Week Adjourned: 9.19.14 – GNC, La-Z-Boy, Meriter Health

The week’s top class action lawsuits and settlements. Top stories include GNC, La-Z-Boy and Meriter Health

GNC Magna RxTop Class Action Lawsuits

Supersize me—or not—as the case may be. After all, if it sounds too good to be true… then maybe Magna-Rx Inc, is promising just a tad more than it can deliver. The supplement maker GNC got hit with a proposed consumer fraud class action lawsuit this week alleging the labeling on its male strength and performance enhancement supplement misleads consumers by implying it is an effective aphrodisiac. According to the Magna-Rx lawsuit, the company falsely markets “Magna-Rx+” as a medically endorsed aphrodisiac, although the supplement, a blend of herbal and root extracts, has never been scientifically studied, and there is no proof that its ingredients have an effect on male strength and performance. In plain English—snake oil.

In the complaint, Trevor Dixon, the plaintiff, states that he purchased Magna-Rx+ for $50 in March 2013, from a GNC store. In January 2014 Dixon discovered the company had violated California’s unfair competition and false advertising laws and Consumer Legal Remedies Act, as well as the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, by marketing the supplement as an aphrodisiac. Further, as an over-the-counter drug sold as an aphrodisiac, Magna-Rx+’s label should have been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the complaint states.

Magna-Rx+ includes the ingredients: horney goat weed (WTF?), muira puma, Asian ginseng, oat straw and catuaba. However, none of these are safe and effective for OTC use as an aphrodisiac,” the lawsuit states. “The FDA bars these false, misleading and unsupported by scientific data label claims.” Is there even such a thing as horney goat weed?
Wait—there’s more—“Further, consuming such random herbs and herbal extracts presents a risk of an allergic or other adverse reaction without any offsetting benefit,” the complaint states.

The complaint also notes that the president of Magna-Rx testified in a deposition that the company never scientifically tested Magna-Rx+’s efficacy. Only a few ingredients may be effective at treating certain conditions, none of which includes male virility, according to the suit.

According to the lawsuit, the Magna-Rx+ label contains the phrase “Dr. Aguilar’s Original,” suggesting that Magna-Rx was developed by medical professionals. However, Dr. Aguilar is not a licenced medical practitioner in the US, but has a small storefront ‘alternative medicine’ clinic in Mexico. And, no one from Magna-Rx has ever interacted with Aguilar. That’s encouraging.

Additionally, the complaint cites the phrase “Real Doctors, Real Results,” which appears on the product labeling and suggests Magna-Rx+ is medically endorsed. According to the suit, the “Rx” in the product’s name further implies that it is prescription-strength, and “Magna” indicates that it is effective in increasing male strength and performance.

Boy—this stuff makes the Tooth Fairy sound plausible. Wonder what it does do… 

La-Z-Boy living up to its name…. in that it’s been a bit lazy about accommodating people with disabilities who need wheelchair access to their stores. So, the company now finds itself on the end of a discrimination class action lawsuit alleging its stores are not fully accessible to the disabled because they lack handicapped parking and wheelchair-accessible restrooms, in violation of California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act and Disabled Persons Act.

Filed in Los Angeles, by lead plaintiff George Zepeda, the complaint alleges La-Z-Boy discriminates against disabled California residents by not requiring its facilities be accessible for handicapped individuals. Zepeda claims that there are several La-Z-Boy stores that do not have accessible restrooms, handicapped parking spaces and appropriate accessibility signage. The lawsuit also states that the furniture manufacturer has so far refused to remedy the situation.

“As a result of that failure to remedy existing barriers to accessibility, plaintiff and others similarly situated have been denied access to the benefits of the goods, services, programs, facilities and activities of defendant’s stores, and have otherwise been discriminated against and have suffered damages caused by defendant’s accessibility violations,” the complaint states.

In the complaint, Zepeda states that in June he purchased end tables and a stationary chair at a La-Z-Boy’s in California. He alleges that as a result of being denied full and equal access, he was discriminated against. Zepeda is restricted to a wheelchair and therefore, because the store did not have fully accessible restrooms, he says he was discriminated against.

Specifically, Zepeda claims that opening the restroom door required excessive force to open and keep open while he entered and exited the restroom because the door closer was not adjusted to allow the door to remain open long enough for him to wheel himself inside without assistance.

Further, once he was inside the washroom, he was unable to use the facilities because the toilet seat was “excessively high” from the floor, making it hard for him to maneuver from his wheelchair to the toilet seat, and also because the toilet paper dispenser, toilet seat cover dispenser and soap dispenser were mounted too high for him to reach. He says he also couldn’t wash his hands because the pipes under the lavatory were not covered and he was worried about burning his legs on them.

Zepeda also states that he wrote La-Z-Boy management about the issues but he never received a response. According to the lawsuit La-Z-Boy has a number of locations in Southern California with similar accessibility issues, including numerous restroom violations and a lack of disabled and van parking spots, and that the company has not acknowledged any of his complaints.

“The … violations are ongoing and continue to result in the plaintiff and unnamed mobility impaired class members suffering discrimination as a result of being denied full and equal access to these stores,” the complaint states.

The lawsuit is seeking certification of a class of all mobility-impaired or wheelchair-bound people in California who have patronized La-Z-Boy stores. The complaint states the class will consist of thousands of members, since census statistics show that more than 150,000 non-institutionalized people over age 16 in California use wheelchairs.

Top Settlements 

About those pension checks….employees at Meriter Health noticed they weren’t on the money. But this week they announced an $82 million settlement of an an employment lawsuit filed in 2010 alleging Meriter Health Services improperly calculated employee pensions. The settlement will see some 4,000 Meriter Health Services employees receive an average of $14,000 each in damages. A dozen people named as plaintiffs will each get an additional $5,000, and another 2,000 people will each receive about $250. Overall, more than $56 million will be allocated to about 6,000 people in 11 classes in the suit. Nice going!

The lawsuit alleged Meriter’s pension plan miscalculated benefits from 1987 to 2014. Both parties have agreed to the $82 million settlement, but a final settlement hearing is scheduled for some time in January.

Meriter Health Services became part of Iowa-based UnityPoint Health this year. 

Ok—Folks—time to adjourn for the week.  Have a fab weekend—see you at the bar!

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