Week Adjourned: 12.23.16 – McDonalds, DuPont Dumping, IKEA

Top Class Action Lawsuits

What are They up to Under Those Golden Arches? A Chicago McDonald’s franchisee is facing a consumer fraud class action lawsuit filed by a customer who alleges the restaurant is charging 41 cents more for the two cheeseburger “Extra Value Meal” than what it would cost if customers ordered all the items in the meal separately.

McDonald’s Extra Value Meal consists of two burgers, fries and a drink, and cost the plaintiff, James Gertie, $5.90 per meal, in Des Plaines and Niles, Illinois. These two McDonald’s restaurants are part of a chain of more than 10 such restaurants owned and operated by the Karis Group, according to the complaint.

According to Gertie, he purchased a Two Cheeseburger Meal from at least five of Karis’ McDonald’s restaurants in Des Plaines and Niles from Oct. 14 to Nov. 13. Each time Gertie was charged $5.90 for the meal, the complaint states.

Gertie alleges in his McDonald’s lawsuit that posted menu prices indicated the restaurants would have sold Gertie and other customers two cheeseburgers for $2.50, a medium order of French fries for $1.99 and a medium soft drink for $1, for a total of $5.49. That’s a difference of 41 cents less than the posted price for the Extra Value Meal, according to the lawsuit. That 41 cents could really add up…

“Defendant, the operator of several McDonald’s restaurants, advertised for sale a food combination designated as an ‘Extra Value Meal’ but the combination actually costs more than if each item were bought separately, thus making it no ‘value’ at all, let alone an ‘extra value,’” the lawsuit states

They say it’s the pennies that count.

Top Settlements

Some Good News from Some Bad News. A jury in Ohio has awarded $2 million in compensation against DuPont in the first of some 40 environmental toxin cases pending against the chemical company over allegations it dumped toxins into the air and drinking water of the Ohio River, causing illness to people in the surrounding area.

This settlement resolves allegations brought by plaintiff Kenneth Vigneron that DuPont de Nemours & Co, through its actions, caused his testicular cancer. Vigneron’s lawsuit is part of multidistrict litigation involving some 3,500 people who allege that over a period of decades, DuPont released perfluorooctanoic acid, also known as PFOA or C8, into the environment of the Ohio River at the Washington Works site.

According to the plaintiffs, internal studies done by DuPont, which date back for years, strongly indicate that C8 was dangerous. For decades, C8 was used as an essential component in the manufacture of well-known nonstick cookware and coatings. Today, it has been phased out in most US manufacturing.

Six bell weather cases were completed earlier this year, two of which resulted in jury verdicts of $1.6 million and $5.6 million, the latter including punitive damages. DuPont is appealing both verdicts.

While DuPont has been fighting allegations of toxic dumping causing illness, residents of both Ohio and West Virginia claim they have suffered a variety of health problems as a result of their exposure to the chemicals. Further, a Dutch investigation makes similar claims alleging the drinking water near DuPonts’ Dordrecht plant in the Netherlands was contaminated with C8, and that DuPont had been exposing people living near the plant to the toxin for as much as 25 years.

Earlier this year, the judge hearing the cases ordered DuPont to turn over documents related to the Dutch investigation to the American plaintiffs, saying the information about the company’s conduct in a similar situation could be helpful for arguing punitive damages or refuting arguments that the chemical giant has taken a proactive stance on safety concerning C8.

The punitive phase of Vigneron’s trial will be heard in 2017. The case is In re: E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co. C-8 Personal Injury Litigation, case number 2:13-md-02433, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.

IKEA Dresser Settlement. Here’s a positive, yet disturbing settlement. Ikea agreed this week, to pay $50 million to the three families of toddlers who were killed when defective Ikea dressers toppled onto the children. This is the positive bit.

The children’s deaths prompted an unprecedented recall of 29 million dressers, at which time Ikea acknowledged the dressers were at serious risk of tipping onto and killing children. And this is the disturbing bit.

The first death from an unstable Ikea dresser occurred in 1989, with a further six deaths to follow. According to the lawsuits, the Ikea dressers were “defective and dangerous” and that the Sweden-based retailing giant continued to sell them despite the risk, while not properly warning consumers.

Reportedly, the IKEA dresser settlement came shortly after Ikea gave the parents’ attorneys internal documents it had long fought to keep confidential. Under the settlement, the contents of those documents will remain private and will be returned to Ikea, with the stipulation that the company not destroy them.

The plaintiffs include Janet McGee, whose 22-month-old son Theodore died last February when a Malm dresser fell on him, and the parents of 2-year olds Curren Collas and Camden Ellis, both of whom died in 2014.

Each of the three families who filed wrongful death lawsuits will receive an equal share of the $50 million with an undisclosed share going to the attorneys.

As well, Ikea has agreed to make $50,000 donations to three children’s hospitals in the name of the boys, one of which will go to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in memory of Curren Collas.

That’s a wrap folks! Happy Holidays to you and yours. See you at the bar.

Week Adjourned: 7.23.11

Top Class Actions

Unlikely Couple Teams up vs DuPont Imprelis. A Pennsylvania homeowner and an Indiana golf course company filed a nationwide class action lawsuit this week, against E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company (“DuPont”). The charges? You may have read about them—that the use of a weed killer called Imprelis, made by DuPont, is causing widespread death among trees and other non-targeted vegetation across the country. Non-targeted vegetation? What is that—environmental collateral damage?

No wait—non-targeted vegetation means anything that’s not a weed. According to the lawsuit, DuPont failed to adequately disclose the risks for Imprelis damage to trees, even when applied as directed (oh great), and failed to provide adequate instructions for its safe application. Even better.

Lead plaintiff Marsha Shomo, a resident of Johnston, Pennsylvania, claims that the trees at her house of are dying after her lawn was sprayed with Imprelis. Included are two trees Shomo’s sister bought after her diagnosis with cancer, which took her sister’s life in 2001. “My sister was so anxious that the new little trees she bought be taken care of,” Shomo stated. “I promised her I would do that. I want DuPont to know that there is a problem out there and people do have special trees with many years invested in them. This isn’t right. I am filing this lawsuit to make sure DuPont answers to everyone harmed, and make DuPont act more responsibly in the future.”

As for the golf course, Plaintiff R.N. Thompson Golf, LLC, in fact owns and manages several golf courses in the greater Indianapolis area, including the Winding Ridge Golf Course and the Ironwood Gold Course. “We have witnessed catastrophic tree loss around our golf courses after the application of Imprelis, and have received numerous complaints and inquiries about the tree damage and appearance of our courses from our customers,” explained Mark Thompson, Chief Executive Officer of R.N. Thompson Golf, LLC. “We filed this lawsuit to inform other businesses and homeowners about this problem to let them know there is reason their trees are dying and to give them a course of action to fix the problem.”

If Imprelis is affecting your environment, check this Imprelis lawsuit out.

The proposed class consists of all persons and entities whose property was exposed to Imprelis between October 4, 2010 and the date of trial, in particular, those who own: (a) property on which Imprelis was applied; (b) trees or other vegetation whose roots extend under property on which Imprelis was applied or; (c) property onto which Imprelis migrated. Anyone with damaged trees is being advised to preserve the evidence.

Top Settlements

Drilling Deal. Amidst all the media coverage of a rather dubious practice of extracting natural gas called fracking  —and the allegedly related water and health issues surrounding it, property owners on the Marcellus Shale belt in Pennsylvania have just won $14 million from a drilling company that reneged on their contracts to drill. Most people are trying to stop the drilling, but these property owners want it.

The out-of-court settlement was signed off by a Westmoreland judge, ending the two year civil suit brought by 230 property owners against State College-based Rex Energy. The fracking lawsuit was filed in 2009 by property owners in the rural areas of Cook, Derry, Fairfield, Ligonier, Mt. Pleasant and Unity townships. The lawsuit alleged that Rex Energy reneged on 137 drilling contracts the owners claimed they had finalized in 2008. The property owners also claimed that the company failed to honor promises of bonus and rental payments on the drilling leases.

According to a report on Triblive.com, the disputes involves oil and gas drilling rights on about 7,200 acres, or almost 11 square miles. The settlement permits landowners who had not signed leases with other companies and still wished to sign with Rex to do so at $2,500 per acre. The new, five-year leases give landowners a 15 percent royalty on any gas produced. Better get Fracking!

Finally…Score One for the Little Guy. Bank of Hawaii reached a tentative settlement with account holders this week concerning an overdraft fees class action lawsuit brought pissed-off customers who alleged the bank engaged in a systematic policy of re-ordering debit card transactions from highest dollar amount to lowest dollar amount. You could almost recite that sentence in your sleep it’s so common, unfortunately. The lawsuit claimed that this alleged practice allowed the bank to deplete the customer’s available funds as quickly as possible while maximizing the number of overdraft fees.

The Bank of Hawaii settlement amount is $9 million, and, if approved will be used to refund class members for overdraft fees they were charged. “The tentative settlement, subject to documentation and court approvals, provides for a payment by the company of $9 million into a class settlement fund the proceeds of which will be used to refund class members, and to pay attorneys’ fees, administrative and other costs, in exchange for a complete release of all claims asserted against the company,” the bank said in a filing with the Securities Exchange Commission.

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

Week Adjourned: 1.7.11

Top Lawsuits

Is New Balance Off-Balance? New Balance, the Boston-based sneaker maker is being sued over allegations of deceptive advertising, specifically, that its toning shoes create more sculpted legs than traditional walking shoes are not accurate.

The complaint, filed on Monday in the US District Court of Boston, is seeking class action status, and $5 million in damages.

The suit was filed by Bistra Pashamova of California, who claims that she and others like her have been harmed by New Balance. New Balance has promoted its toning shoes with claims that the shoes increase muscle activation by about 27 percent and increase calorie burn by as much as 10 percent with each step. Really?

Probably not. Results from a study completed by the American Council on Exercise, released in the summer of 2010, showed that “toning shoes” do not live up to the claims made by their manufacturers. In fact, the report concluded there were “no statistically significant increases in either exercise response or muscle activation as a result of wearing toning sneakers.”

Additionally, reports of injuries have raised concerns that the shoes, which retail for about $100 a pair, could in fact do more harm than good. You think? I have to ask the obvious question—if this is such a great idea—why are our feet designed to keep us balanced? 

Top Settlements

Spelter Smelter Helter Skelter. (had to, sorry) Here’s a bit of a whopper—Harrison County, WV circuit judge Thomas A. Bedell, approved a $150 million lawsuit settlement that requires DuPont Co to clean up contamination of the community of Spelter and fund a program to Continue reading “Week Adjourned: 1.7.11”