Week Adjourned: 12.5.14 – Apple, Football Concussions, Truvia

The week’s top class action lawsuits and settlements. Top stories include Apple, high school football concussions and Truvia sweetener.

Apple logoTop Class Action Lawsuits

Bad, Bad Apple! Again! Really? This week we report an antitrust class action lawsuit filed by three individuals who allege Apple violated federal and state laws by issuing software updates in 2006 for its iPod that prevented iPods from playing songs not purchased on iTunes.

At the risk of grossly oversimplifying the charges, the Apple lawsuit claims that the software updates caused iPod prices to be higher than they otherwise would have been.

The Court in charge of the case is the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, and the case is known as In re Apple iPod iTunes Antitrust Litigation, C-05-00037-JW.

The Court decided that everyone who fits the following description is a Class Member: All persons or entities in the United States (excluding federal, state and local governmental entities, Apple, its directors, officers and members of their families) who purchased one of the iPod models listed below directly from Apple between September 12, 2006 and March 31, 2009 (“Class Period”). A list of iPod models included in the class can be found here.

We’re losing count of the number of class action lawsuits filed against the technology giant. The Apple allegations have included price fixing, defective products (MacBook Pros, iPhones, iPods), personal data collection, download fees and unpaid overtime, among others. In fact, just last week we reported a proposed $450 million settlement of an antitrust class action against Apple over ebook pricing.

You know, it may just be time to stop drinking the KoolAid—sorry—juice.

Traumatic Brain Injury Trickle-Down…This is interesting—you had to know it was coming. It started with the pros, and now it’s at the high school level. A football concussion and brain injury class action lawsuit has been filed against an Illinois high school association claiming a former football player at one of its member schools developed health problems, including memory loss, because of injuries allegedly sustained as a result of playing high school football.

Filed in Illinois state court by Daniel Bukal, the Illinois football lawsuit claims Bukal played for the Notre Dame College Prep school for four years until 2003. The lawsuit claims that during that time the association failed to put in place policies that would have minimized the kind of concussion injuries Bukal allegedly sustained as a result of playing football. By way of example, the lawsuit claims the association had no policies for schools to follow regarding when to allow injured players to return to the field.

“It is now widely understood and acknowledged that concussions pose serious risks to participants in contact sports, and especially football,” Bukal states in his lawsuit. “Among those risks are brain trauma and potentially debilitating long-term brain injuries. But if the problem of concussions in sports is a crisis, then it would be accurate to call the particular problem of concussions in high school sports an epidemic.”

The lawsuit alleges that high school football players, who are typically between 14 and 19 years of age, are at a higher risk for lasting injuries as a result of physical trauma sustained during football games and practices, because their brains are still developing.

According to the lawsuit, the Illinois high school association does not have sufficient safety protocols in place to protect players against such injuries. The lawsuit also claims that the association does not require schools to conduct any baseline testing for concussions before and during the season.

Additionally, the lawsuit states that the Illinois high school association does not require any medical professionals to be present at games to monitor the safety of players.

Bukal, who has been a team captain and named an offensive MVP during his time on the team, said he continues to suffer the effects of the multiple concussions he sustained during his four years period as a player. According to the lawsuit, Bukal still experiences migraine headaches and “bouts of light-headedness.”

The case is Daniel Bukal v. Illinois High School Association, in the Circuit Court of Cook County Illinois. The case number could not immediately be identified Monday. 

Top Settlements

Not such a sweet deal for Cargill. The agribusiness giant got its knuckles wrapped for not telling the truth, and has agreed to pony up $6.1 million this week, as settlement of a consumer fraud class action. The allegations are that it falsely marketed its Truvia sweetener as being natural when it actually contains largely synthetic and chemically produced ingredients. You shouldn’t be surprised.

According to the settlement terms, the company will establish a $6.1 million fund which will cover attorney’s fees, incentive fess of $2,000 per named plaintiff and distribution among a nationwide class who purchased any of the Truvia products during a six-year period that ended in July. Eligible class members who file claims will be entitled to receive up to $45 in cash or $90 in vouchers.

Additionally, as part of the settlement, Cargill will make certain label changes that will clarify its “Nature’s Calorie-Free Sweetener” and “Truvia Natural Sweetener provides the same sweetness as two teaspoons of sugar” statements. Further it, will add language directing consumers to a new website with frequently asked questions, and update its Truvia website to better explain to consumers the manufacturing processes involved.

The lawsuit was originally filed in July 2013 alleging that in 2008 Cargill teamed up with Coca-Cola (what’s your first clue) to develop a purportedly natural sweetener that would capitalize on consumers’ desire for a health conscious, non-caloric alternative sweetener. The plaintiffs alleged the labelling and marketing campaign the company developed was deceitful, making consumers believe that Truvia is a natural sweetener made primarily from the stevia plant. Not so, apparently.

According to the complaint, the stevia-derived ingredient, Rebaudioside A, comprises only 1 percent of Truvia and is a highly chemically processed and purified form of stevia leaf extract. The main component of Truvia, erythritol, is synthetically fabricated. Feeling good?

The plaintiffs alleged that through this misleading advertising, the defendants were able to charge approximately 300 percent more per packet than Sweet ‘N Low and 67 percent more per packet than Splenda. That in itself is enough to give you heart failure!

The case is Denise Howerton, Erin Calderon and Ruth Pasarell, Individually and on Behalf of All Others Similarly Situated vs. Cargill Inc., case number 1:13-cv-00336, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii. 

Hokee Dokee—Time to adjourn for the week.  Have a good one!