Oh Yoo-Hoo Yahoo! This One’s for You! Yahoo following in Google’s footsteps? Umm, maybe…Yahoo got hit with a proposed Internet Privacy class action lawsuit this week, in case you missed it.
The Yahoo privacy lawsuit alleges Yahoo illegally reads, copies and analyzes emails in direct violation of California’s Invasion of Privacy Act and the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act.
Specifically, John Kevranian and Tammy Zapata, named plaintiffs in the action, allege Yahoo accesses Yahoo Mail users’ emails in order to make money on targeted advertising, profiling, data collection and other services.
According to the lawsuit, entitled Kevranian et al. v. Yahoo Inc., case number 5:13-cv-04547, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Yahoo put in place a new email system which became the default interface for all Yahoo users in May 2011. At the time, Yahoo said the system could “look for keywords and links to further protect you from spam, surface photos and in time, serve users with Internet-based advertising,” the lawsuit states. After a short grace period, all Yahoo email users were switched to the new version. Any of this sounding familiar?
Short version: The lawsuit states that Yahoo told its email account holders that the new email search capability looks for patterns, keywords and files in users’ communications, and that the automated system would scan and analyze all incoming and outgoing email, instant messages and other communications content sent and received from a user’s account in order to personalize his or her experience. “In employing the above described device, plaintiffs and the class allege that Yahoo intentionally intercepts and reviews the content of their electronic communications for financial gain.”
Not surprisingly, the plaintiffs allege “Yahoo’s acquisition and use of content from plaintiffs’ and class members’ email sent to Yahoo Mail users, and those emails sent from Yahoo Mail users to plaintiffs and class members, is not necessary to the transmission of email or to the operation the electronic communication service known as Yahoo Mail,” the lawsuit states.
Might be time to start writing more interesting emails…
LG Spinning Washer Efficiency Claims? And now—from “dirty laundry” to clean—or not…LG Electronics USA Inc. and Sears Holdings Corp got hit with a defective products class action lawsuit this week, alleging the companies manufactured and sold defective washing machines.
The LG defective washer class action lawsuit, entitled Laury Smith v. LG Electronics USA Inc., et al., Case No. 4:13-cv-04361, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California alleges the defendants misrepresented LG’s top-loading washing machines as being “high efficiency” , claiming the machines featured “extra high” spin speeds of 1,050 to 1,100 revolutions per minute. The lawsuit contends, however, that the machines tended to fall apart at high speeds. That’s useful!
The defective washing machines named in the class action are LG models WT5001CW, WT5101HV and WT5101HW; and Kenmore Elite brand models 29002, 29272 and 29278.
And the laundry list of charges (ok—that’s bad) are… unjust enrichment, breach of warranty, violation of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act, Unfair Competition Law, the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act and California’s False Advertising Law. Got all that?
Who Knew? Even Bankers get Screwed on Unpaid Overtime…This week, an $11.5 million settlement was proposed in an unpaid overtime class action lawsuit pending against RBS Citizens Financial Group Inc. The lawsuit is brought by employees against the financial institution and two of its subsidiaries alleging they failed to adequately compensate employees for overtime pay.
All six of the complaints, which have been consolidated into one lawsuit, entitled Cuevas v. Citizens Financial Group, Inc. et al., 1:13-cv-03871, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, alleges RBS violated federal and state laws throughout New England and the Northeast and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
One of the lawsuits, filed by Kevin Martin in Pennsylvania in 2010 on behalf of all nonexempt employees working at Citizens Bank retail branches and its two subsidiaries, RBS Citizens NA and Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania, alleged Martin worked in excess of 40 hours per week but RBS prevented him from recording the additional work hours. Martin also alleged he was required to work through his breaks without pay, and that the institution erased or changed his recorded time to reduce his reported overtime hours.
The class or collective members involved in the litigation include some 5,827 employees such as assistant branch managers or hourly employees. Under the proposed settlement terms, the payout will cover class members’ payments, attorneys’ fees, litigation costs and enhancement awards, with assistant branch managers averaging an award of $2,000 and hourly employees averaging an award of $850.
Additionally, the 10 plaintiffs named in the action and who initiated the six lawsuits, will each receive $7,500. A further 36 people who testified at or provided a deposition for one of the case’s three-week jury trial will receive $1,500. Well done!
Big News for Vytorin. This one’s definitely a biggie…: A $688 million Vytorin settlement has been approved by a federal judge effectively ending claims that Merck & Co. Inc. and its subsidiary Schering-Plough Corp. concealed test results on the efficacy of their anti-cholesterol drug Vytorin.
Back in 2008, New York Attorney-General Andrew Cuomo began investigating whether Vytorin’s marketing campaign violated the state’s laws regarding false advertising. Specifically, officials were concerned that, despite results from a study that found Vytorin was no more effective than generic drugs.
This whopper of a settlement was initially proposed in February—interestingly—just prior to the class action’s trial date. Neither Merck nor Schering-Plough admits any wrongdoing—why would they?
The settlement will end claims against the companies for the vast majority of the class, except for 187 plaintiffs who opted out, according to court papers.
Ok Folks, That’s all for this week. Have a good one—see you at the bar !
Internet Charges-A-GoGo! Hello! Gogo LLC, an inflight Internet service provider, is facing a consumer fraud class action lawsuit alleging the company misleads consumers about its charges. Gogo, for those of us not wireless wired at 41,000 feet, provides in-flight Internet and wireless in-cabin digital entertainment services.
The GoGo lawsuit, filed by Kerry Welsh, president of WelCom Products, which produces folding hand trucks, claims that on August 7, 2011 Welsh paid $39.95 for up to 30 days Internet usage on any airline. However, Welsh contends that after the 30 days term ended on September 7, he was charged $39.95 every month until at least December 2012, even though he did not use the service.
In the class action, Welsh alleges he “received no communications from Gogo on a monthly basis notifying him of the recurring charges.”
Welsh, filed the lawsuit on behalf of class members who were “were misled to believe they were purchasing only a one-month pass, but were in fact charged every month thereafter.”
The lawsuit states that “every other class member purchased in-flight Internet serve from Gogo prior to December 31, 2012, using a registration website that had representations about the monthly cost of the service but had no representations about the recurring nature of charges for the service.” While the Gogo website now states that monthly services charges will be recurring, “… it did not do so in 2011,” the lawsuit states.
Were you overcharged for inflight Internet access?
Anti-Aging? Um, not so much… Anti-honest? Very possibly, according to a consumer fraud class action filed against Reserve Life Organics LLC (d/b/a Reserveage Organics). According to the lawsuit, the company makes false and misleading statements regarding the health benefits of its anti-aging products. (No!)
The Reserveage lawsuit, entitled Kathleen Hold v. Reserve Life Organics, Case No. 3:13-cv-02206, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, claims that the Reserveage product made by Reserveage Organics does not contain resveratrol, an ingredient derived from French red wine grapes. Instead, the lawsuit asserts, the product actually contains Japanese Knotweed, a cheaper, more readily available source of resveratrol (couldn’t you just drink red wine instead?)
Filed by plaintiff Kathleen Holt, the lawsuit states that Reserveage deceives consumers into paying a premium for health supplements that contain very little of the advertised resveratrol, an ingredient that allegedly has anti-aging capabilities. Holt also claims Reserveage Organics does not admit that the products contain substantial amounts of magnesium stearate, an additive that is allegedly hazardous to human health by adversely affecting the immune system.
Specifically, the lawsuit states, “The main ingredient in resveratrol, and the main ingredient providing substantial resveratrol, is nonorganic Japanese Knotweed, not French red-wine grapes, (!) which is a much cheaper and more plentiful source of natural, as opposed to organic, grape-based resveratrol.” Further, “In addition, despite defendant’s claim of ‘From the Heart of France,’ plaintiff believes that defendant’s Japanese Knotweed is sourced from China.”
The consumer fraud class action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of the plaintiff and all California residents who purchased Reserveage resveratrol products within the last four years. The lawsuit contends that the company’s marketing violates California’s False Advertising Law and Unfair Competition law, among other claims.
I think direct application of red wine grapes—ingested in the form of wine—should be put to the test…
A sweet deal for consumers? Maybe. A $5 million proposed settlement has been agreed by Cargill Inc, potentially ending a consumer fraud class action lawsuit alleging the food manufacturer misled consumers into believing its Truvia stevia sweetener is “natural.”
According to the consumer fraud lawsuit, entitled The Truvia False Advertising Class Action Lawsuit is Martin, et al. v. Cargill Inc., Case No. 13-cv-2563, U.S. District Court of Minnesota, the main ingredients in Cargill’s Truvia stevia sweetener are “highly processed” and/or derived from GMOs.
If approved, the Truvia settlement would distribute the $5 million in settlement funds among eligible class members as cash or vouchers. Class Members will be eligible to claim a cash refund or voucher based on the amount of money they spent on Truvia products during the Class Period.
Lead plaintiffs Molly Martin and Lauren Barry asked the Court to preliminary approve the proposed settlement. Eligible class members include consumers who purchased 40-count and 80-count packages of Truvia Natural Sweetener packets, and any size of the Truvia Natural Sweetener spoonable jars and baking blends, from July 1, 2008 onwards.
A Preliminary Approval Hearing is set for October 23, 2013.
Ok Folks, That’s all for this week. Have a good one—see you at the bar !
Rapper Sean (Diddy) Combs’ Record Co. Facing Bad Rap. This week a former intern filed a class action alleging Bad Boy Entertainment used her like a regular employee without proper compensation. Twenty-six year old Rashida Salaam filed her employment class action in Manhattan Federal Court, alleging Bad Boy and parent company Universal Music Group violated New York minimum-wage laws.
In her Bad Boy intern complaint, Salaam, a Brooklyn resident, alleges her bosses at Bad Boy had her answer phones, fetch coffee, book trips for Diddy and prepare expense reports. The lawsuit also claims Salaam’s fellow unpaid interns wrapped presents and decorated the office during holidays. The interns allegedly performed these and other tasks that would regularly be done by paid employees, having received no training.
Salaam alleges she interned at the Manhattan offices of Bad Boy Entertainment from January 2012 to May 2012, usually working three or four days a week, from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. or later. According to the lawsuit, Salaam’s duties included “picking up lunch and coffee” and “running personal errands” for paid employees, which she claims was in line with a corporate policy to “minimize labor costs.”
Saleem is seeking back wages plus interest for the hours that she and her peers worked—an amount that will be determined at trial. The class action seeks to represent those similarly situated, which could be more than 500 people who interned at Bad Boy from August 2007.
Diddy is not implicated in the class action and did not manage Salaam personally. Salaam did receive a $40 a week travel stipend for her commute. Wow. Just think, assuming Salaam lives in NYC, that 40 bucks would get her 14.5 subway rides! Guess she was SOL if she had to cross the Hudson or East rivers…
Mission Tortilla Chips Non GMO Claim a Load of Corn? Maybe. A consumer fraud class action lawsuit was filed this week against Gruma Corp, the manufacturers of Mission Tortilla Chips, alleging the chips contain GMOs, contrary to the advertising claims that the product is all natural.
Nichole Griffith, who filed the tortilla chips lawsuit entitled, Mission Tortilla Chips Class Action Lawsuit is Griffith v. Gruma Corporation, Case No. 9:13-cv-80791, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, alleges that Gruma deliberately misleads customers by promising that its Mission tortilla chips are natural even though they are allegedly made with genetically modified corn.
Specifically, the lawsuit states “The product is simply not ‘All Natural,’ and it would be unreasonable for defendant to contend otherwise.” Additionally, “Genetically modified corn products contain genes and/or DNA that would not normally be in them, and that cannot be achieved through traditional crossbreeding, and are thus not natural, thereby causing the product to fail to be ‘all natural.’” Griffith alleges Gruma knew, or should have known, that its products contain genetically modified ingredients.
According to her lawsuit, Griffith claims that had she been aware that GMO corn was allegedly used in the production of Mission tortilla chips, she would not have purchased the products, and especially not at the premium price. Instead, the lawsuit contends that Griffiths relied on Gruma’s representations that the chips were “all natural” and she assumed that they did not contain GMO ingredients. Go get’em!
Dow Chemical Liable in Asbestos Case. While this settlement is good news for the asbestos mesothelioma victim, such as it can be, the implications are shocking given what we know about the dangers of asbestos. The Dow Chemical Company was found liable on all counts in a civil asbestos lawsuit filed in Louisiana state court relating to its use of asbestos and allegedly causing cancer in its workers. The case was decided by a Plaquemine, Louisiana jury, which awarded $5.95 million in damages.
Dow Chemical’s Louisiana division is headquartered in Plaquemine, LA. The Dow Plaquemine Plant is the largest chemical plant in the petro-chemical industry rich state.
The lawsuit alleged that exposures to asbestos at Dow Chemical caused Sidney Mabile’s terminal asbestos cancer, mesothelioma. Mabile’s attorneys alleged in the suit that Dow has exposed thousands of workers to asbestos, and that Mabile is only one of hundreds of future asbestos cancer victims also exposed at Dow. Court documents revealed that Dow has continued to use tons of raw asbestos in its chemical manufacturing facilities throughout the world. Internal Dow documents showed that Dow lobbied to oppose the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed ban of asbestos. Court documents suggested that Dow performed a “cost per cancer” analysis and determined that it would cost Dow over $1.2 billion to switch all of its plants to non-asbestos processing methods.
Dow was successful in lobbying the Environmental Protection Agency to allow Dow to continue using raw asbestos in its United States chemical plants. Dow has continued to fight the ban of asbestos in other countries. The European Trade Union Confederation explains that an “[o]pposition to a blanket asbestos ban now seems to come only from Dow Chemicals.”
Ok Folks, That’s all for this week. Have a good one—see you at the bar!
Souped up Claims? Some unhealthy allegations were leveled at Campbell’s and The American Heart Association (AHA) this week. The two organizations are facing a consumer fraud class action lawsuit challenging the validity of the heart-healthy claims displayed on some Campbell’s soups.
The Campbell’s Soup lawsuit centers on the AHA’s “Heart-Check” certification and whether it rightfully conveys that certain types of Campbell’s soups have particular health benefits. The lawsuit alleges that the AHA allows Campbell’s and other companies, to use its “Heart-Check” label on products that run counter to its stated mission, to fight heart disease and stroke, in exchange for fees.
According to the AHA’s website, a product displaying the “Heart Check” certification must contain no more than 480 milligrams of sodium per serving. However, the website also states the definition of low sodium is 140 milligrams or less per serving.
According to the complaint, one can of Campbell’s “Healthy Request” condensed Chicken Noodle Soup, displaying the AHA’s “Heart Check” certification, is listed as having 410 milligrams of sodium per half-cup serving. However, there are two or more servings per can, meaning there would be at least 820 milligrams of sodium in a can, the plaintiffs allege.
“The AHA, for a fee, abandons its general, non-commercial dietary and nutritional guidelines,” the lawsuit states. The lawsuit states that the AHA’s “Heart Check’ mark is misleading in that people who see the mark think that the products displaying it, in this case Campbell’s soups, “possess some cardiovascular benefit not enjoyed by products that have not been certified by the AHA.” The only difference is that Campbell pays money for the certification, according to the suit.
It’s a salty tale indeed—and will be interesting to see how it plays out.
Been paying 1,000%-1,500% interest on Payday loans? Don’t know? Read on. A deceptive business practices class action lawsuit has been filed over FastLoan payday loans sold by the following banks: Bank of Albuquerque, Bank of Arizona, Bank of Arkansas, Bank of Kansas City, Bank of Oklahoma, Bank of Texas, and Colorado State Bank and Trust.
The payday loan lawsuit alleges that some customers of these banks who obtained “FastLoans” were charged annual percentage rates grossly in excess of the rates represented in the FastLoan agreements. FastLoans are similar to payday loans. The banks told consumers that the loans had an APR of 120% for a term of 30 days. Typically, however, the bank repays itself from the customer’s account in a much shorter time, resulting in APRs of well over 120%—and sometimes over 1,000% or 1,500%. The lawsuit alleges that the bank breached its FastLoan payday loan contract with its customers and that the FastLoans violated the Truth in Lending Act (TILA), the Electronic Funds Transfer Act (EFTA), and state consumer protection laws. Money, money, money…how does that song go?
A Settlement Fit for Approval? Very possibly. LA Fitness has reached a revised settlement in a consumer fraud class action lawsuit pending against it. The LA Fitness lawsuit claims the fitness company continued to charge New Jersey customers after they cancelled their gym memberships.
Sound familiar? This isn’t the only such lawsuit LA Fitness faced—we posted one filed in southern California, and another stating violations of Florida’s consumer protection laws.
If granted final court approval, the settlement will resolve the lawsuit entitled The Martina v. LA Fitness International LLC, Case No, 12-cv-02063. A final court hearing is scheduled for September 17, 2013.
Ok—back to this settlement: there are two proposed classes of plaintiffs affecting people who either cancelled their monthly dues membership with L.A. Fitness during the time period of February 28, 2006 through March 31 2012 OR who entered into a fitness service agreement with L.A. Fitness in the state of New Jersey during the period of February 28, 2006 through March 31 2012.
The Fitness Service Agreement Class is defined as “all Individuals: (a) who entered into a Fitness Service Agreement with L.A. Fitness in the State of New Jersey during the time period February 28, 2006 through March 31, 2012.”
Subject to final court approval, the parties have agreed to a settlement under which Class Members will receive either (a) ) two free individual personal training sessions of 25 minutes each with a certified personal trainer (not a master trainer) at any New Jersey L.A. Fitness facility, except a Signature Club location; or (b) a credit of One Hundred Dollars (the “$100 Credit”) to be applied toward the purchase of a new Monthly Dues Membership at any L.A. Fitness facility (and can be used to offset any initiation fee and/or initial dues as applicable).
The Membership Agreement Class is defined as “all Individuals: (a) who entered into Monthly Dues Membership Agreements with L.A. Fitness in the State of New Jersey, and (b) who paid for an additional month of dues after L.A. Fitness received and processed a Notice of Cancellation during the time period February 28, 2006 through March 31, 2012 (in addition to the application of pre-paid last month dues), and (c) the payment of the additional month of dues was not subsequently refunded.”
Subject to final court approval, the parties have agreed to a settlement under which Class Members will receive a 45 Day Access Pass to any L.A. Fitness facility in New Jersey, except Signature Club locations. Class Members may also receive a payment equal to one-third (1/3) of one month’s dues.
For complete details and to download claim forms, visit www.NJGymSettlement.com. The deadline to request these benefits and/or use them is September 17, 2014.
Ok Folks, That’s all for this week. Have a good one—see you at the bar!
What’s the Straight Talk, Walmart? Well, Walmart, it seems just cannot stay out of court. This time—a consumer fraud class action lawsuit alleging false and deceptive advertising has been filed against the world’s largest retailer and alleged co-conspirator StraightTalk.
The litany of alleged wrongs committed by the defendants include breach of contract, breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing, unjust enrichment, and violations of Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, California’s Unfair Competition Law and California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act. That’s all.
Among the goals of the class action is to get clarity on the limitations of the data service. Straight Talk representatives, it seems, have allegedly refused to explicitly define throttling points for data access, and many customers have complained about receiving inconsistent data service without using much data at all, while others are able to use gigabytes of data without much issue.
The plaintiffs are seeking certification of the proposed class, an order permanently enjoining defendants from their improper conduct, and a judgment awarding restitution, actual damages, exemplary damages, prejudgment and post-judgment interest, attorneys’ fees and costs.
Mona Vie Super Juice a Super Scam? Yes—according to a consumer fraud class action lawsuit filed this week. The Mona Vie class action lawsuit claims that it’s no more than a multi-level marketing scheme to promote an expensive “super juice” (Mona Vie).
Filed in federal court by lead plaintiff Lisa Pontrelli, the lawsuit states “The Mona Vie juice scam is the newest creation of noted multi-level marketing scheme architect, and prior ‘super juice’ creator, Dallin Larsen, after his last venture was halted by the Food and Drug Administration because of false and misleading advertising.” Dallin Larsen is not a named defendant in the complaint but his companies are, namely Mona Vie Inc. and Mona Vie LLC, both of South Jordan, Utah.
“Mona Vie’s story is almost identical to that of Royal Tongan Limu—another ‘super juice’ product with too-good-to-be-true alleged health benefits,” the complaint reads.
Larsen created both products, which are based on an exotic ‘superfood’. Marketing for both products is based on claims that they provide outlandish health benefits when consumed, including curing cancer and diabetes. Both Royal Tongan Limu and Mona Vie were allegedly sold by untrained ‘distributors’ extolling the unproven health benefits to unwitting customers.
“The propaganda created through the Mona Vie scheme is false and misleading about the nature of and benefits attributable to consuming Mona Vie juice. The propaganda is an essential component of the scheme because the perpetuation of the belief that Mona Vie juice will cure or treat whatever health problems a consumer might have is the main reason defendants are able to charge the wrongfully inflated price of approximately $45 for a 25 ounce bottle,” according to the lawsuit.
Further, the Mona Vie lawsuit claims that the independent distributors, as an essential part of the scam.”Defendants and their ‘independent distributors’ sales force work together in a symbolic fashion to sell as much wrongfully overpriced Mona Vie juice as possible,” the lawsuit states.
“Defendants know that their co-conspirator ‘independent distributors’ generate false and misleading advertising about the health benefits of Mona Vie juice, but do not stop them because such advertisements generate sales of Mona Vie juice. The most insidious form of this false and misleading advertising are the testimonials where individuals attribute miraculous medical breakthroughs to their individual chronic health condition to drinking Mona Vie juice. Defendants, of course, taught their ‘independent distributors’ how to generate such testimonials by themselves hiring individuals of modest celebrity to make their own misleading testimonials.”
The lawsuit alleges the class has been defrauded by paying “outrageously inflated” prices for products that fail to deliver the promised “substantial prophylactic, healing, therapeutic and curative powers for an almost limitless universe of diseases and conditions.” Pontrelli is seeking an injunction and punitive damages for fraud, consumer fraud and unjust enrichment.
Gentek Siding Steel Peel Case Settles. Gentek, makers of exterior siding that suffers from “steel peel” (that’s certainly confidence inducing), will have to honor its warrantees, as ordered by US District Court Judge Benita Y. Pearson, in a Final Order, approving a defective products class action settlement against the building products company.
The lawsuit, entitled Eliason, et al. v. Gentek Building Products, Inc., et al., Case No.: 1:10-cv-02093-BYP, alleged the siding manufactured and sold by Gentek is defectively designed and manufactured in such a way that it will prematurely fail, causing damage to consumer homes.
The Gentek siding lawsuit was filed on behalf of a number of Plaintiffs who alleged that the exterior siding manufactured by Gentek is defective and fails within the warranty period. The manufacturer’s warranty is supposed to cover cracking, chipping, flaking, peeling or splitting for the life of the purchaser. The warranty is in effect for 50 years from the original installation in the case that the property is sold to a new owner.
According to the lawsuit, the siding peels, cracks and chips are within the warranty period. Furthermore, the lawsuit alleged that Gentek failed to honor its warranty. The Plaintiffs claim that instead of repairing, replacing or refinishing the siding as promised, Gentek only offers a small amount of money as compensation or offer to repaint the affected area only. The lawsuit claimed that the sum of money offered was inadequate to reverse the damage, and that repainting only the affected area would only lead to future repairs because it did not address the underlying problem. How helpful.
According to the Judge’s Order, for settlement purposes, the class in this litigation was certified to be all persons, organizations, municipalities, corporations and entities that own property, whether commercial or residential, on which Gentek Steel Siding was applied during the period January 1, 1991 through March 15, 2013, that are covered by a Gentek Steel Siding warranty and which siding experienced Steel Peel.
Ok Folks, That’s all for this week. Have a good one—see you at the bar!