Week Adjourned: 7.7.17 – Pringles, MetLife, Prudential

Top Class Action Lawsuits

What’s in your Pringle’s Potato Chips? Perhaps something newfangled? This week, Kellogg got slapped with a consumer fraud class action lawsuit filed by consumers who allege its Pringles Salt and Vinegar chip packages falsely advertise that the chips have “natural” vinegar taste when they really contain chemical flavoring. No comment.

Filed in California by Barry Allred and Mandy Allred, the Pringles complaint asserts Kellogg’s packaging, labeling and advertising deceives consumers into believing Pringles’ salt and vinegar flavor comes from real vinegar.

“Defendants’ packaging, labeling, and advertising scheme is intended to, and does, give reasonable consumers the impression they are buying a premium ‘all natural’ product with natural flavoring ingredients, instead of an artificially flavored product,” the complaint states.

The Allreds claim that the deceptive promotion and labeling of the product enticed them into paying more for what they thought was a premium product.

The Allreds allege that in 2016 they discovered that Pringles Salt and Vinegar chips contain largely artificial flavors, and that while the product does contain traces of real vinegar, it is only present in amounts too small to taste.

The chips’ flavor, the lawsuit alleges, comes from sodium diacetate and malic acid. Although both chemicals occur naturally, the Allreds say the chips contain the synthetic forms.

The Allreds want Kellogg to cease the allegedly misleading packaging and advertising, recall the chips, launch an informational ad campaign, and pay for damages as well as for the cost of the suit. They seek to represent a California class of consumers who purchased the chips in the past six years.

The case is Allred et al v. Kellogg Company et al, case number 3:17-cv-01354 in U.S. District Court for Southern California.

Top Settlements

Seems it’s Black and White, After All. A $32.5 million settlement has been approved in a discrimination class action lawsuit pending against MetLife Securities Inc. The settlement will pay $25.35 million to some 690 class members, according to court documents.

The lawsuit was filed in May 2015 by lead plaintiff Marcus Creighton, who was a MetLife employee in Illinois from 2001 to October 2014. Creighton alleged the company was in violation of federal civil rights law by discriminating against black brokers. Specifically, the lawsuit alleged that MetLife provided very few opportunities for its African American financial services representatives to work with their non-black colleagues, that it restricted their training opportunities, and prevented them from getting good accounts.

The lawsuit states that MetLife is headed by a “nearly all-white” management team and maintains “a racially biased corporate culture and stereotypical views about the skills, abilities and potential of African-Americans that infect personnel decisions” and inform its policies.

According to the lawsuit, MetLife lets its financial services representatives form teams with colleagues and combine their client accounts, but “almost entirely exclude[s]” black financial services representatives from favorable teaming relationships. The complaint also alleged the company steers the most lucrative business opportunities away from black brokers and denies them equal access to its “Delivering the Promise” training program. This systematic discrimination leads the company to pay black financial services representatives less than their nonblack peers, the lawsuit alleged.

The MetLife discrimination settlement fund will pay $75,000 to Creighton and $50,000 to six other workers who joined the case as named plaintiffs in an amended complaint filed in April 2016.

The settlement deal covers all black, US-based financial services representatives employed by or affiliated with MetLife or New England Life Insurance Co. between May 15, 2011 and July 1, 2016.

The case is Creighton et al. v. MetLife Securities Inc., case number 1:15-cv-08321, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Prudential has Agreed to Pony Up… $12.5 million in an unpaid overtime class action lawsuit. If approved, the settlement would end claims brought Prudential employees in 12 states in litigation that has lasted more than a decade. Youza! 

According to recently filed court documents, financial representatives working for Prudential filed the class action in September 2006 alleging the financial management company misclassified them as independent contractors so they were not compensated for overtime. Additionally, they were improperly deducted pay for use of offices, assistants, office supplies and insurance.

The plaintiffs alleged the deductions didn’t change their taxable earnings or their pension benefits, that Prudential had violated their contracts, and violated both the Fair Labor Standards Act and state labor laws.

The proposed settlement requires court approval.

The case is Jeffrey Bouder et al. v. Prudential Financial Inc. et al., case number 2:06-cv-04359, 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: 8.8.14 – Gap, Hooters, MetLife

The top class action lawsuits and settlements for the week–top stories include the Gap, Hooters and MetLife

Gap logoTop Class Action Lawsuits 

Gap giving a whole new meaning to Loss Leaders …so much so they got slapped with a consumer fraud class action this week. The issue is Gap’s alleged misleading advertising over sale items…you know—it’s for sale—but the one next to it isn’t—that kind of thing… Essentially, the Gap class action lawsuit claims the clothing retailer uses advertisements for sale items that do not clearly indicate sale exclusions both in its stores and online.

The Gap lawsuit, entitled Misbah Etman, et al. v. The Gap Inc., et al., Case No. BC547161, in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles, alleges that lead plaintiff, Misbah Etman, was misled regarding which items were included in a sale display, which resulted in her paying full price for an item when she purchased it.

The backstory, in legal speak: “Because of the advertisement, Plaintiff believed that all the clothing on the rack bearing the advertisement was on sale at the price displayed on the advertisement and/or subject to the discount stated on the advertisement,” the lawsuit states. “Plaintiff looked through the clothing, selected three items she liked, waited in line for an open register, [Etman] found out at the register that Defendant would not sell her one of the items at the price displayed on the advertisement or would not discount one of the items in accordance with the advertisement.” Consequently, “[a]lthough she had been misled, Plaintiff purchased the non-discounted item and paid the higher price Defendant demanded.”

An example of an alleged advertisement Gap emailed “with a hyperlink to Defendant’s website stating clearly in dark letters against a white background ‘Hours to Shop!; Happy Monday; 40% Off Your Purchase; Ends Tonight.’” However, continues the complaint, “the email also states in barely noticeable lettering against a colored background ‘EXCLUSIONS APPLY.”

Further, “[o]nce a consumer clicks the hyperlink…the consumer is taken to Defendant’s website to shop [and], [w]hile shopping, Defendant’s website does not identify for consumers the items that are included in the sale, nor does it identify that items that are excluded from the sale,” alleges the Gap class action lawsuit.” And, “Defendant’s website does not even disclose whether an item is included in or excluded from the sale when a consumer selects an item to place in the consumer’s ‘shopping cart,’” the lawsuit states.

The consumer fraud lawsuit further claims that Gap also misleads consumers through its online stores by “enticing consumers to shop for, and to purchase, products from Defendant through Defendant’s website by means of false and misleading advertisements Defendant emails to consumers.”

The lawsuit seeks certification for a proposed Class of all other consumers who purchased products at Gap stores in California, or purchased products on the Gap website while in California, on days when Gap displayed the advertising described in the class action lawsuit.

So—heads up all you California Gap shoppers… 

Not caring a Hoot for Hooters Text Messages.…What are you supposed to do when tits and ass just ain’t enough to get bums in seats in anymore (bad pun, I know). Send text messages to advertise your booty. Umm, maybe not. Hooters is facing class action lawsuit alleging the restaurant chain violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)—just the TCPA? Filed by lead plaintiff Peyman Zandifaez, the lawsuit alleges that on June 14, Zandifaez received an unsolicited text message on his cell phone from Hooters and a second unsolicited text message on July 5.

“The… SPAM text messages were form texts that were sent consumers on mass and just solely to the plaintiff, which is indicative of the use of an automatic telephone dialing system,” the complaint states. “[The] defendant used telephone number 368-32 to send this unsolicited SPAM text message to plaintiff’s cellular telephone.”

The Hooters lawsuit alleges that at no time did the plaintiff provide Hooters with his cellular phone number, through any medium, nor did he consent to receive such an unsolicited text message. Further, the plaintiff alleges that at no time did he sign up for nor use the defendant’s services or products, nor has he ever had any form of business relationship with Hooters.

“Through the unsolicited SPAM text message, defendant contacted plaintiff on plaintiff’s cellular telephone regarding an unsolicited service via an ‘automatic telephone dialing system,’” the lawsuit states. The ATDS has the capacity to store or produce telephone numbers to be called, using a random or sequential number generator, according to the suit.

According to the lawsuit, Zandifaez is charged for incoming calls and text messages and the text message constituted a call that was not for emergency purposes. “Plaintiff did not provide defendant or its agent prior express consent to receive text messages, including unsolicited text messages, to her cellular telephone,” the complaint states. Nice…Go get’em!!

Top Settlements 

And as one TCPA lawsuit is filed, so another is settled… This week, in Los Angeles, a settlement agreement was reached in a class action lawsuit against Metlife which alleges a former agent faxed millions of advertisements for life insurance to consumers and businesses in violation of the federal Telephone Consumer protection Act (TCPA).

According to the terms of the MetLife settlement, the company, one of the largest life insurance companies in the US, will pay $23 million to resolve two related lawsuits, one in state court in Illinois and the other in federal court in Florida.

Incredibly, an estimated 1 to 2.8 million recipients of the faxes across the country will be covered by the settlement. The settlement will cover faxes sent between 2008 to 2014, even though the lawsuits focus on faxes sent by the agent between 2010 and 2012.

According to the lawsuits, the former MetLife agent Scott Storkick paid a fax-blasting specialty firm run out of offices in Fort Lauderdale, to help generate leads so that he could maintain his standing as one of the company’s top-performing agents. Ultimately, Storick said that the fax blasting campaign generated between 30 and 50 of the approximately 200 MetLife life-insurance policies he sold annually between 2010 and 2012.

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