Whole Foods not telling the Whole Story—that`s the contention in one of the latest consumer fraud class actions to be filed this week. The problem? The alleged mislabelling of the sugar content in Whole Foods Greek Yogurt. The class action alleges the grocery retail giant drastically understates the sugar content of its store-brand Greek yogurt so as to give it a competitive advantage.
According to the Whole Foods lawsuit, the label on Whole Food’s “365 Everyday Value Plain Greek Yogurt” states the product contains only 2 grams of sugar per serving. However, the plaintiffs claim that recent tests show the actual sugar content is nearly six times the stated amount. Just what the heck is “everyday plain value” anyway? What does that mean? I digress…
Filed by Los Angeles residents Chas Jackson and Josh Koffman, the lawsuit alleges that tests, done by Consumer Reports and published online in July, show an average of 11.4 grams of sugar per serving in six samples taken from six separate product lots. These results put the sugar content of Whole Food’s yogurt in the same region as a typical ice cream sandwich, which the US Department of Agriculture estimates to be around 13 grams of sugar.
“By falsely claiming a sugar content of only 2 grams per serving, [Whole Foods] sought to give itself a competitive advantage and to use this false statement of contents to induce consumers to purchase” the yogurt, the lawsuit states.
The plaintiffs claim that this discrepancy belies statements on Whole Foods’ website, which “brags” that a registered dietician reviews the labels on each of the company’s products for “accuracy and completeness.”
“Unless this statement on defendant’s website is false, then Whole Foods Market was fully aware of the contents of its store-brand plain Greek yogurt and of the fact that the yogurt’s actual sugar content was dramatically higher than what is stated on the label,” the lawsuit states.
Despite the publication of the Consumer Reports test results on July 17, Whole Foods has not removed the yogurt from its shelves and continues to market the product to consumers with the exact same allegedly inaccurate label, the plaintiffs claim.
In the lawsuit, Jackson and Koffman claim they purchased the yogurt on various occasions since 2000, and they each bought the product within the past month. They are seeking to represent a class of all Californians who purchased the yogurt since Aug. 26, 2000, a group they estimate at more than 10,000 people. Yeah, I would think so…
Another Car Maker gets Slapped with a Lawsuit… this time it’s a consumer fraud class action lawsuit filed against Mazda Motor of America Inc, in New Jersey federal court. The complaint alleges the automaker knew of an engine valve defect affecting certain model year Mazda vehicles, and failed to warn consumers. Further, the lawsuit claims Mazda refused to repair the alleged defect in breach of warranty.
According to the Mazda lawsuit complaint, Mazda falsely advertises and guarantees that its new vehicles are defect-free, when in fact, the company is aware that some of its vehicles’ engines have faulty continuous variable valve-timing assembly. This defect causes the affected engines timing chain to become loose or detach, which can lead to partial or total engine failure. While the defect is covered under Mazda’s warranty, the automaker refuses to honor the warrant and repair the defect.
“Mazda’s fraudulent and unlawful conduct has resulted in substantial harm to … the class. As a result of the defect, plaintiff and the class have not received the economic benefit of their bargain, overpaid for their vehicles and/or made lease payments that were too high, and suffered further damages by incurring out-of pocket costs associated with repairing the [variable valve-timing] assembly defect in their vehicles,” the complaint says.
In the lawsuit, lead plaintiff James Stevenson states he purchased a 2008 Mazda CX7 vehicle from a New Jersey dealership in 2009. The vehicle came with a warranty stating that it is free of defects. In 2012, his warranty was extended to seven years past the original warranty date. However, in November 2013, the vehicle experienced an engine valve-related failure. According to the complaint, Stevenson alleges that, despite regular maintenance, and the car still being under warranty, Mazda refused warranty coverage.
In the defective automotive lawsuit, Stevenson v. Mazda Motor of America Inc., case number 3:14-cv-05250, Stevenson alleges the valve defect occurs in Mazda’s L-series engines and that the automaker has known about the defect since at least 2007, when it issued a technical service bulletin about the problem to its dealers. While Mazda made several unsuccessful attempts to fix the issue internally, the automaker failed to notify consumers of the defect and continued to market its vehicles as defect-free, according to the class action.
Auto Worker Medical Benefits Settlement… Good news! This week a settlement was reached in an employment class action lawsuit pending against Daimler Trucks North America LLC. The lawsuit claimed the truck manufacturer illegally cut workers’ benefits. Filed by a group of retirees and the United Auto Workers, the lawsuit claims Daimler told the UAW that it would cut medical benefits starting on January 1, because the medical benefits it agreed on were not vested.
Plaintiffs Alan J. Meyers, Rocco H. Colanero, Allen Penley and Eddie Warren Bridges, along with the International Union of United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America, filed the lawsuit in May on behalf of a class of former employees who were represented by the union in collective bargaining and who currently are receiving retiree medical benefits from Daimler Trucks, together with their covered and surviving spouses, according to the complaint.
According to the Daimler Trucks benefit settlement agreement, Daimler will contribute $480 million to a new employee benefit plan. According to court documents, the company, union and lead plaintiffs said the settlement would cover 1,100 proposed class members, and that the agreement is consistent with a recently ratified memorandum of understanding related to the retiree benefits owed to the active and recently retired UAW-represented employees.
Ok, Folks–time to adjourn for the week. Have a fab weekend–see you at the bar!
Okay…this one’s not a lawsuit. Yet. But it’s got all the elements of a lawsuit in the making—or at least one of them: someone pissed off enough to potentially consider legal action. So what’s the story?
Well, there’s this 12-year-old boy (see pic at left) who’s been selling lemonade and cookies from a front-lawn card table. And he’s apparently making a go of his little start-up. Folks are stopping by—even pulling up in cars—for a cool drink; heck, it’s kind of a no-brainer considering it’s in Florida. But this ‘pop-up” lemonade stand, in Dunedin, FL is allegedly creating traffic problems, trash, noise and parking issues, according to a 61-year old neighbor who wants the business shut down.
Doug Wilkey claims the lemonade stand is an “illegal business” that reduces the value of his home, reports the Tampa Bay Times. OK—clearly this guy’s been drinking the Kool-Aid. He has complained at least four times to the local authorities. The charges Wilkey’s leveled at the 12-year old are rock throwing, havoc-wreaking and the use of profanity. He also claims there was an incident in which one boy accidentally ran into Wilkey’s parked truck on his bike.
Of course, if some of the allegations are true—namely, those that say this kid’s been causing ruckus with some of his buddies—then ok, that’s not really the entrepreneurial decorum one should aspire to in order to build a sustainable business.
But let’s go back to that point about this lemonade start-up driving down home values. Seriously? I’m betting an appraisal hasn’t been done–and I’d love to see “lemonade stand” itemized in a home appraisal—can you imagine? But a little look-see over at Zillow.com at Doug Wilkey’s property shows the exact opposite happening over recent times:
Whassup with that, eh?
As you have probably surmised, Wilkey isn’t getting very far. Dunedin planning and development director Greg Rice told the Tampa Bay Times “We’re not in the business of trying to regulate kids like that; nor do we want to do any code enforcement like that.” The mayor is also a supporter of the lemonade vendor, and told the local TV station, WPTV-TV that he thought the boy “is setting a great example. I don’t know what the other neighbor’s problem is, but I would like to talk to him to try to figure it out.” Yeah, good luck with that.
But—legally speaking—Wilkey may have the law on his side. Other kids around the country who have tried similar ventures have been shut down. For example, in Montgomery County, Maryland, kids who set up a lemonade stand outside a local golf course hosting the PGA’s US Open golf tournament were not only shut down by local officials, but were also fined $500. Welcome to the joys of owning your own business—the other side of entrepreneurship…
Again, legally speaking, permits and licenses for mobile food businesses may be required for a lemonade stand, depending on the location. Heck—your stand may even require a health inspection, and zoning laws, and local ordinances may also come into play. I guess this puts a whole new spin on that saying—‘when life gives you lemons—make lemonade’ —just don’t try selling it—or you may need a lawyer.
It may not be quite the same as your garden variety unpaid wages and misclassification employment lawsuit (read just about any national retailer), but top model Ginta Lapina is alleging she was duped into accepting $19,700 for a day’s shoot in Paris, when she was actually due six or seven figures, in a lawsuit she filed against her agency Women Management. Apparently even the definition of minimum wage is now subjective…
Ginta who? What? You’ve never heard of her?
Well, the 25-year old Latvian supermodel was in Paris for a shoot with Karl Lagerfeld (at least we all know who he is!)—the results of which were used in an international ad campaign for Schwarzkopf hair products. According to the lawsuit, “The Schwarzkopf Look 2014 Trends advertorial was NOT [billed as] an advertising campaign, and therefore, the models were compensated only for their time for the photo shoot but not for the usage of their image.” Ah— there’s the rub.
Lapina, who claims in her suit that she is ranked 27th in model earnings worldwide by the industry site Models.com, states that “The Schwarzkopf products and look of advertisement are not of the caliber normally endorsed by a model of . . . Ginta’s stature in the industry and have diluted her ‘brand’ as a model for the haute couture and/or highest paying clients.”
Contractual gobbledygook aside, “diluted her brand”??? Don’t you have to be able to recognize a brand first before you can tell whether it’s been diluted? Let’s take some bets here—if Lapina were on the cover of a popular beauty magazine, would 90% of the world’s population be able to name her? Uhh…no. Giselle Bundchen, Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell or even Linda Evangelista she’s not. And there’s a good chance that 90% of haute couture clientele would not base their haute couture purchases on whether Lapina strutted the stuff down the runway or a Lapina knock-off did. Just sayin’.
So let’s keep this baby to the issue of commercial usage rights, ok? (And c’mon, one has to wonder if—while the Schwarzkopf ads were not her “caliber”—would they have been if there’d been a six- or seven-figure payday attached to that print run? I’m guessing that might have improved her perspective.)
Just for good measure, perhaps, Lapina is also seeking a court order preventing Schwarzkopf from using her photos.
Needless to say, Women Management said in a statement that it is “surprised and disappointed” by the suit. How unusual. I have yet to read about an employment lawsuit where the employer is not surprised and disappointed…
The agency has, predictably, denied all the allegations saying it will seek all “appropriate remedies.” Not really sure what that would entail. It states that it has managed Lapina since 2008, when she appeared at the New York Fashion Show, and that just last year, she agreed to renew an exclusive management contract through January 2016. Lapina’s resume includes campaigns for Yves Saint Laurent and DKNY.
Oh, it’s rough at the top…I suppose that’s some consolation for those of us slogging away at lesser endeavors.
Mind the Gap—the Credibility Gap that is. This week, two separate consumer fraud class action lawsuits were filed against The Gap Inc., Banana Republic LLC and Saks Fifth Avenue LLC in a California court alleging they deceived customers as to the quality and supposed savings of outlet store items.
According to the lawsuit against The Gap and Banana Republic, which The Gap owns, the company hides a “Factory Store” label with three squares on it, on clothing it sells at its outlets. The lawsuit claims that the label indicates the clothes were made specifically for the outlet and are of inferior quality to those sold in the traditional Gap and Banana Republic retail outlets.
In the Saks Fifth Avenue lawsuit, plaintiffs allege the retailer uses a manufactured “Market Price” inducing the consumer to believe that they would pay a higher price for the price at a traditional Saks Fifth Avenue store, in addition to putting the lower outlet price on the items, creating the impression that consumers are getting a discount.
However, the lawsuit contends that items sold at Saks Off 5th clearance stores were made specifically for the outlet. Named plaintiff Tova Malik says it was this perceived price savings that led her to purchase items from a Saks Off Fifth store at an outlet mall in Camarillo, California.
“Defendant labels its Saks Off 5th clothing with a tag that shows a markedly lower price from the “Market Price,” which corresponds to the price that appears to be used in traditional Saks Fifth Avenue retail stores,” the lawsuit states. “Plaintiff was lured in by this large price difference and as a result purchased items of clothing and accessories from defendant’s Saks Off 5th in July of 2014.”
The plaintiffs for the Gap and Saks Fifth Avenue lawsuits are represented by Michael Louis Kelly, Behram V. Parekh and Heather M. Baker of Kirtland & Packard LLP.
The cases are Malik v. Saks Fifth Avenue LLC, case number BC555134; and Rubenstein v. The Gap Inc., case number BC555010, in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles.
A Prescription for Walgreens: Pay the overtime. Yup. This week the national pharmacy chain got hit with an unpaid overtime class action lawsuit filed in California federal court by pharmacists alleging the company violated California labor law and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by failing to pay them minimum wage and overtime for training hours and time spent maintaining their uniforms.
According to the Walgreens lawsuit, lead plaintiff Debra Short was a nonexempt pharmacist with the company from September 1997 to April 2012. During that period, Walgreens denied its pharmacists overtime hours for training and failing to pay them all of their owed wages upon termination.
“As a result of defendants’ unlawful conduct, plaintiff and the other class members have suffered damages in an amount, subject to proof, to the extent they were not paid the full amount of wages earned during each pay period during the applicable limitations period, including overtime wages,” the complaint states.
Under the California Labor Code, if an employer does not maintain its own employee uniforms, then it is obligated to pay employees who must wear uniforms for one hour per week of uniform maintenance. According to the lawsuit, Walgreens failed to pay its pharmacists minimum wage for uniform maintenance time each week.
Further, the lawsuit claims that Walgreens failed to pay its pharmacists for class training time, which required at-home work and other training, all of which was necessary so the pharmacists would become certified in immunization and CPR administration.
Short also alleges that Walgreen’s pharmacists are required to work more than seven days in a row without rest days and that the company fails to compensate them for all of their wages earned upon termination of their employment, in violation of California Labor Code.
Heads up folks—the lawsuit is seeking certification of five subclasses, including one in California comprising pharmacists who were employed over the past four years and one comprising pharmacists across the country over the past three years. Short is seeking payment of all unpaid wages and damages.
The case is Short v. Walgreen Co. , case number 3:14-cv-03747, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
So LinkedIn may be about to settle a data breach class action lawsuit for $1.25 million.
Plaintiffs in a federal class action lawsuit are seeking approval of the settlement, potentially ending the action which stems from a 2012 data breach of LinkedIn Corp. The lawsuit claims the social media site misled customers about its data protection policies in connection with the data breach.
In the lawsuit, lead plaintiff Khalilah Gilmore-Wright claimed she and other class members purchased premium LinkedIn accounts believing that the company provided industry-standard security. However, LinkedIn’s security was in fac outdated and insufficient, resulting in a massive data breach in June 2012 in which a hacker posted 6.5 million user passwords onto the Internet.
According to the terms of the proposed LinkedIn settlement, if approved, LinkedIn would set up a $1.25 million fund from which class members could receive as much as $50. The class would include everyone who paid a fee to LinkedIn for a premium subscription between March 2006 and June 2012. Gilmore-Wright would receive $7,500. There are approximately 800,000 premium subscribers.
The case is In re: LinkedIn User Privacy Litigation, case number 5:12-cv-03088, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
Ok Folks—time to adjourn for the week. Have a fab weekend–see you at the bar!
Dating Naked. Yes—that’s the title of a reality TV show. So, if you’re starring on it—what’s your first clue that you run the risk of having images of your-naked-as-the-baby-Jesus-self flashed around various media?
Twenty-eight year old Jessie Nizewitz, who starred in the show, is suing over just such a situation. Nizewitz alleges she was promised repeatedly by the producers at VH1 that her private parts would be “blurred out” when she was shooting a WWE-style wrestling move during the show’s third episode in May.
According to the $10 million lawsuit filed in Manhattan by Nizewitz’s high-powered lawyer, Matthew Blit, the runway model got naked—but with wet beach sand covering certain parts of her body—at the behest of the show’s producers. I’m thinking that’s their job. Surely you can’t be surprised by that?
Um, not so, according to Nizewitz. “I felt lied to, manipulated and used. I was horrified,” Nizewitz told The New York Post, explaining that she was brought to tears. Ok, pass the believability pills please…
That’s she’s upset, there can be no doubt—that she was duped—maybe. But come on—it’s a reality TV show—train wreck TV—this is what’s it’s all about. Getting naked in front of the cameras and expecting it to be risk-free? Isn’t that kind of like being “sort of pregnant?”
Unfortunately for her, the episode aired on July 31 with an unblurred-out crotch shot. At this point, Nizewitz became the butt of jokes on YouTube, Twitter and Tumblr, according to the lawsuit. And posters on the “Dating Naked” Facebook page noticed Nizewitz’s full-on nudity.
“I immediately started getting text messages. Everyone saw it,” Nizewitz told The Post.“One of the messages read, ‘So your money shot is on cable TV.’”
Perhaps the saddest outcome of all this is the reaction from Nizewitz’s family members. “My grandma saw it. I saw her this week and she didn’t have much to say to me. She’s probably mad. My parents are just annoyed,” Nizewitz told The Post. Again, reality (no pun) check: you’re on a show called “Dating Naked”. And we can only guess your contract said that, too—as opposed to saying you would be filming the next season of Downton Abbey, yes?
Nizewitz is also counting the failure of a “budding relationship” as part of the damage. She had been seeing someone for a month, and “He never called me again after the show aired. I would have hoped we could have had a long-term relationship. He was employed, Jewish, in his 30s and that’s pretty much ideal,” Nizewitz said. Hmm. Sounds like she summed him up about as much as a click on a JDate.com profile. Wonder if she even liked him…? At any rate, can we get a collective, “He’s just not that into you, honey”?
Nizewitz has reportedly worked for fashion designer and convicted pedophile Anand Jon, who counted a who’s who of Hollywood stars as his friends, including Paris Hilton and Jessica Alba. Personally, I would not be using any of them as references.
Nizewitz’s suit names Viacom, which operates VH1, and two production companies, Firelight Entertainment and Lighthearted Entertainment. “I think they owe me a huge apology,” Nizewitz said.
Oh, Gloria, where are you when we need you? It seems there are generations of young women who are growing up with the media endorsement of self-sexualization—(as I believe it’s termed)—thinking it’s consequence free. It’s not. Was Nizwietz used? Perhaps. Should her crotch have been covered? Absolutely. But can she claim naivete—I don’t think so. But hey—that’s up to her lawyer to argue.