Week Adjourned: 6.16.17 – Hyundai, National Penn Bank, Victoria’s Secret

Top Class Action Lawsuits

Heads Up Hyundai Owners! The automaker got hit with a defective automotive class action lawsuit alleging its power steering systems in certain vehicles can unexpectedly become difficult or impossible to steer, and that Hyundai willfully concealed the defect from consumers. Nice. Read this playbook?

Filed in California, by Houston Vinci and Jaehan Ku, the complaint asserts that the defect severely inhibits drivers’ ability to react to or avoid other cars, pedestrians and obstacles. The affected vehicles are model years 2013-2016 Accents and Elantras. According to the Hyundai lawsuit, the alleged defect results from conflicting steering wheel input data that causes power steering to turn off.

The lawsuit states that a similar defect had resulted in earlier models being recalled in April 2016. That recall involved 2011 model year Sonatas built between 2009 and 2010. The NHTSA said the cars were vulnerable to a loss of electronic power steering if a circuit board inside the drive assembly malfunctions or is damaged.

“A reasonable customer who purchases a vehicle that advertises power steering as a feature expects that feature to function properly,” the complaint states. “A reasonable consumer further expects and assumes that defendant will not sell vehicles with known safety defects, and will disclose any such defect to their customers.”

According to the lawsuit, Vinci, a resident of Oregon, bought a used 2013 Accent in June 2015. Since then, she has experienced repeated problems with steering in that vehicle. Despite taking it to Hyundai’s dealers for repairs, so far, the problem has not been fixed, she alleges. In January 2016, the power steering defect caused her to crash, the lawsuit states.

Ku, also a resident of Oregon, bought a new 2014 Elantra in March of that year. According to the lawsuit, Ku spent two years as a truck driver in the South Korean military. In May 2016, the steering wheel in his Elantra locked up and his car veered sharply to the left. At the same time the brakes and he was unable to stop before crashing into the barrier on the side of the highway. A camera Ku had installed in the car captured the incident on video.

According to the lawsuit, numerous similar complaints have been made to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. As of June 7, there were more than 100 such complaints involving Elantras and 10 involving Hyundai Accents. These include a report of a driver who allegedly was unable to turn away from a wooden wall on the side of a road and drove through it.

The class action lawsuit cites eight claims, including violations of California laws, the laws of 29 states, breach of implied warranty, fraudulent concealment and unjust enrichment.

The case is Houston Vinci et al. v. Hyundai Motor America et al., case number 8:17-cv-00997, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

Better steering at Hyundai may have prevented this defective automotive class action lawsuit, not to mention a lot of consumer grief.

Top Settlements

National Penn Bank Overdrawn on Overcharging? A recent settlement would certainly indicate so. The bank has agreed to pony up $975,000 in an improper overdraft fees class action lawsuit.

The National Penn Bank lawsuit was brought in 2012 by Jennifer Collier, who claimed that rather than charging overdraft fees on her actual account balance, the bank incorrectly charged overdraft fees based on the ledger balance in her account or the amount available at the beginning of the day.

If approved, the settlement will provide compensation to a class of National Penn Bank customers who were incorrectly charged overdraft fees. Collier, as lead plaintiff, would receive a $2,500 award for service.

National Penn was purchased by BB&T Corp., nearly two years ago. The proposed settlement comes after several rounds of briefing and appeals to both the state’s Superior Court and its Supreme Court.

The case is Jennifer Collier v. National Penn Bank et al., case number 120601036, before the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania.

Victoria’s Secret Not So Secret Settlement… The lingerie company has reached a $12 million settlement in a California overtime and labor law class action lawsuit   If approved, the deal will end allegations brought by sales clerks in Victoria’s Secret’s California stores that the company failed to properly compensate workers scheduled for “call-in” shifts.

The sales clerks allege in their class action that the company cheated them out of pay for shifts that required them to call in two hours prior to a scheduled shift to find out if they were going to be working that shift. Further, the plaintiffs claim that the defendant owes its workers unpaid wages for scheduling shifts for which they showed up, only to be sent home after they reported for work. Ok—seriously?

If approved, the Victoria’s Secret settlement will compensate some 40,000 class members, all of whom worked in California and who were classified by Victoria’s Secret as nonexempt from overtime pay. The payouts will be calculated based on the length of employment with Victoria’s Secret, with rewards going to the lead plaintiffs. Additionally, attorneys’ fees and expenses, and a payment to California regulators under the Private Attorneys General Act, would be paid from the settlement fund.

The case is Mayra Casas v. Victoria’s Secret Stores LLC, case number 2:14-cv-06412, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

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

Week Adjourned: 2.5.16 – Victoria’s Secret, Dr. Oz, Bayada

victorias secretTop Class Action Lawsuits

Not so Sexy Texts… For years the prevailing urban myth is that the biggest subscriber base for Victoria’s Secret catalog is men—particularly those that work in isolated environs such as oil rigs, mines—you get the picture. Now, the angel of lingerie (maybe that should be “the god of” ) is facing a Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)  class action lawsuit based on allegations the company sent unsolicited text message advertisements.

The Victoria’s Secret texting lawsuit was filed by a man. Love it. Women, I’m not sure, would necessarily mind prompts on this subject—but hey—could be wrong, and—importantly—most women are likely not looking at or for the T&A component. If that’s missing from the spam, then why not file a lawsuit.

I digress.

Here’s the skinny: filed in California by Michael Hannegan, individually and for all others similarly situated, the lawsuit asserts that Victoria’s Secret sent unauthorized text message advertisements to cell phones of consumers across the country, to Hannegan and the others, in violation of the TCPA.

Consequently, Hannegan has suffered an invasion of privacy and incurred costs for the receipt of such wireless spam, the lawsuit states.

Hannegan and others in the class seek an injunction, statutory or actual damages, plus attorney fees and costs. The case is: U.S. District Court for the Central District of California Case number 8:16-CV-00125-JLS-JCG. So if the Angels in B cups have been spamming you—you better get on it!

Pulling Back the Curtain on Oz? Ok, you knew this was coming—at some point it just had to. Dr. Oz got hit with a consumer fraud class action lawsuit this week, as well as Labrada Bodybuilding Nutrition Inc., alleging claims that weight loss products made by the defendants are false and misleading. If it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck…

The sorta short read—the suit was filed by Vera Woodard of California, in which she asserts she was tricked into buying a number of nutritional products sold by former bodybuilding champion Lee Labrada’s company, because they contained “magic ingredients” purported to be “revolutionary fat busters” by Dr. Mehmet C. Oz during his daytime talk show. (Quack, Quack).

In fact, the Dr. Oz lawsuit asserts, the pills are worthless with little scientific evidence they promote weight reduction. Hey—what about the placebo effect?

“As a renowned surgeon at Columbia University with specialized medical and scientific knowledge, Dr. Oz knew that the claims he was making about the supplements being ‘miracle fat busters’ were patently false or misleading consumers,” the lawsuit states. “Dr. Oz concealed his fraud by affirmatively representing to consumers that he was giving his objective opinion about the products based on his specialized knowledge.”

According to the lawsuit, Woodard bought the Labrada Garcinia Cambogia Dual Action Fat Buster, the Labrada Green Coffee Bean Extract Fat Loss Optimizer and the Labrada Raspberry Ketones Metabolic Enhancer products sometime around June 2013, paying between $15 and $20 a bottle, after she saw episodes of “The Doctor Oz Show” in which he promoted those herbal supplement ingredients as being “miracles in a bottle” when it comes to weight loss.

However, the lawsuit contends that while Dr. Oz regularly reminds audiences that he’s not attempting to sell any products, he does not mention that some of his “nutritional expert” special guests are in fact paid spokespeople for certain supplement products.

By way of example, the lawsuit cites an episode in which the weight-loss benefits of garcinia cambogia, were discussed. Dr. Oz introduced a guest doctor as being at the forefront of “revolutionary research that says garcinia could be the magic ingredient that lets you lose weight without diet and exercise,” yet that doctor turned out to be a paid researcher for Interhealth Neutrceuticals Inc., which is also named defendant in the suit, according to the complaint.

Additionally, the suit states that studies published by the Journal of the American Medical Association and other publications have shown that garcinia cambogia and green coffee bean failed to produce any significant weight loss, and there is zero evidence showing that raspberry ketones can help trim fat.

Woodward seeks to represent a nationwide class of consumers who were “duped” into buying “worthless” weight loss supplements containing garcinia cambogia, green coffee bean extract and raspberry ketones from the Labrada and others.

The case is Veda Woodard v. Lee Labrada et al., case number 2:16-cv-00717, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. 

Top Settlements

Ruling for Bayada Workers… Here’s a major step forward for home care workers in Colorado. A federal judge has issued the final ruling on an employment class action lawsuit this week, filed against Bayada by its home health care workers. The lawsuit alleged the company failed to pay overtime wages. Boy, this just never gets tired, does it.

And justice prevailed. In her ruling on the Bayada overtime lawsuit, Judge Christine Arguello found that Colorado’s labor laws necessitate that overtime be paid if the worker is employed by a third-party agency.

The lawsuit was originally filed in Plaintiff Michele Kennett and a class of employees in July of 2014, alleging they were not paid overtime when in fact Colorado law necessitated time-and-a-half overtime compensation on all hours worked over 40 per week.

Bayada, based in Colorado, provides workers who deliver in-home health care services to clients with cognitive difficulties, physical disabilities, and/or chronic illnesses. The suit centered on whether home health aides are exempt from overtime protections under the Colorado Department of Labor’s Minimum Wage Order as “companion employees.”

The case is Kennett v. Bayada Home Health Care. Case 1:14-cv-02005-CMA-MJW

Consider the case finally settled and possibly a precedent set.  

Ok, sothat’s a wrap folks… Happy Super Bowl Weekend!! …See you at the Bar!