuit defines its class members as “All current and former employees of Defendants who were employed as non-exempt employees at any of Defendants’ locations anywhere in California, at any time from four years prior to the initiation of this action until the present.” 

Top Settlements

Drywall Might Settle but the Dust Surely Hasn’t… Remember all the defective Chinese drywall lawsuits of not so very long ago? Well, they are slowly making their way through the courts to settlement land. Case in point—Banner Supply has agreed a $54.4 million settlement of a class action lawsuit brought by homeowners in the Orlando, FL area. In fact, the agreement covers 2,000 to 3,000 homes south of Orlando.

According to Builderonline something like 95 companies have been implicated as distributors of the sulfur-tainted drywall and named in subsequent lawsuits filed against the Chinese manufacturers. The defendants are accused of being the source of tainted drywall. While Banner Supply tops the list, others suppliers reportedly include ProSales L&W Supply, ProBuild, Stock Building Supply, and 84 Lumber.

While $54.5 million might seem a large settlement, it may only work out to between $18,000 and $24,000 per home, and estimates suggest the cost of repairing the affected properties could reach $100,000.

Defective Boat Injury leads to $31M Award. Ok. There’s bad design, and BAD DESIGN. In this case, I’m not talking about an infraction of the Home & Garden variety, but rather something that warranted a $31 million award. Two women brought a defective product and personal liability lawsuit against MasterCraft, after suffering some pretty horrendous injuries that good design likely would have prevented. 

Short version, in 2006 Nichollette Bell and Bethany Wallenburg were among 12 passengers riding in a MasterCraft X-45 wakeboarding craft. They were sitting on the bow of the boat when it was suddenly submerged as the driver of the boat went to retrieve a fallen wakeboarder. As a result the women were swept off the boat by the force of water and into the lake. The boat’s propeller struck Bell on the head, ripping out an eye and leaving her with brain damage. The propeller also slashed Wallenburg’s left elbow and lower back, resulting in muscle and nerve damage. In their lawsuit, the women alleged the boat was defectively designed. They also alleged the driver handled the boat negligently. Not surprisingly, the jury found MasterCraft 80 percent at fault and the driver 20 percent at fault. 

OK. That’s it for this week. See you at the Bar.

Week Adjourned: 5.14.10

An overtrime pay lawsuit has been filed against GentivaThis week it’s all about bad employers and bad drugs…bad, bad, bad!

Top Class Actions

Whole New Meaning to Visitation Rights. A massive, nationwide class action lawsuit was filed this week by employees of one the largest healthcare service providers in the country—Gentiva Health Services, Inc. The employees are claiming the company violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Apparently, Gentiva—which incidentally employs some 30,000 health care workers—treats visiting nurses and other health care providers as exempt from the overtime requirements of the FLSA and refuses to pay these employees for all hours worked. Sound familiar?

Instead, Gentiva pays nurses and other health care providers on a “per visit” basis for some work, an hourly rate for other work, and fails to pay anything at all for other hours worked. Plaintiffs allege that Gentiva’s rather creative take on employee compensation doesn’t quite meet the requirements of state or federal wage and hour law.

The lawsuit, if approved, seeks to represent all current and former Gentiva employees, including registered nurses, therapists, and other health care providers who are or were not paid for all hours worked.

You know these guys may end up rivalling Wal-Mart…. 

Top Settlements

Movin’ from Price to Wage Rollbacks? (Again?) Speaking of the devil…(I feel a rant coming on)… Continue reading “Week Adjourned: 5.14.10”

Week Adjourned: 6.26.09

Top Class Actions

Quiet Company…loud ex-employees? Seems some former Northwestern Mutual (NML) employees missed the “Shhhh!” memo when they worked there. The Milwaukee-based life insurance giant has been slapped with a $200 million class action lawsuit by former employees who allege NML violated the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and California’s overtime and minimum wage laws. Their complaint also states that NML “intentionally and repeatedly” misclassified sales employees as independent contractors: independent contractors are exempt from federal and state wage and hour laws, while full-time employees are not.

Any of this sound familiar? It should. NML was sued on similar allegations in Pennsylvania in 2008. That time around NML won the lawsuit, which resulted in their being able to maintain their financial representatives as ‘independent contractors.’ According to media reports, NML has about 7,000 “financial representatives nationwide.” Be interesting to see if history does repeat itself here.

Fill ‘er kinda up? If you’ve been running out of gas sooner than expected—and I’m referring to propane here, check your cylinder. If it’s from Blue Rhino and AmeriGas, you might be interested to know that they are facing a class action lawsuit over allegations that they reduced the amount of propane provided in tanks sold as ‘full’ without telling their customers. Continue reading “Week Adjourned: 6.26.09”