Bad Apple! The god of tech gadgets got slapped this week—with a potential defective products class action lawsuit (yes, another one), alleging its iPhone 4 has a defective power button, effectively preventing the operator from being able to use the phone. This power button failure allegedly occurs shortly after the phone’s one year warranty expires. And doesn’t that just figure…
The Apple iPhone 4 class action lawsuit, filed by plaintiff Debra Hilton, Debra Hilton v. Apple Inc., Case No. 13-cv-2167, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, claims “The failure of the power button that has plagued the iPhone 4 is more than an inconvenience… As a method by which the phone is toggled on and off, the failure of the button precludes general use of the phone and thereby effectively prevents iPhone 4 owners from being able to use the phone.” Yup.
According to the lawsuit, Hilton alleges the iPhone 4 power button defect is caused by the premature deterioration of a flex cable that connects the power button to the phone. When this cable deteriorates, the power button becomes harder and harder to depress, and eventually fails to work. Yup.
The iPhone 4 lawsuit contends that thousands of consumers who purchased the iPhone 4 have experienced this failure forcing them to throw away their phone or pay Apple $149.99 plus shipping for a replacement. Yikes! Better get on it boys.
Two Better than One for Wells Fargo. Wells Fargo made headlines twice this week, two settlements to report—both biggies. The first was a judicial order to reinstate a $203 million judgment against the bank in settlement of an overdraft fees class action lawsuit.
In a nutshell, the judgment, based upon the court’s findings, as affirmed on appeal by the Ninth Circuit, states that Wells Fargo violated California’s unfair competition law by deceiving its customers that debit card purchases would be posted chronologically to their accounts when in fact Wells Fargo posted them in a high-to-low order for the sole purpose of generating overdraft fees.
The case was brought on behalf of California Wells Fargo customers who, from November 15, 2004 to June 30, 2008, incurred overdraft fees on debit card transactions as a result of the bank’s practice of sequencing transactions from highest to lowest.
The second settlement with Wells Fargo’s name on it involves a force-placed insurance class action lawsuit brought by homeowners in Florida. (Force-placed insurance, btw, is sometimes referred to as “lender placed insurance”.) The lawsuit alleged that the homeowners were overcharged for the insurance, and that Wells Fargo unfairly took commission on the insurance, which it assigned to the homeowners through QBE.
The class was certified in 2012, and more than 24,000 homeowners were notified. During the class period, from April 2006 to February 2013, the class members were charged $77 million for force-placed insurance, according to the settlement documents, the South Florida Business Journal reports.
But wouldn’t you know it, just two months before they were due to go to court, the parties reached a $19.5 million settlement.
The settlement will provide a refund of the amount charged for force-placed insurance to the members of the class. Borrowers who were charged and paid the premium will be refunded 25 percent in cash. Those who were charged the premium but didn’t pay will get a credit of 25 percent off their bill.
Bet those homeowners are breathing a huge sigh of relief this weekend.
Largest Generic Drug Safety Fine. Ever. We’d be completely remiss if we didn’t mention this one… Ranbaxy has pled guilty to federal drug safety violations and will pay $500 million in fines to resolve the claims. The generic drug manufacturer is alleged to have sold subpar drugs and made false statements to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about its manufacturing practices at two factories in India.
According to the Justice Department, the settlement is reportedly the largest in history involving a generic drug maker. Part of the settlement involves Ranbaxy pleading guilty to three felony counts of violating the federal drug safety law and four of making false statements to the FDA.
According to a report by the New York Times, Ranbaxy acknowledged it had failed to conduct proper safety and quality tests of several drugs manufactured at its Indian plants, known as Paonta Sahib and Dewas, including generic versions of many common medicines, such as the epilepsy drug gabapentin, and the antibiotic ciprofloxacin.
In the case of gabapentin, also known as Neurontin, Ranbaxy reportedly admitted that between June and August in 2007, it was aware that certain batches had tested positive for “unknown impurities” and had unreliable shelf lives. Nevertheless, the company didn’t report this to the FDA and announce a recall until October of that year. The recall ultimately involved more than 73 million pills.
Further, testing of certain batches of drugs to ensure their effectiveness was reportedly not done for weeks or months after the company had told the FDA the testing had been carried out.
Ranbaxy has set aside $500 million in anticipation of the penalties, which will break down as a $150 million in a criminal fine and forfeiture, and the remainder going to settle civil claims brought by the federal government and all 50 states. A former Ranbaxy executive who alerted the federal government to the problems will receive close to $49 million in compensation for his role as a whistleblower, the Times reports.
That’s a wrap. It’s cocktail hour—somewhere in the world—see you at the bar!
A roundup of recent asbestos-related news and information that you should be aware of. An ongoing list of reported asbestos hot spots in the US from the Asbestos News Roundup archive appears on our asbestos map.
As wild fires devastate homes in southern California, many people will be faced with cleaning up and rebuilding, and may be at risk for asbestos exposure. Across California, asbestos was used heavily in many building materials up until the mid-1980s. If these asbestos containing materials are disturbed through renovations or demolitions, or become friable with age, the asbestos may become airborne and spread throughout a property. Eventually these asbestos fibers will settle and may contribute to dusts found in buildings. This puts people working or living in those buildings at risk for asbestos exposure, without their knowledge.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “Asbestos fibers may be released into the air by the disturbance of asbestos-containing material during product use, demolition work, building or home maintenance, repair, and remodeling.” The EPA goes on to report, “Exposure to asbestos increases your risk of developing lung disease. That risk is made worse by smoking. In general, the greater the exposure to asbestos, the greater the chance of developing harmful health effects.”
In 1987, asbestos was added to California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, better known as Proposition 65. Prop 65 lists chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm to people living in the state of California.
Charleston, WV: 67 companies have been named as defendants in an asbestos lawsuit filed by John B. Kenyon and his wife Peggy E. Kenyon. Diagnosed with bilateral pleural plaques on May 11, 2011, Mr. Kenyon alleges the defendants caused his lung injury by exposing him to asbestos.
The Kenyons’ lawsuit alleges Mr. Kenyon was exposed to asbestos and/or asbestos-containing products from 1964 until 2002, throughout his employment as an estimator, warehouse employee/delivery person and sales person.
Kenyon is suing the defendants for negligence, contaminated buildings, breach of expressed/implied warranty, strict liability, intentional tort, conspiracy, misrepresentation and post-sale duty to warn.
Certain defendants are also being sued as premises owners and as Kenyon’s employers for deliberate intent/intentional tort, according to the lawsuit.
The 67 defendants include: 3M Company; 4520 Corporation Inc.; A.W. Chesterton Company; Aurora Pump Company; Bechtel Corporation; Borg-Warner Corporation; Brand Insulations Inc.; Buffalo Pumps Inc.; BW/IP Inc.; and CBS Corporation. (wvrecord.com)
Charleston, WV: On January 7, 2013, Jimmie Elliott Epling Sr, was diagnosed with asbestos mesothelioma. In his recently filed asbestos lawsuit, he and his wife, Ernestine Epling, name 56 companies they claim are responsible for his diagnosis.
The couple allege the defendants exposed Mr. Epling to asbestos and/or asbestos-containing products during his employment as an orderly, machinist and operator from 1952 until 2000.
The defendants are being sued based on theories of negligence, contaminated buildings, breach of expressed/implied warranty, strict liability, intentional tort, conspiracy, misrepresentation and post-sale duty to warn. Certain defendants are also being sued as premises owners and as Epling’s employers for deliberate intent/intentional tort.
The 56 defendants named in the suit include: 3M Company; A.W. Chesterton Company; Amdura Corporation; Bucyrus International Inc.; Buffalo Pumps Inc.; CBS Corporation; Caterpillar Inc.; Clark Equipment Company; Certainteed Corporation; and Cleaver Brooks Company Inc. (wvrecord.com)
Jefferson County, TX: Chevron has been named as a defendant in as asbestos lawsuit brought by the children of the late Nathan Guillory. Randall Guillory, Lindall Guillory and Beth Harper allege Chevron USA exposed their father to asbestos dust and fibers throughout the course of his employment with the oil company. As a result, he developed asbestos related diseases and died on May 23, 2011, the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit claims Chevron knew for decades that asbestos could cause cancer and still allowed workers to work around the mineral without warning them of the dangers. (setexasrecord.com)
A death sentence for a 7-year old Sheltie is causing a stir in upstate New York—so much so that there’s a Facebook page dedicated to getting a stay of execution for the pup. What’s interesting in this case, too, is that normally we hear of dog bite injury lawyers representing the dog bite victim; this time, the attorney is representing the dog owner.
Back on March 27th, Natalie Beratta’s dog, Jack (at left), bit her four-year-old granddaughter in the cheek. There were no witnesses to the attack except for the little girl—and she needed four stitches to close the wound. According to the “Help Save Jack” Facebook page, the cheek bite was Jack’s first offense (though one news report does quote Beratta referring to the dog as “nippy”; ok, a lot of dogs are “nippy”).
Hard to know what happened—some surmise the child may have startled or provoked the dog in some way. That we’ll never know. But the series of events that followed the dog bite injury have created a groundswell of support for the dog and his owners—including the sale of t-shirts that read, “I’ve got Jack’s back”.
So how did a dog who’s been described as “friendly” and “gentle” come to be on death row?
It all started with a 911 call.
Once Beratta’s daughter, the child’s mother, called 911, and the little girl was taken to the hospital where she was treated. The 911 call apparently resulted in the animal control officer, Nick Morosco, being notified, which then resulted in Jack winding up at the Steven Swans Humane Society where he was to be quarantined, by law, for ten days.
But things didn’t stop there.
The next stop was New Hartford (NY) Town Court. Beratta, according to the Facebook page, thought she was heading to court because Jack had not been licensed (note to dog owners—get your dog licensed, it’s the law), however, the license was the least of her worries. Rather, Judge James Van Slyke ruled that the dog should be put to death. The judge’s decision was in accordance with what NY law stipulates–that any domestic animal determined to be “dangerous” be euthanized.
Needless to say, the ruling came as a bit of a shock to Beratta and her family.
The family is now appealing the judge’s decision—which otherwise would’ve had Jack put down on April 6th. Until the appeal of the case is heard, Jack remains at Stevens Swan Humane Society, which WIBX950.com reports is costing the family $40 per day—and Jack may need to stay at the shelter for up to sixty days until the appeal is heard.
Given that the family didn’t have an attorney–why would they have thought they needed one?—and given the now costly and time-consuming position they now find themselves in in order to try and appeal the judge’s decision, what happened next is interesting.
According to the Facebook page, a New York attorney—who is only referred to as “Louis”—has taken on Jack’s case pro bono. Here is an excerpt from the Facebook page:
“An attorney by the name of Louis, read the article which was posted by Dana on the WKTV’s Facebook page and offered his services Pro-bono. Louis currently lives in NYC, but is originally from this area..and he obviously has a love for dogs!! He is a very busy man but has taken his time to help us with this case.”
Mind you, Beratta is just trying to keep Jack alive—she isn’t wanting to bring him back home and risk any other possible incidents. In fact, according to WKTV, Beratta has found a home for him in a neighboring county.
“They’re older people,” Beratta told WKTV. “They don’t have any children and we made the arrangement to have him go there and we can see the dog whenever we want. So it’s a safe situation for everybody. He’s a wonderful pet, a wonderful pet. I mean, he’s been in our family. He’s our family member.”
While Beratta awaits the appeal decision, local supporters of Jack have also created a petition at change.org.
Was this any surprise? The one-time Hearst intern, Xuedan Wang, aka Diana Wang—who sued Hearst (Xuedan Wang v. The Hearst Corporation, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 12cv793) claiming that she and other interns at the various Hearst magazines were unfairly misclassified—has not been granted the class action lawsuit status she was after.
Wang’s initial lawsuit claimed that her unpaid internship at Harper’s Bazaar violated the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and New York state labor laws. (For the record, the U.S. Labor Department states that unpaid internships must be educational and “for the benefit of the intern.”)
Now, forget about the fact that many of us have done internships and we completely “got” what we willingly signed up for: on-the-job training for zero (or very low) pay and a nice addition to a resume. What Wang’s complaint stated was that, “Unpaid interns are becoming the modern-day equivalent of entry-level employees, except that employers are not paying them for the many hours they work.” Earth to Wang et al, internships at top magazines in NYC—as well as at many other places—have always been about entry-level tasks being performed by unpaid wannabes. It’s a tit-for-tat arrangement—the company gets some help, the intern scores experience and a credential. No one promised glamour and prestige—or any pay.
So somewhere along the path from Baby Boomer, to Gen X, to Gen Y/Millennials, it would appear the definition of “intern” has changed. Here are some (non-legal) definitions from Merriam-Webster and TheFreeDictionary.com, respectively, as the word relates to labor:
Seems an intern gets “practical experience”. No mention of a paycheck. And, might I add, if a paycheck were what Wang et al were after, here’s a tip: apply for a job. (fyi, here’s Merriam’s definition of “job”: “a piece of work; especially : a small miscellaneous piece of work undertaken on order at a stated rate” —note the words “stated rate”).
But, of course, why pay your dues in a highly competitive industry when you can try to file a class action lawsuit because, unlike the millions of interns who preceded you, YOU are special? Btw, if that sounds jaded or sarcastic—note that according to a Facebook page dedicated to Wang’s intern class action lawsuit attempt, she “worked seven unpaid internships before she got fed up.” SEVEN folks. At that rate, it’s kind of hard to point the finger at anyone else but Wang—and it starts to look like maybe she needed some career coaching.
If you don’t think living a fashion intern’s “Groundhog Day” x7 reveals enough about Wang’s (insert “misguided”?) approach to breaking into the glam world of haute couture and ready-to-wear, check out these Wang quotes from a NY Magazine article, “The Norma Rae of Fashion Interns”, that ran when the class action was initially filed (apologies to the real Norma Rae, Crystal Lee Sutton)—the quotes hint at a sad naivete about not only working in fashion, but also about work in general:
“I’d been dreaming of standing in their offices for fifteen years,” she says. “I was so ready to give everything I had. I couldn’t imagine that the dream of mine was becoming real.”
“This was going to be my only ticket to the industry,” she says. “I didn’t have unlimited resources. I was going to make the time worthwhile. I was going to be remembered by people.”
“I was so uncomfortable and stressed out,” she says. “It was hard to get people to understand how an intern could be stressed out, but the editors constantly stressed that this was a real job and if this went wrong or if that happened, it would be my fault.
Kind of makes you think of that sad sack who’s putting all his hopes and dreams on that one Powerball lottery ticket…sure you gotta be in it to win it, but you also have to have a realistic view of your chances.
Regardless of all that, this is indeed, about a class action lawsuit and as such, it needed to go through the rigorous review for certification. And that means that from a legal perspective, in order for there to be a “class” established for the lawsuit, certain requirements need to be met: numerosity, commonality, typicality and adequacy of representation.
According to Reuters, the judge who presided over the employment misclassification filing, U.S. District Judge Harold Baer, found that the “former interns failed to meet the bar set out in the Supreme Court’s landmark 2011 case Dukes v. Wal-Mart to constitute a class action. Specifically, Baer found that the interns did not meet the standards of commonality and predominance needed to be considered a class.”
Baer explained in his decision, “Here, while a close question, the commonality requirement is not satisfied because plaintiffs cannot show anything more than a uniform policy of unpaid internship.” That included the fact that the interns in the proposed class worked for different magazines and performed different tasks. Reuters reports that Baer also denied the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment on whether they met the definition of an employee.
So what now?
Well, Wang et al can now try to sue Hearst individually—not as a class. Though it’s unlikely that many will choose to do so as the interns were seeking minimum wage—and the cost to litigate such a case for a net return of minimum wage minus attorney fees is probably just not worth going to the mat for…
Not “What’s in your wallet?” but… “Who’s in Your Wallet – Again?” Can you guess? Yup—Capital One Bank. This time they’re facing a consumer fraud class action lawsuit alleging its Best Buy co-branded credit cards have an annual fee, in contrast to the advertising for the card, which claims there is no fee. Make sense?
Here’s the backstory. Filed by John Graham, the potential Capital One class action entitled, John Graham v. Capital One Bank (USA), NA, Case No. 13-cv-743, U.S. District Court, Central District of California, alleges that Graham applied for a “no annual fee” Best Buy Reward Zone Credit Card from Capital One but was issued a card that had an annual fee of $39. According to the lawsuit, disclosures for the credit card clearly stated in large type: “Annual Fee: NONE.” Graham claims that had he known there would by an annual fee, he would not have applied for the Capital One Best Buy credit card. FYI Best Buy is not named as a defendant.
This is a national lawsuit, so it seeks to represent all US residents who, between May 8, 2011 and the present, submitted a Best Buy Reward Zone Credit Card Application containing a promise of “no annual fee” but who were subsequently mailed a Capital One credit card that carries an annual fee. Gotcha! (pun intended).
H&R Block Lawsuits Piling Up. Another consumer fraud class action lawsuit has been filed against H&R Block, this time by a woman in Indiana on behalf of some 600,000 people allegedly affected by faulty tax returns prepared by the tax services company. H&R Block acknowledged the filing glitch earlier this year.
Plaintiff Lisa Marie Waugh filed the H&R Block class action lawsuit in federal court in April. The class action law suit claims that Missouri-based H&R Block incorrectly prepared hundreds of thousands of tax returns, and due to those errors tax refunds were delayed by as much as six weeks beyond when they supposed date of payment.
The problem specifically relates to a change in the way the IRS processes certain yes or no questions on this year’s tax forms. Previously, tax preparers like H&R Block could leave a space blank to indicate “no,” but now they must enter an “N.”
However, H&R Block did not update its software in time and follow the new IRS rule. According to an email H&R Block President Bill Cobb sent to customers, anyone that filed their returns before February 22 was affected by the technical glitch, the Indystar.com reports.
According to the lawsuit, some customers lost their eligibility for student loan and grant programs that are dependent upon proper tax filings.
QuickTrim—the Diet Product that’s not only Light on Calories…This week, a proposed settlement was announced, which, if approved, would end the consumer fraud class action lawsuit pending against the Kardashian sisters, their product QuickTrim, and several retailers. LawyersandSettlements.com first reported on the QuickTrim lawsuit back in March, 2012.
Specifically, the QuickTrim settlement resolves allegations that improper statements were made on the labels and in advertisements for the Quicktrim Weight Loss System® and its component products including QuickTrim Sugar & Carb Cheater®, QuickTrim Fast Cleanse®, QuickTrim Extreme Burn®, QuickTrim Burn & Cleanse®, QuickTrim Hot Stix®, QuickTrim Fast Shake®, QuickTrim Satisfy®, and QuickTrim Celluslim® (“The Products”).
Unless you purchased directly from QuickTrim you must submit a timely Claim Form to get compensation or a coupon. Direct Purchasers will automatically receive payments unless they chose to receive a coupon by submitting a Claim Form or exclude themselves from the Settlement.
To download claim forms, learn more about your options, and for general information on the lawsuit, visit https://www.anayasupplementsettlement.com.
The laundry list of defendants, who, not surprisingly, admit no wrongdoing, includes Quick Trim LLC., Windmill Health Products, LLC, Kimberly Kardashian, Khloe Kardashian-Odom, Kourtney Kardashian, Kris Jenner, Jenner Communications, Inc., Kimsaprincess, Inc., Khlomoney Inc., 2Die4Kourt, Inc., GNC Corp., CVS Pharmacy, Inc., Walmart Corp., Amazon.com Inc., Drugstore.com., Christopher Tisi, Vitaquest International, LLC. (“collectively “the Quick Trim Parties” or “Defendants”).
And on that note, it’s time to consume some calories…
That’s a wrap. See you at that bar…Happy Friday folks and Happy Mother’s Day to all moms out there!