Week Adjourned: 1.22.10

AbbaRoberta FlackSteve MillerPink Floyd

Top Class Actions

Killing Me Softly with his Song…killing me softly… Sorry. Just lost in time there…along with this one. I don’t know if this is the longest class action filed in recent history—but it certainly does cover a significant period of time—36 years, if my math is correct. It was filed against The Variable Annuity Life Insurance Company (“VALIC”) who’ve allegedly been up to no good for the period between January 1, 1974 and January 8, 2010. 1974? Now that’s a blast from the past. There was no public internet in 1974…people bought records—not CDs…Remember Disco? The Joker? Ok. I’ll stop there.

So what’s the beef? Bottom line, “According to the complaint, class members were harmed by entering into expensive annuity contracts that were redundant and unnecessary.” Of course, there’s a bit more to it than that, like, “VALIC agents failed to disclose that the tax deferral feature of the deferred annuity was redundant and unnecessary for Class members…and that these materially false and misleading statements and omissions fraudulently induced purchases of the deferred annuities because they give the impression that the product provides the key tax deferral benefit sought by investors, when, in fact, tax deferral is not a reason for qualified plan investors to purchase the product because any investment funding a qualified plain is already tax deferred.” 

Suffice to say, people were sold investment products that they didn’t need. I guess some things really don’t change with time.

Top Settlements

The Now Network gets the Now Settlement. Finally. On Thursday, a federal judge approved a $17.5 million settlement in the class action against Sprint Nextel. Chalk one up to consumers! The lawsuit arose over the flat rate fees Sprint Nextel charged to customers who ended their service contracts early—yes, the dreaded Early Termination Fees (ETF).

Is this ringing your bells? It should—we had posted about the Sprint ETF settlement a while back. You are eligible as a class member if you were subject to Early Termination Fees of $150 to $200 for cell phone contracts with Sprint Nextel entered into between July 1, 1999, and Dec. 31, 2008, even if you didn’t pay them.

Philip Morris to Pay $294 Million Settlement in Emphysema Case

This may just be the way to end smoking all together. Philip Morris just lost a case in Florida to a 61-year-old woman who sued them over allegations that her 25-year smoking habit caused her to develop emphysema. The size of the settlement? $294 million

Now—Lucinda Naugle’s lawsuit is just one of 8,000 such suits pending in Florida. You don’t even need to do the math to know that Philip Morris would be bankrupt if it had to pay out that kind of money to even a fraction of the 8,000 plaintiffs, provided the plaintiffs were successful. So maybe this is the new strategy, end smoking by bankrupting the manufacturers.

Interestingly, while Philip Morris argued that Ms. Naugle had other medical circumstances that contributed to her emphysema, the jury still found them 90 percent liable and Ms. Naugle 10 percent responsible. I’m wondering if this logic could be applied to anything addictive that’s bad for you? (I’m thinking junk food…)

That’s it for this week—see you at the Bar!

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