Week Adjourned: 5.26.17 – GM Emissions, Doctor Kickbacks, Target

Top Class Action Lawsuits

More Emissions Cheating?? Of course—you knew it was coming. General Motors (GM) got hit with a consumer fraud class action lawsuit this week, accusing the automaker of emissions cheating. A little late to the party—but maybe they figured why not?

Read on…

According to the complaint, GM used defeat devices similar to those used in Volkswagen’s diesel cars, to enable its Silverado and Sierra 2500HD diesel vehicles to pass emissions tests.

The GM emissions complaint alleges that despite GM’s claims that its top-selling Silverado and Sierra 2500HD vehicles are environmentally friendly with high fuel economy and low emissions, in fact they emit far more pollution while on the road than in emissions testing conditions. Well now there’s a surprise.

The complaint states that currently some 705,000 Silverado and Sierra diesels are on the road in the US. Data from emissions testing show that those vehicles emit levels of nitrogen oxide far above standards set by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Auto parts supplier Robert Bosch GmbH is also named in the lawsuit, and allegedly plays a pivotal role in the emissions scandal that has plagued the auto industry since Volkswagen defeat devices were revealed in 2015. The auto parts supplier developed the electronic diesel control that enabled GM to implement the defeat devices in its cars.

According to the plaintiffs, there are at least three defeat devices in GM’s Duramax diesel engines. The GM vehicles affected are model years 2011 to 2016 Silverado 2500HD/3500 HD trucks and Sierra 2500HD/3500HD trucks.

“GM turned a blind eye to the two-fold to five-fold increase in deadly nitrogen oxide emissions its scheme caused, all to drive up its sales and profits,” the plaintiffs state.

The named plaintiffs are Andrei Fenner, a Californian who bought a used 2011 GMC Sierra from an authorized GM dealer in 2013, and Louisiana resident Joshua Herman, who bought a new 2016 Silverado in June, allege violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and states’ deceptive trade practice and consumer violations laws. They seek to represent a nationwide class on the RICO claim and state classes for the residents of California, Louisiana and other states.

The case is Fenner et al v. General Motors LLC et al., case number 2:17-cv-11661 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Go get ‘em! 

Top Settlements

Just Blowin’ that Whistle… Here’s an interesting tale. And the good guy won! A former employee who filed a wrongful termination lawsuit alleging he was let go by his employer after reporting illegal sale activity, has been awarded $22 million by the jury hearing his case.

Steven Babyak, who had worked from October 2012 to June 2015 as a sales manager for defendant Cardiovascular Systems Inc. (“CSI”), alleged he was let go from his job in June 2015 after acting as a whistleblower by revealing illegal kickbacks to doctors, as well as FDA policy violations and violations of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX).

The jury awarded a total award of $25,142,120, which includes economic damages regarding lost past and future earnings of $2,742,120, and punitive damages of $22,400,000.

The trial took just five days, during which time Babyak stated that as a result of complaining directly to CSI’s upper management about the alleged violations, he was immediately retaliated against.

When Babyak reported the alleged retaliatory behaviors and actions to CSI’s upper management, an investigation was launched, but CSI stated that they found “no evidence of retaliation” or wrongdoing by the company.

Several weeks after Babyak had reported his initial concerns and a resulting re-assignment of sales territory, he discovered new and additional legal violations which he reported to CSI’s regulatory department as a possible SOX violation. Upon hearing Mr. Babyak’s new complaint about possible SOX violations, CSI management became extremely displeased and even told plaintiff to stop reporting violations and to “get on the bus and move on.” Babyak then submitted a formal complaint outlining the SOX issue. Just weeks after his formal SOX complaint, CSI terminated Babyak.

Target on target to pay $18.5 million …in data breach class action settlement. Yup, the discount retailer will pony up the pennies to pay out 47 states in what is being touted as the largest multi-state data breach deal in US history. All stemming from the 2013 Target data breach, which happened just before US Thanksgiving… remember that?

Under the terms of the Target data breach agreement, Target must adopt improved measures to make secure customers’ information, including executive oversight of a comprehensive information security program, and hiring an independent third party to conduct a security assessment. The retailer must also update and maintain appropriate data encryption policies.

More than 41 million Target customer payment card accounts were affected by the massive 2013 data breach, with contact information compromised for more than 60 million customers. Shortly after the data breach became public, states’ attorneys general launched an investigation which found that hackers accessed Target’s server by using stolen credentials and exploiting weaknesses in its security systems.

Specifically, the investigation revealed that the hackers, after accessing a customer service database, were able to install malware in Target’s system that was able to capture the shoppers’ data, including full names, telephone numbers, email and mailing addresses, payment card numbers, expiration dates and encrypted debit PIN numbers.

Target announced the data breach in December 2013, stating that they were aware the breach had occurred between November 27 and December 15 2013, and confirmed that payment card data was stolen in real time as the cards were swiped in its stores. 

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

Week Adjourned: 2.12.16 – Nissan, Target, TVM

NissanTop Class Action Lawsuits

Heads Up Owners of 2011-2012 Nissan Frontier Trucks… Nissan North America got hit with a defective automotive class action lawsuit this week over claims its side air bags are, well, just a little too enthusiastic. Plain English—the air bags deploy unnecessarily.

Filed by plaintiff Bobette Brantley, the Nissan airbag lawsuit asserts that the automaker designed side air bags in 2011-2012 Nissan Frontier trucks to inflate in rollover and near rollover conditions. However, it failed to warn consumers about how sensitive the air bags and seatbelt pretensioner igniters actually are. The seatbelt pretensioner igniters tighten any slack in seatbelts during an accident.

The lawsuit states that a defect in the class vehicles causes the side curtain air bags to deploy simultaneously and unnecessarily while also causing the seat belt pretensioner igniter to deploy. Once this happens, the vehicles are no longer safe to drive and consumers must pay thousands of dollars to have extensive repair work done. Adding insult to injury, Brantley also claims that Nissan refuses to pay for the resulting repairs.

According to the lawsuit, “The deployment of the side curtain air bags and the seatbelt pretensioner igniters is extremely distracting to drivers of class vehicles. The distraction is of such a magnitude that drivers of class vehicles are at risk of losing control of class vehicles, greatly increasing the possibility of a traffic accident, and injury.”

In the suit, Brantley states that while she was driving her vehicle in December, in a way that she said Nissan represented the vehicle can be driven, the side curtain air bags suddenly and unexpectedly deployed, causing her to nearly lose control of the vehicle. As a result, she spent thousands of dollars to restore her Frontier to a safe, driveable condition.

Brantley asserts that Nissan was aware of the alleged defect as a result of consumer complaints, internal testing and dealership repair records. However, she claims, the automaker failed to disclose the defect and, in fact, actively concealed it from consumers.

The suit further claims that evidence of Nissan’s knowledge of the alleged defect can be seen in the owner’s manual for the Frontier, which states that the curtain air bags are designed to inflate in rollover or near rollover conditions and can inflate due to certain vehicle movements such as severe off-roading.

“It is plaintiff’s contention, based upon plaintiff’s own experiences, and based upon plaintiff’s awareness of the complaints of other class members, that the class vehicles are too sensitive. As a result the ‘near rollover conditions’ design threshold, which signals the side curtain air bags and seatbelt pretensioner igniters to deploy, signals deployment under conditions where there is no true risk of a rollover,” the complaint states.

Brantley asserts Nissan refused to warn customers about the alleged defect, refused to remedy the defect and refused to compensate customers for any damages resulting from the defect.

The suit seeks certification of a class consisting of everyone who has bought or leased a class vehicle, as well as an order holding Nissan financially responsible for the defect, enjoining the automaker from continuing its deceptive practices, requiring the automaker to fix the defect and making Nissan disgorge part or all of its profits received from the sale or lease of the class vehicles.

The case is Brantley v. Nissan North America Inc. et al., case number BC609400, in the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles.

Target not on Target with Overtime Pay? The discount retailer got hit with an employment class action lawsuit this week. Filed in New York, by Robert LaPointe Jr, on behalf of himself and others similarly situated, the Target lawsuit claims violations of New York Labor Law, specifically, that Target failed to compensate him for overtime worked.

According to the suit, LaPointe worked for Target as an operations group leader in the company warehouses in New York from 2011 to 2015. While at work, the suit states that LaPointe regularly worked in excess of 40 hours per week.

LaPointe asserts that Target failed to pay an overtime premium to him and others in the class for additional hours worked. This, the suit states, is because the employees were misclassified as exempt from the overtime requirements of the New York Labor Law. Additionally, the suit claims Target failed to provide accurate wage statements.

LaPointe and others in the class seek to recover unpaid overtime wages, interests, statutory penalties, injunctive relief, attorney fees and other court costs.

The case is U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Case number 1:16-cv-00656-VSB. 

Top Settlements

TVM Award for the Victim…This settlement makes two out of two for the plaintiffs. A $13.5 million verdict has been awarded by a Philadelphia jury in the second transvaginal pelvic mesh injury lawsuit pending against Johnson & Johnson, and its subsidiary Ethicon, makers of the defective pelvic mesh.

The jury agreed that an Ethicon Inc. transvaginal tape product, known as TVT, was not reasonably safe, and that plaintiff Sharon Carlino’s physician would never have implanted the product had he been aware of its risks.

In her suit, Carlino claimed that as a result of having the defective pelvic mesh implanted, she was in near constant pain and discomfort, and was unable to have sex.

The transvaginal mesh verdict is the second damage award against Ethicon. The company is facing nearly 180 cases consolidated as part of a mass tort program in Philadelphia County’s Court of Common Pleas, which began to go to trial in December.

In the initial case, the jury awarded $12.5 million to the plaintiff, agreeing that Ethicon’s Prolift pelvic mesh product was negligently designed and that a physician who implanted the product in plaintiff Patricia Hammons in 2009 received inadequate warnings about the risks.

This most recent verdict returned for Carlino includes $10 million in punitive damages, $3.5 million in compensatory damages, and another $250,000 to Carlino’s husband for loss of consortium.

The case is Carlino et al. v. Ethicon Inc. et al., case number 130603470, in the Court of Common Pleas of the State of Pennsylvania, County of Philadelphia. 

Ok! So, that’s a wrap folks… See you at the Bar!

Week Adjourned: 12.4.15 – Ricola, Target, Sushi Samba

RicolaTop Class Action Lawsuits

Ricola not all it’s Coughed up to be? Ok, bad one, I know. So are Ricola cough drops too good to be true? Perhaps—too good to be accurate, more likely. This week, Ricola USA got hit with a consumer fraud class action lawsuit alleging the company deceived customers about the natural qualities of its herb drop products. Really? I hear you say…

Specifically, the Ricola lawsuit claims unjust enrichment and violations of the Federal Food Drug & Cosmetic Act and New York’s Deceptive Acts or Practices Law, in addition to violations of similar laws in all 50 states. Well, that should about cover it.

Filed by Timothy Minker of New York and Valerie Liu of California, the suit claims Ricola displays “Naturally Soothing Relief that Lasts” on the front packaging of its cough suppressant, supplement, and herb throat drop products and that this is deceptive because they contain ingredients synthetic ingredients, such as citric, ascorbic and malic acids. Doesn’t sound very good for you.

Consequently, the complaint states, plaintiffs and others similarly situated were deceived when deciding to purchase these products for which they paid a premium price, believing them to be made entirely of naturally occurring or minimally processed ingredients with no added non-natural or synthetic ingredients.

The plaintiffs and others in the class seek compensatory and punitive damages, prejudgment interest, restitution and all other equitable monetary relief, injunctive relief, and attorney fees and costs of the Ricola lawsuit. They are represented by attorney C.K. Lee of Lee Litigation Group in New York City.

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Case number 1:15-CV-09014-RA

Top Settlements

Target Data Breach Settlement… Looks like the banks are getting a pay day. Target Corp has reached a settlement agreement with a class of banks suing the discount retailer over the massive 2013 Target data breach. Remember that one? Hackers compromised over 40 million Target payment cards used during a three-week period over the 2013 holiday season, to boil it down to the bare bones. The settlement is the first class-wide data breach pact ever reached on behalf of financial institutions. Another record.

Here’s the skinny, according to the Target settlement terms, Target will pay up to $20.25 million directly to settlement class members. This will also include costs for the notice and administration of the settlement. In addition, Target will make a $19.1 million payment to fund MasterCard’s Account Data Compromise program relating to the breach, according to court documents. Finally, Target has also yielded to forfeiting its right to challenge MasterCard’s assessment of breach liability.

The settlement will apply to all US financial institutions that issued payment cards identified as having been at risk as a result of the data breach of more than 40 million payment cards used at Target in late 2013 and that did not previously release their claims against the retailer by signing onto separate deals with card brands Visa Inc. and MasterCard Inc.

A final approval hearing is expected to be held next year. The case is In re: Target Corp. Customer Data Security Breach Litigation, case number 0:14-md-02522, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota.

Sushi Samba Settles… On a slightly smaller but equally important note, a preliminary $2.4 million settlement has been reached in an unpaid wage and overtime class action lawsuit pending against Sushi Samba restaurants. The Sushi Samba lawsuit was brought by workers in who claim the restaurant chain failed to pay them minimum wage, tips and overtime in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act and New York Labor Law.

The back story, the plaintiffs allege that Sushi Samba did not pay workers for all hours worked, did not pay overtime when the workers labored for more than 40 hours in a week and took money from a tip pool to give to sushi chefs who allegedly did not interact with customers. The plaintiffs, which include servers, bussers, runners, bartenders and hosts, assert that the tips were improperly garnished at six locations in New York City, Florida, Chicago and Las Vegas. Nice.

According to the proposed terms of the tentative Sushi Samba settlement the named plaintiffs would receive $50,000 in service payments with the remaining funds divided between the putative class members on a prorated, weighed basis, with New York workers getting the largest share and Nevada workers getting the smallest. Lawyers fees would also be taken from the settlement sum.

The class period would begin in May 2009 for New York workers and in May 2012 for the other workers, with the period ending when the settlement receives final approval, documents state.

Heads up—the complaint filed on October 21, only included claims for New York state labor law violations. Therefore, putative class members who worked in Florida, Illinois or Nevada locations who opt in to the settlement would agree to not file similar labor law violation claims in those states, according to the memorandum.

The case is Hadel et al. v. Gaucho LLC et al., case number 1:15-cv-03706, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Ok—that’s it for this week folks –See you at the bar!

Week Adjourned: 3.20.15 – Homejoy, Target, Drywall Pricing

homejoyTop Class Action Lawsuits 

Uhh…Maybe not Everyone Deserves a Happy Home? You’d think with a name like ”Homejoy Inc”, there’d be a lot of joy to go around. Well, maybe for the customer and business owners, but maybe not so much for the workers. The company is facing two potential employment class action lawsuits, alleging the company is in violation of California labor laws.

The house-cleaning business allegedly fails to pay its workers minimum wage or overtime, denies workers legally mandated breaks and requires house cleaners to incur their own business-related expenses, among other infractions, according to one lawsuit. Specifically, the lawsuit claims Homejoy misclassifies its workers as “cleaning professionals”–as independent contractors–rather than employees.

Additionally, the lawsuits allege Homejoy workers must wear a shirt with the Homejoy logo on it while servicing homes and can be subject to “performance improvement plans” if their ratings are too low. The complaints further claim that “cleaners are an integral part of Homejoy’s business of providing cleaning services, among other services, to its customers.”

The plaintiffs are seeking damages in the amount of unpaid overtime compensation, unpaid minimum-wage compensation, unpaid reimbursed business expenses, one hour of additional pay for each workday completed without meal breaks and another hour of compensation for each work day without rest breaks” all with interest. The Private Attorneys General Act action seeks civil penalties and attorney fees. Go get’em!

Top Settlements 

Heads up all Target Customers: A $10 million settlement has been reached in the Target data breach class action lawsuit. If approved, the settlement will resolve multidistrict litigation (MDL) resulting from one of the largest data breaches to date, affecting as many as 110 million Target customers.

The data breach occurred late in 2013—one of many data breaches we’ve been reporting on recently—and compromised customers’ personal information including bank and debit card information. The settlement motion requests certification of a nationwide class of an estimated 110 million consumers whose credit or debit card information or other personal information was compromised following the breach.

If you ever needed a reason to keep your paperwork—this would be it. Under the terms of the proposed settlement, affected Target customers who can document their losses will be eligible for up to $10,000 in damages. For those who cannot produce documentation, a payment will be made from the remainder of the settlement fund, once outstanding costs are deducted. The remaining balance will be divided equally.

Additionally, the agreement stipulates that Target makes a greater effort to safeguard its customer data, which would include appointing a high-level executive as chief information security officer and maintaining a written information security program, as well as a process to monitor for information security events and to respond to any such events determined to present a threat.

Well, the proof is in the doing… we can only wait and see.

Sheetrock Settlement. A $55 million settlement has been reached in an antitrust multi-district litigation (MDL) alleging price-fixing among companies that make gypsum board, commonly called drywall, sheetrock or plasterboard. While that might seem like a lot for drywall—it’s reportedly a $5 billion dollar a year industry in the US.

Preliminary approval was granted by US District Senior Judge Michael Maylson of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. He has been overseeing the case since consolidation two years ago.

The defendant TIN has agreed to pay $5.25 million to settle claims from direct purchasers of drywall and $1.75 million to settle with indirect purchasers. Similarly, USG has agreed to pay $39.25 million to settle with the direct purchasers and $8.75 million to settle with indirect purchasers. The action isn’t quite over yet—as several defendants still need to settle.

Judge Baylson has also certified several classes of plaintiffs for the explicit purpose of facilitating the settlement and without having any effect on the still-ongoing litigation.

According to the complaint, the defendants account for more than 99 percent of drywall sold in North America. They are USG, National Gypsum, CertainTeed, Georgia-Pacific, American Gypsum, Lafarge, Temple-Inland (TIN) and PABCO. Well, if it wasn’t price-fixing it was certainly one hell of a coincidence. 

Hokee Dokee—That’s a wrap folks…Time to adjourn for the week. See you at the bar!

Week Adjourned: 10.21.11

The weekly wrap up of class action lawsuits and lawsuit settlements for October 21, 2011

Top Class Actions

Sex discrimination—still? Really? Yup—and this time the company doing the dirty was owned by a woman—Ruth U. Fertel. However, she passed away in 2002, and it looks like things have regressed since then. And the company is….Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Four former and current employees filed a sex discrimination class action alleging they were discriminated against for pay and promotions.

The women’s jobs ranged from national sales manager to bartender, and they brought the suit in October 2010. The United States District Court for the District of Columbia has now granted the Ruth’s Chris Steak House discrimination suit plaintiffs the right to add class action claims to the lawsuit.

The women also allege that they suffered sexual advances in the work environment at the steak house chain, including physical groping, sexual innuendo and retaliation against those who complained or reported sexual harassment. Hey—the meat’s on the plate boys…

Top Settlements

Who says the little guy can’t win? A $160k settlement has been awarded to a former employee of retail giant Target, ending his discrimination lawsuit against the company. Jeremy Schott, who filed the lawsuit, took medical leave in 2004 due to his experiencing a seizure. He was 29 years old at the time. In his lawsuit, he alleged that when he returned to work his weekly hours had been reduced from 17 to eight. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Target on Schott’s behalf, alleging a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Target’s counsel contended that Schott’s work hours were decreased because of poor performance and a lack of motivation. The parties agreed to settle for $160,000. As part of the settlement Target has agreed to designate an ADA coordinator and implement a policy regarding reasonable accommodations.

Defective Pool Slide Settlement. This is very sad… The widower and child of a young woman who died as a result of a defective inflatable pool slide purchased from Toys “R” Us have been awarded a $20.6 million settlement this week by the judge hearing the personal injury lawsuit.

The accident that took Robin Aleo’s life happened five years ago, when she was just 29 years old. She had an 18-month old daughter at the time. Aleo was at a pool party at a relative’s home when she decided to go down the six foot Banzai Falls slide head first. When she neared the bottom the slide suddenly bottomed out and Aleo hit her head on the edge of the pool, breaking her neck and sending her to hospital unable to breathe on her own and paralyzed. She died at the hospital the following day.

According to a report in the EagleTribune, Aleo is the second person to have allegedly been paralyzed by an incident involving the Banzai Falls slide. According to court records, more than 4,000 of the slides were sold nationwide, without having been tested to see if it met federal safety standards.

Ok – That’s it for this week. See you at the bar.