Week Adjourned: 10.2.15 – VRBO, Hyatt Hotels, Vitaminwater

VRBO logoTop Class Action Lawsuits

Another week…another data breach lawsuit. This one is filed against payment processor Yapstone, the company that handles the money for Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO). Most seriously disturbing.

The class action was filed by a customer in New Jersey who claims the company is negligent and in breach of contract because it failed to protect customer data from a possible breach. In the VRBO complaint, Plaintiff, Jonathan Koles alleges that he was notified by letter by YapStone on September 11 that his “[e]mail and [b]ank [a]ccount were potentially exposed” in a possible breach that happened sometime between July 2014 and August 2015. According to the letter, Yapstone had first learned of the potential hack on August 4th.

Koles claims that YapStone Inc, failed to take reasonable measures to protect its customers’ personal information, promptly notify them of the possible breach and specify exactly what information may have been compromised.

According to the lawsuit, “As a result of Defendant’s ongoing failure to notify consumers regarding what type of [personally identifiable information] has been compromised, consumers are unable to take the necessary precautions to mitigate their damages by preventing future fraud.”

As a result of the data breach, Koles now pays $29.99 a month for identity protection services, has had to cancel credit cards and faces “imminent danger” that his personal information could be used for fraudulent purposes, the lawsuit states.

Because VRBO customers were required to accept payments online and provide their bank account information, YapStone breached an implied contract with customers in failing to safeguard their financial information, the complaint adds. In addition to his claims of negligence, breach of contract and unjust enrichment, Koles filed claims for violations of California’s Unfair Competition Law and the state’s Data Breach Law on behalf of a nationwide class. The suit also raises claims for violations of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act and the New Jersey Data Breach Act on behalf of Garden State consumers.

Koles asked the court to order YapStone to adopt “appropriate methods and policies” for consumer data collection and disclosure of personal information, pay for three years of credit card monitoring services and notify customers of the breach. He also seeks to recover damages, including actual, compensatory and statutory damages, as well as equitable relief, restitution, disgorgement, costs and attorneys’ fees.

The case is Jonathan Koles v. YapStone Inc., case number 3:15-cv-04429, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Hyatt feasting on ill-gotten gains? Maybe…Hyatt Hotels was hit with an unpaid wages and overtime class action lawsuit this week, alleging the global hotel chain fails to properly pay its banquet servers their tips and withholds overtime pay.

Filed by Nancy Livi, the Hyatt lawsuit is brought on behalf of current and former employees of Hyatt-branded hotels in Pennsylvania. Specifically, the complaint alleges Hyatt Hotels Corp. and its affiliates illegally diverts servers tips and refuses to pay overtime when certain employees have worked in excess of 40 hours per work week.

These actions, the lawsuit asserts, violate various laws including the Fair Labor Standards Act. The plaintiffs claims they have been seriously harmed by the company’s actions.

According to the lawsuit, customers who use the hotel for the special events at which banquet servers work are charged a set fee in addition to the charges for their events. These fees are regularly used to pay banquet servers a tip, forming part of their compensation. That fee, which is referred to as both a gratuity fee and service charge in the complaint, is divided amongst the banquet servers, with a portion of the fee being kept by the hotel, for the hotel.

The complaint alleges that Hyatt has refused to divulge information related to how much of the fee it keeps, despite requests by employees for information regarding the pay practices and lack of transparency.

According to the lawsuit, the negligible amount of gratuity banquet servers receive is not enough to be considered a tip for purposes of complying with the FLSA’s minimum wage provisions. In addition, the suit alleges that Hyatt, in its Pennsylvania hotels at least, has refused to pay overtime, even when banquet servers have worked over 40 hours in a week. “Defendants have been aware of the hours worked by the class members but have failed to pay the class members the full amount of wages to which they are entitled for this work time,” the complaint states.

The Hyatt lawsuit seeks class certification, as well as to recover unpaid tips and overtime wages, plus all available relief. According to the complaint, the class likely contains at least 40 members. Nancy Livi, et al v. Hyatt Hotels Corp., et al, case number 2:15-cv-05371 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Top Settlements

Ok—if it sounds too good to be true….remember Vitaminwater? (yes—it’s a new noun apparently.) Well, Coke just reached a $2.7 million settlement to settle the Vitaminwater consumer fraud class action. The lawsuit alleges the company falsely marketed the sugar content of the drink. Ya think?

FYI—the lawsuit was filed six years ago. Now that’s dragging it through the courts…

Under the terms of the Vitaminwater settlement, Coca-Cola Co, and Energy Brands Inc. will advertise on the labels that the products contain sweeteners. Further, they will place the words “with sweeteners” on two panels of the product’s labeling. Additionally, the beverage makers must state the amount of calories per bottle of the product on the product’s main display panel and include the statement, “excellent source [of certain nutrients,]” on the product’s labeling.

If approved, the settlement also cites a number of statements the defendants can no longer use to market Vitaminwater, including “vitamins + water = all you need” and “made for the center for responsible hydration,” according to the motion.

The parties are also seeking to certify two settlement subclasses which are all New York residents who purchased Vitaminwater in New York at any time from Janauary 20, 2003 to the notice date and all California residents who purchased Vitaminwater in California at any time from Jan. 15, 2015 to the notice date.

According to the terms of the agreement, each of the class representatives (aka, lead plaintiffs) will be awarded $5,000.

The cases are Batsheva Ackerman et al. v. Coca-Cola Co. et al., case number 1:11-md-02215, and Juliana Ford v. The Coca-Cola Co. et al., case number 1:09-cv-00395, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

Ok—That’s a wrap folks… See you at the Bar!

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