Week Adjourned: 10.13.17 – Whole Foods, Hip Implants, Burger King

Top Class Action Lawsuits

Whole Foods wholly implicated? …in a potential data breach class action lawsuit alleging that it wasn’t paying as much attention as it should have in safeguarding its customers’ personal info. In other words, negligence. According to the complaint, the hack took place in September and resulted in consumers’ personal information being stolen.

According to the Whole Foods lawsuit, filed by named plaintiff Patricia Banus, the data hack affected Whole Foods taprooms and restaurants. Banus alleges in the lawsuit that she paid for goods at a Whole Foods Market Group Inc. taproom four days before the September 28 announcement of the breach. As a result, she asserts she must now cancel her card, given that her personally identifiable information may have been compromised through the breach of the taproom’s point-of-sale system.

“Plaintiff, individually and on behalf of those similarly situated, brings this action to challenge the actions on Whole Foods in the protection and safekeeping of the plaintiff’s and class members’ personal information,” the complaint states. “Whole Foods’ failures to safeguard the consumer PII has caused plaintiff and class members damage.”

According to the complaint, Whole Foods had a duty under the Fair Credit Reporting Act to safeguard customers’ personally identifiable information from being disclosed to third parties. As part of those responsibilities, Whole Foods should have been following security protocols from Mastercard and VISA in the processing of card transactions. The breach may have resulted from a failure by Whole Foods to comply with these security standards, the complaint states.

Further, Whole Foods allegedly violated Ohio consumer protection laws and if consumers had known that their personal data was not properly protected, they would have potentially have shopped somewhere else, the complaint states.

The plaintiff claims there is a good probability that the full extent of the identity theft and fraud that could result from the Whlole Foods data breach has yet to be disclosed and consumers’ information might be available to purchase on the dark web.

The proposed class is made up of all US consumers whose personal data was released during the September breach. Banus also seeks to represent an Ohio subclass. The size of the proposed class is unclear with the company reporting that 117 venues were affected.

The case is Banus v. Whole Foods Market Group Inc., case number 1:17-cv-02132, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.

Top Settlements

Wright to pay for what’s wrong… Wright Medical Technologies wants out and they’re willing to pay for it. This week, the company announced it will pay $340 million to end about 2,000 claims resulting from alleged failure of its hip implant devices. This settlement will augment the Wright defective hip implant settlement reached in 2016 by $90 million, according to the defendant’s legal counsel.

The lawsuits are consolidated in multidistrict product liability litigation (MDL) in the Northern District of Georgia or in Los Angeles Superior Court in judicial counsel coordinated proceedings, California’s equivalent to a federal MDL.

The first bellwether case was heard in 2015 and resulted in an $11 million jury verdict for Robyn Christiansen, a 73-year-old Salt Lake City ski instructor who had suffered a catastrophic failure of her Wright-manufactured hip implant. The award was eventually reduced by $9 million.

According to the terms reported for the 2016 settlements, each claimant with a Conserve Cup device received about $170,000. Each claimant implanted with either a Dynasty or Lineage replacement hip that had failed received $120,000.

The Wright hip implant metal-on-metal design was responsible for the device failures, because it caused metal wear, according to court records. This resulted in the shedding of metallic debris into the surrounding tissue, leading to a condition known as metallosis, which inflamed and poisoned tissue, dissolved bone that anchored the implant and ultimately caused the implant to fail, court records state.

According to attorneys for the plaintiffs, this new settlement agreement will include hundreds of cases excluded in the first agreement because Wright Technology, the medical device company’s new Chinese owners, and Wright’s insurance carrier did not have sufficient funds to cover all the claims.

The new cases include those with hip implants that failed after the statute of limitations on suing had expired, cases filed after the original settlement was consummated, and suits by plaintiffs who reconsidered after initially deciding not to accept a settlement offer last year, the attorneys said.

Those plaintiffs who refuse to settle as part of the $340 million agreement, will be dismissed and remanded to their states of origin, according to the attorneys.

Burger King BOGO Rewind… in the form of a settlement that could see consumers get $2 gift cards. Yup- it’s part of the terms of the settlement meant to end the pending consumer fraud class action lawsuit. Under those terms consumers who ordered Croissan’wiches with a coupon, will receive $2 gift cards. Well, shut the front door!

According to the lawsuit, some customers who ordered their sandwiches without eggs, cheese or meat may have been overcharged and those customers who presented a buy-one-get-one-free coupon paid a higher price for the sandwich.

The lawsuit was filed by Burger King customer Koleta Anderson, in Maryland federal court on May 2017, on behalf of aggrieved breakfast patrons who alleged they were overcharged when using a coupon. This resulted in Burger King conducting its own investigation into the allegations.

According to court documents, Burger King Corp did in fact find that customers who used a buy-one-get-one-free coupon to order two of the breakfast sandwiches that were modified to exclude eggs, cheese or meat may have been charged the cost of a regular Croissan’wich instead of the lower cost of the pastry without the eggs, cheese or meat.

The faulty point-of-sale programs that caused the overcharges have been updated, Burger King said. Further, the restaurant chain has agreed to give $5 to customers who have a receipt showing their overcharge on modified BOGO Croissan’wiches, and $2 gift cards to customers who meet certain other terms.

The proposed settlement also includes a permanent injunction barring the fast-food chain from repeating the mistake.

Anderson will receive a service award of $500 for assisting in the case. That’s a lot of sandwiches…

The case is Anderson v. Burger King Corp., case number 8:17-cv-01204, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.

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




Week Adjourned: 8.29.14 – Whole Foods, Mazda, Daimler Trucks

The week’s top class action lawsuits and settlements–top stories include Whole Foods, Mazda, Daimler Trucks.

whole foodsTop Class Action Lawsuits 

Whole Foods not telling the Whole Story—that`s the contention in one of the latest consumer fraud class actions to be filed this week. The problem? The alleged mislabelling of the sugar content in Whole Foods Greek Yogurt. The class action alleges the grocery retail giant drastically understates the sugar content of its store-brand Greek yogurt so as to give it a competitive advantage.

According to the Whole Foods lawsuit, the label on Whole Food’s “365 Everyday Value Plain Greek Yogurt” states the product contains only 2 grams of sugar per serving. However, the plaintiffs claim that recent tests show the actual sugar content is nearly six times the stated amount. Just what the heck is “everyday plain value” anyway? What does that mean? I digress…

Filed by Los Angeles residents Chas Jackson and Josh Koffman, the lawsuit alleges that tests, done by Consumer Reports and published online in July, show an average of 11.4 grams of sugar per serving in six samples taken from six separate product lots. These results put the sugar content of Whole Food’s yogurt in the same region as a typical ice cream sandwich, which the US Department of Agriculture estimates to be around 13 grams of sugar.

“By falsely claiming a sugar content of only 2 grams per serving, [Whole Foods] sought to give itself a competitive advantage and to use this false statement of contents to induce consumers to purchase” the yogurt, the lawsuit states.

The plaintiffs claim that this discrepancy belies statements on Whole Foods’ website, which “brags” that a registered dietician reviews the labels on each of the company’s products for “accuracy and completeness.”

“Unless this statement on defendant’s website is false, then Whole Foods Market was fully aware of the contents of its store-brand plain Greek yogurt and of the fact that the yogurt’s actual sugar content was dramatically higher than what is stated on the label,” the lawsuit states.

Despite the publication of the Consumer Reports test results on July 17, Whole Foods has not removed the yogurt from its shelves and continues to market the product to consumers with the exact same allegedly inaccurate label, the plaintiffs claim.

In the lawsuit, Jackson and Koffman claim they purchased the yogurt on various occasions since 2000, and they each bought the product within the past month. They are seeking to represent a class of all Californians who purchased the yogurt since Aug. 26, 2000, a group they estimate at more than 10,000 people. Yeah, I would think so…  

Another Car Maker gets Slapped with a Lawsuit… this time it’s a consumer fraud class action lawsuit filed against Mazda Motor of America Inc, in New Jersey federal court. The complaint alleges the automaker knew of an engine valve defect affecting certain model year Mazda vehicles, and failed to warn consumers. Further, the lawsuit claims Mazda refused to repair the alleged defect in breach of warranty.

According to the Mazda lawsuit complaint, Mazda falsely advertises and guarantees that its new vehicles are defect-free, when in fact, the company is aware that some of its vehicles’ engines have faulty continuous variable valve-timing assembly. This defect causes the affected engines timing chain to become loose or detach, which can lead to partial or total engine failure. While the defect is covered under Mazda’s warranty, the automaker refuses to honor the warrant and repair the defect.

“Mazda’s fraudulent and unlawful conduct has resulted in substantial harm to … the class. As a result of the defect, plaintiff and the class have not received the economic benefit of their bargain, overpaid for their vehicles and/or made lease payments that were too high, and suffered further damages by incurring out-of pocket costs associated with repairing the [variable valve-timing] assembly defect in their vehicles,” the complaint says.

In the lawsuit, lead plaintiff James Stevenson states he purchased a 2008 Mazda CX7 vehicle from a New Jersey dealership in 2009. The vehicle came with a warranty stating that it is free of defects. In 2012, his warranty was extended to seven years past the original warranty date. However, in November 2013, the vehicle experienced an engine valve-related failure. According to the complaint, Stevenson alleges that, despite regular maintenance, and the car still being under warranty, Mazda refused warranty coverage.

In the defective automotive lawsuit, Stevenson v. Mazda Motor of America Inc., case number 3:14-cv-05250, Stevenson alleges the valve defect occurs in Mazda’s L-series engines and that the automaker has known about the defect since at least 2007, when it issued a technical service bulletin about the problem to its dealers. While Mazda made several unsuccessful attempts to fix the issue internally, the automaker failed to notify consumers of the defect and continued to market its vehicles as defect-free, according to the class action. 

Top Settlements 

Auto Worker Medical Benefits Settlement… Good news! This week a settlement was reached in an employment class action lawsuit pending against Daimler Trucks North America LLC. The lawsuit claimed the truck manufacturer illegally cut workers’ benefits. Filed by a group of retirees and the United Auto Workers, the lawsuit claims Daimler told the UAW that it would cut medical benefits starting on January 1, because the medical benefits it agreed on were not vested.

Plaintiffs Alan J. Meyers, Rocco H. Colanero, Allen Penley and Eddie Warren Bridges, along with the International Union of United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America, filed the lawsuit in May on behalf of a class of former employees who were represented by the union in collective bargaining and who currently are receiving retiree medical benefits from Daimler Trucks, together with their covered and surviving spouses, according to the complaint.

According to the Daimler Trucks benefit settlement agreement,  Daimler will contribute $480 million to a new employee benefit plan. According to court documents, the company, union and lead plaintiffs said the settlement would cover 1,100 proposed class members, and that the agreement is consistent with a recently ratified memorandum of understanding related to the retiree benefits owed to the active and recently retired UAW-represented employees. 

Ok, Folks–time to adjourn for the week. Have a fab weekend–see you at the bar!