Week Adjourned: 5.13.16 – Colgate, Subaru, Air New Zealand

sparklingMintToothpasteTop Class Action Lawsuits

Show us your Pearly Whites, Darling. Oh, is your tube of Colgate Optic White Toothpaste just not cutting it? Teeth aren’t gleaming white as advertised? Well, you’re not alone. This week, Lori Canale, filed a consumer fraud class action lawsuit against the company alleging—you guessed it—consumer fraud.

Specifically, Canale claims in the Colgate toothpaste lawsuit, for herself and for all others similarly situated, that Colgate-Palmolive misrepresents that its Colgate Optic White Toothpaste “Goes beyond surface stain removal to deeply whiten” teeth and that its Colgate optic white platinum toothpaste “Deeply whitens more than three shades.” Which three shades, precisely?

According to the complaint, the toothpastes do not actually go beyond surface stain removal and do not deeply whiten teeth because their whitening ingredient, which is 1 percent hydrogen peroxide, is not a large enough amount of hydrogen peroxide. Further, the product is not in contact with teeth for a long enough time to do what the company claims it does.

The case is US District Court for the Southern District of New York Case number 7:16-CV-03308-CS.

Lights out for Subaru? Well, likely not. But they are facing a defective automotive class action lawsuit filed in California this week, alleging certain of its vehicles contain a design defect making those vehicles unsafe for drivers and passengers.

Filed by Kathleen O’Neill of Pismo Beach, California, individually and for all others similarly situated, against Subaru of America Inc., the Subaru lawsuit asserts that the car maker’s 2010 and 2011 Subaru Outback vehicles contain a design and/or manufacturing defect that causes the exterior lighting bulbs to fail prematurely and frequently.

Further, this alleged defect, in addition to the associated safety issues, results in vehicle owners paying more to replace the exterior bulbs. Yes, that could get seriously annoying in addition to expensive.

The complaint alleges breach of implied warranty, violation of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, unjust enrichment, and violations of California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act and its Unfair Competition Law.

The case is US District Court for the Central District of California Western Division Case number 2:16-CV-02774-R-KS. 

Top Settlements 

Anti-trust at 30,000 Feet… Air New Zealand down under has agreed to come up with $35 million as settlement of their share of a class action lawsuit brought in 2006 by several freight forwarders who allege the airline fixed prices in their cargo operations. FYI—Air New Zealand is just one defendant in the antitrust class action lawsuit.

Although the airline has not admitted liability, it has agreed to settle to mitigate further legal action and related court costs.

The class action named a list of global airlines, alleging that they conspired on cargo fuel and security surcharges between 2000 and 2006. The US class action is just one of several similar cases brought in other countries. The US Department of Justice launched a criminal investigation, from which Air New Zealand was released in 2011.

The settlement remains subject to court approval. The $35 million represents 2.8% of the $1.2 billion so far paid in settlements by 28 airlines accused of price-fixing. Hey—money in money out—right? 

Ok –That’s a wrap folks…Have a good one. See you at the Bar!

Week Adjourned: 7.17.15 – Walmart, Gerber, Hotel Wrongful Death

walmart logoTop Class Action Lawsuits

Save Money. Live Better…? Words to live by…except for…Walmart got hit with a discrimination class action lawsuit this week, filed by an employee alleging the company denies its staff benefits for same-sex spouses. Filed by Jacqueline Cote, the lawsuit claims that Walmart repeatedly denied medical insurance for her wife before 2014, when the retail giant started offering benefits for same-sex spouses.

The back story…Cote and Simpson met in 1992, while they were both working at Walmart in Augusta, Maine. They subsequently moved to Massachusetts and remained employees of Walmart. They were married in May 2004, days prior to the legalization of same-sex marriage in that state.

In 2007, Smithson quit her job at Walmart to take care of Cote’s elderly mother. As a result Cote attempted to have Smithson added to her employee health plan the following year.

In 2012, Cote’s wife was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, which resulted in the couple incurring $150,000 in medical bills.

According to the proposed Walmart class action, Cote tried to enroll her spouse online, but the system wouldn’t let her proceed when she indicated her spouse was a woman. When she sought an official explanation, she was told that same-sex spouses were not covered. Cote continued to try and have Smithson enrolled in her Walmart employee health plan every year thereafter including the year Smithson was diagnosed with cancer.

The lawsuit seeks damages for the couple and any other Walmart employees who weren’t offered insurance for their same-sex spouses. A federal commission concluded that Walmart’s denial amounted to discrimination and said in May that Cote could sue.

Although no other Walmart employees are named in the suit, it seeks damages for those who come forward. Further, the suit seeks damages for Cote and her wife, Diana Smithson, and it asks Walmart to acknowledge a legal responsibility to continue offering benefits for same-sex spouses. 

What’s Gerber been Puffing On? Gerber, famous maker of healthy baby foods and an instantly recognizable household brand, got slapped with a consumer fraud class action lawsuit alleging the company is misleading parents into buying a product that is far from nutritious. The product? Graduates Puffs food for toddlers. Puffs? Really?

According to the Gerber Graduates lawsuit, the packaging for Puffs is dominated by pictures of fruit or vegetables: juicy peaches, slices of ripe banana, nutritious sweet potatoes. But the ingredients list belies these pictures. Banana-flavored Puffs contain no bananas, only a trace amount of banana flavoring. Sweet potato-flavored Puffs don’t contain actual sweet potatoes, or any other vegetable, only miniscule amounts of sweet potato “flavor.” The closest thing to a fruit or vegetable in Puffs is a very tiny amount of dried apple puree, powder, in other words.

The suit alleges that parents trying to buy healthy and nutritious snacks for their toddlers have trusted Gerber’s reputation and package presentations, paid Gerber’s premium prices based on that reputation, and, in exchange, unwittingly provided their toddlers with empty calories. Far from the healthy treat the labels and Gerber’s reputation suggest, Puffs are little more than flour and sugar. Doesn’t sound like brain food to me…

The lawsuit was filed in the Superior Court of California, San Francisco County, and is titled Gyorke-Takatri, et al., v. Nestle USA, Inc. and Gerber Products Company. 

Top Settlements

Huge Settlement for a Huge Loss…and a cautionary tale in more ways than one…a Florida jury awarded a $24,057,83.00 verdict in a wrongful death lawsuit involving The Riverside Hotel in Fort Lauderdale. In 2012, a newlywed couple were visiting the hotel on their honeymoon. They were killed by a speeding car. The lawsuit alleged that the Riverside Hotel had actual or constructive knowledge that motor vehicles regularly and routinely exceeded the posted speed limit in proximity to the hotel property.

Michael and Alanna DeMella, who were seven months pregnant, checked into the hotel and went to the pool. According to media reports they had stepped into the cabana restroom moments before the incident. Mrs. DeMella was killed on hotel property while in an on-site pool cabana, by Rosa Kim, who drove into a structure on hotel property utilized by hotel guests in the pool area as she used excessive speed on the adjacent road.

In hearing the evidence, the civil jury entered a verdict that found the Riverside was 15% responsible for the tragedy and that they should pay that portion of the verdict.

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

Week Adjourned: 7.4.15 – Kenneth Cole, Pure Leaf Iced Tea, Toyota

Kenneth Cole outletTop Class Action Lawsuits

Kenneth Cole bagging profits at customers’ expense? At least those are the allegations in a consumer fraud class action lawsuit filed against Kenneth Cole Productions Inc.

Specifically, the Kenneth Cole Outlet lawsuit alleges that the retailer misleads customers into believing they are purchasing items at a savings at its exclusive outlet stores by listing artificially high “suggested retail prices” on its product tags next to the term “our price” which is significantly lower. The lawsuit claims that because these products were never for sale in any other store, Kenneth Cole is in violation of California and federal laws.

“The plaintiff, in short, believed the truth of the price tags attached to the products she purchased at a Kenneth Cole outlet, which expressly told her that she was getting a terrific bargain on her purchase,” the complaint said. “In fact, she was not getting a bargain at all.” Filed by lead plaintiff Peggy Cabrera, the lawsuit asserts that Cabrera was induced to purchase a sweater and shirt top from a Kenneth Cole Outlet store in California after noticing significant differences in price between the “MSRP” and “our price” label, particularly after observing that not all product price tags made this distinction.

“In reality, Kenneth Cole never intended, nor did it ever, sell the item at the represented ‘MSRP,’” the complaint states. “Thus, plaintiff was deceived by the false price comparison into making a full retail purchase with no discount.”

In the lawsuit, Cabrera contends that Kenneth Cole is taking advantage of the term “outlet store” because the idea of shopping there conveys to reasonable consumers that at least some products comprise merchandise formerly offered for sale at full-price retail locations, which is not the case at exclusive Kenneth Cole outlets.

Further, the complaint states that the Federal Trade Commission explicitly describes the fictitious pricing scheme employed by Kenneth Cole as deceptive, making it a violation of the FTC Act, as well as the California Business and Professions Code.

Pure Leaf Iced Tea = Pure B.S.? While we’re on the subject of consumer fraud…Unilever United States Inc. and PepsiCo. Inc. are facing a putative class action alleging false advertising regarding their jointly produced Pure Leaf iced tea products. Specifically, the lawsuit claims the teas are falsely branded as “All Natural” and free from preservatives when in fact they contain a non-naturally produced citric acid as a preservative.

Named plaintiff Momo Ren alleges that the defendants engaged in an aggressive marketing campaign that claimed the teas are “nothing but all natural, freshly brewed tea from tea leaves,” which was designed to attract consumers seeking those types of products.

According to the Pure Leaf lawsuit, citric acid is no longer made from fruit but rather manufactured through citric acid bacteria fermentation. It is classified by the USDA as a “synthetic allowed” substance. Therefore, PepsiCo. and Unilever, through a partnership with Unilever-owned Lipton Tea conspired to produce Pure Leaf, the advertising for which is in violation of federal and state consumer protection laws against misbranding.

“By marketing the products as being ‘All Natural’ and free of preservatives, defendants wrongfully capitalized on and reaped enormous profits from consumers’ strong preference for food products made entirely of natural ingredients and free of preservatives,” the suit states.

The plaintiff has filed claims of deceptive trade practices, negligent misrepresentation, breach of express warranty and unjust enrichment and seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

Top Settlements

Toyota Power Steering… Don’t have a dollar figure for this one BUT 800,000 Toyota customers are going to sleep easier as a result of a settlement reached with the car maker in a pending defective automotive class action lawsuit. The suit, filed in California federal court, claims that the power steering systems of some Corollas caused the vehicles to drift out control.

According to court documents, lead plaintiffs Irene Corson and Susan M Yacks, and Toyota, sought preliminary approval of the deal in March, the terms of which state that Toyota denies any defect with the electronic power steering system in the 2009 and 2010 model year Corollas at issue.

Under the terms of the settlement, class members who have complained about the on-center steering feel of their vehicle will have their retuned electronic control units installed at no cost. For those who haven’t previously complained, the retuned electronic control unit will be available at a 50 percent discount. Class members who paid out-of-pocket to have the returned electronic control unit installed may be reimbursed up to $695, according to the settlement memorandum.

Court documents show that The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration opened an investigation in February 2010 of the electric power steering system in the Corolla and Matrix models. The investigation revealed related consumer complaints dealing with operational issues, not failure of steering elements. The investigation was closed by May 2011.

Under the terms of the deal, class counsel can ask for attorneys’ fees and expenses, and class representative incentive awards up to $750,000. The case is Irene Corson et al. v. Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc. et al., case number 2:12-cv-08499, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

Ok—that’s it for this week folks—see you at the bar! And Happy 4th of July!


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: 1.30.15 – Wal-Mart, Conesys, Wendy’s

The week’s top class action lawsuits and settlements. Top stories include Wal-Mart, Conesys and Wendy’s.

Walmart CartTop Class Action Lawsuits

Taxing Trip to Wal-mart? Wal-Mart’s made our list this week—this time it’s a breach of contract class action, alleging the discount retailer shortchanged customers over four years with respect to sales tax, is seeking certification. The lawsuit claims Wal-Mart defrauded its customers by as much as $9 million.

Filed in 2014, the Wal-Mart complaint specifically alleges that the retailer incorrectly applied lower sales tax rates to consumer returns. Plaintiffs are contending that Wal-Mart violated the terms of its sales agreement by refunding its customers less than the purchase price.

The lawsuit claims that an analysis done by Wal-Mart showed that there were nearly 20 million returns to stores with lower sales tax rates from 2007-09. During that time, the retailer used a flawed formula to recalculate how much customers spent, based on the sales tax of the store where the return was processed. The complaint alleges that Wal-Mart should have looked up how much customers paid for the items in the stores where they were purchased.

“Because the plaintiffs’ claims meet the requirements of Rule 23, and the representatives class counsel demonstrated the capacity to adequately represent the class, the court should certify the class and appoint the attorneys as class counsel,” plaintiffs Shaun Brandewie and John Newbrough state in the motion for certification. Both plaintiffs made several purchases at Wal-Mart, returned them to other locations, and were not refunded their full return. All of the discrepancies described in the complaint are for less than $1.

According to the motion for certification, the class is readily discernable because it includes anybody who purchased an item at Wal-Mart and was refunded an amount less than what they paid. Wal-Mart tracks sales and return data such that the amounts paid for items and the amounts refunded are easily ascertainable, the motion said. Hey—every penny adds up…

Defend this, Conesys… Conesys Inc, an aerospace and defense electronics parts manufacturer, is facing a potential unpaid wages and overtime class action lawsuit filed by employees who allege the company fails to pay them overtime or compensate them for meal and rest breaks.

Filed in California state court, on behalf of plaintiff Rafael A. Lozano, a machine operator at AEC, the Conesys lawsuit claims that for at least four years had a “consistent” policy of failing to pay all wages owing to their California-based employees, as well as failing to provide meal and rest breaks required under California labor law.

“As a result of the defendants’ unlawful conduct, plaintiffs and other members of the…class have suffered damages in an amount subject to proof, to the extent that they were not paid for all wages earned,” the lawsuit states.

Torrance, California-based Conesys, based in Torrence, CA, has over 1,000 workers worldwide, including several facilities located in Torrance. The lawsuit alleges that in California, the company unevenly rounds out the amount of time employees’ work, which denies them compensation for any time worked beyond that of eight hours per day or 40 hours per week.

Additionally, the lawsuit states that Conesys’ corporate practice of rounding out hours worked has resulted in its employees being issued with inaccurate wage statements, and, in some cases, being effectively paid below minimum wage.

Further, the complaint also states that Conesys failed to provide the necessary breaks, which in California requires employers to provide a short, paid rest break for shifts of at least four hours, and at least one uninterrupted 30-minute meal break when employees work a shift of more than five hours, and two, if the shift runs for longer than 10 hours.

The plaintiff is asking for compensation for missed pay for himself and other employees allegedly shortchanged by Conesys going back up to four years, as well as penalties against the company and “reasonable” attorneys’ fees and costs.

The case is Lozano et al. v. Conesys Inc. et al., case number BC570320, in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles.

Top Settlements

Here’s a Happy Ending. The fast food chain Wendy’s has reached a proposed settlement in a pending discrimination class action lawsuit. The complaint maintains that Wendy’s Pittsburgh-area restaurants have architectural barriers that limit access to wheelchair-bound individuals, a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Plaintiff Christopher Mielo and Wendy’s reportedly reached the settlement on January 26th. Meilo, a mobility disabled man who regularly used a wheelchair to get around, filed the lawsuit in 2014, alleging that within the Pittsburgh area 17 Wendy’s restaurants had excessively sloped parking spaces and access aisles, accessibility barriers that make it difficult for wheelchair users to access the restaurant’s facilities independently. According to the lawsuit, these accessibility barriers are a violation of the ADA.

The lawsuit states, “The architectural barriers described above demonstrate that defendant’s facilities were not altered, designed or constructed in a manner that causes them to be readily accessible to and usable by individuals who use wheelchairs.”

Under the terms of the settlement, Wendy’s would be required to remove the alleged architectural barriers in order to come into compliance with ADA standards and requirements. More specific terms have not been made public.

The Wendy’s Wheelchair Access Class Action Lawsuit is Christopher Mielo v. Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers of New York Inc., Case No. 2:14-cv-00893, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.



Hokee Dokee—That’s a wrap folks…Time to adjourn for the week. See you at the Bar!


Week Adjourned: 1.3.15 – Apple, GM, Wells Fargo

The Week’s Top Class Action Lawsuits and Settlements. Top stories include Apple, GM and Wells Fargo.

Apple logoTop Class Action Lawsuits

Another year, another Apple Lawsuit. Yup. This week, iPhone users in Miami filed a consumer fraud class action lawsuit against Apple Inc, alleging the Cupertino-based tech giant greatly overstated the storage capacity of devices that run its latest mobile operating system, iOS 8.

Lead plaintiffs filed the complaint  in U.S. District Court in Northern California claiming operating system itself requires a significant percentage of the storage capacity on the iPhones, iPads and iPods that run it, thereby making a large portion of the advertised space unavailable to device owners.

According to the lawsuit, in some cases, the space used is 23.1 percent. Further, the complaint alleges, Apple entices customers in need of more space to pay for extra storage on iCloud.

“Using these sharp business tactics, [Apple] gives less storage capacity than advertised, only to offer to sell that capacity in a desperate moment, e.g., when a consumer is trying to record or take photos at a child or grandchild’s recital, basketball game or wedding,” the lawsuit states. “To put this in context, each gigabyte of storage Apple shortchanges its customers amounts to approximately 400-500 high resolution photographs.”

The plaintiffs allege Apple is violating California laws prohibiting unfair competition and false advertising. They claim that reasonable consumers do not expect the “marked discrepancy” between the advertised level of storage capacity and the available level of capacity on Apple devices running the OS.

GM’s Record Year? GM must be facing some kind of record for the number of defective automotive class action lawsuits filed against it in 2014. The latest GM lawsuit, filed in December, alleges a defect in the steering system of its Chevrolet Volts which causes the steering wheel to freeze intermittently while driving. Yes—that could certainly cause a few problems.

Filed in New Jersey federal court, by plaintiffs Christopher Johnson and Tara Follari-Johnson, the GM lawsuit claims that GM knew, or should have known, about the alleged defect, but continued to sell the cars. The lawsuit further claims that the alleged defect poses a hazardous safety risk to drivers and that even when GM agrees to fix the steering system, it only replaces the allegedly defective steering rack with the same or similarly defective components.

“When class members present to GM’s authorized dealerships complaining of the steering defect, the dealerships recommend repairs such as replacing the steering rack or steering gear assembly,” the plaintiffs said. “However, these repairs only temporarily mask the problem.”

The lawsuit alleges GM is in violation of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act and the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, and in breach of implied warranty of merchantability and express warranty and common law fraud.

The plaintiffs propose to represent a nationwide class of owners and lessees of 2011-2014 Chevrolet Volt bought or leased new in New Jersey and a subclass of national class members who live in New Jersey. There are at least 100 members of the proposed class, according to the plaintiffs, and their claims are more than $5 million.

“Complaints that consumers filed with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and posted in discussion forums demonstrate that the defect is widespread and dangerous and that it manifests without warning,” the complaint states. “The complaints further indicate defendants’ knowledge of the defect and its danger.”

Top Settlements

Wells Fargo Agreed to Pony Up $14.5 million as part of a preliminary settlement agreement reached in a Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) class action lawsuit. The lawsuit was  brought on behalf of millions of customers who alleged Wells Fargo Bank NA called them on their cellphones to collect credit card debt.

Brought by lead plaintiff Lillian Franklin, the Wells Fargo settlement motion, if approved, will resolve her suit claiming the bank violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act by making automated calls to alleged debtors without their consent. She filed suit in August, claiming the financial institution called her multiple times on her cellphone in 2010, to collect an alleged debt on her credit card. The calls featured a pre-recorded message and were made without Franklin’s consent, according to the lawsuit.

According to the settlement terms, a settlement fund will be shared evenly between class members who submit claims. Currently, the class consists of 4 million members. The fund will established after consideration of attorneys’ fees and administration costs, according to the motion.

The case is Franklin v. Wells Fargo Bank NA, case number 3:14-cv-02349, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.

Hokee Dokee—That’s a wrap folks…Time to adjourn for the week.  Happy New Year!

Week Adjourned: 7.4.14 – Adobe, Fluidmaster, J. Crew

The week’s top class action lawsuit and settlement stories–4th of July edition! Top stories include Adobe Creative Cloud, Fluidmaster and J. Crew.

Adobe Creative CloudTop Class Action Lawsuits

Heads up all you Designers and Creatives out there…Adobe Creative Suite billing may just be a little too creative. Adobe got his with a consumer fraud class action lawsuit this week alleging the software maker charges an illegal termination penalty for cloud subscription access to its blockbuster applications such as Photoshop and Illustrator.

Filed by Scotty Mahlum, in California Federal Court, the Adobe lawsuit alleges that Adobe’s early termination fee, which can add up to hundreds of dollars, violates California’s Unfair Competition Law and Consumers Legal Remedies Act. It sure seems to be a blatant cash grab—opinion here…

“[The fee] is designed to maintain recurring revenue by preventing subscribers from cancelling, rather than to compensate for any damages sustained by [Adobe],” Mahlum said. [If Adobe] “has suffered any damage upon early cancellation, the ETFs are not a reasonable measure or approximation of such damages.”

According to the complaint, a monthly subscription for access to Adobe’s complete cloud suite is $49.99 or $9.99 per month for access to individual programs. But if consumers end their contracts early, Adobe charges them 50 percent of the remaining value of the contract. “Because Adobe has no expenses after a subscriber downloads Creative Cloud Software to a computer, 50% of the remaining contract obligation is a windfall for Adobe,” the lawsuit states.

The Creative Cloud programs include Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Premiere, After Effects, Audition, Dreamweaver and other programs.

The subscription contract is a take-it-or-leave-it proposition and gives consumers no opportunity for term negotiation, the Adobe lawsuit contends. Mahlum alleges Adobe phased out the option to buy copies of the software outright in the spring of 2013 and that he signed up for a complete plan in October but canceled it in March.

Mahlum seeks a permanent injunction against collection of the ETFs and wants the company to pay back all ETFs it has collected from the class, which he says should include all current or former subscribers in the U.S. who were charged the fee.

In a December earnings report, Adobe revealed it had ended the 2013 fiscal year with 1.4 million Creative Cloud paid subscriptions, an increase of 1.1 million over the course of the year. The lawsuit contends that Adobe’s revenue from the cloud model jumped from $160 million in the second quarter of 2012 to $255 million in the second quarter of 2013.

The case is Mahlum v. Adobe Systems Inc., case number 5:14-cv-02988, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

It would appear there’s Nothing Fluid about this Crap… at least according to some very pissed off consumers who filed consumer fraud class-action lawsuit against Fluidmaster Inc., this week. The lawsuit claims that the plumbing product and toilet repair company knowingly sold defective toilet connectors that spontaneously broke, causing millions of dollars in property damage at homeowners’ expense. Nice!!!

The Fluidmaster complaint, filed April 24, 2014, in the US District Court for the Central District of California, states that Fluidmaster elected to sell faulty plastic toilet connectors even when it was mechanically and financially feasible for the company to sell an existing, safer alternative design. According to the lawsuit, more than a million defective toilet connectors were sold in the US. Ok—that’s a lot of folks. That’s a lot of damage.

Apparently, upon realizing that its plastic toilet connectors were routinely cracking, leaking and causing significant damage, Fluidmaster responded by lowering its 10-year warranty to five years, according to the lawsuit. The complaint’s two named plaintiffs experienced massive property damage after their Fluidmaster toilet connectors spontaneously failed. One of the plaintiffs, Brian Kirsch, received a call while on vacation from his garbage collector informing Kirsch that water was spilling from an upstairs window of his home and raining into his garage. Kirsch’s home had to be gutted and completely renovated while he and his family were displaced.

Due to the material and design of the toilet connector, the plastic was susceptible to bending with weight and pressure over time, according to the suit. The complaint also cites the company’s poor instructions and warnings that failed to provide the customer with sufficient information to safely and properly install the connectors.

After reducing the product’s warranty, Fluidmaster began to redesign the toilet connector in mid-2011, marketing and selling a new, reinforced connector. According to the complaint, the company never publicized that the product was redesigned and did not recall the defective products from its distribution networks. It also did not notify property owners that the defective products could spontaneously fail and should be replaced, keeping the defective products in use, according to the complaint. That’s just plain shitty (couldn’t resist!)

Top Settlements

J. Crew to pony up for Illegal Zip Code Collection….Yup—a preliminary settlement has been approved in a zip code collection class action lawsuit pending against J. Crew Group Inc. The lawsuit alleged the retailer unlawfully collected customers’ ZIP codes during credit card purchases and used the information to send unsolicited marketing materials to those customers.

According to the terms of the J. Crew settlement, J Crew will provide $20 vouchers to eligible class and a $3,000 award to the class representative, lead plaintiff Lauren Miller, who alleged the company began sending her unsolicited junk mail after she made two credit card purchases in 2011 and 2012. Prior to providing her ZIP code during those transactions, she hadn’t received any promotional materials, according to the complaint.

Miller had urged the judge to approve the settlement earlier in the month, telling the judge that the settlement sufficiently covered the damages stemming from J. Crew’s allegedly improper ZIP code collection.

“The action seeks to redress J. Crew’s alleged unlawful invasion of its customers’ privacy and its alleged violation of the laws of the commonwealth of Massachusetts designed to protect consumers’ rights to be free from intrusive corporate data collection and marketing. The settlement substantially achieves this goal,” Miller said in a memorandum.

The settlement will put to bed claims of the proposed class of Massachusetts customers who used a credit card at the retailer’s stores after June 20, 2009, and whose ZIP code was subsequently recorded. J. Crew denies any wrongdoing.

The class action is Miller et al v J. Crew Group, case number 1:13-cv-11487, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

Ok FolksHappy Fourth of JulyHave a wonderful weekendand we’ll see you at the bar!

Week Adjourned: 5.16.14 – Goodman AC, GM, Kashi Cereal

The week’s top class action lawsuits and settlements. Top stories include Goodman air conditioning, GM Financial and Kashi Cereal.

Goodman acTop Class Action Lawsuits

Is your air conditioning unit blowing a little defective hot air? Well, according to a class action lawsuit filed against Goodman Global, Inc., and certain affiliated companies, their central air conditioning units and heat pumps sold under the Goodman® and Amana® brands since 2007 are—defective that is. The bit that’s causing the alleged problems is the evaporator coil(s).

For those of us not intimately acquainted with the working innards of an air conditioning unit (most of us, I’m guessing) evaporator coils are generally located inside a consumer’s home and are essential to the proper functioning of any central air conditioning system or heat pump.

So–according to the lawsuit, Goodman and Amana central air conditioning and heat pump systems contain defective evaporator coils that improperly and prematurely leak refrigerant (a.k.a. Freon®). Oh that’s good. Not. The defect allegedly renders the systems inoperable because the cooling cycle will not work without refrigerant.

Although Goodman sells these units with a warranty, that warranty is limited in a way that provides insignificant protection to owners of the units. In particular, the Goodman warranty, by its terms, covers replacement parts, but not the labor costs associated with the replacement. According to the lawsuit, the result is that, when a defective evaporator coil fails, Goodman provides the owner with a replacement coil, but does not pay to have the old coil removed or the replacement coil installed. As alleged in the lawsuit, those labor costs typically run in the hundreds of dollars, and in some cases, thousands of dollars. Thus, in at least some instances, the owner is forced to spend as much or more to replace the defective evaporator coil as the cost to purchase a new Goodman unit.

The complaint also alleges that Goodman has known that its units sold since 2007 contained defective evaporator coils, but the company failed to inform consumers about the problem or issue a recall. Indeed, according to the lawsuit, Goodman continued to tout the quality of its air conditioning systems, claiming they were durable, dependable, and long lasting, even though it was aware that the defective evaporator coils would cause the units to fail prematurely and at rates far above the industry average.

The lead plaintiff in the case acquired his Goodman unit when he purchased his new house in September 2011. According to the lawsuit, in or about July 2013, after only one summer of use, the unit stopped cooling the plaintiff’s home. A service technician allegedly found that the unit was low on refrigerant and added four pounds of refrigerant, which immediately leaked out of the system. After observing this, the technician determined that the evaporator coil was leaking and needed to be replaced. According to the complaint, the service technician returned the old defective evaporator and replaced it with a new one, charging plaintiff approximately $650 for this service.

The civil action was filed on behalf of all consumers in North Carolina that purchased a central air conditioning unit or heat pump bearing the trade names Goodman® and Amana® from 2007 to the present.

GM—AGAIN! GM just cannot seem to get it right these days. No, this time it’s not the auto recalls…this week their loan re-financing subsidiary got hit with a class action lawsuit alleging violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).

Brought by Monique Perez of California, the GM lawsuit claims that beginning in late 2013, General Motors Financial Co. Inc. made “virtually daily incessant calls” to Perez’s cellphone regarding a debt allegedly owed by another person named “Melanie.”

Perez claims that by calling from an automatic telephone dialing system (ATDS), which can store or produce telephone numbers to be called using a random or sequential number generator, GM Financial violated the TCPA. Don’t you love technology?

According to the lawsuit, “Plaintiff has never provided any personal information, including her cellular telephone number, to defendant for any purpose. As such, neither defendant nor its agents were provided with prior express consent to place calls via its ATDS to plaintiff’s cellular telephone.”

The plaintiff alleges members of the class not only suffered privacy violations but also suffered cellular telephone charges or saw a reduction in cellular telephone time that had already been paid for.

Perez is seeking to represent a putative class, made up of all US residents who received any telephone call from the company to a cellphone through the use of an ATDS within the past four years. She is seeking $500 per negligent violation and $1,500 per knowing or willful violation of the TCPA for each class member.

Top Settlements

So it was all corn after all… Kellogg’s, the maker of Kashi products, has agreed to a $5 million settlement, potentially ending a consumer fraud class action lawsuit that claimed Kashi’s labeling was misleading and fraudulent. Wait—don’t tell me—this stuff is so natural it makes Mother Nature look fraudulent—right?

Right. The Kashi lawsuit alleged that labeling on certain products used labels stating “All Natural” or “Nothing Artificial,” when in fact the products contain a variety of synthetic and artificial ingredients, such as pyridoxine hydrochloride, calcium pantothenate, hexane-processed soy ingredients, ascorbic acid, glycerin and sodium phosphate.

Under the terms of the settlement, Kellogg’s has also agreed to stop using the labels “All Natural” and “Nothing Artificial”. In a statement, Kellogg Co. said it stood by its advertising and labeling practices but that it would change its formulas or labels on Kashi products, nationally by the end of the year.

The settlement was filed May 2 in U.S. District Court in California and is subject to court approval.

Ok Folks—we’re done here—have a great weekend and we’ll see you at the bar!


Week Adjourned: 5.9.14 – CVS, Google, FiveFingers, Medtronic

The week’s top class action lawsuits and settlements. Top stories include CVS, Google, FiveFingersand Medtronic

CVS CaremarkTop Class Action Lawsuits 

Caremark to get healthy over vitamin E advertising claims? That’s right folks, the pharmacy chain is facing a consumer fraud class action lawsuit filed by a customer who alleges the labeling on the pharmacy chain’s vitamin E pills state that they have heart health benefits.

Filed by plaintiff Ronda Kauffman, on behalf a proposed nationwide class of consumers who purchased vitamin E pills from the major pharmacy chain, and subclasses for customers in Rhode Island and New York, the CVS/Caremark complaint alleges that the CVS labels are misleading to customers, making them think the vitamins could reduce the risk of heart disease.

“The overwhelming majority of scientific studies find no ‘heart health’ benefit to taking vitamin E supplements,” the lawsuit states. Hey – what about the placebo effect?

7,600 CVS pharmacies nationwide carried the vitamins, which retail for approximately $8 to $20 per bottle, the lawsuit states. Kaufman alleges she bought vitamin E tablets from a CVS store in New York after reading the label and lost money on the purchase, which she wouldn’t have made if not for the heart health claims.

The CVS lawsuit mentions several studies that allegedly show vitamin E provides no heart health benefits. Further, it cites data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which show heart disease to be the leading cause of death in the US.

“Defendants have preyed upon these legitimate health concerns by misrepresenting to consumers that its vitamin E products have a ‘heart health’ benefit when they do not,” the complaint states.

The lawsuit claims CVS has violated deceptive business practice laws in New York and Rhode Island.

So, it’s back to eating your veggies.

Do no evil? Isn’t that it? Well, Google Inc. is facing a proposed antitrust class action lawsuit alleging the company is trying to monopolize the search engine feature on Android smartphones and tablets in violation of state and federal antitrust laws.

The Google lawsuitFeitelson et al v. Google Inc., case number 5:14-cv-02007, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, claims that Google engages is anticompetitive behavior by allowing Android device manufacturers to preload its popular applications, such as Youtube and Google Maps, only if the companies agree to make Google’s search application the default search engine on their devices. Is that evil—or convenient?

The lawsuit states: “By way of Google’s coercive and exclusionary practice with Android OS device manufacturers … Google restrains and quashes competition for default search engine status before it even can begin. Google’s practice is a pure power play designed to maintain and extend its monopoly in handheld general search.”

Further, the plaintiffs claim that Google’s alleged conduct results in consumers overpaying for certain Android phones and tablets, as the price for the devices may have been lowered if rivals had been given a chance to compete for default search engine status, potentially by paying manufacturers.

“Such payments … would lower the bottom-line cost associated with production of the covered devices, which in turn would lead to lower consumer prices for smartphones and tablets,” the lawsuit states.

The class action seeks to represent all U.S. purchasers of Android phones and tablets made by manufacturers who have entered into an alleged agreements with Google requiring its search engine to be the default search tool on their devices. The suit seeks an injunction on these alleged practices, as well as monetary damages.

Could this end up like Microsoft? 

Top Settlements

Can you sue for ugliness, too? Vibram’s set to fork over for false health claims about FiveFingers..Turns out reinventing the wheel may be costly afterall. Vibram, the maker of a glovelike running shoe that purported to have health benefits such as reducing foot injuries and strengthening foot muscles—has agreed to settle a consumer fraud  class action lawsuit.

The FiveFingers lawsuit alleges the company’s health claims regarding its FiveFingers running shoes were false and misleading. Specifically, the lawsuit alleged that the claims were“deceptive” and stated “that FiveFingers may increase injury risk as compared to running in conventional running shoes, and even when compared to running barefoot.” The complaint also stated that the company misrepresented research on barefoot running, claiming “there are no well-designed scientific studies that support FiveFingers’ claims.”

Under the terms of the proposed settlement agreement, Vibram would pay $94 per pair of shoes bought. More than two dozen models of Vibram shoes will qualify for refund.

Further, Vibram has agreed to discontinue some aspects of its advertising and marketing campaigns and, in the absence of verifiable scientific evidence, will make no other statements about the health benefits of FiveFingers.

Medtronic, the maker of a spinal bone graft product called Infuse Bone Graft, has said it will pay $22 million to settle about 1,000 lawsuits stemming from claims of adverse health outcomes related to the product and claims that the manufacturer illegally promoted the Medtronic bone product for off-label uses. Medtronic is also reportedly preparing a further $140 million to settle an even larger number of anticipated claims.

Medtronic allegedly encouraged physicians to use its Infuse bone stimulator off-label in the cervical spine, which helped generate sales of more than $3 billion for the manufacturer. As of September of 2008, about 680,000 units of Infuse Bone Grafts had been used in the US, according to Medtronic. According to a report by the Senate committee investigating the product, the company’s undisclosed manipulation of information through the medical literature included overstating its benefits and downplaying concerns about serious complications. According to MedPage Today, during the past 15 years, Medtronic has paid $210 million in royalties and other payments to a group of 13 doctors and two corporations linked to doctors. Many of the lawsuits claim that it was by paying spinal surgeons the company was able to promote the off-label use of Infuse.

According to a press release Medtronic issued Tuesday, the $22 million will resolve the claims of some 950 people. A further 750 cases brought by 1,200 people are pending across the use, and there could be another 2,600 claims yet to be brought.

Ok—Folks—we’re done here—have a great weekend and we’ll see you at the bar!

Week Adjourned: 4.4.14 – Toyota, Walgreens, Trader Joe’s

The week’s top class action lawsuits and settlements. Top stories include Toyota, Walgreen’s, and Trader Joe’s.

Toyota LogoTop Class Action Lawsuits

Toyota rejoins the automotive class action lawsuit alumni this week—with the filing of a new consumer fraud class action alleging it concealed information regarding oil consumption in the engines of some of its most popular models. The lawsuit claims that the engines in certain Toyota vehicles were prone to rapidly burning through oil just as they approached warranty expiration, causing owners thousands of dollars in repair costs. Now that’s convenient.

Filed in California federal court, the complaint alleges the defect can cause safety risk that can lead to catastrophic engine failure. The lawsuit claims the models affected include the Toyota Camry, Corolla, Matrix and RAV4.

According to the complaint, Toyota Motor Corp. was aware of the defect, and it notified authorized dealers of the problem in 2011, however, Toyota refused to pay to fix the vehicles when contacted by the plaintiffs. Really?

“Plaintiffs … bring this claim since the oil consumption defect typically manifests shortly outside of the warranty period for the class vehicles—and given defendants’ knowledge of this concealed, safety-related design defect—Toyota’s attempt to limit the warranty with respect to the oil consumption defect is unconscionable here,” the complaint states. The lawsuit states that the plaintiffs’ vehicles exhausted their oil supply in 3,440 to 4,300 miles ??” well before an oil change would typically be performed at 5,000 miles under Toyota’s recommended maintenance schedule. And, according to the lawsuit, once the plaintiffs contacted Toyota, it refused to repair the vehicles under the warranty, claiming it had either expired or failed to cover the defect.

Toyota was made aware of the problem after receiving information from dealers and records from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The company also knew the nature and extent of the problem from its internal record keeping and durability testing, and from warranty and post-warranty claims, the complaint alleges.

The claims, which seeks unspecified damages, were brought under various state consumer protection and business law statutes, on behalf of consumers in California, Florida, Washington, New York and New Jersey. Additionally, the lawsuit claims violations of express warranty, fraud, and breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing.

The vehicles cited in the complaint are the 2007 to 2011 Toyota Camry HV, 2007 to 2009 Toyota Camry, 2009 Toyota Corolla, 2009 Toyota Matrix, 2006 to 2008 Toyota RAV4, 2007 to 2008 Toyota Solara, 2007 to 2009 Scion tC, and 2008 to 2009 Scion xB. The defect is found on 2AZ-FE engines.

Bicycles—that’s the answer… oh dear.

Top Settlements

Walgreens may soon be dispensing settlement checks…the pharmacy chain reached a proposed $29 million settlement this week, which involves nine California wage and hour class action lawsuits, consolidated in federal court in California. The lawsuits had all alleged that Walgreens failed to provide its employees with adequate breaks, and pay them overtime for mandatory security checks.

Additionally, the wage and hour lawsuits claimed Walgreens failed to provide duty-free meal and/or rest periods, failed to pay all wages owed at termination, failed to reimburse employees for business expenses, failed to provide itemized wage statements.

The Walgreens settlement covers Walgreens nonexempt employees who worked at a California Walgreens store from May 13, 2007, including pharmacists and regular retail store employees.

A hearing will be held May 12, 2014, to determine whether to grant preliminary approval to the Walgreens unpaid overtime class action settlement.

Walgreens agreed to the settlement as a quick means for a resolution, despite its ongoing dispute of the claims. What – so it costs less to pay your employees than go to court? And the learning here would be?

Although the settlement was agreed in principal in August 2013, it has taken several months to finalize the details, consequently a preliminary settlement hearing will be held May 12, 2014. Here’s hoping…

Trader Joe’s trading a lawsuit for settlement? Heads up all you Trader Joe’s shoppers out there—a potential settlement is in the works regarding the consumer fraud class action lawsuit pending against Trader Joe’s. The class action claims certain food products carried and sold at the food retailers’ outlets are labeled as being “All natural”, when they contained synthetic ingredients. Yup. Heard that one before.

The lawsuit goes…certain Trader Joe’s food products were improperly labeled, marketed, supplied, and sold as “All Natural” and/or “100% Natural” even though they contained one or more of the following allegedly synthetic ingredients: ascorbic acid, cocoa processed with alkali, sodium acid pyrophosphate, xanthan gum, and vegetable mono- and diglycerides. The products at issue are: Trader Joe’s Chocolate Vanilla Creme Cookies; Trader Joe’s Chocolate Sandwich Creme Cookies; Trader Joe’s Jumbo Cinnamon Rolls; Trader Joe’s Buttermilk Biscuits; Trader Giotto’s 100% Natural Fat Free Ricotta Cheese; and Trader Joe’s Fresh Pressed Apple Juice.

The proposed Settlement Class (i.e., “Settlement Class Member”) covers a class of plaintiffs who purchased, on or after October 24, 2007 through February 6, 2014, the following Trader Joe’s food products: Trader Joe’s Chocolate Vanilla Creme Cookies; Trader Joe’s Chocolate Sandwich Creme Cookies; Trader Joe’s Jumbo Cinnamon Rolls; Trader Joe’s Buttermilk Biscuits; Trader Giotto’s 100% Natural Fat Free Ricotta Cheese; and Trader Joe’s Fresh Pressed Apple Juice (“Products”).

Trader Joe’s, being the latest in a long line of companies facing similar if not the same allegations, denies it did anything wrong or unlawful, of course. They claim, instead that the Products’ labels were truthful, not misleading, and consistent with the law.

For the complete skinny on the Trader Joe’s class action settlement and to download forms, visit: https://tjallnaturalclassaction.com/

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