It’s getting hard to stay on top of the number of defective automotive lawsuits, and math was never my strong suit…but suffice to say there are many. Added to the list this week is a putative class action filed against Mazda Motor Company, alleging the automaker hid knowledge that Mazda 3 and Mazda 6 vehicle models have defective dashboards that melt when exposed to sunlight and subsequently give off a chemical odor and become reflective, posing a risk of temporary blindness in drivers. Talk about a one-two punch. Like I said, math is not my forte but even the most basic understanding indicates that selling a product that can injure or kill your customers can’t add up to good business.
According to the lawsuit: “Mazda’s conduct violates multiple state consumer protection statutes. On behalf of themselves and the proposed classes, plaintiffs seek to compel Mazda to warn drivers about the known defect and to bear the expense of replacing dashboards that Mazda should never have placed in the stream of commerce in the first place.”
Filed in California federal court by lead plaintiffs Danielle Stedman, Jody Soto and Gary Soto, the lawsuit claims Mazda refuses to cover repair costs for the melting dashboards in their vehicles because their cars were no longer under warranty. However, the allege that had they known about the defect prior to purchasing their vehicles, they would not have bought those cars in the first place. The consumers say the automaker failed to properly inform them about the defect.
The plaintiffs claim Mazda knew or should have known when it sold the defective vehicles that the dashboards would deteriorate when exposed to sunlight and “predictably high” summertime temperatures, presenting unsafe condition for drivers.
Like all other automobile manufacturers, Mazda has known “for decades” that dashboard reflections can impair drivers’ visions and make it difficult for them to see pedestrians or objects on the road, according to the suit. The information has been even been readily available through research published by the University of Michigan in 1996, the lawsuit states.
The complaint further claims that Mazda has had “extensive experience” working with the materials used in the dashboards and has personnel who specifically evaluate the durability of new vehicle parts, the company knew or should have known about the defect.
“Mazda thus had exclusive and superior knowledge of the dashboard defect and actively concealed the defect and corresponding danger from consumers who had no way to reasonably discover the problem before buying and driving their vehicles,” the complaint states.
The lawsuit seeks certification of a nationwide class of all people who owned or leased one of the defective vehicles, in addition to a separate Florida class of vehicle owners and lessors.
The suit is Stedman et al v. Mazda Motor Corporation et al, case number 8:14-cv-01608, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
And here’s a little more light reading…Toyota also got hit with a defective automotive class action lawsuit this week, filed by an Arkansas man, alleging its 2005-2009 Tacoma trucks are prone to experiencing excessive rust corrosion. Specifically, the lawsuit claims that the trucks were made with frames that are inadequately protected from rust corrosion, consequently, the frames corrode from rust, rendering the vehicles unstable and unsafe to drive. Refer to Math 101 at the top of the article.
The vehicles that experience excessive rust corrosion are essentially worthless, according to the complaint (U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas case number: 1:14-cv-02208.) Lead plaintiff, Ryan Burns, alleges Toyota has, for quite some time, been aware of the alleged defect in the Tacoma vehicles’ frames, and despite this knowledge, has failed to disclose the existence of the defect to him and other class members at the time of sale, has not issued a recall to inspect and repair the vehicles and has not offered to reimburse owners for costs incurred to identify and repair the defect.
The lawsuit contends that earlier this year, Burns took his Tacoma in for service because the fan on the vehicle was coming into contact with the fan shroud. “Shortly thereafter, plaintiff was informed that the frame on his Tacoma vehicle was rusted out and that the vehicle was unsafe to drive,” the complaint states.
Burns alleges he was advised that the frame on his 2005 Tacoma had severely rusted and that it would cost approximately $10,000 to repair. “In… March 2008, after receiving numerous complaints that frames on approximately 813,000 model year 1995 to 2000 Tacoma vehicles had exhibited excessive rust corrosion, Toyota USA initiated a customer support program extending warranty coverage on the vehicles’ frames for frame perforation caused by rust corrosion,” the complaint states. “The program extended warranty coverage on concerned vehicles to 15 years with no mileage limitations.”
Allegedly, the terms of the program are that once confirmation of perforation of the frame due to rust corrosion has been determined, Toyota would either repair or repurchase the vehicle. Burns claims Toyota subsequently altered the customer support program to include 2001-2004 Tacoma models, with the exception that there was no buy-back option.
“In November 2012, Toyota USA recalled approximately 150,000 Tacoma vehicles to inspect and replace the spare-tire carrier on vehicles sold in 20 cold weather states,” the complaint states. “The recall was issued to prevent the spare-tire carrier from rusting through and resulting in the spare tire dropping to the ground.”
The lawsuit contends Toyota violated the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and breached its express and implied warranty under Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. “Toyota USA knew, or should have known, that the frames on…Toyota vehicles were not coated with adequate rust corrosion treatment,” the complaint states. Consequently, Toyota has been unjustly enriched at the cost of class members whose vehicles were damaged, according to the lawsuit. You think?
Burns is seeking class certification, compensatory damages, an order requiring Toyota to repair or replace the frames on the Tacoma vehicles and pre- and post-judgment interest.
I’m not a fully paid up member of the Cycling Taliban, but seriously, these recalls are almost enough to get me back in the saddle.
Ah—One Ringy-Dingy…that will be $45 million please. Oh yes—AT&T is busted. They have agreed to a settlement in a Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) class action alleging the company violated the TCPA by placing calls using an automatic telephone dialing system and/or an artificial or prerecorded voice message to cellular telephone numbers without the prior express consent of the call recipients. Phew..that was a mouthful. Like the automated telephone calls themselves…
The lawsuit is led by plaintiff Joel Hagerman. Hagerman brought the suit in April 2013, (U.S. District Court for the District of Montana case number: 1:13-cv-00050). According to the terms of the settlement, the size of the per-call payment shall be determined on a pro rata basis of up to $500 per call, after the attorneys fees and costs, any incentive award to named plaintiff and any settlement administration costs are deducted from the settlement fund and the settlement administrator reviews all claim forms to determine a final number of claimants.
Specifically, the settlement states: “A class member shall receive payment for each call he or she received from [AT&T] or from an OCA acting on behalf of [AT&T] during the class period by submitting a short claim form.”
No more info than that at the moment—so stay tuned.
In the meantime…Time to adjourn for the week. Have a fab weekend–and HappyThanksgiving to all you Canucks out there. See you at the bar!
Owners call “Time Out” on Timeshare! Owners are calling out Celebration World Resort’s Timeshare deceptive practices. Yep—a deceptive practices class action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of timeshare owners at Festiva’s Orlando Resort, formerly known as Celebration World Resort, alleging that the resort’s developers and managers have engaged in unfair and deceptive practices in the sale of timeshare upgrades and reservation point allocation.
The resort timeshare class action lawsuit, Reeves, et al. v. Zealandia Holding Company Inc., et al., cause no. 13-CA-866-MF, was filed March 1 in the 9th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida, in Osceola County.
Here’s the skinny: According to the class action lawsuit, beginning in 2004, approximately 900 parties purchased timeshare interests in Celebration World Resort Owners Association, located in Kissimmee, FL, from B.L. Vacation Ownership Inc. Between 2008 and 2011, representatives of B.L. Vacation Ownership sold upgrades to existing timeshare owners that would increase the number of points they had to apply to timeshare reservations.
After the homeowners purchased the upgrades, B.L. Vacations sold the resort to Festiva Hospitality Group, now known as Zealandia Holding Co., and the resort’s name was changed to Festiva’s Orlando Resort. After the sale, the lawsuit alleges, the reservation point system was changed and the upgrades that had been purchased by the timeshare owners were not honored. Nice.
The lawsuit names the Orlando Homeowners Association, B.L. Vacation Ownership Inc., Zealandia Holding Co. and its subsidiary and affiliate companies, and RCI LLC as defendants. The suit alleges that one or more of the defendants:
Violated the resort’s declaration of covenants by improperly reallocating reservation points
Violated the resort’s declaration of covenants for failing to give proper notice of the reallocation
Breached the fiduciary duty owed to the timeshare owners
Violated Section 721.18(5) of Florida’s timeshare law
So—be interesting to see how this is resolved…
Another Big Asbestos Settlement this week. A construction worker who, is not named, and who developed a highly aggressive cancer after his exposure to asbestos, has resolved his lawsuit against the defendant companies for $7.5 million prior to trial. The plaintiff brought suit against several of the companies that manufactured the materials. The defendants severally denied liability.
Heads up all you construction workers out there: In the 1970s and 1980s, the plaintiff was a construction worker helping install underground water and sewer lines beneath the Sacramento Valley city of Chico. His job involved working with pipes made from a concrete-asbestos compound, which he would cut with a gasoline-powered saw. The cutting generated an enormous amount of cement-asbestos dust, which left the plaintiff covered head to toe by the end of the day. The plaintiff was later diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, an aggressive form of cancer, also rare except where attributable to asbestos exposure.
The plaintiff filed suit in the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, seeking damages on a defective product liability action. The plaintiff sought recovery of medical expenses, lost wages, and non-economic recovery. The defendants named were several companies who manufactured, sold or delivered the asbestos-containing pipes the plaintiff worked with, including Parex USA, Westburne Supply, John K. Bice Co., Los Angeles Rubber, Hajoca Corp., Hanson Permanente Cement, Keenan, Properties, J-M Manufacturing, Certainteed Corp., Ferguson Enterprises, Grinnell Corp., Amcord, Ameron International and Calportland.
One Ringy Dingy—for anyone out there who received pre-recorded messages from AT&T: There is a proposed Settlement in a class action pending in the US District Court for the Western District of Washington. The class action lawsuit concerns the alleged failure by AT&T Corp. to comply with the law in its delivery of a pre-recorded telephone message between July 30, 2008, and May 29, 2012.
If you received the pre-recorded message during that time you may be eligible to receive a payment from the AT&T class action Settlement.
This lawsuit alleges that AT&T Corp. did not comply with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) and the Washington Automatic Dialing and Announcing Devices Act (“WADAD”) in its program to deliver the following pre-recorded message (the “Calling Program”) between July 30, 2008, and May 29, 2012:
“Hi this is AT&T calling with an important message regarding your recent long distance calling. This call is to alert you that someone in your household recently made one or more international calls which will appear on your next AT&T bill at a non-discounted rate. Thank you for using AT&T. Our number is 800-235-9920.”
No judgment has been made, and AT&T Corp. has not agreed with the allegations or admitted any wrongdoing, but the parties have agreed to resolve the lawsuit with a Settlement that would provide payment to Class Members.
Class Members in the Settlement are:
All persons within the United States who between July 30, 2008, and May 29, 2012 received a telephone call pursuant to the Calling Program who had not selected AT&T Corp. as their presubscribed long distance carrier at the time of the call, plus all California residents who received a call under the Calling Program and were on AT&T’s internal do-not-call list at the time they received the call.
If you are a member of the Settlement Class and received a pre-recorded message as identified above, you may be eligible to receive (a) a cash sum of $135 if you were NOT a resident of the State of Washington at the time you received the pre-recorded message, or (b) a cash sum of $270 if you were a resident of the State of Washington at the time you received the pre-recorded message.
The Court will determine whether to approve the Settlement at a Fairness Hearing scheduled to take place on March 8, 2013.
Ok—that’s a wrap. See you at the bar. Happy weekend everyone!
Faulty Wiring? There were some interesting suits this week. Among them—this one against AT&T, filed by an 82-year old woman who alleges that the $9.99 she pays every month for an “Inside Wire Protection Plan” is a service she doesn’t need and can’t use because she lives in an apartment building in which she doesn’t own the interior telephone wires. Therefore, she has no legal responsibility for maintaining them and therefore she should not have to pay the $9.99 demanded by AT&T. Who knew?
But that seemingly small monthly charge adds up to about $120 a year, and it’s being paid by thousands of AT&T customers across the US, who are in similar situations to Gloria Girton.
Consequently, Ms. Girton has filed a class action in the US District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina to end AT&T’s unlawful practice of wrongfully billing for such plans nationwide. Outside of North Carolina, they are known by such names as “Wire Pro,” “Inside Wire Maintenance,” and “Home Wire Protection.”
AT&T is illegally charging many of its land line customers who live in multi-tenant facilities for unnecessary wire insurance, the plaintiff’s lawyers state. “The company knows from prior litigation and its own internal investigations that this charge is improper, yet it continues to charge building tenants like Gloria for these worthless plans through deceptive sales actions that defraud and rob them of their hard-earned financial resources. We believe she and the class have sustained damages of at least $10 million and very likely much more,” says plaintiff’s counsel.
The complaint asks for the certification of two classes, a North Carolina class and a nationwide class, each comprised of all residents of residential or commercial property who had an AT&T account at any time in the past four years and were not responsible for the maintenance of their residence’s interior wire, but were charged a fee for an Inside Wire plan. You go Gloria!
Press Brake Operator Verdict. A laborer in Florida has won his personal injury case with the jury awarding him a $3.3 million verdict. What happened? Sadly, he who suffered amputation of all the fingers on his right hand—which is the hand he wrote with. It was a workplace accident, involving a mechanical press in 2005.
Phiteau Dalien had his hand caught in a vintage 50-ton mechanical press brake he was operating for List Industries Inc. As a result his hand was crushed and he and he had to have his fingers amputated. He was 33 years old at the time. He underwent a subsequent surgery to build a partial thumb, and he may need another operation to try and rebuild his other fingers.
In his suit, Dalien alleged that the outdated machine he was operating for List Industries lacked safety features and that a language barrier prevented him from being properly trained. List Industries claimed the accident was caused by operator error. Of course they did. But the jury wasn’t buying.
Getting Royally Stiffed? Not any more for about 25,000 landowners in Pennsylvania. They brought a class action brought against Texas-based Range Resources in 2008 over allegations that the company was miscalculating their royalty payments associated with the company’s current drilling in the Marcellus Shale region of the state. Land which these people presumably own. The suit also alleged that Range Resources improperly withheld management fees from royalties and failed to account to landowners for money it had collected from selling oil and residual by products of gas processing.
A settlement has now been approved by a federal judge and the terms dictate that Range Resources, will pay the landowners roughly $1.3 million now and subsequently increase the royalty payment to a maximum of $16.6 million over the next five years, according to court documents. Well Done.
Okee dokee—that’s it for this week. See you at the bar.
Phantom of the iPhone. Do you have a phantom AT&T account? It seems for every new technological gadget that requires connectivity—there’s an opportunity to take advantage. Most recently, AT&T Mobility got hit with a potential class action lawsuit over allegations associated with iPhone and iPad accounts. The suit claims that “AT&T’s bills systematically overstate the amount of data used on each data transaction involving an iPhone or iPad account.” And, the suit alleges that AT&T bills customers on data transactions even when customers have disabled their phones. Doesn’t a transaction require more than one party?—one party in the know?
The named plaintiff, Patrick Hendricks, claims that AT&T’s overbilling “was discovered by an independent consulting firm retained by plaintiff’s counsel, which conducted a two-month study of AT&T’s billion practices for data usage, and found that AT&T systematically overstated web server traffic by 7 percent to 14 percent, and in some instances by over 300 percent. So, for example, if an iPhone user downloads a 50 KB website, AT&T’s bill would typically overstated the traffic as 53.5 KB (a 7 percent overcharge) to as high as 150 KB (a 300 percent overcharge),” the complaint states.
Here’s the kicker—Hendricks also alleges that “Not only does AT&T systematically overbill for every data transaction, it also bills for phantom data traffic when there is no actual data usage initiated by the customer. This was discovered by the same independent consulting firm, which purchased an iPhone from an AT&T store, immediately disabled all push notifications and location services, confirmed that no email account was configured on the phone, closed all applications, and let the phone sit untouched for 10 days. During this 10-day period, AT&T billed the test account for 35 Read the rest of this entry »
No Answer for No Answer Charges? A couple of major players in the telecommunications game got hit with class actions this week. First up—AT&T. The suit alleges violations of federal truth-in-billing laws, false advertising and deceptive trade practices under New York law, and breach of contract, among other things.
Lead plaintiff, Los Angeles resident Kenneth Thelian, claims he was charged $12.90 partly for calls that he did not answer. He allegedly complained to AT&T who reversed $8 of the charges, but the company representative “did not adequately explain why these charges were incurred.”
Thelian faced a further $15.81 in roaming charges while traveling in Montreal, Canada in August 2005, again for calls he did not answer. Then, in February and March of 2007, Thelian was billed $92.72. “The bill did not indicate which of these charges were for calls that he did not answer while traveling abroad,” the suit alleges.
So, maybe time to be checking those phone bills…
And, second up—T-Mobile. This class action alleges that the company puts limits on its unlimited data plan. Ummm. who would have thought…
The suit claims that advertisements for T-Mobile’s “Unlimited Web & E-mail” plans, offered for both Blackberry and other brands of smartphones, promise the consumer access to Read the rest of this entry »