Week Adjourned: 2.3.17 – Krazy Glue, BP Solar, Lowe’s

Top Class Action Lawsuits

Krazy Glue maker hit with Consumer Fraud Class Action—but will it stick? Elmer’s Products is facing a consumer fraud lawsuit alleging the glue packaging contains slack fill, and that Elmer’s is profiting by way of the packaging, by misleading consumers.

According to the Krazy Glue lawsuit, filed by plaintiff David Spacone, the large and opaque packaging for Krazy Glue misleads customers into thinking the package contains significantly more glue than it actually does. Specifically, the lawsuit states that the opaque container is more than five times larger than the “tiny tube of glue” that contains the product.

“This packaging prevents the consumer from directly seeing or handling the product and leads the reasonable consumer to believe that the package contains significantly more product than it actually does,” the complaint states.

Spacone claims that he bought Krazy Glue at a True Value hardware store in Los Angeles, believing he was buying the amount represented by the “Stay Fresh” container, instead of the smaller tube inside of it. However, because the container is opaque, consumers cannot see how much product they are actually buying, the complaint states.

“If plaintiff had known at the time of purchase the actual size of the tube of product contained in the packaging, he would not have purchased the Krazy Glue or paid less for it,” the lawsuit states.

Here’s an interesting bit of info: The allegation that the container is misleading is based on the amount of nonfunctional slack fill, which is defined in California state law as “the empty space in a package that is filled to substantially less than its capacity,” according to the complaint.

The size and slack fill of the container do not fall within any safe harbor protections provided under state business law, according to the lawsuit, which goes on to state that the container does not protect its contents or have any significant value. Further, the larger container does not have any labeling information that can’t also be found on the tube.

“The use of non-functional slack-fill allows [Elmer’s] to lower their costs by duping customers into thinking they are getting a better bargain than they actually receive,” the complaint says. “As a result, [Elmer’s] has realized sizable profits.

Three classes are proposed, namely a nationwide class of those who purchased a .07-ounce tube of Krazy Glue in a .37-ounce outer container, a California sub-class and a Consumer Legal Remedies Act California subclass.

The complaint alleges violations of California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act and two violations of unfair competition law. The case is David Spacone v. Elmer’s Products Inc. et al., Case Number BC648907 in the Superior Court of the state of California for the County of Los Angeles.

Top Settlements

Defective BP Solar Panels? No—they can’t blame it on the weather. A $67 million settlement is moving ahead potentially ending a class action lawsuit alleging that solar panels manufactured and sold by BP Solar and Home Depot are defective.

According to the lawsuit, the BP solar panels at issue were substantially certain to fail within their warranted lives due to an inherent defect in the junction box, the small casing on the back of the panel where soldered output cable connections are housed.

Specifically, the BP solar panels at issue were manufactured between 1999 and 2007 with an S-type junction box (“Class Panels”). The lawsuit claims these panels are defective and prone to junction box failures which could cause burn marks at the junction box, shattered glass, and a potential fire hazard. Oh dear. No power but potentially one big bang?

The panels were sold through various distributors and retailers, including but not limited to Solar Depot and Home Depot.

Here’s the skinny getting some cash: The settlement includes anyone in the United States who: (1) purchased certain BP solar panels for installation on a property, or (2) currently owns a property on which these panels are installed and, in either case, who still owns some or all of the BP solar panels.

Settlement Class Members with certain higher failure rate models, or with high failure rates in their arrays, will be eligible for complete replacement of their solar panels. Others will receive replacement of failed panels and a new inverter with advanced safety technology. Owners of large, non-residential systems will be entitled to a mediated commercial negotiation with BP, with extended opt-out rights.

Lowe’s Installers see Settlement…This week’s employment lawsuit is, in fact, a proposed settlement—to the tune of $2.85 million. If approved, it will resolve allegations brought against Lowe’s Home Centers LLC by installation workers who claim they were deliberately misclassified as independent contracts rather than employees. Heard this one before?

Lead plaintiff Thomas Mittl filed the lawsuit in August 2015 claiming that Lowes classified installers and installation companies providing services to Lowe’s customers as independent contractors rather than employees. This, the suit states, is in violation of the New Jersey Construction Industry Independent Contractor Act and common law unjust enrichment.

The result of the alleged misclassification of “independent contractor” was that it prevented the installers from receiving benefits including liability insurance coverage, workers compensation, temporary disability and health insurance. Further, they were barred them from eligibility for Social Security and Medicare, according to the complaint.

Mittl claimed in the lawsuit that he worked 80 hours a week on Lowe’s jobs, however, he didn’t receive benefits and was required to pay self-employment tax on all income earned from Lowe’s.

Mittl owns Toms River Automatic Door & Window Company in New Jersey. In his complaint, he argues that installation workers should be classified as employees because Lowe’s controlled the work they performed, including designating which customers the installers would work for, inspecting their work, requiring customers to pay Lowe’s directly for all work, submitting the installers to background checks, and requiring them to wear Lowe’s hats and shirts while working.

The Lowe’s settlement class consists of all installation workers or installation companies that signed a contract with Lowe’s to perform installation services on behalf of the company in New Jersey. If the settlement receives preliminary approval it will impact some 450 installation workers and companies, according to court papers.

The proposed settlement motion seeks class certification, appointment of Mitl as class representative and a $20,000 incentive award for Mitl as such a representative, among other things. The case is Thomas Mittl v. Lowe’s Home Centers LLC, case number 3:15-cv-06886 in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.

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

Week Adjourned: 6.13.14 – McDonald’s, Coppertone, Lowe’s

The week’s top class action lawsuits and settlements. Top stories include McDonald’s, Coppertone and Lowe’s home improvement.

I'm Hatin' McDonald's Happy MealsTop Class Action Lawsuits

Supersize this baby! McDonald’s is facing an unpaid overtime lawsuit class action lawsuit brought by four former employees in the Los Angeles area. The lawsuit alleges McDonald’s Corp violated wage and hour laws by “requiring workers to work off the clock, placing their rest and meal breaks at the end of their shifts and not paying final wages in a timely manner.”

The McDonald’s lawsuit was originally filed by plaintiff Maria Sanchez in January 2013, but has subsequently been consolidated into a nationwide group of employment class actions against the fast food chain, all alleging illegal labor practices. The lawsuits claim that McDonalds’ managers falsified time records to erase certain employees’ actual hours of work, prohibited meal breaks, required unpaid work from employees before and after their shifts, and withheld overtime pay.

The lawsuit further alleges that McDonald’s Corporation has tried to reduce “labor costs by requiring its restaurants to limit labor costs to a specific percentage of gross sales, causing managers to violate state labor laws to keep costs in line.”

The case is Maria Sanchez et al., v. McDonald’s Restaurants of California Inc. et al., case number BC499888, in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles.

Um—I’m lovin’ It!

Is Merck & Co. Inc, full of S#$PF? According to a recently filed consumer fraud class action lawsuit—it would appear so. The lawsuit alleges the pharmaceutical company is overcharging for its Coppertone sunscreen products with Sun Protection Factors (SPF) of 55 and higher because they contain “virtually identical” active ingredients as the Coppertone SPF 50 products.

Filed by plaintiff Danika Gisvold, the lawsuit claims Merck is participating in a “false, misleading and deceptive” advertising campaign. Specifically, Gisvold alleges the US Food and Drug Administration has reviewed SPF ratings since 1978, and has found that SPF values over 50 don’t provide an increase in protection over SPF 50 products.

According to the Coppertone lawsuit, while SPF value is an indicator of the level of sunburn protection provided by the product, and consumers have learned over time to associate higher SPF with greater protection, the SPF 100+ products do not provide twice the ultraviolet B protection of an SPF 50 product.

“In fact, none of the sunscreen products in the Coppertone SPF 55-100+ collection provide any additional clinical benefit over the Coppertone SPF 50 products,” according to the complaint, which also notes that the FDA had voiced concern about labeling a product with a specific SPF value higher than 50. “The FDA’s findings are based on, inter alia, scientific tests that demonstrate SPF 100 sunscreens block 99 percent of UV rays, while SPF 50 sunscreens block 98 percent, an immaterial difference that provides no additional clinical benefit to consumers against sunburn.”

The Coppertone lawsuit alleges the only reason consumers would purchase an SPF product over SFP 55 is because they believe it provides greater protection than a lesser SPF product, therefore, Merck’s Coppertone SPF 55- 100 are overpriced. “As a result of Merck’s superior UVB protection claims, consumers, including plaintiff and members of the proposed class, have purchased products that do not perform as advertised,” the complaint states.

The plaintiff is seeking to represent a national class of plaintiffs claiming Merck’s representations of superior UVB protection are false, misleading and reasonably likely to deceive the public, and that Merck spreads the false claims through advertising inserts, the Internet and labels “where they cannot be missed by consumers.”

Of course, if you are really unsure about your SPFs, you could always wear long sleeves and a hat—but that just ain’t as sexy.

Top Settlements

Well Lowe and behold…a $6.5 settlement has been reached in a class action lawsuit pending against t Lowe’s—the DIY guys. The deal, if approved, will resolve a labor law class action filed by two former contractors, Ronald Shephard and Henry Romines, who allege Lowe’s violated California labor law.

Specifically, the lawsuit states that Lowe’s treated the independent contractors as employees when they were retained to install garage doors. While Romines voluntarily dismissed the claims Shepard continued with the lawsuit, and the court certified certified a class of: “All persons who installed products for Lowe’s or performed services for Lowe’s in the State of California and who were treated as independent contractors by Lowe’s but over whom Lowe’s exercised control and discretion in the performance of their installation services.” The certified class period runs from 2008 to the present.

According to the Lowe’s lawsuit: “Specifically, plaintiffs assert that Lowe’s had the right to control, and in fact did control all aspects of installation services performed by Shephard and all other Type 1 and general contractor installers,” according to the settlement for preliminary approval proposed to the U.S Northern District Court of California, Oakland division.

“Plaintiffs further allege that Lowe’s misclassification of the installers caused harm not only to the installers who did not receive the benefits attendant with being treated as employees, but also resulted in harm to the installation companies that contracted with Lowe’s,” the lawsuit states.

In discussing the proposed Lowe’s settlement, Shephard’s attorneys write, “Shephard determined that if this action proceeded to trial and if Shephard prevailed on all of his claims, the maximum amount recoverable for the class would have been approximately $33 million. Shephard submits that a recovery of $6.5 million, or approximately 20 percent of the recoverable damages, is an eminently fair and reasonable recovery.”

It is estimated that some 4,029 individual installers and 949 installation companies are eligible to receive settlement funds, and “The maximum settlement amount equates to about $1,613.30 per settlement class member,” court documents state.

Ok, Folks—we’re done here—have a great weekend and we’ll see you at the bar!

Week Adjourned: 8.13.10

Top Class Actions

No Answer for No Answer Charges? A couple of major players in the telecommunications game got hit with class actions this week. First up—AT&T. The suit alleges violations of federal truth-in-billing laws, false advertising and deceptive trade practices under New York law, and breach of contract, among other things. 

Lead plaintiff, Los Angeles resident Kenneth Thelian, claims he was charged $12.90 partly for calls that he did not answer. He allegedly complained to AT&T who reversed $8 of the charges, but the company representative “did not adequately explain why these charges were incurred.”

Thelian faced a further $15.81 in roaming charges while traveling in Montreal, Canada in August 2005, again for calls he did not answer. Then, in February and March of 2007, Thelian was billed $92.72. “The bill did not indicate which of these charges were for calls that he did not answer while traveling abroad,” the suit alleges. 

So, maybe time to be checking those phone bills…

And, second up—T-Mobile. This class action alleges that the company puts limits on its unlimited data plan. Ummm. who would have thought…

The suit claims that advertisements for T-Mobile’s “Unlimited Web & E-mail” plans, offered for both Blackberry and other brands of smartphones, promise the consumer access to Continue reading “Week Adjourned: 8.13.10”

Week Adjourned: 9.25.09

Psychiatric Solutions feeling a bit under the weatherTop Class Actions

Behavioral Healthcare Behaving Badly? So, another securities class action to report this week, this one centers on Psychiatric Solutions Inc, a company that provides inpatient behavioral healthcare services. Great—they’re in the behaviour business…that’s encouraging…The suit alleges that the folks running the company— directors and officers—failed to disclose problems regarding safeguards and controls for some of its operations, and that the company directors and certain of its officers flogged stock on the back of “materially false and misleading” statements about their financial health.

While this class action obviously affects people who bought Psychiatric Solutions stock, did you know that if you are an employee and have been issued stock or stock options in this company—you may be eligible as a plaintiff in this class action under Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)?

Top Settlements

Say it isn’t True, True. Another dating story gone wrong—only this time it’s the dating site that’s to blame—not the date. TrueBeginnings LLC, the owner and operator of the True.com Continue reading “Week Adjourned: 9.25.09”