Week Adjourned: 12.1.17 – Toyota, Amazon, ADT

Top Class Action Lawsuits

Edible cars? Ask Toyota. They got hit with a proposed defective automotive class action alleging the car giant used soy-based materials in some of its wiring materials, which has attracted rats and mice – a meal too good to pass up? Apparently, because they rodents are  gnawing at the wiring, which require repairs that Toyota has so far refused to cover. And that’s hard fort car owners to swallow.

Filed by Plaintiff Ray Roscoe, the Toyota lawsuit claims that he was told by a Toyota dealership in December 2016 that an additional extended warranty he had purchased did not cover the extensive damage caused by mice on his 2012 Toyota Sequoia. This is because rodents are considered an “outside source of damage to the car”, even though the dealership has to retain a “mouse man” whose sole job is to repair the vehicle damage rodents cause, according to the complaint.

“The inclusion of soy-based materials in class vehicle electrical wiring and wiring components attracts rodents and other animals that nest under the hoods of class vehicles and feast on the soy insulation and electrical wires, thereby compromising the integrity of class vehicle electrical systems and rendering class vehicles fully or partially inoperable,” the complaint states.

The lawsuit goes on the state that complaints filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provide evidence that many consumers have experienced wire damage caused by rodents and other animals chewing the soy-based portions of the wiring in several Toyota models. Class vehicles include the 2009-2016 Camry, 2002-2016 Camry Hybrid and the 2014-2016 Corolla, among others.

Further, the lawsuit alleges Toyota must have been aware of the defect from the NHTSA records as well as various news reports and its own log of customers’ complaints, but nevertheless “routinely refuses” to repair the vehicles under warranty because it says rodent damage is an environmental problem.

“The environmentally friendly and less expensive soy-based coating is the problem,” the complaint states. “While class vehicles are essentially being attacked by rodents and other animals, older vehicles with non-soy-based insulated wires that are exposed to similar conditions do not experience rodent-caused damage.”

The plaintiff is seeking a minimum of $17,405.36 in damages to recoup the cost of repairs and a rental car he used while his car was in the shop. The proposed class is defined to include everyone in Massachusetts who owns or leases one of 17 Toyota vehicle models, which could involve “many thousand[s]” of class members, according to the complaint.

The case is Ray Roscoe individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated v. Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc., number 3:17-cv-12332 in the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts.

They’re working on it! Amazon employees that is… They filed an employment class action lawsuit against Amazon this week, alleging the online retailer fails to provide its fulfillment centers employees with rest breaks and overtime pay for shifts exceeding 10 hours in length.

Filed by named plaintiff Romeo Palma, who works for Golden State FC LLC, the business that operates several of Amazon’s fulfillment centers in California, the lawsuit asserts he and other workers haven’t received overtime wages, premium wages and timely and accurate wage statements as a result of working 10-hour shifts that don’t provide a requisite third rest break.

According to the Amazon complaint, workers’ duties include packaging, loading, unloading and other tasks. Further, workers are regularly scheduled for 10-hour shifts or more. Workers must walk through large warehouse facilities when they clock in and out of shifts, which can take several minutes, time they are not compensated for, according to the complaint. Further, they are not paid for the time it takes to travel to their location for work.

“This results in class members’ working on the clock more than 10 hours, when scheduled for a 10-hour shift, without receiving or being compensated for a third rest break, in violation of https California labor law”, the complaint states.

“The compensation for the third rest break, because it is for shifts exceeding 10 hours, must be at the overtime rate of one and a half time plaintiff and class members’ regular rate of compensation. Defendant’s failure to compensate plaintiff and class members for third rest breaks, as alleged herein, violated California law”, the complaint states.

Plaintiffs are seeking one hour of wages for each missed or uncompensated rest period, all unpaid overtime wages and liquidated damages on the overtime claim, statutory penalties and restitutionary disgorgement pursuant to the Unfair Competition Law.

The proposed class seeks to represent any California resident who worked for Golden State as a nonexempt employee in the past four years.

The case is Romeo Palma v. Golden State FC LLC d/b/a Amazon.com, in the Superior Court of the State of Sacramento. 

Top Settlements

Secure your ADT settlement payment! A $16 million settlement has received preliminary approval potentially ending a data breach class action lawsuit pending against home security company ADT.

According to the ADT lawsuit, ADT was negligent in securing its customers’ data, leaving it vulnerable to hacking. This settlement resolves claims brought in five separate ADT class action lawsuits filed between November 2014 and April 2016 in Arizona, California, Florida and Illinois.

Eligible class members include former and current ADT customers who, between November 13, 2009 and August 15, 2016, contracted with ADT or an ADT dealer for installation of a residential security system for at least one wireless peripheral sensor. Eligible class members can receive up to $45 from the settlement fund, once final approval is granted.

Under terms of the settlement, ADT will put up a $16 million in the fund to cover fees, court costs, incentive awards for the named plaintiffs, and costs of administering the settlement. Remaining settlement funds will be distributed among qualifying Class Members who submit valid and timely claims. Qualifying claimants will receive a larger payment if they contracted for installation of an ADT security system after July 23, 2014. Documents revealed in discovery show the wireless vulnerability at issue was brought to ADT’s attention as of that date. The higher payment reflects the greater strength of those Class Members’ claims.

The deadline to file a claim is February 26, 2018. A final fairness hearing is scheduled for February 2018.

The case is Edenborough v. The ADT Corporation and ADT, LLC d/b/a ADT Security Services, Case No. 16-cv-02233-JST, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

So folks – on that happy note – this week’s a wrap –see you at the bar!!

Week Adjourned: 11.18.16 – Chrysler, Toyota, Adderall

chryslerTop Class Action Lawsuits

So Volkswagen’s Not the Only Emissions Cheat? Maybe…Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and engine maker Cummins Inc. got hit with a proposed consumer fraud class action alleging the diesel engines in Dodge Ram trucks hide the trucks’ emissions, which are above the legal limit.

Specifically, the plaintiffs claims that Chrysler and Cummins conspired to knowingly deceive customers and regulators with respect to the emissions levels generated by Dodge Ram 2500 and 3500 trucks outfitted with the Cummins 6.7-liter turbo diesel engine, which were emitting dangerous levels of nitrogen oxides.

“The defendants never disclosed to consumers that the affected vehicles may be ‘clean’ diesels in very limited circumstances, but are ‘dirty’ diesels under most driving conditions,” the complaint states.

According to the Chrysler emissions lawsuit, the engines have a technology built in that traps and breaks down pollutants, a design feature meant to reduce the amount of NOx going into the atmosphere through the trucks’ exhaust. However, when the trucks are traveling for long distances or up hills, they emit far more pollutants that allowed under California and federal law. Nice.

The plaintiffs claim Chrysler and Cummins intentionally mislead the public, illegally sold non-compliant polluting vehicles, concealed emissions levels, knowingly profited from the dirty diesels and used fraudulently gained emissions credits from the US Environmental Protection Agency for use on future production of high-polluting vehicles.

The complaint states that in addition to hiding the true emission outputs, the affected Cummins diesel engines wore out the so-called catalytic converter more quickly because the engines burn fuel at a higher rate. Consequently, truck owners frequently had to replace the converter after the warranty had expired at a cost of approximately $3,000 to $5,000.

The case is James Bledsoe et al. v. FCA USA LLC et al., case number 2:16-cv-14024, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Top Settlements

Rusty Trucks? What a whopper! A $3.4 billion settlement has been agreed in a defective automotive class action brought against Toyota Motor Co. The lawsuit alleges that the frames in certain Tacoma, Tundra and Sequoia trucks are prone to rust corrosion and perforation.

Under the terms of the deal, approximately 1.5 million vehicles that may have defective frames will be inspected and an estimated 225,000 trucks will have their frames replaced.

The Toyota frame lawsuit was filed in 2015, alleging its 2005-2009 Tacoma trucks were made with frames that are inadequately protected from rust corrosion, rendering the vehicles unstable and unsafe to drive. The lawsuit also alleged that Toyota was aware of the defect but failed to correct it.

The settlement covers 2005 to 2010 Tacomas, 2007 to 2008 Tundras, and 2005 to 2008 Sequoias. The Japanese automaker has promised that vehicle owners will not be charged for the inspection and replacement campaign. The program will last 12 years from the date the vehicle was sold or leased, meaning any future perforations will also be covered. The replacement and inspection policy remains valid if an owner sells the vehicle to another party.

Further, the plaintiffs have asked for certification of a class of Tacoma, Tundra and Sequoia owners or lessees from the 50 states, Puerto Rico, Washington D.C. and all U.S. territories.

The case is Brian Warner et al v. Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc., case number 2:15-cv-02171 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

Adderall Generic Delay. Finally. A $15 million settlement has been approved by a federal judge, ending an antitrust class action against Shire US Inc, that alleged the pharmaceutical company paid competitors to delay selling their less expensive generic versions of Adderall, which is used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Under the terms of the Adderall settlement agreement, plaintiffs Monica Barba and Jonathan Reisman were each granted service awards of $5,000, and 10 named plaintiffs in three related cases were granted $2,500 awards.

According to court documents, some 23,452 claims requesting reimbursement for more than 855,000 Adderall prescriptions have been received by the claims administrator. That’s not insignificant.

About $1 million is expected to be left over once all the claims are paid out, and will be donated to CHADD, a national nonprofit that promotes education and advocacy for people with ADHD.

Filed in 2013, the lawsuit was initially brought by consumers in Florida and Pennsylvania who alleged Shire created pay-for-delay settlements in false patent litigation against Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc. and Impax Laboratories Inc. to delay the generic competition for Adderall reaching the market.

The case is Barba et al. v. Shire US Inc. et al., case number 1:13-cv-21158, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

Well, that’s a wrap for this week. See you at the Bar!

Week Adjourned: 7.4.15 – Kenneth Cole, Pure Leaf Iced Tea, Toyota

Kenneth Cole outletTop Class Action Lawsuits

Kenneth Cole bagging profits at customers’ expense? At least those are the allegations in a consumer fraud class action lawsuit filed against Kenneth Cole Productions Inc.

Specifically, the Kenneth Cole Outlet lawsuit alleges that the retailer misleads customers into believing they are purchasing items at a savings at its exclusive outlet stores by listing artificially high “suggested retail prices” on its product tags next to the term “our price” which is significantly lower. The lawsuit claims that because these products were never for sale in any other store, Kenneth Cole is in violation of California and federal laws.

“The plaintiff, in short, believed the truth of the price tags attached to the products she purchased at a Kenneth Cole outlet, which expressly told her that she was getting a terrific bargain on her purchase,” the complaint said. “In fact, she was not getting a bargain at all.” Filed by lead plaintiff Peggy Cabrera, the lawsuit asserts that Cabrera was induced to purchase a sweater and shirt top from a Kenneth Cole Outlet store in California after noticing significant differences in price between the “MSRP” and “our price” label, particularly after observing that not all product price tags made this distinction.

“In reality, Kenneth Cole never intended, nor did it ever, sell the item at the represented ‘MSRP,’” the complaint states. “Thus, plaintiff was deceived by the false price comparison into making a full retail purchase with no discount.”

In the lawsuit, Cabrera contends that Kenneth Cole is taking advantage of the term “outlet store” because the idea of shopping there conveys to reasonable consumers that at least some products comprise merchandise formerly offered for sale at full-price retail locations, which is not the case at exclusive Kenneth Cole outlets.

Further, the complaint states that the Federal Trade Commission explicitly describes the fictitious pricing scheme employed by Kenneth Cole as deceptive, making it a violation of the FTC Act, as well as the California Business and Professions Code.

Pure Leaf Iced Tea = Pure B.S.? While we’re on the subject of consumer fraud…Unilever United States Inc. and PepsiCo. Inc. are facing a putative class action alleging false advertising regarding their jointly produced Pure Leaf iced tea products. Specifically, the lawsuit claims the teas are falsely branded as “All Natural” and free from preservatives when in fact they contain a non-naturally produced citric acid as a preservative.

Named plaintiff Momo Ren alleges that the defendants engaged in an aggressive marketing campaign that claimed the teas are “nothing but all natural, freshly brewed tea from tea leaves,” which was designed to attract consumers seeking those types of products.

According to the Pure Leaf lawsuit, citric acid is no longer made from fruit but rather manufactured through citric acid bacteria fermentation. It is classified by the USDA as a “synthetic allowed” substance. Therefore, PepsiCo. and Unilever, through a partnership with Unilever-owned Lipton Tea conspired to produce Pure Leaf, the advertising for which is in violation of federal and state consumer protection laws against misbranding.

“By marketing the products as being ‘All Natural’ and free of preservatives, defendants wrongfully capitalized on and reaped enormous profits from consumers’ strong preference for food products made entirely of natural ingredients and free of preservatives,” the suit states.

The plaintiff has filed claims of deceptive trade practices, negligent misrepresentation, breach of express warranty and unjust enrichment and seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

Top Settlements

Toyota Power Steering… Don’t have a dollar figure for this one BUT 800,000 Toyota customers are going to sleep easier as a result of a settlement reached with the car maker in a pending defective automotive class action lawsuit. The suit, filed in California federal court, claims that the power steering systems of some Corollas caused the vehicles to drift out control.

According to court documents, lead plaintiffs Irene Corson and Susan M Yacks, and Toyota, sought preliminary approval of the deal in March, the terms of which state that Toyota denies any defect with the electronic power steering system in the 2009 and 2010 model year Corollas at issue.

Under the terms of the settlement, class members who have complained about the on-center steering feel of their vehicle will have their retuned electronic control units installed at no cost. For those who haven’t previously complained, the retuned electronic control unit will be available at a 50 percent discount. Class members who paid out-of-pocket to have the returned electronic control unit installed may be reimbursed up to $695, according to the settlement memorandum.

Court documents show that The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration opened an investigation in February 2010 of the electric power steering system in the Corolla and Matrix models. The investigation revealed related consumer complaints dealing with operational issues, not failure of steering elements. The investigation was closed by May 2011.

Under the terms of the deal, class counsel can ask for attorneys’ fees and expenses, and class representative incentive awards up to $750,000. The case is Irene Corson et al. v. Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc. et al., case number 2:12-cv-08499, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

Ok—that’s it for this week folks—see you at the bar! And Happy 4th of July!


Week Adjourned: 2.6.15 – Birchbox, Toyota, Bayer

The week’s top class action lawsuits and settlements. Top stories include Birchbox, Toyota and Bayer.

birchboxTop Class Action Lawsuits

Birchbox not a Beautiful Thing? Ah, no—you can’t automatically send me stuff and charge me for it without telling me first….According to an unfair business practices class action lawsuit filed against high end cosmetics retailer Birchbox Inc, that’s exactly what the company has been going on. Birchbox, an online subscription-based cosmetics seller that allows customers to sign up for monthly boxes of cosmetic samples based on their preferences. According to the lawsuit, the company is in violation of California state business laws because it fails to disclose to its users that their shipments automatically renew.

Tiffany Lapuebla, the plaintiff who filed the Birchbox class action, purchased a subscription to Birchbox in January 2013. According to the suit, Birchbox failed to show Lapuebla the renewal terms clearly. They charged Lapuebla’s credit card without getting her affirmative consent to the automatic renewal terms and failed to give information about how to cancel the service. The lawsuit also claims there is no disclosure in Birchbox’s acknowledgment for free trials about how to cancel before getting charged for the recurring subscription.

Lapuebla is also accusing Birchbox of violating the state’s unfair competition statute based on the name of the subscription in her shopping cart: “Women’s Rebillable Monthly Subscription.”

The proposed class includes any Birchbox subscribers since 2011 and seeks unspecified damages. 

Top Settlements

The Long Road to Justice—this is amazing! An $11 million verdict was handed down to the plaintiffs in a Toyota sudden acceleration personal injury lawsuit resulting from a defect in a 1996 Camry. The jury ruled that the defect contributed to an accident which left three people dead and two seriously injured.

While the jury found that the Camry’s driver, Koua Fong Lee, was 40% responsible for the crash, they cited Toyota as being 60 percent responsible. In the 2006 crash Lee rear-ended an Oldsmobile after exiting a highway. The driver of the Oldsmobile, Javis Trice-Adams Sr., and his son were instantly killed. His niece, also in the Oldsmobile, became a quadriplegic as a result of the crash and died 18 months later. Trice-Adams’ father and daughter were also injured.

The jury awarded both families a combined $11.4 million, though due to Lee’s partial responsibility, his $1.25 million award will be reduced to $750,000, according to his lawyers.

This is incredible—in 2008, Lee was convicted of negligent homicide and sentenced to eight years in prison. However, his conviction was overturned after Toyota’s recalls of later-model cars for acceleration defects, tied to floor mats and pedals, brought new attention to the case. Lee had claimed that the Camry started to accelerate by itself and that the car didn’t respond when he hit the brakes. Prosecutors declined to re-charge Lee, who served more than two years in prison.

In 2010, the Trice-Adams family sued Toyota claiming a defect in the Camry caused it to suddenly accelerate. Lee and his family intervened as plaintiffs later that year. The plaintiffs argued the accelerator got stuck in a “near wide-open position,” calling other Camry owners to testify at trial that they experienced similar problems.

It’s all very hush hush…but a potential settlement has been reached in a discrimination class action lawsuit facing Bayer Corp. Brought by former and current employees, the $100 million lawsuit alleges Bayer Corp. and four other Bayer HealthCare entities engaged in systematic discrimination against female employees.

The Bayer discrimination deal, if approved, could end the three year legal battle. The plaintiffs have agreed to dismiss the suit with prejudice in a short stipulation filed in New Jersey federal court on Friday, though the terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The class action, originally filed in 2011, claimed that male employees greatly outnumber female employees in management positions at Bayer, and discrimination regarding pay, promotion and pregnancy bias claims.

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


Week Adjourned: 1.16.15 – Toyota, Capital One, Wolfgang Puck

The week’s top class action lawsuits and settlements. Top lawsuits include Toyota, Capital One Bank and Wolfgang Puck

Toyota LogoTop Class Action Lawsuits

Toyota not Taking TCPA Siriusly? Toyota’s off to a banner start this year—they got hit with a Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) class action lawsuit this week alleging the automaker gave customer information to Sirius XM Holdings Inc., which made a number of unsolicited calls to the plaintiff’s cellphone in violation to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

According to the Toyota lawsuit, plaintiff Brian Trenz claims he and others were victims of an information-sharing agreement between Toyota and Sirius. The alleged agreement enables Toyota to share customer data with Sirius in exchange for temporary free trials of Sirius’ radio entertainment services in new and preowned cars Toyota sells. The lawsuit claims that Sirius then used that information to make unauthorized calls to Trenz’s cellphone, which is a violation of the TCPA.

“Sirius makes these telemarketing calls in order to convert the recent purchasers of these Toyota vehicles into paid subscribers of Sirius,” according to the lawsuit.

According to the complaint, Trenz bought a Chevy truck from a Texas Toyota dealership in September 2014, after which, the plaintiff alleges, Sirius made more than 30 calls to his cellphone using an automatic dialing system, in violation of the TCPA. Trenzclaims that none of the sales documents from the Toyota dealership included a warning that Trenz’s information might be given to a third-party like Sirius, and Sirius never sought or received his consent for the call. When Trenz asked Sirius call representatives how they obtained his information, they were allegedly forthright about having obtained it from Toyota, the lawsuit states.

Similarly, Trenz claimed a Toyota dealership employee assured him it was “common knowledge” that the information would be passed along. According to the lawsuit, Trenz was unaware of a free trial of Sirius’ services included in the purchase of his truck, and did not become aware of the availability of the service until he began receiving the calls. Further, Trenz claims that Sirius radio never worked in his vehicle, and he never listened to it.

Even though Sirius is responsible for the calls, Toyota is vicariously liable for the TCPA claims because the company provided the customer information, the complaint states.

The lawsuit seeks certification of a nationwide class consisting of anyone who received unsolicited calls from Sirius in the four years prior to the complaint, regardless if they first bought a car from a Toyota dealership. In addition, the suit seeks a separate nationwide subclass of individuals who first bought a new or preowned car from a Toyota dealership with a free Sirius trial and received unsolicited calls from the company in the last four years.

The lawsuit is case 3:15-cv-00044, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.

Top Settlements

Is the Overdraft Fee Straggler Finally Settling? Capital One Bank NA has been ordered to pay in excess of $31.7 million to settle a multidistrict litigation (MDL) alleging several banks processed customer transactions in an order that would make the banks the most in overdraft fees.

The Capital One MDL settlement received preliminary approval Wednesday, and follows earlier settlement agreements made with several other banks named in the suits, which were filed in 2010. Hello!

A final approval hearing has been requested for May. The plaintiffs state that the agreement is “an outstanding result for the settlement class.” If approved, it will see a cash payment amounting to roughly 35 percent of the most likely maximum recovery the settlement class could have recovered through a trial.

Class members who do not choose to opt out of the settlement will automatically receive pro-rated shares from the settlement fund.

What’s Cooking in Wolfgang’s Kitchens? A $1.7 million settlement for a California unpaid overtime class action lawsuit, that’s what. The lawsuit was brought against Spago Beverly Hills, Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill in Los Angeles, and Chinois in Santa Monica, California by some 900 current and former employees at the restaurants.

According to the terms of the Wolfgang Puck settlement, $7,500 will be paid to lead plaintiff Ruben Sanchez, who filed the lawsuit in December 2012. He claimed Wolfgang Puck’s restaurants violated wage and hour laws, and failed to reimburse employees for business-related expenditures, among other labor violations. According to court documents, there are 888 eligible employees who will participate in the settlement.

Additionally, the restaurant company will pay $10,000 to the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency, and if more than $10,000 of the class checks should turn out to be uncashed, undeliverable or expired, the difference would go to class members who cashed their checks within 90 days of the mailing on a pro rata basis. If the amount is less than $10,000, it will instead go to the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice.

The case is Ruben Sanchez et al. v. Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group et al., case number SC119342, in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles.



Hokee Dokee- That’s a wrap folks…Time to adjourn for the week.  Happy New Year!


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: 4.4.14 – Toyota, Walgreens, Trader Joe’s

The week’s top class action lawsuits and settlements. Top stories include Toyota, Walgreen’s, and Trader Joe’s.

Toyota LogoTop Class Action Lawsuits

Toyota rejoins the automotive class action lawsuit alumni this week—with the filing of a new consumer fraud class action alleging it concealed information regarding oil consumption in the engines of some of its most popular models. The lawsuit claims that the engines in certain Toyota vehicles were prone to rapidly burning through oil just as they approached warranty expiration, causing owners thousands of dollars in repair costs. Now that’s convenient.

Filed in California federal court, the complaint alleges the defect can cause safety risk that can lead to catastrophic engine failure. The lawsuit claims the models affected include the Toyota Camry, Corolla, Matrix and RAV4.

According to the complaint, Toyota Motor Corp. was aware of the defect, and it notified authorized dealers of the problem in 2011, however, Toyota refused to pay to fix the vehicles when contacted by the plaintiffs. Really?

“Plaintiffs … bring this claim since the oil consumption defect typically manifests shortly outside of the warranty period for the class vehicles—and given defendants’ knowledge of this concealed, safety-related design defect—Toyota’s attempt to limit the warranty with respect to the oil consumption defect is unconscionable here,” the complaint states. The lawsuit states that the plaintiffs’ vehicles exhausted their oil supply in 3,440 to 4,300 miles ??” well before an oil change would typically be performed at 5,000 miles under Toyota’s recommended maintenance schedule. And, according to the lawsuit, once the plaintiffs contacted Toyota, it refused to repair the vehicles under the warranty, claiming it had either expired or failed to cover the defect.

Toyota was made aware of the problem after receiving information from dealers and records from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The company also knew the nature and extent of the problem from its internal record keeping and durability testing, and from warranty and post-warranty claims, the complaint alleges.

The claims, which seeks unspecified damages, were brought under various state consumer protection and business law statutes, on behalf of consumers in California, Florida, Washington, New York and New Jersey. Additionally, the lawsuit claims violations of express warranty, fraud, and breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing.

The vehicles cited in the complaint are the 2007 to 2011 Toyota Camry HV, 2007 to 2009 Toyota Camry, 2009 Toyota Corolla, 2009 Toyota Matrix, 2006 to 2008 Toyota RAV4, 2007 to 2008 Toyota Solara, 2007 to 2009 Scion tC, and 2008 to 2009 Scion xB. The defect is found on 2AZ-FE engines.

Bicycles—that’s the answer… oh dear.

Top Settlements

Walgreens may soon be dispensing settlement checks…the pharmacy chain reached a proposed $29 million settlement this week, which involves nine California wage and hour class action lawsuits, consolidated in federal court in California. The lawsuits had all alleged that Walgreens failed to provide its employees with adequate breaks, and pay them overtime for mandatory security checks.

Additionally, the wage and hour lawsuits claimed Walgreens failed to provide duty-free meal and/or rest periods, failed to pay all wages owed at termination, failed to reimburse employees for business expenses, failed to provide itemized wage statements.

The Walgreens settlement covers Walgreens nonexempt employees who worked at a California Walgreens store from May 13, 2007, including pharmacists and regular retail store employees.

A hearing will be held May 12, 2014, to determine whether to grant preliminary approval to the Walgreens unpaid overtime class action settlement.

Walgreens agreed to the settlement as a quick means for a resolution, despite its ongoing dispute of the claims. What – so it costs less to pay your employees than go to court? And the learning here would be?

Although the settlement was agreed in principal in August 2013, it has taken several months to finalize the details, consequently a preliminary settlement hearing will be held May 12, 2014. Here’s hoping…

Trader Joe’s trading a lawsuit for settlement? Heads up all you Trader Joe’s shoppers out there—a potential settlement is in the works regarding the consumer fraud class action lawsuit pending against Trader Joe’s. The class action claims certain food products carried and sold at the food retailers’ outlets are labeled as being “All natural”, when they contained synthetic ingredients. Yup. Heard that one before.

The lawsuit goes…certain Trader Joe’s food products were improperly labeled, marketed, supplied, and sold as “All Natural” and/or “100% Natural” even though they contained one or more of the following allegedly synthetic ingredients: ascorbic acid, cocoa processed with alkali, sodium acid pyrophosphate, xanthan gum, and vegetable mono- and diglycerides. The products at issue are: Trader Joe’s Chocolate Vanilla Creme Cookies; Trader Joe’s Chocolate Sandwich Creme Cookies; Trader Joe’s Jumbo Cinnamon Rolls; Trader Joe’s Buttermilk Biscuits; Trader Giotto’s 100% Natural Fat Free Ricotta Cheese; and Trader Joe’s Fresh Pressed Apple Juice.

The proposed Settlement Class (i.e., “Settlement Class Member”) covers a class of plaintiffs who purchased, on or after October 24, 2007 through February 6, 2014, the following Trader Joe’s food products: Trader Joe’s Chocolate Vanilla Creme Cookies; Trader Joe’s Chocolate Sandwich Creme Cookies; Trader Joe’s Jumbo Cinnamon Rolls; Trader Joe’s Buttermilk Biscuits; Trader Giotto’s 100% Natural Fat Free Ricotta Cheese; and Trader Joe’s Fresh Pressed Apple Juice (“Products”).

Trader Joe’s, being the latest in a long line of companies facing similar if not the same allegations, denies it did anything wrong or unlawful, of course. They claim, instead that the Products’ labels were truthful, not misleading, and consistent with the law.

For the complete skinny on the Trader Joe’s class action settlement and to download forms, visit: https://tjallnaturalclassaction.com/

Ok Folks, That’s all for this week. See you at the bar!

Week Adjourned: 2.22.13 – Carnival Cruises, Merrill Lynch, Toyota

Carnival gets sued, Toyota pays up, and Merrill Lynch settles in this week’s edition of Week Adjourned–the weekly wrap of top class action lawsuits and settlements for the week ending February 22, 2013.

Carnival CruiseTop Class Action Lawsuits

“The Fun Ships?” Fun for who? While everyone jokes about the trip from hell—who hasn’t had a bad holiday experience—this time it really happened. So bring on the lawsuits. Possibly the first class action out the gate was filed against Carnival this week, by Miami based maritime law firm Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, PA. on behalf of passengers who were onboard the Carnival Triumph.

According to the Carnival class action lawsuit, the conditions Carnival Triumph passengers were subjected to onboard after the vessel was impaled from a fire were hazardous to their health. I would have said that was putting it mildly?

Michael A. Winkleman, an experienced maritime lawyer with the Lipcon firm, discussed the fire onboard the Triumph on a recent interview on Fox Network’s ‘Fox & Friends’, detailing the conditions passengers had to suffer through. Mr. Winkleman also appeared on the network’s ‘America Live with Megyn Kelly’, ‘Justice with Judge Jeanine’ and ‘The O’Reilly Factor’ shows. Lipcon’s Jason R. Margulies was interviewed by CNN regarding the situation.

According to the firm, cruise lines are responsible for the safety of everyone on board, including passengers and crew members, which entails making sure illness and disease don’t spread among those aboard a vessel. When an incident onboard a cruise vessel or a boat accident does take place, whether it is a medical complication resulting from disease, an injury related to a slip and fall, or a passenger going overboard, the line may be found at least partially responsible for any injuries or fatalities.

Apart from the shipboard conditions caused by the cruise ship fire, Lipcon also points out that Carnival’s decision to tow the Triumph to Mobile, instead of the closer port of Progreso, Mexico, caused passengers to endure more time onboard the disabled vessel than was necessary, prolonging their exposure to disease, accidents and trauma.

Attorney Margulies said “an evacuation in Progreso would have allowed Carnival to contain its passengers’ suffering and would have enabled Carnival, from civilization, to systematically coordinate the passengers’ transport back to the United States.” Maritime lawyer Margulies further stated that “If investigations uncover that either the fire itself or the delay in docking may have contributed to any illnesses or injuries onboard the Carnival Triumph, this can be considered a violation of passenger safety.”

Unfortunately, some cruise lines, including Carnival, have stipulations on their ticket contracts that make it difficult for passengers and crewmembers to obtain their rightful benefits, including medical care and money damages. Because Carnival in particular is not a U.S. corporation, Mr. Winkleman explained to Fox News that the line is “not subject to U.S. taxes or labor laws,” a factor which prevents victims from making a full recovery following cruise ship accidents and injuries.

Although Carnival released a statement on its website explaining Triumph passengers will be compensated with a “full refund of the cruise and transportation expenses, a future cruise credit equal to the amount paid for the voyage, reimbursement of all shipboard purchases made during the voyage, with the exception of casino, gift shop and artwork purchases, and further compensation of $500 per person,” Mr. Winkleman said passengers do not have to settle for this meager compensation and that the firm has found sufficient evidence providing grounds for Triumph victims to file a proposed class action lawsuit against Carnival.

My question—what about the crew—conditions would have been just as bad for them—if not worse? Can they sue?

Top Settlements

Merrill Lynch OT Settlement. Former and current Merrill Lynch employees will be celebrating this week, after having an agreement on a $12 million settlement in their unpaid overtime class action. The Merrill Lynch lawsuit was brought by employees who provided support services to brokers, and still has to receive final court approval—but it looks destined for a happy ending.

I would imagine support staff to brokers in banks and financial institutions the world over could relate to claims in this lawsuit. Filed in June 2011, The unpaid overtime class action alleges Merrill Lynch client associates were paid overtime based on an incorrect and low regular rate of pay and that Merrill failed to properly record and account for all overtime hours they worked. Client associates typically handle paperwork for brokers, and some can assist with order entries.

The $12 million fund will provide financial recovery for client associates who worked for Merrill Lynch between 2010 and 2012. The time period is longer for client associates who were employed in California, New York, Maryland and Washington. Maybe the start of a trend—I’m betting the support staff aren’t pulling down seven figure salaries.

Is this Déjà vu? Some 20 million current and former owners of Toyota vehicles may share in a $1 billion settlement of an Toyota Unintended Acceleration class action lawsuit, if the proposed settlement received final court approval.

The Toyota settlement would resolve a series of class action lawsuits, consolidated in 2010 as In Re: Toyota Motor Corp. Unintended Acceleration Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation.

In the consolidated action, plaintiffs claimed that certain Toyota, Scion and Lexus vehicles equipped with electronic throttle control systems (“ETCS”) are defective and can experience acceleration that is unintended by the driver. This alleged defect has resulted in a drop in the value of the vehicles. Consequently, the plaintiffs claim breach of warranties, unjust enrichment, and violations of various state laws.

Short list of must knows?

Eligible members of the class include any person, entity or organization who, at any time before December 28, 2012, owned, purchased, leased and/or insured for residual value one several models of Toyota, Lexus and Scion vehicles.

If you are a class member, you may be entitled to one or more of the following:

  • A cash payment for alleged loss upon certain disposition of a Subject Vehicle during the period from September 1, 2009 and December 31, 2010 or upon early lease termination following an alleged unintended acceleration event that you reported.
  • Installation of a brake override system (BOS) in certain Subject Vehicles at no charge.
  • A cash payment if your Subject Vehicle is not a hybrid and is not eligible for a BOS.
  • Participation in a Customer Support Program.
  • Other settlement benefits.

For complete information on your rights in the Toyota unintended acceleration class action lawsuit settlement, visit: ToyotaELSettlement.com.

Ok—that’s this week done and dusted. See you at the bar and Happy Friday!

Week Adjourned: 12.18.12 – Instagram, Toyota, BP Oil Spill

The weekly wrap of top class action lawsuits and settlements for the week ending December 28, 2012. Top class action stories include Instagram, Toyota and BP Oil Spill.

Instagram LogoTop Class Action Lawsuits

Insta-cha-ching? You share your photos for free—and Instagram sells them for a profit? What? You have a problem with that? This week, Instagram got hit with a proposed unfair business practices class action lawsuit related to its recently updated terms of service. Specifically, the lawsuit, filed by California Instagram user Lucy Funes, alleges the company is in breach of contract: “[Instagram’s] unreasonable change of Terms accordingly violated the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing inherent in Instagram’s current Terms,” the Instagram class action lawsuit states.

Instagram, now owned by Facebook, announced updates to its privacy policy and terms of service the week before Christmas, and one provision stood out: The right apparently reserved by Instagram to sell users’ photos without notice or compensation. Very crafty. Why is it no surprise that Facebook is somehow involved in this?

As a result of rapid and large user backlash, the photo-sharing site denied that it had plans to sell user photos, referring to the upset as a misunderstanding. The new terms of service will go into effect January 16, 2013.

According to the Instagram lawsuit, “On behalf of a class of Instagram’s California customers, Plaintiff is acting to preserve valuable and important property, statutory, and legal rights, through injunctive, declaratory, and equitable relief issued by this Court before such claims are forever barred by adoption of Instagram’s New Terms,” the filing said. “For this reason, even though the New Terms are not yet effective, this case is ‘ripe’ for adjudication.”

Top Settlements

Step On It Already! It’s about time—Toyota Motor Corp has agreed to a $1.1 billion settlement of a pending defective products class action lawsuit.

The Toyota class action lawsuit stemmed from complaints that a flaw in Toyota’s electronic throttle-control system, and not ill-fitting floor mats and sticky accelerator pedals, were to blame for unwanted acceleration of Toyota vehicles, which caused drivers to lose control and crash.

According to the terms of the settlement, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, Toyota will pay $1.1 billion to install new safety equipment and reimburse as many as 16 million customers.

BP’s cost of doing business? A $7.8 billion settlement against BP PLC has been approved by a federal judge, resolving economic and medical claims brought by more than 100,000 businesses and individuals who suffered from the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in April, 2010.

According to the terms of the settlement, approved by US District Judge Carl Barbier, there is no cap on the financial compensation—so the amount could be more or less than the estimated $7.8 billion, with the exception of $2.3 billion put aside to cover seafood-related claims by commercial fishing vessel owners, captains and deckhands.

The explosion of BP’s Macondo well that resulted in the worst oil spill in the history of the US, killed 11 rig workers and released over 200 million gallons of oil, closing much of the Gulf for months to commercial and recreational fishing and shrimping. While much litigation remains, this agreement provides for people and businesses in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and some coastal counties in eastern Texas and western Florida, and in adjacent Gulf waters and bays.

According to a report in the Kansas City Star Judge Barbier said the settlement averts worries that litigation could continue for 15 to 20 years, as it did after the Exxon Valdez and Amoco Cadiz oil spills, creating a secondary disaster for those affected. The Star also notes that no ruling has been made on a medical settlement for cleanup workers and others who say exposure to oil or dispersants made them sick.

Still unresolved are environmental damage claims brought by the federal government and Gulf Coast states against BP and its partners on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, and claims against Switzerland-based rig owner Transocean Ltd., and Houston-based cement contractor Halliburton.

A trial is scheduled for next year, to identify the causes of BP’s blowout and assign percentages of fault to the companies involved.

Judge Barbier wrote that lawyers’ fees will not be taken from the settlements: BP has agreed to pay them separately.

I’ll drink to that! And on that note—Happy New Year—here’s to a peaceful and prosperous 2013!

Week Adjourned: 12.25.10

Top Lawsuits

Fun and Games? Not so much for Electronic Arts (EA). The giant video game producer will face an antitrust class action after all. A federal judge certified a national class action this week that alleges video game consumers overpaid for popular sports titles including Madden NFL.

Specifically, the lawsuit claims that “Delaware-based Electronic Arts violated antitrust and consumer protection laws by holding exclusive license agreements with NFL, NCAA, and Arena Football League. Through these agreements, Electronic Arts developed and published highly coveted sports titles that generated billions of dollars in sales while allegedly restricting competition.”

And we’re not talking peanuts here—according to the lawsuit, the agreements may have inflated the price of some of the titles by as much as 70 percent. Ouch! That hurts.

Want some salt for that wound? Madden NFL is EA’s biggest sports franchise in the United States, and occupies four of the top 10 best selling games in the nation, industry reports claim. So, someone’s laughing all the way to the bank, and their making the trip on your dime. 

Top Settlements

Unnecessary Deconstructive Surgery. This is the kind of story you hear about and shake your head—where do you turn when the experts get it wrong? The courts.

A woman who was  mistakenly diagnosed with breast cancer and consequently underwent a double mastectomy she didn’t need to have—yes that’s right—had both breasts removed for no reason—has been awarded $198,000 in a settlement approved by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.  

Ana Jimenez-Salgado had her diagnosis of breast cancer confirmed by two pathologists who work outside of the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, where she had her breasts surgically removed.Both the outside pathologists determined the cells obtained from an August 2007 biopsy were cancerous. Umm.

But when Ms. Jimenez-Salgado went in for reconstructive surgery, the hospital’s pathologists also examined her breast tissue and determined that she  did not have breast cancer but rather “a benign condition with features that are very similar to cancerous cells,” county documents state.

So, Ms. Jimenez-Salgado did what anyone would have done having frankly no other recourse, she filed a medical malpractice lawsuit, alleging the hospital was negligent in relying on the interpretation of the outside pathologists. She also claimed the breast reconstruction surgery was negligently performed. Oh boy.

For their part, the county did admit that it failed to review the biopsy specimens, which resulted in the “unnecessary mastectomy”. And, the hospital also agreed to pay Ms. Jimenez-Salgado’s medical bills that were not covered by Medi-Cal, in the amount was $24,756. I suppose the up side of this deeply disturbing situation would be that they didn’t operate on her arms or legs—or vital organs.

Cast your mind back to pretty much any time point in the past 18 months and think of Toyota. Recalls are likely what come to mind. Many recalls. One of those many recalls was over accelerator pedals that could get stuck because of badly fitted floor mats, causing the vehicles to literally take off on the driver. Remember that one? Well, this week Toyota agreed to pay $10 million as settlement of a lawsuit brought by the family of four people who were killed in a car accident involving their runaway Lexus.

The car crash, which took place in 2009, killed 45-year old Mark Saylor, an off-duty California Highway Patrol Officer, his wife, their daughter and Saylor’s brother-in-law. They were killed on a suburban San Diego freeway when their car reached speeds of more than 120 mph, struck a sport utility vehicle, launched off an embankment, rolled several times and burst into flames, the Associated Press reported. 

Accident investigators later determined that a wrong-size floor mat trapped the accelerator and caused the crash. And it was this crash that prompted Toyota to recall millions of its vehicles over accelerator pedals becoming trapped by ill-fitting floor mats.

FYI, Toyota’s latest recall was issued December 14. It involves 94,000 Sienna Minivans in the US, 12,000 in Canada and 5,000 in Mexico.  

For a complete list of Toyota recalls click here 

Ok – that’s a wrap for this week. Merry Christmas Everyone! And Safe Driving …