Taxing Trip to Wal-mart? Wal-Mart’s made our list this week—this time it’s a breach of contract class action, alleging the discount retailer shortchanged customers over four years with respect to sales tax, is seeking certification. The lawsuit claims Wal-Mart defrauded its customers by as much as $9 million.
Filed in 2014, the Wal-Mart complaint specifically alleges that the retailer incorrectly applied lower sales tax rates to consumer returns. Plaintiffs are contending that Wal-Mart violated the terms of its sales agreement by refunding its customers less than the purchase price.
The lawsuit claims that an analysis done by Wal-Mart showed that there were nearly 20 million returns to stores with lower sales tax rates from 2007-09. During that time, the retailer used a flawed formula to recalculate how much customers spent, based on the sales tax of the store where the return was processed. The complaint alleges that Wal-Mart should have looked up how much customers paid for the items in the stores where they were purchased.
“Because the plaintiffs’ claims meet the requirements of Rule 23, and the representatives class counsel demonstrated the capacity to adequately represent the class, the court should certify the class and appoint the attorneys as class counsel,” plaintiffs Shaun Brandewie and John Newbrough state in the motion for certification. Both plaintiffs made several purchases at Wal-Mart, returned them to other locations, and were not refunded their full return. All of the discrepancies described in the complaint are for less than $1.
According to the motion for certification, the class is readily discernable because it includes anybody who purchased an item at Wal-Mart and was refunded an amount less than what they paid. Wal-Mart tracks sales and return data such that the amounts paid for items and the amounts refunded are easily ascertainable, the motion said. Hey—every penny adds up…
Defend this, Conesys… Conesys Inc, an aerospace and defense electronics parts manufacturer, is facing a potential unpaid wages and overtime class action lawsuit filed by employees who allege the company fails to pay them overtime or compensate them for meal and rest breaks.
Filed in California state court, on behalf of plaintiff Rafael A. Lozano, a machine operator at AEC, the Conesys lawsuit claims that for at least four years had a “consistent” policy of failing to pay all wages owing to their California-based employees, as well as failing to provide meal and rest breaks required under California labor law.
“As a result of the defendants’ unlawful conduct, plaintiffs and other members of the…class have suffered damages in an amount subject to proof, to the extent that they were not paid for all wages earned,” the lawsuit states.
Torrance, California-based Conesys, based in Torrence, CA, has over 1,000 workers worldwide, including several facilities located in Torrance. The lawsuit alleges that in California, the company unevenly rounds out the amount of time employees’ work, which denies them compensation for any time worked beyond that of eight hours per day or 40 hours per week.
Additionally, the lawsuit states that Conesys’ corporate practice of rounding out hours worked has resulted in its employees being issued with inaccurate wage statements, and, in some cases, being effectively paid below minimum wage.
Further, the complaint also states that Conesys failed to provide the necessary breaks, which in California requires employers to provide a short, paid rest break for shifts of at least four hours, and at least one uninterrupted 30-minute meal break when employees work a shift of more than five hours, and two, if the shift runs for longer than 10 hours.
The plaintiff is asking for compensation for missed pay for himself and other employees allegedly shortchanged by Conesys going back up to four years, as well as penalties against the company and “reasonable” attorneys’ fees and costs.
The case is Lozano et al. v. Conesys Inc. et al., case number BC570320, in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles.
Here’s a Happy Ending. The fast food chain Wendy’s has reached a proposed settlement in a pending discrimination class action lawsuit. The complaint maintains that Wendy’s Pittsburgh-area restaurants have architectural barriers that limit access to wheelchair-bound individuals, a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Plaintiff Christopher Mielo and Wendy’s reportedly reached the settlement on January 26th. Meilo, a mobility disabled man who regularly used a wheelchair to get around, filed the lawsuit in 2014, alleging that within the Pittsburgh area 17 Wendy’s restaurants had excessively sloped parking spaces and access aisles, accessibility barriers that make it difficult for wheelchair users to access the restaurant’s facilities independently. According to the lawsuit, these accessibility barriers are a violation of the ADA.
The lawsuit states, “The architectural barriers described above demonstrate that defendant’s facilities were not altered, designed or constructed in a manner that causes them to be readily accessible to and usable by individuals who use wheelchairs.”
Under the terms of the settlement, Wendy’s would be required to remove the alleged architectural barriers in order to come into compliance with ADA standards and requirements. More specific terms have not been made public.
The Wendy’s Wheelchair Access Class Action Lawsuit is Christopher Mielo v. Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers of New York Inc., Case No. 2:14-cv-00893, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.
Hokee Dokee—That’s a wrap folks…Time to adjourn for the week. See you at the Bar!
Just how friendly are United’s friendly skies? Not very according to a potential consumer fraud consumer fraud class action lawsuit filed against United Airlines Inc. in Texas federal court this week. The lawsuit claims the airline routinely violates its website’s “low fare guarantee” when passengers buy multiple tickets on a flight at the same time.
Filed by plaintiff Scott Coulier, the lawsuit claims that if a customer attempts to purchase several tickets at the same time, but only a few seats are available at a relatively low price, United.com will offer all the tickets at a higher price instead of letting users buy the outstanding cheaper tickets and as many higher priced tickets as necessary.
According to the United Airlines lawsuit, there is no disclosure by United that its ticketing system sells multiple tickets at the same time only if they have the same price. Further, the lawsuit claims the airline deletes the lower priced tickets it skips overs. According to the complaint, the deletion is key, as United’s guarantee will only refund customers if the airline’s employees can find the lower priced fares after the transaction.
“The result of this systematic policy is the lower fare class tickets which actually exist at the time of purchase are not disclosed to the consumer and are systematically bypassed at the point of purchase in favor of higher fare class ticket,” the lawsuit states.
United’s guarantee states that if customers can find lower fares for the same flight, itinerary and cabin after they purchase a ticket through United.com, the airline will refund the difference and hand out a $100 credit if the difference is $10 or more. However, according to the complaint, the terms do not properly define “itinerary” and are impossible to satisfy because United does not allow customers to use screenshots taken before their purchase to prove there were less expensive options.
In the lawsuit, Coulier claims he bought three tickets on United, from Peoria, Illinois, to Orlando Florida, for his family for $182 per seat. However, he believes he could have paid less if he bought the tickets individually. He alleged United’s policies artificially restrict low class fares when bought together.
“Defendant engages in this deceptive and unfair practice as a way to profiteer from unsuspecting consumers, such that plaintiff and the putative class paid more than the lowest available price for the same tickets,” the lawsuit states. “Such conduct is a bait-and-switch sales practice.”
The case is Scott Coulier v. United Airlines Inc., case number 4:15-cv-00190, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.
Wet Seal got slapped… with an employment class action lawsuit this week, alleging violations of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act by two employees who claim they and got soaked in the recent business closure.
Short version—the Wet Seal lawsuit, filed on behalf of some 3,700 employees, claims that the clothing retailer has violated California and federal labor laws by keeping their employees ignorant of the company’s financial struggles and impending closure. Wet Seal announced last week that it will file for bankruptcy.
The named plaintiffs, Katelin Pruitt, an employee in a store in North Carolina, and Lalaine Ortega, who worked in Georgia, allege the company failed to tell them about its precarious financial situation.
“Despite strong evidence that Wet Seal was in steep decline, it continued to keep its employees uninformed right up until they abruptly fired 3,695 of their employees,” the lawsuit states. The lawsuit seeks to represent a class of former Wet Seal employees who lost their jobs as a result of the layoffs the company announced January 7, 2015. According to the complaint, the class is seeking 60 days pay and benefits for class members.
FYI—the case is Katelin Pruitt et al. v. The Wet Seal Inc., case number 2:15-cv-00312, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
eBay reached a $6.4 million settlement agreement this week, potentially ending an unfair business practices class action brought against online retailer on behalf of approximately 1.2 million eBay account holders, although the number of actual users represented by those accounts was unclear as one person could have multiple accounts. They alleged they were charged hidden and recurring listing fees to sell their goods through the online auction site.
Under the terms of the proposed agreement, eBay would pay class members $4.5 million with the remainder going on legal and administration fees. The payments to class members would be made as an automatic credit to their accounts.
The lawsuit was filed by plaintiff Richard Noll in September 2011, alleging eBay suggested that the Good ‘Til Canceled listings, which automatically renew every 30 days until the seller cancels the listing or the item is sold, came “at no extra cost” when fees were actually charged on a monthly basis.
A second suit was filed by Rhythm Motor Sports LLC nearly a year later, and the cases were eventually consolidated. The allegations included breach of contract, unfair competition, false advertising, violation of the Consumer Legal Remedies Act, unjust enrichment and fraud.
Hokee Dokee—That’s a wrap folks…Time to adjourn for the week. See you at the Bar!
Toyota not Taking TCPA Siriusly? Toyota’s off to a banner start this year—they got hit with a Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) class action lawsuit this week alleging the automaker gave customer information to Sirius XM Holdings Inc., which made a number of unsolicited calls to the plaintiff’s cellphone in violation to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
According to the Toyota lawsuit, plaintiff Brian Trenz claims he and others were victims of an information-sharing agreement between Toyota and Sirius. The alleged agreement enables Toyota to share customer data with Sirius in exchange for temporary free trials of Sirius’ radio entertainment services in new and preowned cars Toyota sells. The lawsuit claims that Sirius then used that information to make unauthorized calls to Trenz’s cellphone, which is a violation of the TCPA.
“Sirius makes these telemarketing calls in order to convert the recent purchasers of these Toyota vehicles into paid subscribers of Sirius,” according to the lawsuit.
According to the complaint, Trenz bought a Chevy truck from a Texas Toyota dealership in September 2014, after which, the plaintiff alleges, Sirius made more than 30 calls to his cellphone using an automatic dialing system, in violation of the TCPA. Trenzclaims that none of the sales documents from the Toyota dealership included a warning that Trenz’s information might be given to a third-party like Sirius, and Sirius never sought or received his consent for the call. When Trenz asked Sirius call representatives how they obtained his information, they were allegedly forthright about having obtained it from Toyota, the lawsuit states.
Similarly, Trenz claimed a Toyota dealership employee assured him it was “common knowledge” that the information would be passed along. According to the lawsuit, Trenz was unaware of a free trial of Sirius’ services included in the purchase of his truck, and did not become aware of the availability of the service until he began receiving the calls. Further, Trenz claims that Sirius radio never worked in his vehicle, and he never listened to it.
Even though Sirius is responsible for the calls, Toyota is vicariously liable for the TCPA claims because the company provided the customer information, the complaint states.
The lawsuit seeks certification of a nationwide class consisting of anyone who received unsolicited calls from Sirius in the four years prior to the complaint, regardless if they first bought a car from a Toyota dealership. In addition, the suit seeks a separate nationwide subclass of individuals who first bought a new or preowned car from a Toyota dealership with a free Sirius trial and received unsolicited calls from the company in the last four years.
The lawsuit is case 3:15-cv-00044, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.
Is the Overdraft Fee Straggler Finally Settling? Capital One Bank NA has been ordered to pay in excess of $31.7 million to settle a multidistrict litigation (MDL) alleging several banks processed customer transactions in an order that would make the banks the most in overdraft fees.
The Capital One MDL settlement received preliminary approval Wednesday, and follows earlier settlement agreements made with several other banks named in the suits, which were filed in 2010. Hello!
A final approval hearing has been requested for May. The plaintiffs state that the agreement is “an outstanding result for the settlement class.” If approved, it will see a cash payment amounting to roughly 35 percent of the most likely maximum recovery the settlement class could have recovered through a trial.
Class members who do not choose to opt out of the settlement will automatically receive pro-rated shares from the settlement fund.
What’s Cooking in Wolfgang’s Kitchens? A $1.7 million settlement for a California unpaid overtime class action lawsuit, that’s what. The lawsuit was brought against Spago Beverly Hills, Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill in Los Angeles, and Chinois in Santa Monica, California by some 900 current and former employees at the restaurants.
According to the terms of the Wolfgang Puck settlement, $7,500 will be paid to lead plaintiff Ruben Sanchez, who filed the lawsuit in December 2012. He claimed Wolfgang Puck’s restaurants violated wage and hour laws, and failed to reimburse employees for business-related expenditures, among other labor violations. According to court documents, there are 888 eligible employees who will participate in the settlement.
Additionally, the restaurant company will pay $10,000 to the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency, and if more than $10,000 of the class checks should turn out to be uncashed, undeliverable or expired, the difference would go to class members who cashed their checks within 90 days of the mailing on a pro rata basis. If the amount is less than $10,000, it will instead go to the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice.
The case is Ruben Sanchez et al. v. Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group et al., case number SC119342, in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles.
Hokee Dokee- That’s a wrap folks…Time to adjourn for the week. Happy New Year!
Did you get hosed by DAP? A defective products class action lawsuit has been filed against hose manufacturer Dap Products, Inc, alleging the the Xhose and the Xhose Pro are defective and do not perform as advertised. No comment.
According to the DAP Xhose complaint, the hose is made out of a thin plastic internal tube with a thin cloth layer on the outside. Dap advertises the hose as providing an alternative to standard garden hoses because it is lightweight and can contract without “kinking.” “Defendants’ marketing and packaging states that the XHose is tough, durable, and long-lasting,” the lawsuit states. “Contrary to defendants’ representations, however, the XHose is defective and predisposed to leaking, bursting, seeping and dripping due to no fault of the consumer.”
According to Cynthia Finnk, who filed the complaint, she purchased two XHose Pros in December 2013 both of which eventually exploded during use. Oh yes—that could send you over the edge. Apparently, the company sent her a total of eight replacement hoses after the products continued to explode when in use, according to the lawsuit. Ok, what’s your first clue that quality control is an abstract concept here. The company allegedly refused to give a refund because the 90-day refund period had expired. Bingo!
The lawsuit was filed on December 24th, by plaintiffs Michael Carton, Cynthia Finnk, Rocco Lano, Laurina Leato, Marilyn Listander and Roger Mammon filed the lawsuit also names National Express and RPM International as defendants. The plaintiffs are seeking class status for the suit, and in excess of $5 million in damages. The case is United States District Court for the Northern District of Maryland case number 1:14-cv-04015.
Naughty Nissan! They got hit with a federal defective automotive class action lawsuit this week, alleging Nissan North America failed to warn consumers about dangerously defective transmissions in 2013-2014 Pathfinder vehicles. The alleged defect poses a potentially serious problem at any time, particularly when a car is merging onto high-speed traffic on a freeway, according to the lawsuit. Really?
The Nissan lawsuit alleges that, on acceleration from 15 to 30 mph, the vehicles are subjected to unexpected shaking and violent jerking (“juddering” or “shuddering”), preventing the vehicles from accelerating. And no doubt putting fear into the hearts of drivers and passengers alike.
The lawsuit states: “This transmission defect creates an unreasonably dangerous situation and increases the risk of a crash; it is inevitable that an individual will be injured or killed due to a collision caused by this safety defect.” But hey—if it hasn’t happened yet—why worry about it, right?
The lawsuit alleges that Nissan concealed and knowingly sold and leased vehicles with the dangerously defective transmissions, and through its dealers failed to honor express and implied warranties to repair and replace the dangerously defective transmissions. Instead, the 77-page lawsuit claims, consumers’ complaints were delayed, deflected, and ultimately denied.
Heads up folks—this defect potentially affects tens of thousands of consumers throughout the country. The Consumer Class Action Complaint seeks damages in excess of $5 million, injunctive and declaratory relief, and punitive damages for claims of breach of express and implied warranties, violations of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, and violations of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.
The action, filed December 15, 2014, is Batista vs. Nissan North America, Inc., no. 1: 14-cv-24728-RNS, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
Honda got its knuckles wrapped this week, as they agreed to pony up $70 million in fines to resolve allegations made by US federal regulators that from 2003 to 2014, the auto maker failed to report 1729 deaths and injuries related to possible safety defects in its vehicles. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Honda will pay two $35 million civil penalties, effectively resolving its alleged lapses in early-warning reporting.
The early-warning reporting requirements are part of the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act, which requires car manufacturers to submit reports to the NHTSA every quarter to alert the agency of deaths or injuries arising from possible safety defects. The NHTSA states that Honda failed to provide early-warning reports to the agency to alert it about safety-related issues. The fines also address Honda’s alleged failure to report some warranty claims and customer satisfaction-related claims during that time, according to the agency.
Honda faced a barrage of class actions related to defective Takata air bags late in 2014, after which the NHTSA issued a special order directing Honda to explain its failure to fully report deaths and injuries related to possible auto safety defects, as required under the TREAD act.
According to the early-warning reports filed with the NHTSA, the 1,729 unreported injuries and deaths that Honda allegedly failed to report constituted more than double the number of incidents the automaker reported to the NHTSA during the past 11 years.
According to Honda, the under-reporting of those death and injury notices was due to “errors related to data entry, computer coding, regulatory interpretation, and other errors in warranty and property damage claims reporting.” Yeah—blame it on the help. Good one guys.
So, under the terms of the settlement, Honda has also agreed to conduct third-party audits of its reporting, train its staff in fulfilling TREAD Act requirements and devise compliance procedures.
Hokee Dokee—That’s a wrap folks…Time to adjourn for the week. See you at the bar.
Another year, another Apple Lawsuit. Yup. This week, iPhone users in Miami filed a consumer fraud class action lawsuit against Apple Inc, alleging the Cupertino-based tech giant greatly overstated the storage capacity of devices that run its latest mobile operating system, iOS 8.
Lead plaintiffs filed the complaint in U.S. District Court in Northern California claiming operating system itself requires a significant percentage of the storage capacity on the iPhones, iPads and iPods that run it, thereby making a large portion of the advertised space unavailable to device owners.
According to the lawsuit, in some cases, the space used is 23.1 percent. Further, the complaint alleges, Apple entices customers in need of more space to pay for extra storage on iCloud.
“Using these sharp business tactics, [Apple] gives less storage capacity than advertised, only to offer to sell that capacity in a desperate moment, e.g., when a consumer is trying to record or take photos at a child or grandchild’s recital, basketball game or wedding,” the lawsuit states. “To put this in context, each gigabyte of storage Apple shortchanges its customers amounts to approximately 400-500 high resolution photographs.”
The plaintiffs allege Apple is violating California laws prohibiting unfair competition and false advertising. They claim that reasonable consumers do not expect the “marked discrepancy” between the advertised level of storage capacity and the available level of capacity on Apple devices running the OS.
GM’s Record Year? GM must be facing some kind of record for the number of defective automotive class action lawsuits filed against it in 2014. The latest GM lawsuit, filed in December, alleges a defect in the steering system of its Chevrolet Volts which causes the steering wheel to freeze intermittently while driving. Yes—that could certainly cause a few problems.
Filed in New Jersey federal court, by plaintiffs Christopher Johnson and Tara Follari-Johnson, the GM lawsuit claims that GM knew, or should have known, about the alleged defect, but continued to sell the cars. The lawsuit further claims that the alleged defect poses a hazardous safety risk to drivers and that even when GM agrees to fix the steering system, it only replaces the allegedly defective steering rack with the same or similarly defective components.
“When class members present to GM’s authorized dealerships complaining of the steering defect, the dealerships recommend repairs such as replacing the steering rack or steering gear assembly,” the plaintiffs said. “However, these repairs only temporarily mask the problem.”
The lawsuit alleges GM is in violation of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act and the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, and in breach of implied warranty of merchantability and express warranty and common law fraud.
The plaintiffs propose to represent a nationwide class of owners and lessees of 2011-2014 Chevrolet Volt bought or leased new in New Jersey and a subclass of national class members who live in New Jersey. There are at least 100 members of the proposed class, according to the plaintiffs, and their claims are more than $5 million.
“Complaints that consumers filed with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and posted in discussion forums demonstrate that the defect is widespread and dangerous and that it manifests without warning,” the complaint states. “The complaints further indicate defendants’ knowledge of the defect and its danger.”
Wells Fargo Agreed to Pony Up $14.5 million as part of a preliminary settlement agreement reached in a Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) class action lawsuit. The lawsuit was brought on behalf of millions of customers who alleged Wells Fargo Bank NA called them on their cellphones to collect credit card debt.
Brought by lead plaintiff Lillian Franklin, the Wells Fargo settlement motion, if approved, will resolve her suit claiming the bank violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act by making automated calls to alleged debtors without their consent. She filed suit in August, claiming the financial institution called her multiple times on her cellphone in 2010, to collect an alleged debt on her credit card. The calls featured a pre-recorded message and were made without Franklin’s consent, according to the lawsuit.
According to the settlement terms, a settlement fund will be shared evenly between class members who submit claims. Currently, the class consists of 4 million members. The fund will established after consideration of attorneys’ fees and administration costs, according to the motion.
The case is Franklin v. Wells Fargo Bank NA, case number 3:14-cv-02349, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.
Hokee Dokee—That’s a wrap folks…Time to adjourn for the week. Happy New Year!