Week Adjourned: 4.30.10

GM is under fire for miscalculating refunds on its extended protection planTop Class Actions

Is GM cutting corners? Maybe. Certainly Jimmy Hendon believes they are, so he filed a class action lawsuit against the automotive manufacturer, over alleged unfair business practices associated with its extended warranty plans.

Mr. Hendon is claiming that GM improperly calculated his prorated cancellation refund associated with his GM Major Guard Vehicle Service Contract. Hendon purchased the extended warranty in 2006 as additional 12 month/44,000 mile coverage to the GM standard 36 month/36,000 mile factory warranty which came with the new 2006 Chevy Avalanche he had just bought. Hendon canceled the extended warranty in 2009, with 18,483 miles remaining on the contract.

Specifically, the complaint alleges that GM calculated Hendon’s refund by taking the remaining miles divided by the 80,000 total miles under warranty, resulting in a $295 refund. Hendon claims GM should have calculated his refund by dividing his remaining miles by the 44,000 mile extension, resulting in a $580 refund.

The suit claims that GM should be prorating the canceled refund by dividing the remaining miles or days by the number of miles or days that the service contract extended the factory warranty.

While you may think that $200 or $300 may not sound like much for GM—why would they bother?—if you multiply that sum over the potentially thousands of folk in similar situations to Jimmy—well heck, you might just have enough for a bailout payment…

The Gulf of Mexico Tragedy in the Making… Hopefully BP won’t get away with this environmental disaster the way Exxon did in Alaska. A class action lawsuit was filed Friday, April 30, against British Petroleum and several other companies with ties to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The suit seeks to represent individuals and businesses that have incurred damages related to the disaster, including; real property damages; personal property damages; loss of profits and earning capacity; loss of commercial and subsistence use of natural resources; increased costs of public services; and, loss of revenues.

Coast Guard officials estimate 5,000 barrels of oil a day are leaking into the Gulf. The oil slick made landfall in southern Louisiana early Friday, April 30th, and is expected to reach Mississippi and Alabama within the coming days.

Experts are calling this the worst environmental crisis since the Exxon Valdez and are predicting the economic impact to be greater than that associated with hurricane Katrina. 

Top Settlements

It’s “Use Only as Prescribed”…not “Promoted”. So it seems that “off-label” is the phrase of the week, off-label associated with illegal marketing that is. Two big settlements with the feds happened this week—one with AstraZeneca (AZ) and the other with Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and its subsidiaries.

AZ got hit with a $520 million fine for off-label promotion of its blockbuster antipsychotic Seroquel.  Specifically, the UK-based pharmaceutical company faced accusations of misleading patients and doctors about the effectiveness of the schizophrenia medication, and the associated risk for diabetes in particular.

And, J&J has agreed to pay $81 million to the US Justice Department as settlement over allegations that the pharmaceutical company illegally promoted the epilepsy drug Topamax for unapproved uses, specifically for psychiatric indications.

FYI, Topamax is approved by the FDA for use in epilepsy patients and for migraine prevention. According to the Justice Department, Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical used a program called Doctor-for-a-Day to promote sales of Topamax for psychiatric indications.

Kind of ironic that the migraine treatment may turn out to be J&J’s migraine inducer…

That’s it for this week. See you at the bar! (Oh yes. That bar).

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