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!