Week Adjourned: 5.6.16 – Wendy’s Data Breach, Honeywell, More Talc Powder

WendysTop Class Action Lawsuits

Drive Around to the First Window and… It’s been a while since we’ve reported a data breach class action. This week, one such lawsuit was filed against Ohio-based Wendy’s by First Choice Federal Credit Union, alleging a five-month long data breach could have been prevented if the company had acted faster.

From October 22, 2015 through to March 10, 2016, hackers accessed Wendy’s computer systems and stole what could be millions of consumer credit cards that had been used at certain Wendy’s locations. So someone besides was making change on your burger and fries. And let’s not get started on the issue of inconvenience!

“As a result of Wendy’s data breach, plaintiff and class members have been forced to cancel and reissue payment cards, change or close accounts, notify customers that their cards were compromised, investigate claims of fraudulent activity, refund fraudulent charges, increase fraudulent monitoring on potentially impacted accounts, and take other steps to protect themselves and their customers,” the Wendy’s data breach lawsuit claims.

Specifically, the plaintiffs claim that Wendy’s holds on to credit card information longer than necessary and failed to meet the October 2015 deadline for EMV cards and terminals.

“Despite the growing threat of computer system intrusion, Wendy’s systematically failed to comply with industry standards and protect payment card and customer data,” the lawsuit states, noting that as a consequence, financial institutions have borne the brunt of the data breach.

The complaint asserts that Wendy’s used outdated and easily hackable computer and credit card systems, and that the company failed to meet federal regulations and guidelines around computer and data security, stating that Wendy’s “refused to take steps to adequately protect its computer systems from intrusion.”

A Wendy’s spokesman has said that malware was discovered by third-party investigators, but the company has yet to confirm how many of its 6,000 stores had been hacked.

Honeywell Warranty Class Action Warranted… This is why you want your day in court: A proposed defective products class action brought by consumers against Honeywell International was given the green light this week, by a judge who just wasn’t buying the corporate line. US District Judge Berle M. Schiller of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania told the defendant, Honeywell International, that essentially they couldn’t make a case to have the suit tossed.

The Honeywell class action asserts that Honeywell TrueSTEAM humidifiers were defectively designed and inadequately covered by warranty. Feel the swamp waters rising? Yes, well, read on.

According to the complaint, the humidifiers are unreliable, difficult to maintain, and prone to malfunction and deterioration.

Judge Schiller wrote in his memorandum, “According to plaintiffs, Honeywell is aware of the problems with its humidifiers, but uses an ‘overly burdensome warranty claims process that is designed to, and does, deter customers from making claims under their warranties.” And, “Honeywell’s remedy to repair fails of its essential purpose because Honeywell simply replaces defective humidifiers with ‘the same defectively designed humidifiers that are prone to the problems complained of by plaintiffs and members of the classes.'” Thank you Judge Schiller.

The plaintiffs also allege they were told their defective units would not be serviced until technicians inspected them. They are seeking recovery for the related removal and repair costs, since they claim Honeywell promised that each unit would be free from defect, and if it wasn’t, the company would repair the unit. Oh yes, the fine print—but just wait…

“According to the amended complaint, however, that promise was false. Instead, plaintiffs were required to satisfy Honeywell, through an authorized technician and/or a contractor’s inspection, that the humidifier actually was defective,” Schiller wrote. “Thus, Honeywell placed an additional burden upon plaintiffs seeking to repair or replace their defective unit.”

The judge wrote that the plaintiffs have adequately alleged that the humidifiers were defective five years after the purchase date as the warranty promised, and that Honeywell failed to replace the units as it expressly warranted.

The plaintiffs asserted breach of express warranty, breach of implied warranty, unjust enrichment, and other claims.

I’ll bet those plaintiffs are happy campers this weekend.

Top Settlements

A Bittersweet Victory… This week, a $55 million settlement was leveled against Johnson & Johnson (J&J) by a jury hearing the case of a woman who alleges her use of the company’s talc-powder products for feminine hygiene caused her to develop ovarian cancer.

This is the second J&J talc powder verdict in a row against J&J in talc-cancer lawsuits J&J plans to appeal. The company is facing some 1200 such lawsuit all claiming the company failed to adequately warning consumers about its talc-based products’ cancer risks.

The trial took three weeks, and returned the verdict in favor of Gloria Ristesund in a day. She was awarded $5 million in compensatory damages and $50 million in punitive damages.

According to her suit, Ristesund used J&J’s talc-based powder products, which include the well-known Baby Powder and Shower to Shower Powder, on her genitals for decades. According to her lawyers, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and had to undergo a hysterectomy and related surgeries. Her cancer is now in remission.

The verdict in the first J&J talc-cancer lawsuit awarded $72 million to the family of a woman who died from ovarian cancer. She had also used the talc powder for feminine hygiene for years. 

Ok, that’s a wrap folks…Have a good one. See you at the Bar!

Week Adjourned: 1.30.15 – Wal-Mart, Conesys, Wendy’s

The week’s top class action lawsuits and settlements. Top stories include Wal-Mart, Conesys and Wendy’s.

Walmart CartTop Class Action Lawsuits

Taxing Trip to Wal-mart? Wal-Mart’s made our list this week—this time it’s a breach of contract class action, alleging the discount retailer shortchanged customers over four years with respect to sales tax, is seeking certification. The lawsuit claims Wal-Mart defrauded its customers by as much as $9 million.

Filed in 2014, the Wal-Mart complaint specifically alleges that the retailer incorrectly applied lower sales tax rates to consumer returns. Plaintiffs are contending that Wal-Mart violated the terms of its sales agreement by refunding its customers less than the purchase price.

The lawsuit claims that an analysis done by Wal-Mart showed that there were nearly 20 million returns to stores with lower sales tax rates from 2007-09. During that time, the retailer used a flawed formula to recalculate how much customers spent, based on the sales tax of the store where the return was processed. The complaint alleges that Wal-Mart should have looked up how much customers paid for the items in the stores where they were purchased.

“Because the plaintiffs’ claims meet the requirements of Rule 23, and the representatives class counsel demonstrated the capacity to adequately represent the class, the court should certify the class and appoint the attorneys as class counsel,” plaintiffs Shaun Brandewie and John Newbrough state in the motion for certification. Both plaintiffs made several purchases at Wal-Mart, returned them to other locations, and were not refunded their full return. All of the discrepancies described in the complaint are for less than $1.

According to the motion for certification, the class is readily discernable because it includes anybody who purchased an item at Wal-Mart and was refunded an amount less than what they paid. Wal-Mart tracks sales and return data such that the amounts paid for items and the amounts refunded are easily ascertainable, the motion said. Hey—every penny adds up…

Defend this, Conesys… Conesys Inc, an aerospace and defense electronics parts manufacturer, is facing a potential unpaid wages and overtime class action lawsuit filed by employees who allege the company fails to pay them overtime or compensate them for meal and rest breaks.

Filed in California state court, on behalf of plaintiff Rafael A. Lozano, a machine operator at AEC, the Conesys lawsuit claims that for at least four years had a “consistent” policy of failing to pay all wages owing to their California-based employees, as well as failing to provide meal and rest breaks required under California labor law.

“As a result of the defendants’ unlawful conduct, plaintiffs and other members of the…class have suffered damages in an amount subject to proof, to the extent that they were not paid for all wages earned,” the lawsuit states.

Torrance, California-based Conesys, based in Torrence, CA, has over 1,000 workers worldwide, including several facilities located in Torrance. The lawsuit alleges that in California, the company unevenly rounds out the amount of time employees’ work, which denies them compensation for any time worked beyond that of eight hours per day or 40 hours per week.

Additionally, the lawsuit states that Conesys’ corporate practice of rounding out hours worked has resulted in its employees being issued with inaccurate wage statements, and, in some cases, being effectively paid below minimum wage.

Further, the complaint also states that Conesys failed to provide the necessary breaks, which in California requires employers to provide a short, paid rest break for shifts of at least four hours, and at least one uninterrupted 30-minute meal break when employees work a shift of more than five hours, and two, if the shift runs for longer than 10 hours.

The plaintiff is asking for compensation for missed pay for himself and other employees allegedly shortchanged by Conesys going back up to four years, as well as penalties against the company and “reasonable” attorneys’ fees and costs.

The case is Lozano et al. v. Conesys Inc. et al., case number BC570320, in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles.

Top Settlements

Here’s a Happy Ending. The fast food chain Wendy’s has reached a proposed settlement in a pending discrimination class action lawsuit. The complaint maintains that Wendy’s Pittsburgh-area restaurants have architectural barriers that limit access to wheelchair-bound individuals, a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Plaintiff Christopher Mielo and Wendy’s reportedly reached the settlement on January 26th. Meilo, a mobility disabled man who regularly used a wheelchair to get around, filed the lawsuit in 2014, alleging that within the Pittsburgh area 17 Wendy’s restaurants had excessively sloped parking spaces and access aisles, accessibility barriers that make it difficult for wheelchair users to access the restaurant’s facilities independently. According to the lawsuit, these accessibility barriers are a violation of the ADA.

The lawsuit states, “The architectural barriers described above demonstrate that defendant’s facilities were not altered, designed or constructed in a manner that causes them to be readily accessible to and usable by individuals who use wheelchairs.”

Under the terms of the settlement, Wendy’s would be required to remove the alleged architectural barriers in order to come into compliance with ADA standards and requirements. More specific terms have not been made public.

The Wendy’s Wheelchair Access Class Action Lawsuit is Christopher Mielo v. Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers of New York Inc., Case No. 2:14-cv-00893, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.



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