Were Car Makers Keyless & Clueless? Heads up—Anyone with a keyless system for their Toyota, Ford, Nissan, Honda, BMW, General Motors, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, or Hyundai—a defective automotive class action lawsuit has been filed against these car makers alleging that a flaw in the design of keyless fob systems has led to 13 documented deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning. The plaintiffs estimate that at least 5 million vehicles are affected by the alleged defect. Got that? Read on.
According to court documents filed in California court this week, the plaintiffs claim that reasonable drivers misunderstand that keyless-ignition fobs do not turn their vehicles engines off. Further, the cars don’t have a safety mechanism to automatically turn off the engine after it’s been left idling for a set amount of time. When the car engines are left running in owners’ garages, it can lead to in an increased risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
“As a result, deadly carbon monoxide, often referred to as the ‘silent killer’ because it is a colorless, odorless gas, can fill enclosed spaces and spread to the attached homes,” the plaintiffs said. “The results have been at least 13 documented deaths and many more serious injuries requiring hospitalization, all from carbon monoxide poisoning.”
According to the keyless ignition fob lawsuit, in cars that use traditional keys, the engine can no longer operate once it’s removed from the vehicle. By contrast, keyless-ignition fobs can remotely turn on the engine, but have nothing to do with turning off the engine. Therefore, drivers can park their cars and exit with the keyless fob and still leave the engine running no matter how far the fob goes from the car.
The lawsuit alleges the defendants and their research and design companies installed the keyless fob systems without instituting proper safeguards and warnings.
Further, the plaintiffs contend that the lack of an auto-off feature is not mentioned in the car manuals, therefore failing to warn of the risk for carbon monoxide poisoning. The cars have no audible warnings alerting drivers that the engine is still running.
The plaintiffs assert that individuals personal injury lawsuits have been filed over the lack of an auto-off feature, resulting in confidential settlements. Similarly, consumers have filed complaints with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. However, the plaintiffs contend the automakers haven’t taken action in response to the complaints.
In fact, the plaintiffs assert that the automakers have known for years about the deadly consequences of drivers’ leaving their vehicles without hitting the start/stop button used in keyless-ignition cars, but that they refuse to act.
The lawsuit states that the auto-off feature is feasible and has already been implemented by some of the automakers. The plaintiffs claim that while some new vehicles are now outfitted with the auto-off system, the automakers are doing nothing to rectify older models or notify drivers about the potential safety risk.
The lawsuit asserts national claims for negligent failure to recall and unjust enrichment, as well as state claims for fraudulent concealment, violation of state consumer protection acts and breach of implied warranty, among others.
FYI—The case is Draeger et al. v. Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc. et al., case number 2:15-cv-06491, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
Washio Employees File Suit against the App’s Spin Cycle. This week, a potential employment class action lawsuit has been filed against Washio Inc., a mobile laundry application, over allegations it pays its employees below the minimum wage. Further, the complaint claims that Washio misclassifies its standard employees as independent contractors to avoid state labor laws. Washio, Uber, Lyft—are these the new face of employment law violators?
The Washio lawsuit was filed by Akil Luqman, a former Washio employee who worked for the company between March and June picking up and delivering customer laundry. In the lawsuit, he asserts the company paid employees for each customer stop, in violation of minimum and overtime wage laws. Further, he claims the company denied rest and break periods, failed to fully reimburse work expenses and issue correct pay stubs, and classified full-time hourly workers as independent contractors.
The complaint states that Washio’s classification of its employees as independent contractors “was in fact subterfuge by [Washio] to avoid granting employee status” because the company controlled the amount, time and place of the work performed and the level of pay the plaintiffs received.
The complaint also claims that Washio was in violation of California labor law because it failed to pay overtime or provide rest periods and breaks, despite frequently scheduling employees to work more than eight hours in a day and/or 40 hours in a week.
According to the complaint, Washio still operates in violation of state and federal labor laws, and therefore, the plaintiffs are seeking a permanent injunction halting the company’s actions, and an order requiring Washio to provide the names and contact information for all current and former employees that may be included in the proposed class.
Additionally, plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages related to lost wages, undisclosed withholdings, unpaid overtime, unreimbursed expenses, denial of proper rest and break periods, and legal fees.
Luqman is represented by Kevin T. Barnes and Gregg Lander of The Law Offices of Kevin T. Barnes. The case is Luqman v. Wash.io Inc., case number BC592428, in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles.
Here’s One for Every Tuna Lover—Sorry—Tinned Tuna Lover. A consumer fraud class action settlement has been reached between Starkist and consumers who alleged the company under-filled some of its 5-ounce canned tuna products by several tenths of an ounce. According to federal law a 5 ounce can of tuna must contain an average of 2.84 to 3.23 ounces of tuna, depending on variety.
According to the Starkist tuna settlement, if you purchased one or more of the StarKist Products between from February 19, 2009 through October 31, 2014, you may be eligible as a class member:
One or more 5 oz. can of Chunk Light Tuna in Water,
One or more 5 oz. can of Chunk Light Tuna in Oil,
One or more 5 oz. can of Solid White Tuna in Water, or
One or more 5 oz. can of Solid White Tuna in Oil (collectively, the “StarKist Products”)
Class Members who wish to file a claim must complete the appropriate form online or by mail, which must be postmarked no later than November 20, 2015 in order to be considered for benefits.
To file a claim and learn more about the settlement visit https://www.tunalawsuit.com
Ok—That’s a wrap folks…See you at the Bar!
Is it international infidelity month? First Ashley Madison goes to the mat over a massive data breach—and is now facing a class action in Canada for failing to live up to its promises… read into that what you may, and this week news of a yet another partnership gone sour —this one between a “Russian mail order bride” and a millionaire financier. He was fooling around on his wife—not through Ashley Madison but through a catalog called “Meet Truly Beautiful Russian Women by Mail”. (Getting a picture here?) However, all did not go according to plan, but then these things rarely do. According to legal papers, the Russian mail-order bride was not playing by “the rules” (whose rules, I wonder). The whole thing is positively Shakespearean.
The backstory is that in 1993 Ekatarina Petuhova, aka Katherine Nelson, hooked up with A US citizen named Neeraj Nelson. According to court papers, the marriage didn’t last long because Mr. Nelson discovered Ekatarina was having sex with an Armenian pimp named “Gari”, shortly after she landed in LAX. (A remedy for jet lag, possibly?) Nelson had the marriage annulled shortly after the wedding, as you do in these scenarios. He never even consummated the marriage, he told a judge. “After having been used by Ekaterina, I would never again place an ad to meet a Russian woman! I have learned a lesson,” Neeraj says in his September 1997 filing for an annulment. So, human trafficking in any other nationality would do?
Whatever. As it turns out, Petuhova wasn’t stateside long enough to get any relevant US paperwork, so was facing deportation.
Enter Delphi Financial Group CEO Robert Rosenkranz, who was and is married. Somehow, he met Ekatarina. They dated, as you do when you’re married—witness Ashely Madison—hey, life is short—and naturally, she became his mistress for four years. Until something went sideways. Possibly Rosenkranz reneged on the deal after finding out that Ekatarina was a mail-order bride. She’s claiming Rosenkranz duped her into signing a deal to end their relationship and keep quiet about it in exchange for $100,000. That’s peanuts. Seriously? So, Ekatarina has lawyered up and sued.
The “she said/he said” thing goes something like: Petuhova has denied Rosenkranz’s claim that she tried to hold him up for $10 million. Rosenkranz sent a message to Ekatarina stating “I may have cheated on my wife, but you were a mail-order whore.” (New York Post). And he wasn’t whoring around?
Regardless of the amount, Rosenkranz has refused to pay Ekatarina—whom he compared to Glenn Close’s character in “Fatal Attraction,” according to court filings. Instead, he obtained an order of protection in Manhattan Family Court.
Last week, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Paul Wooten threw out most of Ekatarina’s claims against Rosenkranz. She now faces possible jail time for taunting Rosenkranz and his family through Twitter after a judge had barred her from contacting them.
Well, on the bright side, at least she’s got a roof over her head and three squares a day, maybe not ideal but it’s a retirement of sorts. Wonder what Shakespeare would have made of all this…
Oh—p.s.—Ekatarina told The NYP she eventually received a green card from a second ex-husband, whose name was not mentioned in the legal papers.
Were you “Outed”? …by the massive data breach of Ashley Madison? Are you one of some 37 million people who got caught with their firewalls down—sorry Ashley Madison’s firewalls? Well, further to all the talk about filing a class action, this week a data breach lawsuit was filed against the website.
The Ashley Madison lawsuit, filed on behalf of all Canadian subscribers, targets the dating website for married people as well as Avid Dating Life, Inc. and Avid Life Media, Inc., the corporations who run the website. The lawsuit is seeking $750 million in general damages and $10 million in punitive damages.
Eliot Shore, a widower from Ottawa, is the plaintiff in the lawsuit. He signed up with the website “for a short time in search of companionship” but, allegedly, never went on a date.
The plaintiffs are seeking compensation and access to justice for all affected. “Another major aspect of this is behaviour modification; (our clients) went to this website being promised anonymity and confidentiality, but their privacy has been violated. Corporations need to be accountable for what’s happened so that others can follow,” attorneys for the plaintiffs stated. True enough.
TWC got TCPA Troubles? Time Warner Cable Inc,(TWC) got hit with a putative class action lawsuit this week, filed by a former customer who asserts the company violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Specifically, the plaintiff, Raquel S. Mejia, alleges TWC used an autodialer to make at least two unsolicited sales calls a day to her cellphone in an attempt to win her business back.
Mejia claims she stopped using TWC in 2007 and never gave her consent to TWC to call her phone, nor did she have any business relationship with the cable provider after 2007.
According to the Time Warner Cable lawsuit, Mejia states that there were several indicators that the calls were made by autodialers, in violation of the TCPA. Specifically, she would sometimes answer a call and only hear background noise at what appeared to be a call center. A live call center representative would often take a few moments before engaging her, an indication they were not actively aware of an automatic dialing system’s activities, she claims.
“Based on the circumstances of the calls, including but not limited to the multiple calls over a short period of time, plaintiff was not immediately engaged by a live person … and defendant called despite plaintiff’s requests to defendant to stop calling (indicating a computer automatically dialed the number again), plaintiff believed defendant called her cellular telephone using an ATDS that automatically selected her number from a computer database,” the complaint states.
Stating that “the TCPA was enacted to protect consumers from unsolicited telephone calls exactly like those alleged in this case,” Mejia, on behalf of herself and all others who received similar allegedly illegal calls, is suing for an injunction against the practice and treble damages of $500 per TCPA violation. She is also seeking attorneys’ fees and costs, the complaint states.
The case is Raquel S. Mejia, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated v. Time Warner Cable Inc., case number 15-cv-06445 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Defective Air Conditioning Coils… remember those? A lawsuit against Lennox industries was the result and this week a settlement has been reached. The Lennox Air Conditioning lawsuit claimed the company’s air conditioning units are susceptible to formicary corrosion as a result of the deficient materials used in the manufacture of its coils. FYI—an evaporator coil is a part of an air conditioning system or heat pump system in the cooling mode.
Lennox denies all of the claims in the lawsuit, but has agreed to the settlement to avoid the cost and risk of further litigation.
The Lennox settlement class includes all U.S. residents who, between October 29, 2007 and July 9, 2015, purchased at least one new uncoated copper tube Lennox brand, Aire-Flo brand, Armstrong Air brand, AirEase brand, Concord brand, or Ducane brand evaporator coil, covered by an Original Warranty, for their personal, their family, or their household purposes, that was installed in a house, condominium unit, apartment unit, or other residential dwelling located in the United States.
Original Coils may have been purchased separately, as part of an air handler, or they may have been included as part of a Packaged Unit.
The final approval hearing is scheduled for December 2, 2015. The lawsuit is: Thomas v. Lennox Industries Inc., United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, Case No. 13 CV 7747.
Ok—That’s a wrap folks…See you at the Bar!
Is it Hitchcockian—or humanitarian—well not quite humanitarian—but it does involve birds. Whatever, no one seems to know—or maybe they just don’t want to commit, publicly. So, a group of residents, neighbors of a family whose 8-year old daughter is “feeding the birds,” is suing on the grounds that the feeding thing is a health hazard, has damaged their properties and is making their lives hell. Well, they aren’t called a murder of crows for nothing… read on.
The neighbors are suing a family called the Manns, who live in a posh neighborhood in Seattle. The saga begins with an innocent feeding experiment by the Mann’s daughter, Gabi, back in 2011. She started feeding crows and pigeons who, in return for food, brought her gifts—beakable bits of refuse collected from the central Seattle neighborhood, according to the Seattle Post Intelligencer. And having paid their rent, so to speak, the birds took up residence on the street in September 2013, apparently.
You can check the gifts out online, because this being the age of the Internet and social media—the story went viral—even the BBC picked it up. And of course, the story’s on Facebook.
Ok, back to the lawsuit. According to the Manns’ neighbors, all this feeding attracts birds in large numbers. Given that what goes in must come out, the large number of birds are contributing a large amount of bird poop, a scene described by attorney Anna Johnsen as reminiscent of “The Birds.”
“No one wants to be trapped living inside an Alfred Hitchcock horror movie,” said Johnsen, who filed the lawsuit in King County Superior Court. “This is a residential neighborhood that was not designed to host a large-scale wildlife feeding operation.” (Seattle PI). Ok—what is considered large scale? While I don’t think there’s a bird count, evidently there are enough birds to cause over $200,000 worth of damage. According to the neighbors, the birds’ droppings have damaged their homes and properties, and the feeding draws rats. This just gets better and better.
Or not. Two neighbors, Matt Ashbach and Christine Yokan, filed the lawsuit in August. Not only are they looking for compensation, they also want a court order preventing the Manns from setting out more than a quarter pound of animal food each day.
Despite apparent efforts by the neighbors to get the Manns to either scale down or stop the feedings, Johnsen said, the feedings escalated. “Large numbers of birds swarm the feeding operation daily, leaving behind dirt, feathers, peanut particles and shells, feces, and urine on the surrounding properties,” the attorney said in court papers. And I thought the ubiquitous Canada Goose was bad.
Adding to their frustrations, the lawsuit reportedly claims that the neighbors went to animal control agencies at every level of government hoping to find someone to intervene, but to no avail. Fifty-one neighbors signed and filed a petition with the city of Seattle, which also failed to prompt action.
The Seattle PI reports that a Public Health – Seattle & King County investigator who visited the Manns’ home, did indeed find bird food that could attract rodents but never witnessed any rats. Health officials sent letters to the family asking them to reduce scattered food at their home. But it seems like that didn’t work so well either. Despite the county health code requiring residents prevent rats and mice from feeding on their properties, the Manns weren’t cited by investigators.
So, it falls to the neighbors’ attorney, who wrote the court stating the Manns “ignored all neighborly requests” to resolve the dispute. Lisa and Gary Mann, Johnsen said, “have refused to engage in any meaningful dialogue regarding the unsanitary conditions they have created in an urban residential environment.”
“My clients went to extraordinary lengths to resolve this issue amicably before filing a lawsuit,” she told the Seattle PI. “We hope for a reasonable and fair resolution for the safety and well-being of the wildlife and humans alike.” Yeah, I’ll bet. After all, selling in that environment could prove a little difficult.
While the neighbors might seem like the bad guys in all this, the facts are that birds can transfer diseases, including salmonella and E. coli. Rats drawn to the bird feed can also carry a host of other pathogens. Remember the bubonic plague? (Well, maybe not).
And there’s the noise. Overall, “The situation has become a public health issue, and constitutes a public nuisance under Washington law,” Johnsen said. “The threat of disease is of particular concern for children, pregnant women, and the elderly.”
How did Hitchcock’s “The Birds” end? I think they won, didn’t they?
Are Tide Pods staining your laundry? According to a consumer fraud class action lawsuit, the candy-colored laundry detergent packets may end up staining Procter & Gamble Co’s bottom line as well. The Tide Pod lawsuit alleges that P&G’s Tide laundry pods can stain light-colored laundry. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Lisa Guariglia, Micheline Byrne and Michele Emanuele, asserts that P&G engaged in deceptive trade practices and breached implied warranties. The complaint states that “Tide Pods have serious design defects … that cause them to produce permanent blue/purple stains on white and light-colored laundry, even when used as directed by P&G.”
In the lawsuit, Guariglia estimated that Tide Pods ruined at least $200 worth of her laundry, including towels, sheets and clothing, which had blue/purple stains that allegedly appeared after she began using Tide Pods. She further states that despite rewashing with other detergents and pretreating the stains with Shout stain remover, which is made by SC Johnson & Co., the stains remained. Similarly Emmanuele said she was unable to remove the stains she blamed on Tide Pods even with bleach. She estimated the detergent ruined at least $650 worth of towels, sheets and clothing. Plaintiff Byrne claims that in December 2012 her son and daughter had blue/purple stains on their clothes but she used Tide Pods for at least 18 more months before realizing the detergent was the cause. She estimated the detergent damaged at least $500 worth of clothing and other laundry.
The lawsuit states: “P&G failed to inform consumers, through the directions on the packaging or any other written disclosure, even when consumers use Tide Pods as instructed by P&G, that blue/purple staining will result due to defects in the design.” However, “on P&G’s own website, P&G has acknowledged that Tide Pods can cause blue/purple stains on laundry and insists that this staining can only occur when the consumer is not using the product correctly,” the suit states. The complaint cites an article in Consumer Reports magazine, published February 20, 2014, which quotes a P&G spokesperson who said such stains can be caused by not putting a Tide Pods pack into the washing machine before clothing is inserted or by overstuffing a machine with laundry. “P&G reiterated over and over, in its responses to consumer complaints, that it would not put a product on the market that would ruin laundry, that Tide Pods have been successfully tested, and it is certain that if used as directed, Tide Pods do not stain laundry,” the lawsuit states. “However, it is clear from plaintiffs’ experiences, as well as those of the customer complaints set forth above, and the hundreds of additional complaints on the Tide website, that even when used as directed, Tide Pods permanently stain white and light-colored laundry.” So—no more blaming dodgy washing on the laundry fairy! The lawsuit seeks to represent anyone in the United States who bought Tide Pods and had laundry damaged.
Is MegaRed a Mega Crock? Another wonder supplement got hit with a consumer fraud class action lawsuit this week. This one targets Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC and its subsidiary Schiff Nutrition International Inc, alleging the companies misled consumers about the health benefits of krill oil. According to the complaint, the defendants marketed the krill oil as a dietary supplement with cardiovascular benefits it does not have. Really? How unusual.
The nitty gritty is that the defendants made claims that an omega-3 fatty acid dietary supplement marketed as MegaRed would help prevent heart disease. According to the proposed MegaRed class action, these types of claims have drawn attention from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has allegedly condemned such advertisements, describing claims about omega-3’s health benefits as “false and misleading.” Well, that certainly did a lot of good.
“In conjunction with their extensive, long-term campaign of deceptive advertising and misleading statements,” the complaint states, “defendants have violated [the FDA’s] clear directives by … consistently and repeatedly falsely telling consumers that taking just ‘one small softgel per day’ may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.” Further, the complaint cites a guideline by the American Heart Association recommending that patients consume 500 to 1,000 miligrams of omega-3 fatty acids daily to help combat heart disease. A single MegaRed capsule, the supplement’s recommended daily dose, contains only 50 mg of omega-3 fatty acids.
The proposed class action asserts the packaging for MegaRed is misleading because it claims that using “just one small softgel” of the supplement daily “may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.” Schiff has marketed the size of the MegaRed capsules, which are slight in comparison to fish oil capsules, as having similar health benefits, which is one of the product’s main advantages. Named plaintiff in the complaint, Jeffrey Johnson, a “health-conscious individual” contends that he and others like him were misled by the marketing claims, and as a result paid a premium for the supplement, which costs significantly more than fish oil. The proposed class action complaint accuses Schiff of unjust enrichment, on behalf of a nationwide class; and violations of the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act; California Unfair Competition Law; California False Advertising Law; and California Sherman Food, Drug and Cosmetic law, on behalf of a Californian subclass. Plaintiffs are seeking an injunction prohibiting Schiff from further misleading advertisements, as well as actual and punitive damages.The case is Johnston v. Schiff Nutrition International et al., case number 3:15-cv-03669, in the US District Court for the Northern District of California.
Strike One for the Little Guys. A $13.1 million settlement has been awarded to Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority workers who alleged the authority was in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act shift work. According to court filings, “The parties now believe that considering the costs and risks of continuing this litigation, it is in their best interests to fully and finally resolve plaintiffs’ claims.” The parties filed a joint motion for approval, which involves some 2,300 current and former bus and trolley drivers. If approved, the SEPTA settlement will end a case first brought in June 2011, alleging SEPTA did not pay its drivers for off-the-clock time spent doing tasks before pulling their vehicles out at the start of their runs.
“Resolution of the FLSA claim requires a factual determination of the amount of time operators are required to work prior to their scheduled start, and a legal determination regarding whether this time is compensable and subject to the overtime provisions of the FLSA,” a three-judge Third Circuit panel stated. The case is David Bell et al. v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, case number 2:11-cv-04047, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Ok – That’s a wrap folks…Happy Friday…See you at the Bar!