Week Adjourned: 3.17.17 – State Farm, Samsung, We-Vibe

Top Class Action Lawsuits

What a strange week…nothing is spared, it seems. 

Coverage you thought you paid for… This week, news out that State Farm will face a bad faith insurance class action lawsuit brought by policy holders who allege they were wrongfully denied personal injury benefits after physicians found the policyholders achieved “maximum medical improvement”.

The class was certified by a Washington federal judge, who granted named plaintiff Brett Durant’s motion for class certification, dismissing State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.’s statement that the case was unfit for class treatment because, among other things, each policyholder’s damages needed to be calculated individually.

US District Judge Richard A. Jones stated that “Despite the possible individualized nature of damages calculations in this matter, the court nevertheless finds that ‘[c]lasswide resolution of the common issues is superior to the filing of multiple and duplicative lawsuits and will result in the efficient and consistent resolution of overarching questions.”

Durant had sued State Farm in 2014, alleging the insurer had improperly denied his request for coverage of ongoing medical treatment for injuries he suffered in a 2012 car accident. The reason the insurer would not pay for treatment, the lawsuit alleges, is because a chiropractor reported that Durant had reached maximum medical improvement, or MMI.

The personal-injury-protection section of Durant’s State Farm policy extended coverage for “reasonable medical expenses” incurred within three years following the date of an accident. The policy indicated that reasonable medical expenses may include costs “essential in achieving maximum medical improvement for the bodily injury sustained in the accident,” according to court documents. Durant sought class certification in 2016, asking to represent a class of insureds and third-party beneficiaries who, under any State Farm policy issued in Washington, had their benefits terminated or limited based on the MMI determination.

Durant claims that State Farm’s behavior is in violation of the Washington Administrative Code and state Insurance Fair Conduct Act.

In certifying the class, Judge Jones found that Durant had met the various requirements, in that Durant had identified enough potential class members, and that all the individual insureds’ claims involve the same alleged unfair conduct by State Farm.

The case is Durant v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., case number 2:15-cv-01710, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.

Coverage you really DIDN’T pay for… Big brother may indeed be watching, that is according to a proposed privacy class action lawsuit filed against Samsung over allegations its Smart TV devices enable the company to record consumers’ private conversations without their knowledge.

According to the complaint, filed by Joshua Siegel, the Samsung Smart TV devices are equipped with the capability to respond to human voices through a built-in “always on” recording device, and that enables the company to intercept and record consumers’ private communications inside their homes for profit, in violation of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act.

The Smart TVs are made by Samsung Electronics America Inc. and its Korean parent company Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. The lawsuit states that the electronic companies have failed to safeguard the capabilities of the devices, resulting in third parties like the CIA being able to remotely hack into the devices and turn them into hidden spying systems.

Interestingly, the source of information is WikiLeaks, make of that what you will. The lawsuit asserts that this information was disclosed by WikiLeaks in its most recent set of released documents purporting to reveal the full capability of the CIA’s hacking.

“While Samsung has marketed the convenience of its voice-recognition capable Smart TV, it has negligently and/or recklessly failed to consider or properly address the privacy consequences of its Smart TV’s configuration, specifically its susceptibility to hacking of private consumer information,” the lawsuit states.

According to the Samsung privacy lawsuit, in Samsung’s privacy policy the company states that some of the voice commands collected by the television’s voice recognition feature may be transmitted to a third-party service that converts speech to text. But what the company doesn’t disclose is the fact that everything a user says in front of the TV is recorded and shared, the lawsuit states.

“Consumers have no reason to expect that defendants engaged in second-by-second tracking and recording by surreptitiously recording content and sending it back to their own servers and then transmitting that information to third parties,” the suit contends. “Further, defendants’ representations were not sufficiently clear or prominent to alert consumers to their practices related to defendants’ recording of consumers’ private recordings in their home.”

Samsung’s actions “are an unconscionable commercial practice” that violate New Jersey’s consumer protection law, Siegal asserts. Siegal is seeking injunctive relief and compensation for damages caused by Samsung’s deceptive and misleading practice and is looking to represent anyone in the U.S. who purchased or leased a Samsung Smart TV since January 2012, according to the complaint.

Better stop watching cartoons. 

Top Settlements

Coverage that’s downright a bit too uhh, personal… A $3.75 million settlement has been reached potentially ending a wire tap class action brought against the manufacturer of an internet-connected vibrator. Oh yeah baby!

The federal lawsuit alleged that Standard Innovation, makers of the We-Vibe Smart Vibrator, improperly tracked customers’ use of the sex toy, including which settings were used and how often it was used. The technology in a 2014 update to the We-Vibe vibrator, allegedly enabled the defendant to collect its customers’ usage data.

The Plaintiffs assert that Standard Innovation breached Illinois consumer fraud laws and the federal Wiretap Act by programming We-Connect , which is a service connecting users and their partners remotely, to “contemporaneously monitor, intercept, and transmit” data sent to the We-Vibe devices from consumers’ smartphones.

According to the lawsuit, customers state that they would not have purchased the vibrator had they known their actions would be monitored, collected, and transmitted.

If approved, the proposed settlement would see Standard Innovation designate $3 million for customers who downloaded the app and used it with the We-Vibe device. Each Plaintiff could receive about $10,000.

The remaining $750,000 would be divided among consumers who purchased the devices alone, with each receiving about $199.

The proposed We-Vibe settlement, which needs final court approval, would also require Standard Innovation to destroy the data it collected from users and cease collecting emails and personal user information. The company denies any wrongdoing. Seriously? 

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