Week Adjourned: 4.29.16 – Dometic, Mazda, Kodak

DometicTop Class Action Lawsuits

Refrigerators that double as Barbeques? Not a hallmark moment in industrial design, apparently. Nor, it seems, a feature appreciated by consumers. This week, Dometic, maker of  these particular refrigerators, got hit with a seemingly long overdue defective products class action lawsuit alleging the fridges can spontaneously ignite on boats and RVs. Gotta love that action. It could definitely put a damper on cocktail hour.

According to the Dometic refrigerator complaint, the refrigerators have caused or contributed to at least 3,000 fires since 1997, resulting in more than $100 million in property damage and personal injury claims. Further, the lawsuit states that Dometic tracked the claims but “failed and refused to eliminate the defects and/or provide consumers with adequate warnings.”

The class action, which includes five individual RV plaintiffs, states the plaintiffs believe that 1.5 million RVs and boats in the country are equipped with “defective gas absorption refrigerators.”

Here’s the skinny, according to the plaintiffs:

“In particular, defendants have concealed the true nature of the defects in the defective gas absorption refrigerators; have failed to properly repair the defective gas absorption refrigerators; and have instead initiated recall and retrofit campaigns which fail to address the underlying defects in the defective gas absorption refrigerators, fail to alleviate the risk of fire, and when engaged, require the defective gas absorption refrigerators to be replaced.”

According to the complaint, not only have the plaintiffs lost money on the cost of the refrigerators, they have also had to pay hundreds of dollars to repair or replace their gas absorption refrigerators after the defendants’ failed attempts to fix the defects.

“Plaintiffs have also lost money as a result of having to pay hundreds of dollars associated with loss of use of their RVs or boats,” the complaint states. “Finally, plaintiffs have lost money because they paid for a safe and useful gas absorption refrigerator for their RV or boat and the value of their RV or boat has decreased because of the installed defective gas absorption refrigerator.”

“Defendants have used and manipulated the recall process to conceal the true dangers and safety risks inherent in their defective gas absorption refrigerators from both federal regulators and consumers. As a result, United States highways and campgrounds are flush with RVs containing defective gas absorption refrigerators that can, and with alarming regularity do, spontaneously burst into flames,” the suit states, noting two recalls issued by Dometic.

The plaintiffs are seeking repair or replacement of their defective refrigerators and compensation by Dometic to consumers for the diminution of value of their RVs and boats.

From the sounds of it, they’re quite fortunate no one was killed. 

Vroom, Vroom, er…or Not. Mazda did not escape the week unscathed, as it found itself on the receiving end of a defective automotive class action lawsuit alleging certain of its vehicles have defective clutches. Ok—I’m pretty sure those are meant to be in good working order at all times. According to the suit, the defect represents a significant safety risk to both drivers and passengers, the plaintiffs assert. Yup.

Filed by Megan Humphrey, Iris Gonzalez, Charles Bunch, Anne Stom, David Woodward, Greg Thomason, Lisa Massey and Dan Carney, individually and for all others similarly situated, against Mazda Motor Corporation and Mazda Motor of America Inc., the Mazda complaint alleges model year 2010-15 Mazda 3 vehicles with 5- or 6-speed manual transmissions contain defective clutch release levers, bearings and pins. Where do you start?

The plaintiffs state in their complaint that the defect causes premature wear to the vehicle’s manual transmission and related components, ultimately resulting in premature clutch system or transmission failure.

The lawsuit cites breach of express and implied warranties and violations of consumer protection statutes in California, Texas, Florida, Maryland, Washington, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

FYI –  The case is US District Court for the Northern District of California Case number 4:16-CV-02087-KAW 

Top Settlements

Not a Kodak Moment? One for the little guy this week—who was accused Eastman Kodak of pawning off dodgy stock to their employees. The company reached a $9.7 million settlement in a securities lawsuit brought by former and current employees, who allege Kodak should be held liable for continuing to offer Kodak stock as an investment option even though the company was in extreme financial distress, and therefore making its stock a risky investment. Very nice.

The lawsuit stems from Kodak’s 2012 bankruptcy filing, involving participants in the company’s savings and investment plan for employees and the Kodak Employee Stock Ownership plan. The class action includes over 21,000 people.

The Kodak employee stock agreement is still subject to a fairness hearing scheduled to be held this August. The settlement includes costs and attorneys’ fees.

People affected by the settlement do not need to do anything in order to get whatever money is owed them.

Ok –That’s a wrap folks…Have a good one. See you at the Bar!

Week Adjourned: 10.10.14 – Mazda, Toyota, AT&T

Looking like The Year of Defective Automotive Recalls and Lawsuits… it’s the week’s top class action lawsuits and settlements.

mazda 3Looking like The Year of Defective Automotive Recalls and Lawsuits…

Top Class Action Lawsuits

It’s getting hard to stay on top of the number of defective automotive lawsuits, and math was never my strong suit…but suffice to say there are many. Added to the list this week is a putative class action filed against Mazda Motor Company, alleging the automaker hid knowledge that Mazda 3 and Mazda 6 vehicle models have defective dashboards that melt when exposed to sunlight and subsequently give off a chemical odor and become reflective, posing a risk of temporary blindness in drivers. Talk about a one-two punch. Like I said, math is not my forte but even the most basic understanding indicates that selling a product that can injure or kill your customers can’t add up to good business.

According to the lawsuit: “Mazda’s conduct violates multiple state consumer protection statutes. On behalf of themselves and the proposed classes, plaintiffs seek to compel Mazda to warn drivers about the known defect and to bear the expense of replacing dashboards that Mazda should never have placed in the stream of commerce in the first place.”

Filed in California federal court by lead plaintiffs Danielle Stedman, Jody Soto and Gary Soto, the lawsuit claims Mazda refuses to cover repair costs for the melting dashboards in their vehicles because their cars were no longer under warranty. However, the allege that had they known about the defect prior to purchasing their vehicles, they would not have bought those cars in the first place. The consumers say the automaker failed to properly inform them about the defect.

The plaintiffs claim Mazda knew or should have known when it sold the defective vehicles that the dashboards would deteriorate when exposed to sunlight and “predictably high” summertime temperatures, presenting unsafe condition for drivers.

Like all other automobile manufacturers, Mazda has known “for decades” that dashboard reflections can impair drivers’ visions and make it difficult for them to see pedestrians or objects on the road, according to the suit. The information has been even been readily available through research published by the University of Michigan in 1996, the lawsuit states.

The complaint further claims that Mazda has had “extensive experience” working with the materials used in the dashboards and has personnel who specifically evaluate the durability of new vehicle parts, the company knew or should have known about the defect.

“Mazda thus had exclusive and superior knowledge of the dashboard defect and actively concealed the defect and corresponding danger from consumers who had no way to reasonably discover the problem before buying and driving their vehicles,” the complaint states.

The lawsuit seeks certification of a nationwide class of all people who owned or leased one of the defective vehicles, in addition to a separate Florida class of vehicle owners and lessors.

The suit is Stedman et al v. Mazda Motor Corporation et al, case number 8:14-cv-01608, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

And here’s a little more light reading…Toyota also got hit with a defective automotive class action lawsuit this week, filed by an Arkansas man, alleging its 2005-2009 Tacoma trucks are prone to experiencing excessive rust corrosion. Specifically, the lawsuit claims that the trucks were made with frames that are inadequately protected from rust corrosion, consequently, the frames corrode from rust, rendering the vehicles unstable and unsafe to drive. Refer to Math 101 at the top of the article.

The vehicles that experience excessive rust corrosion are essentially worthless, according to the complaint (U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas case number: 1:14-cv-02208.) Lead plaintiff, Ryan Burns, alleges Toyota has, for quite some time, been aware of the alleged defect in the Tacoma vehicles’ frames, and despite this knowledge, has failed to disclose the existence of the defect to him and other class members at the time of sale, has not issued a recall to inspect and repair the vehicles and has not offered to reimburse owners for costs incurred to identify and repair the defect.

The lawsuit contends that earlier this year, Burns took his Tacoma in for service because the fan on the vehicle was coming into contact with the fan shroud. “Shortly thereafter, plaintiff was informed that the frame on his Tacoma vehicle was rusted out and that the vehicle was unsafe to drive,” the complaint states.

Burns alleges he was advised that the frame on his 2005 Tacoma had severely rusted and that it would cost approximately $10,000 to repair. “In… March 2008, after receiving numerous complaints that frames on approximately 813,000 model year 1995 to 2000 Tacoma vehicles had exhibited excessive rust corrosion, Toyota USA initiated a customer support program extending warranty coverage on the vehicles’ frames for frame perforation caused by rust corrosion,” the complaint states. “The program extended warranty coverage on concerned vehicles to 15 years with no mileage limitations.”

Allegedly, the terms of the program are that once confirmation of perforation of the frame due to rust corrosion has been determined, Toyota would either repair or repurchase the vehicle. Burns claims Toyota subsequently altered the customer support program to include 2001-2004 Tacoma models, with the exception that there was no buy-back option.

“In November 2012, Toyota USA recalled approximately 150,000 Tacoma vehicles to inspect and replace the spare-tire carrier on vehicles sold in 20 cold weather states,” the complaint states. “The recall was issued to prevent the spare-tire carrier from rusting through and resulting in the spare tire dropping to the ground.”

The lawsuit contends Toyota violated the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and breached its express and implied warranty under Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. “Toyota USA knew, or should have known, that the frames on…Toyota vehicles were not coated with adequate rust corrosion treatment,” the complaint states. Consequently, Toyota has been unjustly enriched at the cost of class members whose vehicles were damaged, according to the lawsuit. You think?

Burns is seeking class certification, compensatory damages, an order requiring Toyota to repair or replace the frames on the Tacoma vehicles and pre- and post-judgment interest.

I’m not a fully paid up member of the Cycling Taliban, but seriously, these recalls are almost enough to get me back in the saddle.

Top Settlements

Ah—One Ringy-Dingy…that will be $45 million please. Oh yes—AT&T is busted. They have agreed to a settlement in a Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) class action alleging the company violated the TCPA by placing calls using an automatic telephone dialing system and/or an artificial or prerecorded voice message to cellular telephone numbers without the prior express consent of the call recipients. Phew..that was a mouthful. Like the automated telephone calls themselves…

The lawsuit is led by plaintiff Joel Hagerman. Hagerman brought the suit in April 2013, (U.S. District Court for the District of Montana case number: 1:13-cv-00050). According to the terms of the settlement, the size of the per-call payment shall be determined on a pro rata basis of up to $500 per call, after the attorneys fees and costs, any incentive award to named plaintiff and any settlement administration costs are deducted from the settlement fund and the settlement administrator reviews all claim forms to determine a final number of claimants.

Specifically, the settlement states: “A class member shall receive payment for each call he or she received from [AT&T] or from an OCA acting on behalf of [AT&T] during the class period by submitting a short claim form.”

No more info than that at the moment—so stay tuned.

In the meantime…Time to adjourn for the week. Have a fab weekend–and HappyThanksgiving to all you Canucks out there. See you at the bar!


Week Adjourned: 8.29.14 – Whole Foods, Mazda, Daimler Trucks

The week’s top class action lawsuits and settlements–top stories include Whole Foods, Mazda, Daimler Trucks.

whole foodsTop Class Action Lawsuits 

Whole Foods not telling the Whole Story—that`s the contention in one of the latest consumer fraud class actions to be filed this week. The problem? The alleged mislabelling of the sugar content in Whole Foods Greek Yogurt. The class action alleges the grocery retail giant drastically understates the sugar content of its store-brand Greek yogurt so as to give it a competitive advantage.

According to the Whole Foods lawsuit, the label on Whole Food’s “365 Everyday Value Plain Greek Yogurt” states the product contains only 2 grams of sugar per serving. However, the plaintiffs claim that recent tests show the actual sugar content is nearly six times the stated amount. Just what the heck is “everyday plain value” anyway? What does that mean? I digress…

Filed by Los Angeles residents Chas Jackson and Josh Koffman, the lawsuit alleges that tests, done by Consumer Reports and published online in July, show an average of 11.4 grams of sugar per serving in six samples taken from six separate product lots. These results put the sugar content of Whole Food’s yogurt in the same region as a typical ice cream sandwich, which the US Department of Agriculture estimates to be around 13 grams of sugar.

“By falsely claiming a sugar content of only 2 grams per serving, [Whole Foods] sought to give itself a competitive advantage and to use this false statement of contents to induce consumers to purchase” the yogurt, the lawsuit states.

The plaintiffs claim that this discrepancy belies statements on Whole Foods’ website, which “brags” that a registered dietician reviews the labels on each of the company’s products for “accuracy and completeness.”

“Unless this statement on defendant’s website is false, then Whole Foods Market was fully aware of the contents of its store-brand plain Greek yogurt and of the fact that the yogurt’s actual sugar content was dramatically higher than what is stated on the label,” the lawsuit states.

Despite the publication of the Consumer Reports test results on July 17, Whole Foods has not removed the yogurt from its shelves and continues to market the product to consumers with the exact same allegedly inaccurate label, the plaintiffs claim.

In the lawsuit, Jackson and Koffman claim they purchased the yogurt on various occasions since 2000, and they each bought the product within the past month. They are seeking to represent a class of all Californians who purchased the yogurt since Aug. 26, 2000, a group they estimate at more than 10,000 people. Yeah, I would think so…  

Another Car Maker gets Slapped with a Lawsuit… this time it’s a consumer fraud class action lawsuit filed against Mazda Motor of America Inc, in New Jersey federal court. The complaint alleges the automaker knew of an engine valve defect affecting certain model year Mazda vehicles, and failed to warn consumers. Further, the lawsuit claims Mazda refused to repair the alleged defect in breach of warranty.

According to the Mazda lawsuit complaint, Mazda falsely advertises and guarantees that its new vehicles are defect-free, when in fact, the company is aware that some of its vehicles’ engines have faulty continuous variable valve-timing assembly. This defect causes the affected engines timing chain to become loose or detach, which can lead to partial or total engine failure. While the defect is covered under Mazda’s warranty, the automaker refuses to honor the warrant and repair the defect.

“Mazda’s fraudulent and unlawful conduct has resulted in substantial harm to … the class. As a result of the defect, plaintiff and the class have not received the economic benefit of their bargain, overpaid for their vehicles and/or made lease payments that were too high, and suffered further damages by incurring out-of pocket costs associated with repairing the [variable valve-timing] assembly defect in their vehicles,” the complaint says.

In the lawsuit, lead plaintiff James Stevenson states he purchased a 2008 Mazda CX7 vehicle from a New Jersey dealership in 2009. The vehicle came with a warranty stating that it is free of defects. In 2012, his warranty was extended to seven years past the original warranty date. However, in November 2013, the vehicle experienced an engine valve-related failure. According to the complaint, Stevenson alleges that, despite regular maintenance, and the car still being under warranty, Mazda refused warranty coverage.

In the defective automotive lawsuit, Stevenson v. Mazda Motor of America Inc., case number 3:14-cv-05250, Stevenson alleges the valve defect occurs in Mazda’s L-series engines and that the automaker has known about the defect since at least 2007, when it issued a technical service bulletin about the problem to its dealers. While Mazda made several unsuccessful attempts to fix the issue internally, the automaker failed to notify consumers of the defect and continued to market its vehicles as defect-free, according to the class action. 

Top Settlements 

Auto Worker Medical Benefits Settlement… Good news! This week a settlement was reached in an employment class action lawsuit pending against Daimler Trucks North America LLC. The lawsuit claimed the truck manufacturer illegally cut workers’ benefits. Filed by a group of retirees and the United Auto Workers, the lawsuit claims Daimler told the UAW that it would cut medical benefits starting on January 1, because the medical benefits it agreed on were not vested.

Plaintiffs Alan J. Meyers, Rocco H. Colanero, Allen Penley and Eddie Warren Bridges, along with the International Union of United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America, filed the lawsuit in May on behalf of a class of former employees who were represented by the union in collective bargaining and who currently are receiving retiree medical benefits from Daimler Trucks, together with their covered and surviving spouses, according to the complaint.

According to the Daimler Trucks benefit settlement agreement,  Daimler will contribute $480 million to a new employee benefit plan. According to court documents, the company, union and lead plaintiffs said the settlement would cover 1,100 proposed class members, and that the agreement is consistent with a recently ratified memorandum of understanding related to the retiree benefits owed to the active and recently retired UAW-represented employees. 

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