Week Adjourned: 3.25.11

Top Class Actions

Faulty Wiring? There were some interesting suits this week. Among them—this one against AT&T, filed by an 82-year old woman who alleges that the $9.99 she pays every month for an Inside Wire Protection Plan” is a service she doesn’t need and can’t use because she lives in an apartment building in which she doesn’t own the interior telephone wires. Therefore, she has no legal responsibility for maintaining them and therefore she should not have to pay the $9.99 demanded by AT&T. Who knew? 

But that seemingly small monthly charge adds up to about $120 a year, and it’s being paid by thousands of AT&T customers across the US, who are in similar situations to Gloria Girton.

Consequently, Ms. Girton has filed a class action in the US District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina to end AT&T’s unlawful practice of wrongfully billing for such plans nationwide. Outside of North Carolina, they are known by such names as “Wire Pro,” “Inside Wire Maintenance,” and “Home Wire Protection.”

AT&T is illegally charging many of its land line customers who live in multi-tenant facilities for unnecessary wire insurance, the plaintiff’s lawyers state. “The company knows from prior litigation and its own internal investigations that this charge is improper, yet it continues to charge building tenants like Gloria for these worthless plans through deceptive sales actions that defraud and rob them of their hard-earned financial resources. We believe she and the class have sustained damages of at least $10 million and very likely much more,” says plaintiff’s counsel.

The complaint asks for the certification of two classes, a North Carolina class and a nationwide class, each comprised of all residents of residential or commercial property who had an AT&T account at any time in the past four years and were not responsible for the maintenance of their residence’s interior wire, but were charged a fee for an Inside Wire plan. You go Gloria! 

Top Settlements

Press Brake Operator Verdict. A laborer in Florida has won his personal injury case with the jury awarding him a $3.3 million verdict. What happened? Sadly, he who suffered amputation of all the fingers on his right hand—which is the hand he wrote with. It was a workplace accident, involving a mechanical press in 2005.

Phiteau Dalien had his hand caught in a vintage 50-ton mechanical press brake he was operating for List Industries Inc. As a result his hand was crushed and he and he had to have his fingers amputated. He was 33 years old at the time. He underwent a subsequent surgery to build a partial thumb, and he may need another operation to try and rebuild his other fingers.

In his suit, Dalien alleged that the outdated machine he was operating for List Industries lacked safety features and that a language barrier prevented him from being properly trained. List Industries claimed the accident was caused by operator error. Of course they did. But the jury wasn’t buying. 

Getting Royally Stiffed? Not any more for about 25,000 landowners in Pennsylvania. They brought a class action brought against Texas-based Range Resources in 2008 over allegations that the company was miscalculating their royalty payments associated with the company’s current drilling in the Marcellus Shale region of the state. Land which these people presumably own. The suit also alleged that Range Resources improperly withheld management fees from royalties and failed to account to landowners for money it had collected from selling oil and residual by products of gas processing. 

A  settlement has now been approved by a federal judge and the terms dictate that Range Resources, will pay the landowners roughly $1.3 million now and subsequently increase the royalty payment to a maximum of $16.6 million over the next five years, according to court documents. Well Done.

Okee dokee—that’s it for this week. See you at the bar.

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