Week Adjourned: 10.19.12 – Healthcare Workers, Madden NFL, Chantix

The weekly wrap on top class action lawsuits and settlements for the week ending October 19, 2012. This week’s top stories include Healthcare workers at Maxim Healthcare, Electronic Arts and NFL Madden games and the first Chantix settlement.

Top Class Action Lawsuits

Overworked and Underpaid on Overtime. An overtime class action lawsuit has been filed against Maxim Healthcare Services Inc, by Jas

mine Lawrence, who was employed as a Home Health Aide by the defendant until October 2012.

In the unpaid overtime lawsuit, Lawrence alleges that Maxim Healthcare Services Inc, violated, and continues to violate, the Ohio Minimum Fair Wage Standards Act (OMFWSA) because of its willful failure to compensate her and the class members at a rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate of pay for work performed in excess of 40 hours in a workweek. Lawrence claims she regularly worked over 70 hours per week while employed by Maxim Healthcare and the majority of her time was spent performing general housekeeping duties as opposed to patient care.

Lawrence also alleges that she and the members of the putative class who are employed by the Defendant in Ohio are “employees” within the meaning of the OMFWSA.

Lawrence, the lead plaintiff in the employment class action, seeks to bring her claim for violation of the Fair labor Standards Act (FLSA)  as a nation-wide collective action, and as a statewide class action based for violation of the OMFWSA.

Maxim Healthcare Services, Inc, is a Maryland corporation which, through hundreds of office locations nationwide, provides in-home personal care, management and/or treatment of a variety of conditions by nurses, therapists, medical social workers, and home health aides. Lawrence and the class are represented by Ben Stewart of Stewart Law PLLC.

Top Settlements

And it’s a Touchdown! The Plaintiffs score a proposed $27 million settlement that’s been reached in a class action lawsuit pending against Electronic Arts. The Electronic Arts settlement, if approved, will apply to anyone who purchased a new copy of an EA Madden NFL, NCAA Football or Arena Football video game between 2005 and 2012 and is an eligible class member.

The backstory—in case you missed it—The Electronic Arts video game antitrust lawsuit was filed in 2008 entitled Pecover v. Electronic Arts, Inc., and alleged that EA violated antitrust and consumer protection lawsuits by holding exclusive license agreements with the NFL, NCAA and AFL to market branded football software. The lawsuit further alleged that the arrangement shut out competitors, enabling EA to charge 70 percent more for “Madden NFL.”

And the skinny on the proposed deal: Class Members of the EA football game class action settlement include all U.S. consumers who bought a new copy of an Electronic Arts’ Madden NFL, NCAA Football, or Arena Football video game for Xbox, Xbox 360, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, GameCube, PC, or Wii, with a release date of January 1, 2005 to June 21, 2012.

If approved by the court at the February 7, 2013 Final Fairness Hearing, Settlement Class Members who submit timely and valid claim forms will receive the following CASH benefits:

If you are an eligible Settlement Class Member, your share of the net proceeds of the Settlement will be based upon the number of video game titles you purchased new, as well as the number of Settlement Class Members who submit valid claims.

Valid claims for the purchase of Madden NFL, NCAA Football, or Arena Football video games for the Xbox, PlayStation 2, PC, or GameCube platforms (“Sixth Generation Purchasers”) will be valued at $6.79 per new game purchased, up to a total of eight units ($54.32).

Valid claims for the purchase of Madden NFL, NCAA Football, or Arena Football video games for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, or Wii platforms (“Seventh Generation Purchasers”) will be valued at $1.95 per new game purchased, up to a total of eight units ($15.60).

The only way to receive cash benefits from the EA antitrust settlement is to submit a Claim Form either online at EASportsLitigation.com or postmarked no later than March 5, 2013.

Let’s hope this settlement levels the playing field…

Here’s a Bittersweet Ending… A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit against Pfizer and its anti-smoking drug Chantix. The Pfizer Chantix settlement, the details of which remain confidential, was reached just prior to the case going to trial.

The lawsuit was brought by the widow of Mark Alan Whitely, from Minnesota, who allegedly killed himself in November 2007 as a result of taking the controversial drug. The lawsuit alleged that Pfizer failed to sufficiently warn that Chantix could increase the risk of suicide.

FYI—in July 2009, the FDA announced an update to Chantix (known generically as varenicline) warnings, alerting patients to the risk of serious mental health events linked to use of the smoking cessation drug. Pfizer, maker of Chantix, was required to put a Boxed Warning on the Chantix label, highlighting the risk of depressed mood, hostility and suicidal thoughts when using the medication. When the FDA made its announcement in 2009, it had received 98 crude reports of completed suicide associated with Chantix (a crude report means the FDA had not examined each report in depth to ensure there were no duplicates). It had a further 188 crude reports of suicide attempts.

The Whitely lawsuit is reportedly the first of some 2,500 Chantix cases that have been combined in a multidistrict litigation (MDL) in Alabama for pretrial evidence-gathering and the first trials.

The consolidated cases are In re Chantix (Varenicline) Products Liability Litigation MDL 2092, 09-cv-2039 U.S. District Court, Northern District of Alabama (Florence). The consolidated cases are In re Chantix (Varenicline) Products Liability Litigation MDL 2092, 09-cv-2039 U.S. District Court, Northern District of Alabama (Florence).

And on that note—I’ll see you at the bar. Have a great weekend!

Week Adjourned: 12.25.10

Top Lawsuits

Fun and Games? Not so much for Electronic Arts (EA). The giant video game producer will face an antitrust class action after all. A federal judge certified a national class action this week that alleges video game consumers overpaid for popular sports titles including Madden NFL.

Specifically, the lawsuit claims that “Delaware-based Electronic Arts violated antitrust and consumer protection laws by holding exclusive license agreements with NFL, NCAA, and Arena Football League. Through these agreements, Electronic Arts developed and published highly coveted sports titles that generated billions of dollars in sales while allegedly restricting competition.”

And we’re not talking peanuts here—according to the lawsuit, the agreements may have inflated the price of some of the titles by as much as 70 percent. Ouch! That hurts.

Want some salt for that wound? Madden NFL is EA’s biggest sports franchise in the United States, and occupies four of the top 10 best selling games in the nation, industry reports claim. So, someone’s laughing all the way to the bank, and their making the trip on your dime. 

Top Settlements

Unnecessary Deconstructive Surgery. This is the kind of story you hear about and shake your head—where do you turn when the experts get it wrong? The courts.

A woman who was  mistakenly diagnosed with breast cancer and consequently underwent a double mastectomy she didn’t need to have—yes that’s right—had both breasts removed for no reason—has been awarded $198,000 in a settlement approved by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.  

Ana Jimenez-Salgado had her diagnosis of breast cancer confirmed by two pathologists who work outside of the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, where she had her breasts surgically removed.Both the outside pathologists determined the cells obtained from an August 2007 biopsy were cancerous. Umm.

But when Ms. Jimenez-Salgado went in for reconstructive surgery, the hospital’s pathologists also examined her breast tissue and determined that she  did not have breast cancer but rather “a benign condition with features that are very similar to cancerous cells,” county documents state.

So, Ms. Jimenez-Salgado did what anyone would have done having frankly no other recourse, she filed a medical malpractice lawsuit, alleging the hospital was negligent in relying on the interpretation of the outside pathologists. She also claimed the breast reconstruction surgery was negligently performed. Oh boy.

For their part, the county did admit that it failed to review the biopsy specimens, which resulted in the “unnecessary mastectomy”. And, the hospital also agreed to pay Ms. Jimenez-Salgado’s medical bills that were not covered by Medi-Cal, in the amount was $24,756. I suppose the up side of this deeply disturbing situation would be that they didn’t operate on her arms or legs—or vital organs.

Cast your mind back to pretty much any time point in the past 18 months and think of Toyota. Recalls are likely what come to mind. Many recalls. One of those many recalls was over accelerator pedals that could get stuck because of badly fitted floor mats, causing the vehicles to literally take off on the driver. Remember that one? Well, this week Toyota agreed to pay $10 million as settlement of a lawsuit brought by the family of four people who were killed in a car accident involving their runaway Lexus.

The car crash, which took place in 2009, killed 45-year old Mark Saylor, an off-duty California Highway Patrol Officer, his wife, their daughter and Saylor’s brother-in-law. They were killed on a suburban San Diego freeway when their car reached speeds of more than 120 mph, struck a sport utility vehicle, launched off an embankment, rolled several times and burst into flames, the Associated Press reported. 

Accident investigators later determined that a wrong-size floor mat trapped the accelerator and caused the crash. And it was this crash that prompted Toyota to recall millions of its vehicles over accelerator pedals becoming trapped by ill-fitting floor mats.

FYI, Toyota’s latest recall was issued December 14. It involves 94,000 Sienna Minivans in the US, 12,000 in Canada and 5,000 in Mexico.  

For a complete list of Toyota recalls click here 

Ok – that’s a wrap for this week. Merry Christmas Everyone! And Safe Driving …