Week Adjourned: 11.11.17 – Lexus, Hip Implants, Depakote

lexusTop Class Action Lawsuits

Heads up Lexus Drivers…some shattering allegations this week, pardon the pun, in the form of a defective automotive class action lawsuit filed against Toyota, the parent company of Lexus, alleging the sunroofs in its luxury vehicles spontaneously explode and shatter.

Filed by Ginger Minoletti, in California, the lawsuit alleges Minoletti was driving her Lexus RX 350 on Highway 101 in San Francisco in February 2016 when she heard a strange, loud cracking noise. Shortly afterwards, she found that the sunroof in her car had splintered, but that the broken glass was contained by the sliding cover shade.

The Lexus sunroof lawsuit states that Minoletti paid for repairs to the sunroof herself because Toyota refused to and the vehicle was no longer covered under warranty.

According to court documents, Lexus and Toyota have been aware of this issue since 2012, but have done nothing to warn consumers. The lawsuit also states that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has received numerous complaints about the defect, which is potentially dangerous and expensive to repair.

Wait—there’s more—the NHTSA is allegedly probing a number of automakers, including Ford Motor Co., Volkswagen AG, Hyundai Motor Co. and Audi AG, for sunroof defects.

The suit is brought on behalf of a proposed class of Californians who own or lease a Lexus with a sunroof and alleges violations of the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act and California business code. The case is Minoletti v. Toyota Motors Sales USA Inc., case number BC636269, in Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles.

Top Settlements

Defective Hip Implant Settlement. Finally. This week saw some big and likely welcome news on the Wright defective hip implants multidistrict litigation (MDL). A $240 million settlement has been reached. The settlement effectively ends five years of litigation brought by 1,300 claimants who alleged their Wright hip implants failed anywhere from 150 days to eight years following hip replacement surgery.

Wright Medical Group announced the settlement on behalf of its wholly-owned subsidiary, Wright Medical Technology. Two years ago Wright sold its hip and knee implant division that produced the allegedly defective replacement hip devices to a Chinese company.

Under the terms of the agreement, Wright will pay $170,000 to each claimant who received the Conserve Cup device. Additionally, the company will pay $120,000 to each claimant who received either a Dynasty or Lineage replacement hip. Further, Wright will establish a fund to reimburse patients who suffered “extraordinary injury” resulting from the failure of their hip implants.

According to court documents, the defect causing the failure of the hip implants was a metal-on-metal design that resulted in metal wear and shedding of metallic debris into surrounding tissue. This led to “metallosis”, a condition in which the tissue becomes inflamed and toxic, dissolving bone that anchored the implant. Ultimately, the metallosis led to failure of the implants.

The settlement affects multidistrict litigation now pending in federal court in Atlanta and consolidated litigation in Los Angeles Superior Court in California.

Depakote Dealings…More good news on the class action settlement front—to the tune of $28.125 million. The agreement ends litigation against Omnicare Inc., alleging the country’s largest nursing home promoted Abbott’s prescription anti-epileptic drug Depakote to its patients, in exchange for kickbacks disguised as “grants” and “educational funding.”

FYI—Omnicare operates 160 nursing homes in 160 locations across 47 states, making it the largest provider of pharmaceutical services in nursing homes. That’s a lot of potential drug sales… just saying.

According to the terms of the settlement approximately $20.3 million of the settlement fund will go to the federal government, and $7.8 million to cover Medicaid program claims by states that elect to participate in the settlement. Medicaid is jointly funded by the federal and state governments.

Depakote (also known as valproate semisodium or divalproex sodium) is a popular drug used to treat epilepsy and manic episodes of bipolar disorder.

The cases are captioned United States ex rel. Spetter v. Abbott Labs., et al., Case No. 10-cv-00006 (W.D. Va.) and United States ex rel. McCoyd v. Abbott Labs., et al., Case No. 07-cv-00081 (W.D. Va.). The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.

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

Week Adjourned: 7.26.14 – Kia, Lexus, Johns Hopkins

The week’s top class action lawsuits and settlements. Top lawsuits include Kia, Lexus and Johns Hopkins.

Kia Logo2Will 2014 be remembered as the year of the Car Recall?

 Top Class Action Lawsuits 

So, who’s lost count of how many defective auto recalls we’re up to now? Here’s a couple more…this time it’s Kia and Lexus…

Surprise! Kia Motors America Inc. got hit with a defective products class action lawsuit this week, filed in California federal court over allegations the car maker failed to disclose a defective brake switch in certain models. The defect can cause the brake light to fail to illuminate and cruise control to remain on, increasing the risk for accidents. Ok—that could be dangerous.

The Kia lawsuit, filed by lead plaintiff William Precht, claims that Kia was aware of the brake switch defect for years, and went as far as to initiate recalls for a number of different models in 2009. The company also initiated recalls in May 2013 which did not include its 2011 Sportage, 2008-2010 Optima and 2008-2011 Sedona vehicles, despite the fact that those models were also affected. Kia allegedly expanded the recall to include the vehicles in November 2013 but did not notify consumers, the complaint states.

According to the lawsuit, “Defendant does not dispute the safety risk caused by the brake switch defect, yet it has not effectuated any purported recall of the class vehicles and has left class members with an acknowledged safety risk and unreimbursed repair bills.”

The backstory—Precht alleges he purchased a new Sportage vehicle in 2011, but began having difficulty engaging the car’s automatic transmission during the winter of 2013. Precht alleges he was repeatedly unable to put the car in gear even after depressing the brake pedal, causing the anti-lock brake and front-wheel drive slippage icons to illuminate on the dash. He claims he was forced to manually access an override in order to place the vehicle into drive again.

According to the complaint, Precht took the car to an authorized Kia repair facility for assistance, only to be told that such repairs were not covered under the warranty, causing him to pay $140 to have the defect repaired.

The lawsuit alleges Kia knowingly hid from consumers that the vehicles’ brake switch contained a defect that leads to brake light failure, cruise control not cancelling with depression of the brake pedal, the push button start not functioning and the shift interlock remaining stuck in park so the vehicle cannot be moved.

The complaint states that once the defect occurs in the cars, it poses a safety risk to both driver and passengers, with the brake light failure increasing the risk of rear-end collision, and the failure of cruise control failure increasing the risk for a front-end collision. Further, if the push button start doesn’t function, the car cannot be shifted into drive or reverse from park, leaving individuals stranded, the lawsuit states.

The defect typically manifests itself shortly after the vehicles’ warranties expire, the suit claims, resulting in the automaker refusing to cover repair costs of an issue it hid from consumers.

The lawsuit is seeking certification of a nationwide class of owners and lessees of the affected models, as well as a Florida subclass, and includes claims for state law violations, breach of warranty and negligence.

The suit is Precht v. Kia Motors America, Inc., case number 8:14-cv-01148, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

Lexus—what’s their tagline—something about the relentless pursuit of perfection? They are also facing a defective products class action lawsuit filed by two independent Lexus owners who allege the luxury vehicle company, and its parent, Toyota Motor Corp, sold defective vehicles with interiors that are unable to withstand the Florida heat. Are you kidding?

Nope. The Lexus lawsuit, contends that the dashboards and other, similar interior components of their Lexus vehicles grew sticky, oily, shiny, cracked and otherwise degraded in appearance when exposed to the natural heat and humidity in Florida. Yuk.

The skinny—Daniela Perez and Jesus del Rio allege that Lexus was aware of the problem with the dashboards but refused to make repairs in the affected vehicles once the warranties expired. While Toyota sent out a service bulletin to its dealerships in 2011, alerting dealers to the defect and instructing them to make repairs on the burned dashboards, the dealerships refused to repair damages in vehicles that are no longer covered by the Lexus comprehensive warranty.

Further, Perez and del Rio allege that the vehicles were marketed as being suitable for the climate in Florida yet the product disintegrated in the heat under normal conditions in the vehicles, “These vehicles are marketed as luxury vehicles and as the product of Lexus’ never-ending ‘pursuit of perfection,’” the plaintiffs alleged in the suit, and they state that the dealerships refused to do anything about it. The complaint names two Lexus dealerships, Lexus of Kendall, which serves Miami, Coral Gables and South Florida, and Scanlon Lexus of Fort Myers. It also names Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc.

The case is Daniela Perez et al. v. GFB Enterprises LLC d/b/a/ Lexus of Kendall et al., in the Circuit Court of the 11th Judicial Circuit In and For Miami-Dade County.  

Top Settlements

This is just bad all round. A $190 million settlement has been awarded against Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore in settlement of a medical malpractice class action lawsuit that alleges a gynecologist secretly photographed his patients. I don’t know—I’m thinking malpractice doesn’t quite get to the heart of this one.

The Johns Hopkins lawsuit, with more than 9,000 plaintiffs, claims that Dr. Nikita Levy used hidden surveillance cameras on his patients, including one hidden in a camera pen.

Levy, an obstetrician-gynecologist, was employed at Johns Hopkins from 1988 to 2013. The lawsuit claimed that the hospital should have been award of what Levy was doing, and that they failed to supervise him properly or investigate him.

In February 2013 Levy was fired from the hospital and just 10 days later he committed suicide.

Ok – Folks –time to adjourn for the week.  Have a fab weekend –see you at the bar!