Tipsy TIPMs? Topping the list this week? Another defective automotive class action lawsuit—surprise, surprise. Never would have guessed, right?
This one was filed in federal court against Chrysler Group LLC. The lawsuit seeks to hold the Big Three automobile maker accountable for economic losses suffered by owners and passengers of Chrysler cars and trucks that stalled, caught fire or sustained other potentially life-endangering malfunctions due to a faulty onboard computer.
The Chrysler lawsuit alleges that Chrysler knew about and fraudulently concealed the defectiveness of its Totally Integrated Power Module—TIPM, for short. Chrysler sought as far back as 2005 to hide the magnitude of the TIPM defect from consumers and initiated only limited vehicle recalls, the complaint alleges.
Despite knowing about the defect, Chrysler continued installing faulty TIPMs in vehicles until the 2014 model year, according to the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
The TIPM is an integral component of many Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep models on the road today, the device controls and distributes power to all of a vehicle’s electrical functions. Prone to sudden failure, a vehicle’s TIPM poses a serious safety issue, placing the driver and passengers at risk of harm, the complaint indicates.
A failed TIPM causes malfunctioning of airbags, headlights, brakes, horns, wipers, windows, door locks and other components that rely on electrical functions.Worse, a failed TIPM can cause a vehicle’s engine to shut down unexpectedly while driving at high speeds.
“Millions of consumers who have bought into this brand have suffered harm because of Chrysler and its faulty Totally Integrated Power Module,” the complaint alleges.
Owners of defective TIPM-equipped Chrysler vehicles suffer economic losses in part because the device is expensive to replace, costing upward of $1,000. Also, because of the sheer number of vehicles requiring a new TIPM, consumers are forced to make do without their vehicles for many days and even weeks while their vehicles sit in the shop and wait for a replacement TIPM to be shipped. Adding insult to injury, the defect caused many motorists to incur unnecessary costs to replace non-defective parts that malfunctioned because of the faulty TIPM.
Ugly Side of Beauty Biz? Sephora USA Inc. is facing a proposed discrimination class action lawsuit. Filed in New York federal court, the discrimination lawsuit claims the company deactivated thousands of Asian customers’ accounts, allegedly motivated by a racist belief that they were buying discounted beauty products in bulk and reselling them for profit.
Brought by four women of Chinese descent, the discrimination class action claims Sephora shut down Asian users’ accounts after its site crashed on November 6, due to a surge in web traffic resulting from a 20 percent-off sale promotion. According to Sephora, reselling of its products is pervasive. The company said it blocked some North American and international customer accounts for this reason.
According to the plaintiffs, the only accounts that were deactivated were those that used Chinese web domains or had names that Sephora perceived as being of Asian origin. A plaintiffs’ attorney said an investigation revealed that only users who fell into those two categories had their accounts blocked.
According to the lawsuit, the four named plaintiffs live in New York, Philadelphia, and Columbus, Ohio, and were all members of Sephora’s ‘Beauty Insider’ program. The program gives customers who spend certain amounts on the company’s products access to discounts and other promotions. The points the women accumulated by buying Sephora products, and which give access to additional discounts and special gifts, have been lost, according to the plaintiffs’ attorneys. Sephora alleges it only went ahead with the deactivations after it “identified certain entities who take advantage of promotional opportunities to purchase products in large volume on our website and resell them through other channels.”
Attorneys for the plaintiffs said that instead of deactivating accounts, Sephora could have addressed the resale issue by limiting the number of products a single customer could purchase or capping the amount of money they could spend. Sounds sensible.
The named plaintiffs seek to represent a class of Sephora customers who were part of the Beauty Insider program who either are or are perceived as being of Chinese or Asian ethnicity and had their accounts blocked or deactivated following the website crash. The potential class is expected to be in the thousands.
The case is Xiao Xiao et al., v. Sephora USA Inc. et al., case number 14-cv-9181, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Boston Scientific Bellwether Results… A jury has awarded $18.5 million against Boston Scientific Corp in settlement of transvaginal mesh litigation brought by four women who alleged the implanted medical device left them with nerve damage, infections and pain during sex.
The trial was heard by a federal jury in West Virginia and is the second verdict against the company over defective vaginal slings. Last week a federal jury in Florida issued a $26.7 million verdict against Boston Scientific for providing insufficient warnings about the risks of its Pinnacle mesh device.
The four women in the West Virginia case sued Boston Scientific over the defective Obtryx transvaginal sling. “In these cases, the jurors clearly understood that Boston Scientific moved too quickly in bringing its product to market, and that it used inappropriate materials while at the same time failing to warn doctors and patients about the risks involved,” said on the of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs. Each of the women will receive $1 million in punitive damages under the terms of the settlement.
The multidistrict litigation being heard in Miami, also involved four women who alleged suffering and injury after having the sling implanted. It was the first federal bellwether trial against Boston Scientific, one of seven manufacturers of pelvic mesh that face about 60,000 lawsuits across the country.
Transvaginal Mesh and Transvaginal Slings are medical devices that are surgically implanted to treat Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP) and/or Stress Urinary Incontinence(SUI).
Hokee Dokee—Time to adjourn for the week. Have a fab weekend–See you at the bar!
Airbag Alert. Heads up—thought the avalanche of defective automotive class action lawsuits was over? Think again!
This week Japanese parts supplier Takata Corporation and automaker Honda Motor Co., got hit with a lawsuit over recent rash of recalls due to faulty airbag inflators installed in millions of vehicles in the United States. Yup—millions of vehicles. Bet that makes you happy.
Bottom line, according to the lawsuit, Takata embarked on a concealment campaign, designed to cover-up evidence of airbag defects. The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on November 7, 2014, claims that Takata withheld knowledge of the airbag defects from federal regulators and ordered its technicians to destroy data evidencing any housing defects, including video and computer backups.
Instead of safely deploying airbags to protect vehicle occupants, the defective Takata inflators, installed in millions of Honda vehicles, explode, sending metal and plastic shrapnel into the vehicle cabin, according to the complaint. The defective Takata inflators have caused multiple injuries and fatalities.
According to legal representatives for the class, in 2004, Takata and Honda were made aware of a dangerous propensity for airbag inflator explosion in vehicles equipped with Takata airbags—a driver in Alabama was severely injured from metal shrapnel during an accident.
The suit seeks to represent anyone in the United States who purchased or leased a Honda vehicle with a defective Takata airbag and that has been subject to an airbag-related warning or recall.
The complaint has eight named plaintiffs from California, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Virginia and Washington.
The suit accuses Takata of manufacturing cheap airbags that “blew up like hand-grenades, sending lethal metal and plastic shrapnel into the vehicle cockpit and into the bodies of the drivers and passengers.”
Pass it on…
Could you recite these complaints chapter and verse? Barnes and Noble behaving badly…and the bookseller is facing an unpaid overtime lawsuit to prove it. The potential class action is seeking nationwide certification. The lawsuit was filed by the company’s assistant store managers who allege they were misclassified as exempt from overtime and that their primary role was not to supervise other employees but rather to provide customer service. The lawsuit alleges violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for a nationwide class.
According to the plaintiffs, B&N assistant store manager positions are misclassified as exempt under state and federal law. Specifically, while some managerial work is required, assistant store managers have been “primarily engaged in the same routine tasks as hourly employees.” Those tasks include helping customers find merchandise, working cash registers, stocking shelves and helping out in the store’s cafe area, the class certification motion states.
According to the complaint, B&N assistant store managers spent between 75 percent to 90 percent of their time completing the same types of “hourly duties” that other employees were required to perform. Further, the plaintiffs claim that the work required of assistant store managers was governed by B&N’s nationwide policy, making the case ripe for class certification. “At B&N, all ASMs are required to follow closely circumscribed corporate policies and rules established by their store manager,” the motion said. “These policies are implemented across the B&N brand and ASMs are prohibited from deviating from these guidelines.”
The motion is seeking class certification of New York assistant managers who worked at B&N between January 25, 2007, and July 2010 and conditional certification under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act for a nationwide class. B&N reclassified the assistant store manager position in June 2010.
The case Steven Trimmer et al. v. Barnes & Noble Inc. et al., case number 1:13-cv-00579, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Lean Spa getting off Lite? The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the State of Connecticut have reached a settlement with LeanSpa for allegedly engaging in consumer fraud by using fake news websites to promote acai berry and “colon cleanse” weight-loss products, making deceptive weight-loss claims, and telling consumers they could receive free trial products by paying a nominal fee for shipping and handling.
In addition to allegations of creating fake new websites, the deceptive marketing class action also claimed that the marketers of the weight loss supplement LeanSpa falsely informed consumers that they could receive a free trial of the weight loss products if they paid a small shipping and handling fee.
However, the lawsuit contends that consumers in fact paid nearly $80 for the “free” trial and were signed up for monthly subscriptions that were difficult to cancel. Consumers reportedly paid more than $25 million to the defendants.
The FTC and the state of Connecticut shut down the alleged LeanSpa scam operation and charged the defendants with violating portions of the FTC Act, the Electronic Funds Transfer Act and the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act, in 2011. Then, in January, 2014 an agreement was reached between the parties in which the marketers of LeanSpa supplements have agreed to pay up to $7 million in consumer refunds.
Eligible consumers include people who bought LeanSpa weight loss or other LeanSpa health supplements such as LeanSpa; LeanSpa with Acai; LeanSpa with HCA; LeanSpa Cleanse; NutraSlim; NutraSlim with HCA; QuickDetox; and SlimFuel.
Hokee Dokee…time to adjourn for the week. Have a fab weekend–See you at the bar!
Two Italian food joints—one a high end chain in Manhattan—The Cipriani Group—which includes Harry Cipriani Fifth Avenue in Midtown and other Cipriani Group establishments, and a mom and pop operation in Chicago—Cipriani’s Pasta and Sauce of Chicago Heights—have taken the gloves off and intend to duke it out in court over trademark infringement.
Cipriani’s Pasta and Sauce of Chicago Heights, owned by Annette Johnson, got hit with the $1 million plus lawsuit by Cirpirani Group over allegations that the little tomato is trying to profit off the big tomato—so to speak—by using the same name. Johnson says, well—you can guess. She has filed a countersuit.
The nuts and bolts—Johnson claims her food is better and it’s been around longer than Ciprianis in NYC. “The [Chicago] Ciprianis’ pasta was and continues to be made by hand and is air-dried naturally, which gives the pasta more character and flavor and results in a higher-quality product compared to commercial pasta which is heat-dried,” according to the lawsuit. She claims she has no desire to be associated with NYC outfit, and claims in her countersuit that the Cipriani Group’s trademarks dates only to 1985—“long after” Cipriani’s Pasta and Sauce opened a trademarked business. Her business began as a small Italian restaurant in Chicago Heights opened by John and Mary Cipriani in 1929, according to The New York Post. In 1955 the couple began selling their homemade pasta and sauces in regional stores, expanding their business, and decades later, sales went online. Johnson bought the business in 2004.
For their part, the Cipriani Group, who got the whole thing rolling, claim that Johnson and her Chicago-based business are attempting to profit off the reputation of their restaurants by making “a concerted effort to associate their inferior,” cheaper products with their goods. FYI—the Cipriani Group counts A-listers Kim Kardashian and Robert De Niro as customers.
It is a little confusing, however, that both businesses sell Cipriani-branded products in grocery stores, supermarkets and online.
It is just possible that the big guns may have bitten off more than can chew on this one. In her court filings, Johnson says that if anyone is deceiving customers, it’s the Cipriani Group — causing Midwesterners to believe its products are affiliated with her popular local enterprise. As the best defense is a good offense… she’s seeking a court order to stop the Cipriani Group from selling its products in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin—the heart of pasta-eating country (?). Since the Cipriani Group operates restaurants, banquet halls and other businesses around the world—maybe they could concede the Midwest—it wouldn’t be the end of the world. But there’s a principle at stake here!
Johnson also wants the Cipriani Group to stop “doing any other act likely to confuse, mislead or deceive others into believing that CGI or its products and services are affiliated with, connected with, sponsored by, approved by CP&S or its products,’’ according to the papers.
FYI—Harry Cipriani Fifth Avenue in Midtown and other Cipriani Group establishments are an offshoot of Harry’s Bar, a famous Venice, Italy, tavern opened in the 1930s by Giuseppe Cipriani.
Let the tomatoes fall where they will.
Sour Apples? Apple found itself on the end of yet another defective products class action lawsuit this week over allegations that the MacBook Pro series of laptop computers are defectively designed, causing the computers to malfunction.
Filed by Los Angeles resident Armen Soudijan, the Apple MacBook lawsuit claims that Soudijan purchased a MacBook Pro laptop in 2013, which came “with a defective graphics processing unit and/or defective graphics card implementation.” Specifically, the lawsuit claims that the defect “breaks the computer screen, causes computer freezes, crashes, and ultimately renders the laptop computers unusable.”
In the complaint Soudijan alleges “he was subjecting the laptop to normal use, including use of video processing, when he experienced a range of screen malfunctions, freezes, and ultimately crashes….The frequency and severity of the problem continued and increased. ”
According to the lawsuit, Soudijan’s MacBook Pro belongs to a line of Apple laptops released in 2011, which includes the 13 inch, 15 inch, and 17 inch screens. “Each of these products is designed, manufactured, marketed, sold, and built with a similar graphic processing unit and graphics processing card implementation and design, which is flawed and defective and causes the machine to unreasonably fail,” the lawsuit claims.
“Symptoms of failure include, but are not limited to, lines on the screen, garbled text, colored lines, rendering of the screen useless, freezes, shutdowns, and crashes, including data loss and full hardware malfunction,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit goes on to claim that the problems associated with the MacBook Pro have been reported by numerous customers through online and print forums, and that people experience these problems shortly after purchasing their Apple computers. The lawsuit further claims that “Apple is aware of the issue and had not take[n] adequate steps to remedy the situation either through warranty claims, recalls, or otherwise.”
The lawsuit against Apple in this MacBook Pro lawsuit cites violations of California’s Unfair Competition Law, breach of implied warranty, breach of express warranty, and unjust enrichment, and is seeking damages and injunctive relief, and prevention ofApple from selling defective products.
The Defective MacBook Pro Class Action Lawsuit is Soudjian v. Apple Inc., Case No. BC562621, in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles.
What was that about Accountability? At Charles Schwab & Co., they say it exists. But…yet another unpaid overtime class action was settled this week—this one filed by financial consultants who allege they were misclassified and subsequently denied overtime by Charles Schwab & Co.
A $3.8 million settlement has been approved, potentially ending claims that Charles Schwab & Co violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by classifying its international CDT financial consultants and associate financial consultants as exempt from overtime pay. They are responsible for cross-selling financial products to existing brokerage and banking customers.
According to the complaint, the consultants alleged that they did not fall under any federal or California exemptions to overtime laws. They allege that they were encouraged by the defendant “to work beyond their scheduled shifts without compensation, failing to allow them to record overtime hours they worked and failing to compensate them for overtime hours they worked,” according to the complaint.
Charles Schwab agreed to settle the complaint just days after it was filed. According to the terms of the settlement two thirds of the funds will be distributed among hundreds of employees working as financial consultants in Charles Schwab call centers around the country. The settlement covers work performed between November 2009 and February 2014, or in the case of the international consultants, between November 2010 and February 2014.
Named plaintiffs Dana Aboud, William Hicks, Michael Porowski and Albert Schweizer will each receive $7,500 as compensation for their part in the unpaid overtime class action.
The case is Aboud et al. v. Charles Schwab & Co. Inc., case number 1:14-cv-02712, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Driving checks to the banks. A $53 million settlement has been reached in a consumer fraud class action lawsuit pending against Hertz Corp, and two Nevada airports brought by plaintiffs who alleged they were unlawfully charged undisclosed fees.
The Hertz settlement received final approval on October 30th, and contains $43.2 million restitution for Hertz customers who were billed for “airport concession recovery fees” at airports in Reno or Las Vegas between October 2003 and September 2009. Way to go!
The back story—the lawsuit was filed by plaintiffs Janet Sobel and Daniel Dugan, alleging Hertz violated a Nevada Revised Statute that requires car rental firms to include all charges in the rates they advertise in order to make rate comparisons reliable for those looking for the best deal. Specifically, Hertz allegedly tacked on a recovery fee separately from the rate it quoted its customers. The complaint stated that Hertz used that extra fee to pass along to consumers an assessment imposed on the company by the airports, which charge Hertz and other rental car firms a percentage of their gross revenues for the right to operate on site.
Hokee Dokee- Time to adjourn for the week. Have a fab weekend–See you at the bar!
Fact or fiction—or somewhere in between. For science journalist Paul Brodeur, it’s about the fact that the fiction got in the way. He’s filed a lawsuit against the makers of the movie American Hustle, alleging the scene in which Jennifer Lawrence’s character Rosalyn tells her husband, Irving, played by Christian Bale, that microwaves take the nutrition out of food. “That’s bullshit,” Irving replies, and his wife shows him a magazine and says, “It’s not bullshit. I read it in an article. Look, by Paul Brodeur.” Bingo—lawsuit.
Brodeur was a staff writer for The New Yorker for nearly 40 years, so yes—he would have seen the birth of the microwave and remembered the fear and enthusiasm with which the kitchen device was welcomed. To say it was controversial when it hit American kitchens would be an understatement, but, as we know, we embraced it regardless of the fiction, facts, whatever. The main concern was radiation. Brodeur addressed this in a book he wrote entitled “The Zapping of America”, about the ‘dangers’ of microwave radiation. BUT—according to his lawsuit, he never claimed that microwaves remove the nutrition from food during the cooking process.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Brodeur told the Huffington Post, way back in January 2014—when American Hustle was playing to packed cinemas, that the film had incorrectly attributed the faulty science to him. His resulting lawsuit names the producers and distributors, Columbia Pictures, Atlas Entertainment and Annapurna Pictures, as defendants, who clearly should have known better.
In his complaint, Brodeur claims that by attributing to him a “scientifically unsupportable statement,” the filmmakers have damaged his reputation. “The scene from the movie American Hustle where the defamatory statement was made is highly offensive to a reasonable person,” the complaint states. Brodeur is alleging libel, defamation, slander and false light, and he claims to have suffered $1 million in damages, the HR states.
BUT—you knew there was a but—American Hustle may be a challenge for a libel suit because the opening of the film states “Some of this actually happened.” The film is loosely based on true events, and the filmmakers purposefully maintained a distance from truth in the film. The basis for libel typically rests on the defendant presenting as true a statement that he or she knows or should know is false.
American Hustle was written by Russell and Eric Warren Singer and starred Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Amy Adams. It was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including best film.
Personally, the ‘microwave scene’ as I shall refer to it, was one of my favorites. But I have to confess, I didn’t even notice the name of the journalist, nor do I remember the article in any detail, probably because I was laughing so hard. What do I remember is that the scene humorously captured the cultural paranoia and ignorance surrounding the microwave in the 1970s, ignorance and paranoia that Brodeur was arguably trying to dispel.