From Credit Cards to Health Records…only this was the result, allegedly, of an internal oversight….This week saw a data breach class action lawsuit filed against three Southern California hospitals alleging they released confidential records of 32,500 patients onto the Internet. OMG.
Lead Plaintiff, Kenneth Rice, alleges Cottage Health System hospitals in Santa Barbara, Goleta Valley and Santa Ynez Valley posted four years of patients’ records to the Internet from October 8 through December 2, 2013. According to the complaint, filed in Orange County Court, the hospitals learned of the “enormous” data breach when a man discovered the records online and contacted one of the hospitals.
Insync, a Laguna Hills-based tech company and lead defendant in the class action lawsuit, allegedly created a system for Cottage Health System hospitals enabling the health care provider to access records over the Internet. However, the lawsuit claims Insync did not encrypt the data or take other security measures. Consequently, for eight weeks private health records were “readily available” to anyone with an Internet connection, the complaint states.
“The extent of the breach is enormous. This was not a situation where some isolated medical record was disclosed and released on the Internet,” the complaint states. “The medical files for 32,500 patients who received treatment over a period of over 4 years at Cottage Hospital were taken from the hospital, placed in electronic form on various servers connected to the Internet, where they could be reviewed, copied or otherwise examined by any of the hundreds of millions of people who ‘surf’ the internet every day.”
The records that were posted belonged to patients who had visited the hospital from September 29, 2009 to December 2, 2013. “How was it possible that the medical records could be placed in the public domain Internet, for anyone to view for months, without Cottage Hospital detecting that anyone surfing the internet could view the confidential medical records of 32,500 of its patients?” the lawsuit states.
Rice alleges the “only answer” is that the hospital was “completely negligent,” failing to take appropriate patient protections as stipulated by the California Medical Information Act and The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
The hospital had a legal obligation to “institute sufficient management safeguards to detect and prevent such breaches from occurring,” Rice adds in the complaint.
Domino’s Delivered a $1.28M Bill for unpaid wages and overtime. That’s right, An unpaid overtime, wage and hour class action lawsuit pending against Domino’s Pizza on East 89th Street in Manhattan has finally been settled. It was brought by pizza delivery man Carlos Rodriguez Herrera and 60 co-workers three years ago. But hey—better late than never, right?
In the Domino’s lawsuit Herrera alleged he frequently worked 65 hours a week but was only paid for 45. A co-worker, Anatole Yameogo, remembers working from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. one Saturday, but his pay stub showed he worked five hours that same day. “One manager told me you will work more than 50 hours a week but we’ll pay you for 40,” Mr. Yameogo said. “That helps the managers increase their bonus.”
In their lawsuit, the two bicycle deliverymen alleged the Domino’s franchisee who employed them was in violation of minimum New York wage and overtime laws, among other things. Over the course of time, dozens of their co-workers who worked delivering pizza, joined the lawsuit.
According to the reported terms of the Domino’s settlement, the awards will range from $61,300 to $400 per delivery person, depending on how long each worked for Domino’s Pizza New York (DPNY), which owns four Domino’s in Manhattan.
The litigation took three years, and accused DPNY of numerous wage and hour violations, including not giving a legally required lunch break, not paying for their uniforms, and paying a subminimum tip wage even when the workers did untipped work, like cleaning ovens and floors or distributing Domino’s flyers.
The lawsuit alleged that instead of paying a $5.65 tip wage for delivery workers, DPNY should have paid the full state minimum wage because the company failed to keep proper records of their tipped hours and failed to properly explain tip wages.
Mr. Rodriguez, originally from Mexico, said that in 2007 he complained to his manager that he had been improperly underpaid but instead of receiving fair hearing, he was fired on the spot. He then decided to take legal action. “The boss would always tell people, ‘If you don’t like it here, the door is open to go elsewhere,’” he said.
Notably, Magistrate Judge James C. Francis IV of Federal District Court granted the plaintiffs’ request to include the national Domino’s Pizza company as a defendant, after the delivery workers asserted that it was a joint employer that knew or should have known about the franchisee’s alleged wage violations.
Citi’s Turn to Pay in Forced-Place Insurance Lawsuit… Citigroup will pay $110 million to settle a forced-place insurance class action lawsuit brought by a homeowner who alleged he was forced to pay expensive property insurance premiums.
According to the terms of the settlement, class members who were charged for force-placed hazard insurance will receive 12.5 percent of the premium upon submitting a claim. The proposed settlement agreement, which requires final court approval, also requires Citigroup to stop accepting commissions for force-placed insurance for a period of six years from the effective date of the settlement.
According to report by Reuters.com one of Citi’s unit that deals with the insurance received a 15 percent commission on hazard insurance premiums during the proposed settlement class period.
Additionally, Citi will refund 8 percent each of force-placed flood insurance premiums and force-placed wind insurance premiums, even though no commissions were paid to Citi or its affiliates on flood or wind insurance.
According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs were charged roughly $758 million in hazard insurance premiums and $173 million in flood insurance premiums.
The case is Gordon Casey, Duane Skinner and Celeste Coonan, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated vs Citigroup Inc, Case No. 12-00820, U.S. District Court, Northern District of New York.
Ok Folks, That’s all for this week. See you at the bar !
Discount Wages as Well as Products? Well, we’re about to find out. Amazon got hit with an employment class action lawsuit filed by Plaintiff Kelly Pavuk (“Pavuk”) (Case No. 2013-11565-0, in the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas) who alleges Amazon failed to compensate her adequately for time working at the Amazon facility in Pennsylvania. Pavuk makes this claim on behalf of herself and other similarly situated.
Specifically, the Amazon lawsuit claims the defendants failed to comply with the requirements of the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act (“PMWA”), thereby violating the PMWA by not compensating all Warehouse Workers during the end-of-shift screening process that “approximately takes between 10 and 20 minutes, and, with delays … can last longer.”
Further, the lawsuit claims the defendants violated the PMWA by not compensating all Warehouse Workers for passing through the same screening process during meal breaks or for walking to that screening area. And, the lawsuit claims the defendants “automatically deduct 30 minutes from Warehouse Workers’ compensable time each shift for an unpaid meal break,” “require Warehouse Workers to remain at their work locations within the Facility until the start of the purported 30-minute meal break,” and that “[a]fter the start of the 30-minute meal break, Warehouse Workers walk to the [Facility’s] time clocks and clock-out.”
Okee dokee. One to watch.
OxyElite “light” on the Facts… including possible liver injury? A proposed defective products class action lawsuit has been filed against General Nutrition Center Holdings Inc., and USPLabs LLC, alleging OxyElite Pro energy and weight loss dietary supplements cause liver damage.
Filed by Sandeep Barot, the OxyElite lawsuit (U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey at Camden case number: 1:14-cv-000562) claims that OxyElite Pro is intended to safely provide weight loss, energy and mental focus, however, it instead causes severe adverse health effects.
The OxyElite complaint alleges that USPLabs sells a variety of energy and weight loss and dietary supplements under the brand name of OxyElite Pro through GNC, which are dangerous, sold pursuant to deceptive and unfair practices and are not fit for their intended purpose.
Barot claims that he and all others similarly situated “did not bargain for a product that causes adverse health effects in exchange for their payment of purchase price,” according to the lawsuit. And the lawsuit goes on to state that several adverse reactions, including serious liver injury and wrongful death, have been reported from consumers who have purchased and ingested the product.
According to the complaint, USPLabs and GNC had actual knowledge of the product’s shortcomings, but both failed to timely act to adequately warn consumers of the unfitness of the product, the extreme adverse side effects associated with the product or provide adequate relief to the class of consumers who purchased the product.
Further, On October 11, the US Food and Drug Administration issued a warning letter to USPLabs regarding OxyElite Pro for its inclusion of aegeline or dimethylamylamine, known as DMAA, the lawsuit states.
Barot claims that he purchased the product based on claims made by the manufacturer that the products would safely produce energy, increase weight loss and increase mental focus so long as the consumer used the product as directed. However, Barot alleges he suffered economic damages as a result of purchasing and using the product. Further, he claims that neither himself nor any other reasonable consumer would have purchased the product had they known about the severe adverse effects the product can cause to humans, the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit alleges that the defendants are in violation of the New Jersey Consume Fraud Act and was unjustly enriched at the plaintiffs’ expense.
Um, back to diet and exercise, I guess…
Hyundai Canada to Shell out Cash for False Mileage Claims. This week, the automaker announced that it has entered into an agreement with plaintiffs in Canada—representing current and former owners and lessees of vehicles affected by the auto company’s November 2012 restatement of fuel economy ratings. The adjustment affected approximately 130,000 Hyundai 2011-2013 model year vehicles, increasing their combined city/highway fuel consumption by 0.2-0.8 L/100km. While today’s agreement is valued at up to $46.65 million in cash compensation plus other available options, that number is dependent on how many customers elect to participate in the settlement’s one-time lump sum payment option or remain in the existing reimbursement program Hyundai introduced at the time of the restatement.
At the time of the restatement, Hyundai provided a reimbursement program to cover the additional fuel costs associated with the rating change—plus a 15 percent premium in acknowledgement of the inconvenience—to customers for as long as they owned or leased an affected vehicle. Affected owners and lessees are compensated based on their actual kilometers driven and the fuel costs for the region in which they live.
Under the terms of the proposed settlement, a single lump sum payment will be provided as an option to the original reimbursement program. The lump sum payments will vary by type of vehicle, and will be reduced for any amounts already received through Hyundai’s existing reimbursement program. For example, an individual owner who purchased a new 2012 Elantra would receive a lump sum payment of $361, minus any previous reimbursement payments. Affected Hyundai owners may elect the one-time lump sum cash payment or remain in the auto company’s ongoing reimbursement program for as long as they lease or own the affected vehicle; the choice is theirs. Consumers can also elect other options, such as a dealership credit of 150 percent of the lump sum cash payment amount, or a credit of 200 percent of the cash amount toward the purchase of a new Hyundai vehicle.
Courts in Ontario and Quebec are expected to review the agreement for approval in early 2014. Assuming approval is granted, notices will then be provided to all affected customers.
Hopefully the snow will have stopped by then—and the roads will be driveable!
Ok Folks, That’s all for this week. See you at the bar!
Bad Apple! Tech giant Apple Inc, got slapped with a class action lawsuit this week, you may have seen it, alleging the company illegally collected and sold its customers’ personal information. Filed in Boston by plaintiffs Adam Christensen, Jeffrey Scolnick, and William Farrell, the Apple lawsuit alleges “Apple compelled its customers to provide their zip codes when making credit card transactions at Apple stores.” Here’s hoping they don’t get hacked!
This type of data collection is prohibited by state law which makes it unnecessary for customers to submit any personal identification information (PIN) that’s not directly necessary to the transaction. Apple collected the zip codes of their customers in violation of this statute, the plaintiffs argue, then sold that data to third-party companies for marketing purposes.
According to the Apple lawsuit, plaintiffs Adam Christensen, Jeffrey Scolnick, and William Farrell shopped for and purchased items from Apple retail stores in Massachusetts between 2012 and 2013. “To consummate each purchase, plaintiffs elected to use their credit card as their chosen form of payment,” the lawsuit states. “As a condition of using their credit cards, plaintiffs were required by Apple to enter personal identification information associated with the credit card, including their full and complete zip codes. Apple would not allow plaintiff to complete their purchases without supplying such information.”
“Apple is not required by credit card issuers to require this information from consumers,” the lawsuit claims, which suggests that Apple is in violation of state law.
The lawsuit notes that Apple acknowledges openly on their website that they reserve the right to “make certain personal information available to strategic partners that work with Apple to provide products and services, or that help Apple market to customers.” “First, Plaintiffs and the Class have been injured because they have received unwanted marketing materials from Apple as a result of having provided their zip codes when using credit cards at Apple. Second, Plaintiffs and the Class have been injured by Apple’s sale of Plaintiffs’ and the Class’ PII to third-parties, which was collected by Apple in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws chapter. 93 § 105(c).And third, Plaintiffs and the Class have been injured because Apple misappropriated their economically valuable PII without consideration,” the lawsuit states.
If the court agrees, Apple would be deemed responsible for committing what the state of Massachusetts considers an “unfair and deceptive trade practice.” The plaintiffs are reportedly asking Apple to pay $75 per violation, as well as interest on those damages, litigation expenses, attorneys’ fees, and “such other and further relief as may be just and proper.” Apple would also be required to stop collecting PINs across the state.
So—one to watch…
Relief at the Truck Stop? A massive $130 million antitrust settlement made the books this week, potentially affecting some 4,000 independent truck stops and other retail fueling merchants. (That’s alota dosh!) The antitrust lawsuit is against Comdata Inc., the leading trucker fleet payment card issuer, and three national truck stop chains for a combined amount of $130 million plus valuable prospective relief in the form of enforceable changes to certain of Comdata’s allegedly anticompetitive business practices.
This lawsuit has been in the works since 2007!
The back story—Comdata operates a payment card network used by over-the-road truckers and fleets to purchase fuel and other items at truck stops and other retail fueling merchants. The lawsuit alleged that Comdata imposed anticompetitive provisions in its agreements with class members that artificially inflated the fees these truck stops and other retail fueling merchants paid when accepting the card for payment. The lawsuit also challenged allegedly anticompetitive arrangements among Comdata, its parent company Ceridian LLC, and three national truck stop chains: defendants TravelCenters of America LLC and its wholly owned subsidiaries, Pilot Travel Centers LLC and its predecessor Pilot Corporation, and Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores, Inc.
The Plaintiffs alleged that Comdata, with the assistance of its parent, Ceridian, engaged in anticompetitive behavior with the truck stop chains in which the chains agreed not to compete with Comdata in exchange for Comdata providing the chains with a transaction fee advantage versus their smaller, independent truck stop competitors. Plaintiffs alleged that this conduct insulated Comdata from competition, enhanced its market power, and led to independent truck stops’ paying artificially inflated transaction fees.
If its approved, these settlements would resolve all claims of the named Plaintiffs and the proposed class in exchange for aggregate payments from all defendants totaling $130 million plus a legally binding commitment from Comdata for prospective relief in the form of changes to certain allegedly anticompetitive contractual provisions in its merchant agreements. Plaintiffs and Co-Lead Class Counsel believe that this relief will promote competition among payment cards used by over-the-road fleets and truckers and lead to lower merchant fees for the independent truck stops.
FYI—the Comdata truck stop fee settlement approval process is expected to take several months. The named Plaintiffs and proposed Class representatives are Marchbanks Truck Service, Inc. d/b/a Bear Mountain Travel Stop, Gerald F. Krachey d/b/a Krachey’s BP South, and Walt Whitman Truck Stop, Inc.
Asbestos Settlement for Young Victim. This is sad, bittersweet Justice. Forty-year old John Panza, an English professor at Cuyahoga Community College and drummer with a popular Cleveland rock trio, Blaka Watra, has been awarded $27.5 million in settlement of his asbestos mesothelioma lawsuit. The settlement is reportedly the largest award of its kind ever in Ohio.
Panza was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2012, resulting from prolonged second-hand or take home exposure to clothing worn by his father, who picked up the asbestos dust at his job at the Eaton Airflex brake company. John Panza Sr., 52, died of lung cancer in 1994. He had worked at Airflex for 31 years, and previously served as president of the company’s union.
The asbestos brake pads were manufactured by the former National Friction Products Corp. John Jr. and his wife Jane, filed suit against Kelsey-Hayes Co., the Michigan-based successor to National Friction Products, and the lone remaining defendant at the time of the verdict, returned December 18, 2013.
The verdict breaks down the settlement as economic damages of $515,000 and $12 million in non-economic damages. The jury also awarded Jane Panza, who is just 37, $15 million for her loss of consortium claim, or the deprivation of the benefits of a family relationship due to her husband’s asbestos mesothelioma.
The eight-member jury attributed 60 percent of the liability to Kelsey-Hayes, finding that the company’s brake products were defective and primarily responsible for causing Panza’s cancer.
The Panza’s testimony was emotional, according to the judge. The couple went to high school and attended college together They have a 6-year-old daughter.
Prior to the trial, Panza underwent four separate surgeries and almost died, said John Mismas, one of Panza’s lawyers. Panza’s right lung was removed, and the invasive cancer is almost certain to eventually spread to his left lung, he said. “He’s going to die,” Mismas said.
Ok Folks, That’s all for this week. See you at the bar.
Stewart’s not-so-sweet deal for employees? According to company staff, yes indeedy. They filed an unpaid wage and hour class action lawsuit against Stewart’s Shops alleging violations of state and federal wage and hour laws.
Filed on January 9, 2014, in Federal District Court (Northern District of New York), the Stewart’s wage and hour lawsuit specifically claims that Stewart’s Shops failed to compensate employees for all hours worked by routinely requiring employees to perform work before and after their scheduled shifts without compensation.
The lawsuit also alleges that the defendant routinely deprived employees of mandatory meal breaks; failed to implement an accurate and effective method to record time worked by employees; failed to provide employees with mandatory disclosures concerning their rate of pay; and failed to pay for the cost to launder and maintain required uniforms.
The lawsuit is seeking class action status on behalf of 4,500 current and former Stewart’s Shops employees throughout New York and Vermont. FYI- Stewart’s Shops, headquartered in Saratoga Springs, NY, operates over 300 stores located across upstate New York and southern Vermont.
What a Blow Out! It’s approved! The proposed $4.5 million settlement in the Brazilian Blowout class action lawsuit has received final approval. Cast your minds back to 2013 – when a consumer fraud lawsuit was filed against the company alleging BB failed to warn customers that its hair straightening product emit toxic formaldehyde gas, while the label states the product is “formaldehyde-free”.
Specifically, the lawsuit, entitled formaldehyde gas, GIB LLC Cases, JCCP No. 4657 and in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, in a case entitled In Re Brazilian Blowout Litigation, Case No. CV 10-08452 JFW (MANx), alleged that Defendants’ hair smoothing – products known as Brazilian Blowout Solution and Brazilian Blowout Acai Professional Smoothing Solution (hereinafter referred to as “Brazilian Blowout Products”) contain formaldehyde and other harsh chemicals, which Defendants failed to disclose and affirmatively represented as “formaldehyde free,” “contain[s] no formaldehyde,” and “contain[s] no harsh chemicals,” and as being “100% salon safe.”
The Proposed Brazilian Blowout Settlement provides, among other things, for the creation of a Gross Settlement Fund in the amount of $4,225,000, and the distribution of payments from the Settlement Fund to Class members who submit Valid Claims for monetary settlement payments.
Eligible class members may be covered by the Proposed Settlement if (1) they are a person in the United States who purchased Brazilian Blowout Products directly from GIB, LLC or one of its authorized distributors on or before June 6, 2012 (“Stylist” Class member), or (2) they are a person in the United States who underwent a treatment using Brazilian Blowout Products on or before June 6, 2012 (“Consumer” Class member).
To download claim forms and for more information on the Brazilian Blowout class action settlement, visit http://www.brazilianblowoutsettlement.com/
Elite – a Model Defendant? Elite Model Management is being praised (?) for its speed in agreeing to a $450K out of court settlement of an unpaid intern class action lawsuit filed last February.
The Elite Model Management lawsuit was filed by plaintiff Dajia Davenport, who interned at the agency in the summer of 2010. It states that Elite “deliberately misclassifies its interns as exempt from wage requirements,” despite the fact that they work over 40 hours per week.
Filed in February, the lawsuit sought a minimum of $50 million in unpaid wages, overtime pay, liquidated damages, interest and attorneys’ fees for unpaid interns who worked for Elite between February, 2007, and the date of a final judgment.
The terms of the settlement will guarantee participating the over 100 interns who make up the “Class” a minimum payment of $700, and as much as $1,750. It is reportedly the largest of an unpaid intern class action lawsuit settlement so far.
A final settlement hearing is scheduled for May 1, 2014.
Ok Folks, That’s all for this week. See you at the bar.
Target targeted, by a computer virus and now a class action lawsuit. In case you hadn’t heard—the US’s second largest retailer got hit with a massive data breach just before Christmas—which latest reports indicate could affect as many as 70 million customer’s credit and debit cards.
Filed in California federal court by lead plaintiff Lisa Purcell (“Plaintiff”), the Target lawsuit seeks to represent all those similarly situated to obtain damages, restitution and injunctive relief for the Class. “The information Target lost, including Plaintiff’s identifying information and other financial information, is extremely valuable to thieves. As the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) recognizes, once identity thieves have personal information, they can drain your bank account, run up your credit cards, open new utility accounts, or get medical treatment on your health insurance,” the lawsuit states.
According to a statement issued by Target, the so-called track data was stolen in real time as payment cards were swiped in its stores between November 27, the day before Thanksgiving, and December 15.
The Target lawsuit states “Investigators believe the data was obtained via software installed on machines that customers use to swipe magnetic strips on their cards when paying for merchandise at Target stores.” And “The thieves may also have accessed PIN numbers for affected customers’ debit cards, allowing the thieves to withdraw money from those customers’ bank accounts. Thieves could not have accessed this information and installed the software on Target’s point-of-sale machines but for Target’s negligence, and that Target failed to implement and maintain reasonable security procedures and practices appropriate to the nature and scope of the information compromised in the data breach.”
Among the allegations is the clam that Target was negligent in its failure to implement and maintain reasonable security procedures and practices appropriate to the nature and scope of the information compromised in the data breach. Further, “Target unreasonably delayed informing anyone about the breach of security of Class Members’ confidential and personal information after Target knew the data breach had occurred,” the lawsuit states.
FYI—investigations into the breach are reportedly underway by the US Secret Service and two states’ attorneys general.
Carfax taking some Flak. An antitrust class action lawsuit has been filed against Carfax, alleging the company impairs competition through its exclusive and illegal alliances with Autotrader.com, and Cars.com, as well as with the majority of the automobile manufacturers’ certified pre-owned programs. The lawsuit further alleges that, as a result, automobile dealers are forced to conduct business with CARFAX at grossly inflated prices only to have CARFAX spend these inflated revenues on ads that disparage dealers as dishonest and untrustworthy.
The lawsuit, entitled Maxon Hyundai Mazda et-al. vs. Carfax, Inc, currently has approximately 500 dealer plaintiffs signed up, a number that is expected to increase as the suit progresses.
More from Madoff… Ok—here’s one for the record books—a settlement for the Class of BLMIS/Madoff customers has been reached affecting (“Class Action Settlement”) all potential claims against JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. and its parents, subsidiaries and affiliates (“JPMorgan”). The proposed Class Action Settlement will be contemporaneously presented by motions for approval to both United States District Court Judge McMahon and to Bankruptcy Court Judge Lifland. The filed case number is 11-cv-7866 (VM) (U.S. Dist. Ct., S.D.N.Y.).
The settlement of this Class Action is one part of a multi-part resolution of Madoff-related litigation against JPMorgan involving simultaneous, separately negotiated settlements, which include the Class Action Settlement in the amount of $218 million, the SIPA Trustee’s Avoidance Action settlement in the amount of $325 million, and a resolution with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York that includes a civil forfeiture in the amount of $1.7 billion.
The payments by JPMorgan in connection with these agreements will total $2.243 billion and will benefit victims of Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.
Ok Folks, That’s all for this week. Happy New Year! Here’s to a peaceful and prosperous 2014 for all.