Week Adjourned: 12.15.17 – Google, Marriott, Pier 1 Imports

Top Class Action Lawsuits

North of the 49th and just slightly south of the law? Google got hit with a Canadian privacy violation class action lawsuit this week, alleging the internet giant has been collecting location data from Android smart phone users even when “location services” are shut off and SIM cards are removed. Maybe I should be shocked, but hey…

Filed by Vancouver resident Kipling Warner, the complaint states “Google collects, uses, retains and commercialises [sic] the location data it takes from users, and profits from it. Google’s wrongful acts violated the Privacy Act … and unjustly enriched it at the expense of users. Through this suit, Canadian users seek to hold Google accountable for this unlawful conduct.”

The Google privacy lawsuit, filed on November 28 in BC Supreme Court, claims Warner owns a Samsung Galaxy S4 that runs Google’s Android operating system. Despite having had the phone’s location services feature disabled, Warner asserts that in 2017, Google “began a program of mass user surveillance.” The data, according to the lawsuit, enabled Google to monitor and identify users’ movements and locations.

“Google’s decision to collect the Location Data was planned and deliberate, and was made knowing that users had not consented to, and were not aware of, its collection,” the proposed class action states.

Further, Kipling claims, Android users’ privacy was violated and the data collection could allegedly facilitate “surveillance by hackers or undesireable state actors” while people who need their locations kept secret such as victims of abuse, journalists and confidential sources, or undercover police officers, are under “increased risk of personal harm from disclosure,” the claim states.

Kipling seeks an order certifying the lawsuit as a class proceeding, damages for breach of the Privacy Act, and “disgorgement of all benefits received by Google attributable to the unauthorised [sic] collection, retention, and use of the Location Data.”

Vacation spoiler? Those annoying and potentially illegal robocolls could put you off your poolside vibe for sure. This week, Marriott Vacation Club got hit with a proposed class action lawsuit alleging the company made unsolicited robocalls to the consumers’ cellphones using an autodialer, in violation of the Telephone Consumer protection Act (TCPA).

Filed in California federal court by lead plaintiff, Cheri Astrahan, the proposed action alleges Marriott Vacation Club had, without her permission, used an automatic telephone dialing system with an artificial or pre-recorded voice, to contact her cell phone. However, in 2003, she had added her cellphone number to the national do not call registry. Ah – does that matter?

“Plaintiff requested for defendant to stop calling plaintiff, thus revoking any prior express consent that had existed and terminating any established business relationship that had existed,” the complaint states. “Despite this, defendant continued to call plaintiff in an attempt to solicit its services and in violation of the National Do-Not-Call provisions of the TCPA.”

According to the proposed lawsuit, Marriott Vacation Club, a timeshare operator, made numerous unsolicited telephone calls to Astrahan’s cell phone over a 12-month period. Specifically, she claims that beginning in October, Marriott Vacation Club contacted her on her cellphone in an attempt to solicit her to buy the time share’s services.

However, on October 25, 2003, Astrahan claims, she revoked consent for the time-share company to call her cellphone by expressly requesting that the company cease its solicitation. The revocation ended any prior express consent that had existed and terminated any established business relationship that had existed between Astrahan and Marriott Vacation Club, according to the complaint.

In her complaint, Astrahan asserts Marriot Vacations Worldwide has committed four violations of the TCPA and she is seeking $500 in statutory damages for each negligent violation and treble damages of up to $1,500 for every knowing and willful violation.

The proposed nationwide class numbers in the thousands, so damages exceed the $5 million threshold for federal court jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005, according to the lawsuit.

The case is Cheri Astrahan v. Marriott Vacations Worldwide Corp., d/b/a Marriott Vacation Club, case number 8:17-cv-02139, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. 

Top Settlements

Good news for the holidays! A preliminary $3.5 million settlement has been reached potentially ending a California labor law class action lawsuit pending against Pier 1 Imports.

The lawsuit, filed by Lauren Mathein and Christine Sabas, alleged Pier 1 failed to reimburse the class for hours spent working without pay while checking in to find out if they had to work a “flex shift.” This involved Pier 1 enforcing what is known as a Flex Shift policy, which requires associates to report for work either by phone or in person, before they are told they have to work that day.

Pier 1’s policy, the lawsuit claims, is in violation of California wage laws and the California Private Attorneys General Act because it required employees to “mold their lives around the possibility that they will work each and every” so-called call-in shift, even though the home goods store often chose not to put them to work.

According to the preliminary Pier 1 settlement, each plaintiff will receive $12,500 in addition to his or her entitlement as a class member, which will be determined after all other deductions are taken into account.

The case is Mathein v. Pier 1 Imports Inc. et al., case number 1:16-cv-00087, in the U.S. District Court for Eastern California. 

Ok Folks – That’s a wrap! See you at the bar.

Week Adjourned: 4.21.17 – Southwest Airlines, Bose, Google

Top Class Action Lawsuits

Southworst for Cancellation Credit? Think these guys are going to “Wanna Get Away” after dealing with all this…two men filed an an unfair business practices class action lawsuit against Southwest Airlines (SWA) this week, alleging the airline unfairly placed a redemption period on the money credits issued to travelers who cancelled their non-refundable tickets.

The Southwest Airlines lawsuit was filed by plaintiffs Paul Stewart and Michael Hicks who allege they bought Southwest Airlines non-refundable “Wanna Get Away” round-trip tickets from Tulsa, OK to Phoenix AZ in August 2013. They planned to depart Tulsa on November 14, 2013 and return on November 18, 2013. The complaint states the price for both round drip tickets was $695.

The plaintiffs were unable to travel on the dates they had booked and had to cancel their tickets, which they did, according to the lawsuit, by following the procedures stipulated on the Southwest website. Hicks and Stewart assert they cancelled their flight reservations on October 22, 2013.

According to the complaint, the plaintiffs knew their tickets were non-refundable and did not expect a refund. However, Southwest subsequently provided them with a credit they could use toward future tickets on other Southwest flights, the lawsuit states.

“[The plaintiffs] were completely satisfied having money-credits to use in the future, and had good experiences in the past using other money-credits they had with SWA,” the complaint states.

However, when Hicks and Steward tried to use their travel funds they discovered the Southwest money credits were only good for one year from the date they bought their original round trip tickets, which they had cancelled.

The plaintiffs state in the lawsuit that Stewart required significant medical treatment in 2014 and most of 2015, so they were unable to travel in a non-emergency capacity. However, by August 2015, Stewart was able to travel which is when he and Hicks tried to use their Southwest money credits to buy tickets.

“To their surprise and chagrin,” Southwest representatives allegedly informed the plaintiffs that they could not use their money-credits to purchase airline tickets. According to the Southwest Airlines class action lawsuit, the plaintiffs were told the funds had expired, the funds were no longer available, and that the funds were lost, among other things.

They plaintiffs claim they “attempted to resolve their dispute with SWA over their expired, unavailable, and lost money, but SWA simply stonewalled them and stopped responding.”

“The only logical conclusion is SWA confiscated [the plaintiffs’] money, and has kept it as free, unearned profits since August 2013,” the lawsuit states. Hicks and Stewart allege that the funds include federal transportation taxes, 9/11 security fees and passenger facility charges, in addition to the actual fare.

“Unbelievably, SWA has provided nothing in return to [Stewart and Hicks] for the money they paid to SWA,” the complaint states.

The Southwest Airlines class action lawsuit asserts claims for breach of contract, fraud and tortious breach of the covenant of good faith.

FYI – The lawsuit is Paul Stewart, et al. v. Southwest Airlines Co., Case No. 5:17-cv-00429-F, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma.

Nosy Bose-y? And what about those Bose headphones—who is listening with you? A lot of interested parties, if the allegations in this federal Wiretap Act class action are correct. Filed this week, the lawsuit claims that Bose collects and shares information about app users’ listening habits, which also violates the Illinois Eavesdropping Statute and the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practice Act.

According to the lawsuit, filed by Kyle Zak, who bought a pair of Bose wireless headphones for $350, the electronics company secretly collects, transmits and discloses to third parties, including a data mining company, the private music and audio selections of customers who downloaded its Bose Connect mobile app.

The Bose headphone lawsuit also alleges claims for intrusion upon seclusion and unjust enrichment.

Zak is seeking injunctive relief requiring Bose to discontinue its illegal practices and destroy all data it has collected, as well as actual and statutory damages arising from the invasion of privacy and from customers’ purchases of Bose wireless products, including the return of the products’ purchase price and disgorgement of profits. According to the lawsuit, damages likely exceed $5 million.

The case filed Wednesday is Zak v. Bose Corp., case number 1:17-cv-02928, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. 

Top Settlements

Possible AdWords Settlement…Google’s about to pony up $22.5 million if a proposed settlement in a consumer fraud class action lawsuit gets the green light.

The Google lawsuit was filed by a proposed class of AdWords advertisers, who allege Google failed to disclose that it placed AdWords customers’ ads on websites known as parked domains and error pages. Oh, that’s a good use of your advertising buck – not.

According to the allegations, Google did this from July 11, 2004 to March 31, 2008. Parked domains, as you may or may not know, are websites with little or no content, and error pages are websites that users visit when they enter an unregistered address into their web browser.

The proposed Google AdWords settlement was granted preliminary approval on March 9, 2017. If granted final approval, Google will pay $22.5 million into a settlement fund, which will be used to pay class members who submit valid claims, proportionate to the amount each class member spent on ads displayed on parked domains and error pages during the class period.

Heads up—if you are a United States resident and had a Google AdWords account and were charged for clicks on advertisements appearing on parked domains or error pages, during the period from July 11, 2004 through March 31, 2008, you are a class member and may be entitled to a settlement payment. Cha ching!

To receive payment, you must submit a claim form no later than June 21, 2017.

The case is In Re Google AdWords Litigation, No. 5:08-cv-03369-EJD.

Ok – That’s a wrap for this week. Happy Weekend!!! See you at the bar!

Week Adjourned: 1.29.16 – Google, Disney, Lyft

google logoTop Class Action Lawsuits

Couple of big names hit with employment class actions this week…

First up: Googlers Not Gettin’ Paid? A former Google recruiter has filed an unpaid overtime class action lawsuit against Google Inc, for class-wide wage and hour violations, asserting it illegally and deliberately cheated her and other employees of their wages.

Former Google contract employee Tymuoi Ha filed the complaint in Santa Clara Superior Court against Google, Inc. and Urpan Technologies (UrpanTech), one of the many staffing agencies through which Google acquires temporary and contract workers.

The Google unpaid overtime complaint alleges that Defendants violated the California Labor Code by denying employees compensation for all overtime worked, failing to pay owed wages upon separation from employment and not furnishing accurate wage statements.

It also alleges Google, working with staffing agencies like UrpanTech, hires recruiters on a contract basis and refuses to pay them for their many of hours of tireless work, attorneys representing Ha state. The companies restrict the number of hours recruiters can report, knowing that they must work overtime to meet performance goals. In return for the unpaid labor, the companies dangle the possibility of permanent employment. Talk about dangling a carrot…

I’m hearing “do no evil”…somewhere…

Plaintiff Ha seeks to recover damages, including unpaid wages, on behalf of herself and a California class of Google contract recruiters.

And then there’s Disney…the master of magic is facing an employment class action lawsuit filed by a former IT worker who claims Disney violated the anti-racketeering RICO statute by engaging in a “conspiracy to displace US workers.”

According to the Disney labor lawsuit filed by Dena Moore, an IT worker at Disney, the entertainment giant broke the law when it hired cheaper foreign replacements, then fired its current IT department. According to the suit, IT workers were told they would remain employed for 90 days while they trained their less expensive replacements, who were H-1B visa holders. The workers were also told that “if they did not stay and train they would not get a bonus and severance, which most employees reluctantly accepted,” the lawsuit asserts.

Moore also names labor contractor Cognizant Technology Solutions as a defendant in the suit, which goes on to claim that the defendants weren’t truthful when they filled out immigration documents, thus violating a section of the RICO law that bars “fraud and misuse of visas, passports, and other documents.”

This is one of two such suits filed against Disney claiming violations of the RICO statute. “Each making of false and fraudulent statement[s] on an individual visaholder’s H1B application constituted a separate racketeering act,” Moore claims in her proposed class action complaint. It is estimated the total number of IT workers laid off by Disney last year is between 200 and 300.

Who would a thunk it?

The Case is 6:16-cv-00113-JA-KRS. Moore vs. Cognizant technology Solutions and Walt Disney World. 

Top Settlements

Lyft Drivers get a Lift…Bet these guys are feeling a bit of a “lift” right now. Yes indeed, Lyft drivers in California have won their employment class action and reached a $12.25 million settlement this week. However, Lyft refuses to classify its drivers as employees.

Currently, drivers for Lyft are classified as independent contractors. According to the terms of the Lyft settlement, Lyft will also concede its right to terminate drivers at will, pay the costs to arbitrate drivers’ grievances and implement a pre-arbitration process, and provide drivers with additional information on prospective riders such as their passenger ratings.

The lawsuit was filed by Lyft driver Patrick Cotter, in September 2013, over allegations that while the company classified its drivers as independent contractors it treated them as employees, including taking 20 percent off their tips as an “administrative fee”, a violation of California labor laws.

Further, Cotter claimed in the suit that Lyft required inspection of drivers’ personal cars and insurance policies, and that the company maintained the right to fire drivers, and enforced mandatory policies and training, all of which is treatment more befitting employees than contractors under California law.

The suit was initially proposed as a nationwide class action but was later changed to cover drivers in California only, court records show.

Additionally, the settlement agreement stipulates that Lyft create a “favorite” driver option in which riders can designate their preferred drivers, and, as such, give them additional benefits. Further, because Lyft has surrendered its at-will termination right, drivers will now be able to turn down rides without fear of their account being deactivated, the settlement motion states.

Well done.

The next settlement hearing will be on February 18, 2016. The case is Cotter et al. v. Lyft Inc. et al., case number 3:13-cv-04065, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. 

Ok—So that’s a wrap folks… Happy Friday…See you at the Bar!

Week Adjourned: 3.6.15 – Facebook, Celgene, Tech Workers

FB Dislike buttonTop Class Action Lawsuits

Is it Facebook’s Time to Face the Ringtone? Maybe…the social media giant is facing a proposed Telephone Consumer protection Act (TCPA) class action lawsuit alleging it sends unwanted text messages to peoples’ cellphones notifying them that their accounts have been logged into. The $5 million complaint alleges that Facebook knowingly violated the TCPA by sending these unwanted text messages. According to the Facebook lawsuit, Facebook provides an “extra security feature” in which it sends log-in notifications to alert users when their account is accessed from a new device. However, these text messages are allegedly sent, in some cases several times a day, to people who haven’t given Facebook authorization to do so, who have asked Facebook to stop this practice, and who allegedly do not even have Facebook accounts. Question—how does FB acquire emails of people who don’t have FB accounts?

Servicing over a billion Facebook accounts worldwide, Facebook’s automated systems are powerful and, when used improperly, capable of extreme invasions into the privacy of American consumers,” the complaint states. “Facebook operates a sloppy system and in doing so shows complete disregard for the privacy of consumers.”

According to lead plaintiff Noah Duguid, Facebook began sending text messages to his cellphone in January 2014, without his having given his cell phone number to FB, or his having had any business dealings with the social media company. Oh, you just gotta love that.

After Duguid allegedly sent the defendant a detailed email in April 2014 complaining about the messages and asking that they stop, Facebook replied with an automatic email telling him to log on to its website to report the problematic content. This continued until the following October when Duguid allegedly responded to an Facebook text using the word “off”. After this, the company replied “Facebook texts are now off. Reply on to turn them back on.” Regardless, the company continued to text Duguid, according to the complaint.

The proposed TCPA class action lawsuit seeks to represent a class of individuals in the U.S. who didn’t give Facebook their cell number and received one or more of the accused texts within the four years before the filing of the complaint, and a class of individuals who received texts in the same time frame despite telling Facebook they didn’t want them. Plaintiff seeks at least $500 in damages for each violation of the TCPA. Go baby go!

FYI—the case is Noah Duguid et al. v. Facebook Inc., case number 3:15-cv-00985, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

How Much is the Medicine Worth? There’s the $65 million dollar question facing Celgene Corp. They were hit with an antitrust class action lawsuit filed by The City of Providence in New Jersey, alleging the pharmaceutical company monopolized the market for two of its blockbuster cancer drugs by blocking its competitors’ access to samples necessary to bring generic versions to market.

According to the potential class action, Celgene is using risk evaluation and mitigation strategies, a federal drug safety measure, to prevent competitors such as Mylan Pharmaceuticals Inc. from gaining access to samples for Thalomid and Revlimid. Those samples are necessary for the Food and Drug Administration test for generic equivalency.

According to the lawsuit, “Due to Celgene’s monopolistic and anticompetitive conduct, plaintiff, and all other consumers and third-party payors, paid higher prices to treat leprosy and multiple myeloma than they otherwise would have absent Celgene’s conduct.” Specifically, the plaintiff alleges those prices have risen upwards of 3,400 percent since the initial approval of the treatments by the FDA in 1998. The lawsuit contends that one Revlimid pill sells for approximately $500.

The suit is City of Providence v. Celgene Corporation, case number 2:15-cv-01605, in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. 

Top Settlements 

I’m betting there’s a lot of happy tech engineers in Silicon Valley this week. A $415 million settlement has received preliminary approval ending a closely watched antitrust class action lawsuit filed by tech workers in Silicon valley. The lawsuit alleged that Apple Inc., Google Inc., Intel Corp., and Adobe Systems Inc., conspired to refrain from poaching each other’s employees thereby limiting job mobility and, consequently, keeping salaries at a standstill. Nice.


The antitrust class action lawsuit was filed in 2011, and was based largely on emails in which Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, former GoogleChief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt and some of their rivals detailed plans to avoid poaching each other’s prized engineers.


Nearly 64,000 workers are affected by the case. They accused the companies of a corporate conspiracy to make it difficult for tech workers to negotiate better jobs at rival companies.


Judge Lucy Koh said she was satisfied this week after the companies increased their earlier offer of $324.5 million. Let’s hope this deal get’s final approval.

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


Week Adjourned: 5.24.14 – Google, US Foodservice, Citigroup

The week’s top class action lawsuits and settlements for the week ending May 24, 2014. Top stories include Google, US Foodservice and Citigroup.

GoogleLogoTop Class Action Lawsuits

Heads Up Google AdWords Users…Google’s been hit with a national unfair business practices class action lawsuit alleging the god of all things Internet unlawfully denies payments to thousands of website owners and operators who place ads on their sites sold through Google AdWords.

The Google AdWords lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, alleges that Google abruptly cancels website owners’ AdSense accounts often without explanation shortly before payments are due, and refuses to pay for the ads that ran prior to the cancelation.

According to the lawsuit, Google’s popular AdSense program translates annually to billions of dollars payable to website operators that host its ads via AdSense. Google’s AdSense advertising program induces website operators to host space for ads on their websites. Each time a visitor to the website interacts with the ad, the ad publisher who hosts the ad earns payment.

The complaint claims that the contracts and terms of service Google requires web publishers to sign are unconscionably one-sided, giving Google free reign to embark on what the lawsuit claims are actions devoid of good faith or fair dealing.

The complaint states, “Given Google’s contractual terms purportedly permitting it to withhold payment to publishers with disabled accounts, and in light of the experience of the plaintiff in seeing this policy actually effected, the total of earned funds that Google has refused to pay its AdSense publishers could be enormous.”

The lawsuit claims Google is in violation of contracts with users and in violation of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, unjust enrichment, and violation of the California Unfair Competition Law.

The named plaintiff, Free Range Content, Inc., is a California corporation that owns and operates Repost.us. Free Range Content first noticed a spike in AdSense earnings in Feb. 2014. At the end of Feb. 2014, Google issued a report stating that the plaintiff’s estimated earnings for the covered period were over $40,000–a number that seemed far too high. Then on March 4, 2014, two days before a scheduled March 6, 2014 call with an AdSense representative was slated to occur, the plaintiff received word from the AdSense program that Google had disabled its account.

The lawsuit seeks damages for all U.S. Google AdSense publishers whose AdSense account was disabled or terminated, and whose last AdSense program payment was withheld permanently by Google.

Top Settlements

Major RICO settlement this week…thought to be among the largest civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Law (RICO) class action settlements in recent history: We’re talking $297 million—a preliminary agreement between plaintiffs in a multidistrict unfair business practices class action against U.S. Foodservice, Inc. and its former parent company, Koninklijke Ahold, N.V. The settlement agreement is pending approval by the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut.

This US Foodservice agreement was reached on behalf of a class of customers, primarily hospitals and restaurants, who purchased products from U.S. Foodservice under cost-plus arrangements between 1998 and 2005.

The class claimed that it was defrauded by U.S. Foodservice when it created six companies that it controlled to inflate the “cost component” of the products that were subject to the arrangement.

Citigroup Employee Shareholder Settlement…Bank employees got screwed too—and this week they got some justice, with the agreement of a $8.5 million settlement ending a securities class action lawsuit pending against Citigroup. The lawsuit, brought by Citigroup employee shareholders, alleged the company concealed its exposure to subprime mortgages prior to its stock price dropping.

The settlement class includes over 7,000 Citigroup employees who acquired securities between November 2006 and June 2009. Yikes! The damage seems endless. Probably is.

Under the terms of the agreement a $2.3 million settlement fund will be established, to include six payments of approximately $50,000 each to the six lead plaintiffs, as an incentive award for their service to the case. The Erisa lawsuit was brought in 2009 by former Citigroup employees who alleged the company prevented employees who had purchased the bank’s stock from obtaining information about subprime losses by means of a series of materially misleading statements and omissions concerning its subprime exposure, overall business outlook and financial results.

The lawsuit was originally filed in California, but was later consolidated into a multidistrict securities litigation against Citigroup through New York.

Ok—Folkswe’re done herehave 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: 5.2.14 – Baby Powder, Aveda, Apple, Google, Intel, Adobe

The week’s top class action lawsuits and settlements. Top stories include Baby Powder cancer risk, Aveda interns, and the tech worker salary collusion settlement

Johnson Baby PowderTop Class Action Lawsuits

Talc Troubles? It’s one thing to file a consumer fraud class action lawsuit alleging mislabelling infractions regarding “all natural” and “ no preservatives”—for example, but a consumer fraud class action filed this week against Johnson & Johnson alleging its classic baby powder products are associated with a significant increase in the risk of ovarian cancer, well that’s just a whole different level of muckery. Why do I continue to be surprised by these things…

According to the baby powder lawsuit, filed by plaintiff Mona Estrada (Mona Estrada v. Johnson & Johnson et al., case number 2:14-cv-01051, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California) studies have shown a 33% increased risk for ovarian cancer associated with talcum powder among women who use it on their genitals. Yet the only warnings on the product labels tell users to keep the powder away from their eyes, avoid inhalation and to use externally. Estrada, who has used the product since 1950, claims she expected Johnson’s Baby Powder, made of scented talc, to be safe. Further, the lawsuit claims J&J has failed to disclose the information regarding ovarian cancer risk on its product labels.
“As a result of the defendants’ misrepresentations and omissions, plaintiff and the proposed class have purchased a product which is potentially lethal,” the complaint states. Estrada alleges she would not have purchased the powder had she been aware of the risk. You think? Thankfully, Estrada is not claiming any personal injury.

Estrada further alleges she has bought J&J’s powder since 1950 and believed all this time that the product was safe to use on any external part of her body, and that J&J encouraged women to use the product daily.

“Although the label has changed over time, the message is the same: that the product is safe for use on women as well as babies,” the lawsuit states. The lawsuit also states that J&J has known of studies showing that women who used talcum powder on their genital area had a higher risk of ovarian cancer, since at least 1982. Further, the author of a 1982 study was contacted by a J&J doctor who was told the company it should add a warning label to the bottle.

The talc lawsuit goes on to state that the American Cancer Society (ACS) allegedly said that a 2008 study, linking higher usage of talcum powder to increased risk of cancer, showed the powder “probably” increased the risk for cancer. The ACS compared talcum powder to asbestos, postmenopausal hormone therapy and radiation. Oh great.

The lawsuit claims J&J violated the California Consumer Legal Remedies Act and Unfair Competition Law, negligently misrepresented its powder and breached its implied warranty. This is going to be interesting. 

Beauty Blunder? Aveda Corp, and its parent company, Estee Lauder Inc, and are facing an employment lawsuit filed by a former beauty school student who alleges the beauty companies treat their trainees as unpaid employees in violation of state and federal labor law. There must be some law of physics that works something like—the larger the company the less they pay—or try to pay…

Filed by lead plaintiff Jazlyn Jennings, the lawsuit claims that Aveda uses students at its California cosmetology schools as unpaid workers, requiring them to provide full hair and beauty services to paying clients, while at the same time claiming to provide educational experience to those trainees. Yes—it’s an educational experience alright—just not the kind the students signed up for.

The nitty gritty—“The California defendants led plaintiff and others…to believe that they were paying tuition to learn the skills necessary to succeed in the glamorous profession of beauty and cosmetology. Instead, they converted students into student employees to profit from their free labor.”

According to Jennings, she trained at the Aveda Institute Los Angeles from April 2011 to June 2012, where she provided haircuts, makeup removal, manicures and other services to customers without being compensated for her labor.

Jennings alleges that the institute’s staff did not properly supervise students who shelled out “thousands or tens of thousands” to participate in its yearlong training program, providing just four supervisors for the 40 students working on the salon floor, in violation of state regulations.

In addition to the Aveda institute in Los Angeles, Jennings also names its San Francisco-based school, the Cinta Aveda Institute Inc., and its Southeast institute operator, Beauty Basics Inc., as co-defendants in the employment lawsuit. “[Defendants] could have hired employees who they would have had to have paid at least minimum wage but instead chose to displace such employees with the free labor they demanded of their student employees,” the lawsuit states.

Additionally, according to the allegations, students were compelled to sell Aveda products to the public, effectively transforming students into “non-commissioned salespeople.” And the litany of bad deeds goes on to include handing over of tips and insufficient or completely absent supervision—if that’s not a contradiction in terms… but you get the picture.

So—bottom line—by failing to pay its “student employees,” the complaint claims that Aveda violated the minimum wage requirements of both California labor law and the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Additionally, Jennings claims Aveda failed to pay overtime, did not provide proper meal and rest breaks, did not provide accurate wage statements and engaged in unfair business practices.

Heads up—Jennings is seeking to represent a class of individuals who provided beauty services or sold products to paying customers in the named Aveda institutes from April 22, 2010, to the present. The class may also include student employees who cleaned or provided support services to Aveda’s beauty institutes in California. 

Top Settlements

This settlement almost slipped under the radar this week—surprising given that the named defendants are Apple Inc, Google Inc, Intel Inc and Adobe Systems Inc. The tech worker settlement is, not surprisingly, pre-trial in the amount of $324 million—and it’s meant to end an antitrust class action lawsuit brought by by Silicon Valley tech engineers.

The lawsuit was filed in 2011, alleging that the four tech giants conspired to hold down salaries in Silicon Valley. You may remember some finger pointing at Steve Jobs over this one. In any event, the class action, filed in 2011 by Silicon Valley engineers, alleged that Apple Inc, Google Inc, Intel Inc and Adobe Systems conspired to refrain from soliciting one another’s employees in order to avert a salary war.

The trial, which will not be going ahead, surprise,surprise—was scheduled to begin at the end of May on behalf of roughly 64,000 workers who were seeking $3 billion in damages. Whoa Nelly—now that would have had an impact.
Ok—Folks—we’re done here—have a great weekend and we’ll see you at the bar!

Week Adjourned: 11.22.13 – Beneficial WV, SouthWest Airlines, Google

The week’s top class action lawsuits and settlements. Top stories include Beneficial West Virginia, Southwest Airlines and Google.


Top Class Action Lawsuits

Bad Beneficial! Heads up Beneficial West Virginia Insurance Policy Holders—yup—it’s a bad faith insurance class action lawsuit. This one filed against Beneficial West Virginia Inc, and Household Insurance Co, by two policy holders. Denzil and Cathy Shaw allege they are owed payments under the terms of their credit-disability insurance policy.

The Shaws state in their Beneficial West class action complaint that they submitted a claim to their insurer in October 2009, when Denzil Shaw became permanently disabled. They ha

d purchased the disability policy through Beneficial, and it was issued by Household Insurance. The lawsuit contends that the Shaw’s policy states that if either of the plaintiffs become disabled during the mortgage term, their mortgage would be paid for a period up to 180 months. The lawsuit states that the Shaw’s mor

tgage payments were paid through the policy until they received a letter stating the payments would stop in December 2012, which is in violation of the policy-stipulated 180 months.

The lawsuit claims that the defendants are in breach of contract, consumer credit and protection act, unfair claims settlement practices act, failure to disclose and first-party insurance bad faith.

Top Settlements

The Settlement Fund will be divided equally among all Class Members (after fees and costs are deducted), who timely submit a valid Claim Form and do not exclude themselves from the settlement. It is estimated that approximately $1,132,053 will be available to be divided among Class Members who timely submit a valid Claim Form. Based on claims rates in other cases, the range of expected recovery per Class Member who submits a valid Claim Form is estimated at between $25 and $200. This is only an estimate. The actual amount paid out will depend on the number of Class Members who submit valid Claim Forms. Printing Error? SouthWest has agreed to pay $1.8 million in settlement of a class action lawsuit concerning allegations it “willfully” violated the Fair and Accurate Credit Reporting Act (FACTA) by printing the expiration date on customers’ credit or debit card receipts at airport ticket counters between October 17, 2007 and October 30, 2012 or at cargo counters between October 17, 2007 and January 25, 2013. Got all that? Did you even know SouthWest was doing this?

If you made a non-business related credit or debit card purchase or transaction at a Southwest Airlines Co. airport ticket counter between October 17, 2007 and October 30, 2012 or a cargo counter between October 17, 2007 and January 25, 2013 and received a printed receipt, you may be entitled to benefits as part of a class action settlement.

Wait—there’s more—a settlement has been proposed in two related class action lawsuits alleging that Southwest Airlines Co. willfully printed credit card and debit card expiration dates on certain customer receipts. The settlement will provide benefits to any Class member who used a credit or debit card to make an individual, non-business related purchase or transaction at a Southwest airport ticket counter between October 17, 2007 and October 30, 2012 or a cargo counter between October 17, 2007 and January 25, 2013 and received a printed receipt.

To get the whole picture and for information on downloading and submitting claim forms, visit: www.SouthwestFACTASettlement.com, or write to Southwest Airlines Co. Settlement Administrator, P.O. Box 3059, Faribault, MN 55021-2659.

Google to pay for Oogles —sorry that’s Ogles… to the tune of $17 million. A settlement has reportedly been reached in an Internet privacy class action lawsuit pending against Google Inc. The lawsuit concerns allegations that Google and another three online companies circumvented default privacy settings on Apple’s Safari web browser, for the purposes of placing tracking cookies without consumers’ knowledge. Oh that my Internet practices were that interesting!

Nevertheless, “Consumers should be able to know whether there are other eyes surfing the web with them,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said. Well, preferably, no other eyes.

As part of the Google settlement, Google has not admitted to any wrongdoing and stressed that they had “taken steps to remove the ad cookies, which collected no personal information from Apple’s browsers.” Other terms of the settlement reportedly stipulate that Google honor default privacy settings on web browsers. Google will also “provide a separate stand-alone page or pages on the Google.com domain designed to give information to users about Cookies (the “Cookie Page).”

“Google shall maintain systems configured to instruct Safari brand web browsers to expire any Cookie placed from the doubleclick.net domain by Google through February 15, 2012 if those systems encounter such a Cookie, with the exception of the DoubleClick opt-out Cookie. Such systems shall remain in place until Feb. 15, 2014, at which time all Cookies placed from the doubleclick.net domain by Google on Safari brand web Browsers through Feb. 15, 2012 should have expired by design,” the settlement states.

The $17 million settlement fund is set to be split among each of the Attorneys General who filed against Google, in amount yet to be designated. The states are listed as beneficiaries of the settlement are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin, and District of Columbia. Umm.

Ok Folks, That’s all for this week. Happy Thanksgiving!


Week Adjourned: 11.26.10

Top Class Actions

More Buzz on Google…only this time it’s not about Buzz. A potential class action lawsuit was filed this week against the company that claims the mantra ‘do no evil’. The lawsuit alleges that Google violated privacy laws by scanning Gmail accounts in order to sell and place advertisements on account holder’s user screens. Ummm. That doesn’t sound like something a good corporate citizen would do, at least to me.

Specifically, the lawsuit claims that Google violates The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) of 1986 by scanning the content of all Gmail from any sender and uses the information to sell and place advertisements. (Kind of makes me think back to that old Rockwell song (above)—only Google wasn’t even around back then…) “As result of Google’s actions in intercepting non-Gmail account holders’ emails, Google obtains a monetary benefit without consent of the Class members and without compensation to them,” the lawsuit states.

I have to admit, I have often wondered how all those topic specific ads crop up on the side of my Gmail screen…

Top Settlements

Isn’t ‘Wholesale’ Supposed to Mean ‘Discount’? ‘AstraZeneca hit the news rather quietly this week, with the announcement that they have reached two settlements—one nationwide, one in Massachusetts—related to two different classes of purchases of the drug Zoladex.

FYI—Zoladex is used to treat prostate cancer, advanced breast cancer, endometriosis, and Continue reading “Week Adjourned: 11.26.10”

Week Adjourned: 5.22.09

Everyone must be busy getting ready for the Memorial Day weekend—I just hope everyone’s making sure those beef patties for the weekend barbeque aren’t part of the recent recall for E Coli…hmm. Well, while you’ve been doing party prep, here’s what’s been going on…

Top Class Action Suits

Bringing good things to life? General Electric and Samsung are now the focus of what could amount to a large class action lawsuit over defective microwave ovens. While the class is pending certification there doesn’t appear to be any uncertainty surrounding the defect. In a nutshell, the ovens can turn themselves on…good trick, just not very safe. I’m sure you could imagine some potential scenarios. The guy who filed the suit has smoke damage to his house—he was lucky.

Will that be on your Sears charge? And it seems Sears has been in the business of selling things it doesn’t own, specifically, its cardholders’ personal and private information. Who’s buying? Interested third parties—companies who want to sell you things that Sears isn’t selling you—like insurance. Shame on Sears! The retail giant is a founding member of American retail…

Continue reading “Week Adjourned: 5.22.09”