Week Adjourned: 9.30.16 – Ford, LoyaltyOne, LifeLock

ford-2Top Class Action Lawsuits

Ford Losing Its Touch? Ford Motor Co. got hit with a defective products class action lawsuit filed by customers who allege the automotive maker sold vehicles with faulty touchscreen systems. Great! The last thing you want to try and figure out while you’re driving…why the technology isn’t working as advertised.

The Ford class action lawsuit, which represents no less than nine classes, alleges the defect resulted in the failure of safety functions such as rear view cameras and functioning navigation systems.

U.S. District Judge Edward M. Chen has certified nine different classes of Ford owners, divided by state: California, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, Virginia and Washington. Each class brings its own set of claims related to breach of warranty, unfair trade practices, fraudulent concealment and other various other allegations.

According to plaintiffs, the MyFord Touch infotainment touchscreen systems often crash or freeze while the vehicle is in motion. The systems were introduced into Ford vehicles in 2010 with the promise of touch screen operating of audio and navigation systems, the ability to make phone calls, manage climate systems and play music from their smartphones. However, the systems have encountered a lengthy list of problems. In 2010, according to the lawsuit, Ford reported roughly 400 problems for every 1000 vehicles, which was an improvement from earlier numbers. The systems add about $1,000 to the cost of a Ford vehicle, according to the plaintiffs.

The case is In re: MyFord Touch Consumer Litigation, case number 3:13-cv-03072, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

New Meaning To ‘Loyalty’? LoyaltyOne is facing a consumer fraud class action in Canada, over “unfair and unilateral” changes to its airmiles program’s terms and conditions.

Here’s the skinny. According to the allegations, LoyaltyOne, which owns Airmiles—an airmiles rewards program—is accused of not giving adequate notice of the changes to its customers about the expiration of their airmiles, including miles earned before December 31, 2011 that expire at the end of this year. The AirMiles lawsuit also accuses LoyaltyOne of failure to give adequate notice that miles collected after that date will expire five years after they are earned. Got all that? Oh yes, the complaint also asserts that the company has made it difficult for miles to be redeemed before their expiration.

“The net result is that Air Miles’ conduct will result in a large number of the class members’ miles expiring, resulting in a significant loss to the class, and a corresponding large windfall for Air Miles,” the claim states.

According to the complaint, some 10 million Canadian households belong to the Air Miles program. The award miles are earned by shopping at participating retailers and are meant to be exchanged for flights and other rewards.

According to the claim, users wanting to redeem points before they expire have had problems doing so because of “unduly long” wait times on the phone. As well, it says the website displayed reward items users did not have enough miles to purchase, but not those that were within reach.

Need a vacation after reading all that!

Top Settlements

Lifelock Locks Up $68 Million Settlement. The deal has received final approval, ending a consumer fraud class action lawsuit pending against it. The lawsuit alleged that LifeLock made false statements about its services and failed to follow through on promised that it would alert consumers of potential identify theft immediately.

Specifically, the class alleged that LifeLock would not pay any losses directly to the consumer and does not cover consequential or incidental damages to identity theft. It also alleged the guarantee is limited to fixing failures or defects in the LifeLock services and paying other professionals to attempt to restore losses. LifeLock illegally placed and renewed fraud alerts under consumers’ names with credit bureaus. However, under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, corporations such as LifeLock are not allowed to place fraud alerts on a consumers’ behalf, in fact, the law was written to specifically bar credit repair companies from improperly using fraud alerts.

In the LifeLock Settlement, U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam Jr. also approved attorneys’ fees of $10.2 million and a payment of $2,000 to each of four class representatives. Distribution of the remaining funds works out to $20 per class member, with members of a subclass receiving funds on a pro rata distribution of a cordoned off subclass fund. The class starts from September 2010 and the subclass period begins in January 2012.

In July, 2015 the FTC accused LifeLock of “failing to establish and maintain a comprehensive information security program to protect its users’ sensitive personal data, including credit card, social security, and bank account numbers [and of] falsely advertising that it protected consumers’ sensitive data with the same high-level safeguards as financial institutions.”

The case is Ebarle et al. v. LifeLock Inc., case number 3:15-cv-00258, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Well, that’s a wrap for this week. See you at the Bar!

Week Adjourned: 3.7.14 – TD Bank, Tech Workers, Data Breach Settlement

The week’s top class action lawsuits and settlements…top stories include TD Bank, Apple, Adobe, Google, Intel and the AVMEd data breach settlement.

TD bank logoTop Class Action Lawsuits

TD Bank Teed Up for Another Overdraft Fee Lawsuit? If at first you don’t succeed—is that the mantra here? TD Bank got hit with a consumer banking class action lawsuit this week alleging the financial institution continues to manipulate the order of debit card transactions so that it can profit through the maximization of overdraft fees. The lawsuit comes less than a year after the bank paid $62 million to settle a multidistrict litigation alleging the same practice. I’m sad to say I’m not surprised by these allegations.

Filed in Pennsylvania federal court by lead plaintiffs Sheila and Emilio Padilla, the complaint specifically alleges that TD Bank has continued to use a software scheme to illegally collect overdraft fees, and that it assessed the fees even when customers have sufficient funds in their account to cover the debit card payments.

“Defendant employs sophisticated software to automate its overdraft systems,” the complaint states. “These programs maximize the number of overdrafts, and thus the amount of overdraft fees charged per customer.”

The TD Bank class action complaint further states, “Many of the complained of practices continued as before, even after the class action settlement. Shockingly, unlike nearly all other banks sued in the multidistrict litigation, … TD has continued these practices even after it settled claims of wrongdoing based on these very same practices.”

The class action seeks to represent all TD Bank customers who opened a new account after the settlement class period ended on August 15, 2010, and who were charged improper overdraft fees. The class also seeks to represent those customers that had an account prior to August 2010 but were not charged overdraft fees until after that time.

Hi ho, Hi ho, it’s back to court they go!

Pays to Know Who’s in your Network? Well, maybe that’s what Adobe, Apple, Google and Intel thought—they’re facing a potential employment and salary fixing class action lawsuit over allegations they conspired to hire engineers from each other’s employee pools and knowingly shared salary data to establish pay ceilings. Nice.

Filed in California, the engineer and programmer class action lawsuit allegedly follows on from a 2012 investigation by the US Department of Justice which found that these practices were also evident at Lucasfilms, Pixar and Intuit. According to a report by the New York Times, the DOJ’s report suggests as many as 64,000 engineers and programmers were involved, which means the class action lawsuit could see billions in damages, if successful.

Rumor has it the sainted Steve Jobs was involved in cooking this one up. One to watch for sure.

Top Settlements

Finally—a Data Breach Class Action Settlement! And a finalized one at that. That’s right, final approval of a $3 million settlement has just been granted, ending the long-running AVMed data breach class action. Cast your mind back to 2009, when health insurance provider AvMed got hit with what was to become one of the first in a string of data breach lawsuits. This one alleged that sensitive data from 1.2 million customer records had been breached from unencrypted laptops. “Sensitive”? I think we’re talking health records, FYI.

Among the settlement terms is the stipulation that AvMed implement increased data security measures including mandatory security awareness training and encryption protocols on company laptops.

The $3 million settlement fund is set aside for plaintiffs to make claims for $10 for every year that they purchased insurance from AvMed, with a $30 cap: class members who experienced identity theft are reportedly eligible to make additional claims to recover their monetary losses.

Reportedly, this is the first settlement of a data breach lawsuit that provides compensation to plaintiffs who did not experience identity theft.

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

Week Adjourned: 12.27.13 – Target, Meningitis Outbreak, Costco

The week’s top class action lawsuits and settlements including Target data breach, the Meningitis outbreak of 2012, and Costco gender discrimination.

Target LogoTop Class Action Lawsuits

Guess that 10% Discount wasn’t enough… This one made international headlines in December—well the data breach did. This week, a class action lawsuit was filed against retail giant Target, over the data breach of up to 40 million customer’s credit and debit cards.

Filed in California federal court by lead plaintiff Lisa Purcell (“Plaintiff”), the Target lawsuit seeks to represent all those similarly situated to obtain damages, restitution and injunctive relief for the Class. “The information Target lost, including Plaintiff’s identifying information and other financial information, is extremely valuable to thieves. As the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) recognizes, once identity thieves have personal information, they can drain your bank account, run up your credit cards, open new utility accounts, or get medical treatment on your health insurance,”’ the lawsuit states.

According to a statement issued by Target, the so-called track data was stolen in real time as payment cards were swiped in its stores between November 27, the day before Thanksgiving, and December 15.

The Target data breach lawsuit states “ Investigators believe the data was obtained via software installed on machines that customers use to swipe magnetic strips on their cards when paying for merchandise at Target stores.” And “The thieves may also have accessed PIN numbers for affected customers’ debit cards, allowing the thieves to withdraw money from those customers’ bank accounts. Thieves could not have accessed this information and installed the software on Target’s point-of-sale machines but for Target’s negligence, and that Target failed to implement and maintain reasonable security procedures and practices appropriate to the nature and scope of the information compromised in the data breach.”

Among the allegations is the clam that Target was negligent in its failure to implement and maintain reasonable security procedures and practices appropriate to the nature and scope of the information compromised in the data breach. Further, “Target unreasonably delayed informing anyone about the breach of security of Class Members’ confidential and personal information after Target knew the data breach had occurred,” the lawsuit states.

Not so very Ho Ho Ho.

Top Settlements

Remember this? 2012—Nationwide Meningitis Outbreak? Sure you do. The outbreak affected over 700 people, with 64 fatalities in 20 states? Well, this week a $100M settlement was reached between the compounding pharmacy allegedly behind a massive fungal meningitis outbreak last year and victims and their families.

Paul Moore, a trustee of the now bankrupt New England Compounding Center, supported the preliminary settlement agreement. “We are pleased that a significant amount of funds will become available for distribution to victims and their families as compensation for the deaths, injuries and suffering they endured as a result of this tragic meningitis outbreak,” Moore told CNN.com. If approved, the settlement will also be used to pay out the pharmacy’s creditors.

In a statement issued announcing the settlement, the pharmacy’s owners said they deny any liability or wrongdoing, but want to play a major role in establishing a fund for those who died or suffered “as a result of this tragic outbreak.”

Bet Women at Wal-Mart are Watching this one… Costco has agreed to a tentative $8 million settlement in a gender discrimination class action lawsuit At the heart of the lawsuit are allegations the wholesale retailer engages in promotion practices that disadvantage women in the company: rather than posting positions internally and letting qualified candidates apply, candidates were hand-picked for promotions to managerial positions. The result was that fewer women rose to senior managerial positions.

If the Costco settlement is approved, it would provide compensation for current and former employees who were incorrectly denied promotions. Claimants still with the company who were improperly denied promotions may be eligible to receive up to $50,000, and former employees up to $300,000, depending on the position. Also part of the settlement terms is an undertaking by Costco to reform its internal promotion process, to allow employees equal opportunity to apply for management jobs going forward. A fairness hearing is scheduled for February 2014.

The lawsuit alleges Costco has pursued policies and practices on a continuing basis which result in the denial of equal job opportunities to qualified women. Specifically:

Relying upon subjective, gender-based and/or arbitrary criteria utilized by a nearly all male managerial workers in making promotion and compensation decisions;

Failing to follow a uniform job posting procedure to guarantee that all employees have notice of openings;

Discouraging females from applying for senior level management positions;

Failing and refusing to consider females for promotion on the same basis as males are considered;

Failing and refusing to promote females on the same basis as males are promoted and compensated;

Failing to provide females with accurate and timely notice of promotional opportunities; and

Maintaining and fostering a reputation for discriminatory conduct which deters females from pursuing promotion opportunities with Costco.

The initial lawsuit was filed in 2002, and refiled in 2004. It was not certified until September 2012. Talk about “keeping the faith!”

Ok Folks, That’s all for this week. Happy Holidays, be safe, and we’ll see you at the bar in 2014!