Week Adjourned: 2.12.16 – Nissan, Target, TVM

NissanTop Class Action Lawsuits

Heads Up Owners of 2011-2012 Nissan Frontier Trucks… Nissan North America got hit with a defective automotive class action lawsuit this week over claims its side air bags are, well, just a little too enthusiastic. Plain English—the air bags deploy unnecessarily.

Filed by plaintiff Bobette Brantley, the Nissan airbag lawsuit asserts that the automaker designed side air bags in 2011-2012 Nissan Frontier trucks to inflate in rollover and near rollover conditions. However, it failed to warn consumers about how sensitive the air bags and seatbelt pretensioner igniters actually are. The seatbelt pretensioner igniters tighten any slack in seatbelts during an accident.

The lawsuit states that a defect in the class vehicles causes the side curtain air bags to deploy simultaneously and unnecessarily while also causing the seat belt pretensioner igniter to deploy. Once this happens, the vehicles are no longer safe to drive and consumers must pay thousands of dollars to have extensive repair work done. Adding insult to injury, Brantley also claims that Nissan refuses to pay for the resulting repairs.

According to the lawsuit, “The deployment of the side curtain air bags and the seatbelt pretensioner igniters is extremely distracting to drivers of class vehicles. The distraction is of such a magnitude that drivers of class vehicles are at risk of losing control of class vehicles, greatly increasing the possibility of a traffic accident, and injury.”

In the suit, Brantley states that while she was driving her vehicle in December, in a way that she said Nissan represented the vehicle can be driven, the side curtain air bags suddenly and unexpectedly deployed, causing her to nearly lose control of the vehicle. As a result, she spent thousands of dollars to restore her Frontier to a safe, driveable condition.

Brantley asserts that Nissan was aware of the alleged defect as a result of consumer complaints, internal testing and dealership repair records. However, she claims, the automaker failed to disclose the defect and, in fact, actively concealed it from consumers.

The suit further claims that evidence of Nissan’s knowledge of the alleged defect can be seen in the owner’s manual for the Frontier, which states that the curtain air bags are designed to inflate in rollover or near rollover conditions and can inflate due to certain vehicle movements such as severe off-roading.

“It is plaintiff’s contention, based upon plaintiff’s own experiences, and based upon plaintiff’s awareness of the complaints of other class members, that the class vehicles are too sensitive. As a result the ‘near rollover conditions’ design threshold, which signals the side curtain air bags and seatbelt pretensioner igniters to deploy, signals deployment under conditions where there is no true risk of a rollover,” the complaint states.

Brantley asserts Nissan refused to warn customers about the alleged defect, refused to remedy the defect and refused to compensate customers for any damages resulting from the defect.

The suit seeks certification of a class consisting of everyone who has bought or leased a class vehicle, as well as an order holding Nissan financially responsible for the defect, enjoining the automaker from continuing its deceptive practices, requiring the automaker to fix the defect and making Nissan disgorge part or all of its profits received from the sale or lease of the class vehicles.

The case is Brantley v. Nissan North America Inc. et al., case number BC609400, in the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles.

Target not on Target with Overtime Pay? The discount retailer got hit with an employment class action lawsuit this week. Filed in New York, by Robert LaPointe Jr, on behalf of himself and others similarly situated, the Target lawsuit claims violations of New York Labor Law, specifically, that Target failed to compensate him for overtime worked.

According to the suit, LaPointe worked for Target as an operations group leader in the company warehouses in New York from 2011 to 2015. While at work, the suit states that LaPointe regularly worked in excess of 40 hours per week.

LaPointe asserts that Target failed to pay an overtime premium to him and others in the class for additional hours worked. This, the suit states, is because the employees were misclassified as exempt from the overtime requirements of the New York Labor Law. Additionally, the suit claims Target failed to provide accurate wage statements.

LaPointe and others in the class seek to recover unpaid overtime wages, interests, statutory penalties, injunctive relief, attorney fees and other court costs.

The case is U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Case number 1:16-cv-00656-VSB. 

Top Settlements

TVM Award for the Victim…This settlement makes two out of two for the plaintiffs. A $13.5 million verdict has been awarded by a Philadelphia jury in the second transvaginal pelvic mesh injury lawsuit pending against Johnson & Johnson, and its subsidiary Ethicon, makers of the defective pelvic mesh.

The jury agreed that an Ethicon Inc. transvaginal tape product, known as TVT, was not reasonably safe, and that plaintiff Sharon Carlino’s physician would never have implanted the product had he been aware of its risks.

In her suit, Carlino claimed that as a result of having the defective pelvic mesh implanted, she was in near constant pain and discomfort, and was unable to have sex.

The transvaginal mesh verdict is the second damage award against Ethicon. The company is facing nearly 180 cases consolidated as part of a mass tort program in Philadelphia County’s Court of Common Pleas, which began to go to trial in December.

In the initial case, the jury awarded $12.5 million to the plaintiff, agreeing that Ethicon’s Prolift pelvic mesh product was negligently designed and that a physician who implanted the product in plaintiff Patricia Hammons in 2009 received inadequate warnings about the risks.

This most recent verdict returned for Carlino includes $10 million in punitive damages, $3.5 million in compensatory damages, and another $250,000 to Carlino’s husband for loss of consortium.

The case is Carlino et al. v. Ethicon Inc. et al., case number 130603470, in the Court of Common Pleas of the State of Pennsylvania, County of Philadelphia. 

Ok! So, that’s a wrap folks… See you at the Bar!

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