Is your air conditioning unit blowing a little defective hot air? Well, according to a class action lawsuit filed against Goodman Global, Inc., and certain affiliated companies, their central air conditioning units and heat pumps sold under the Goodman® and Amana® brands since 2007 are—defective that is. The bit that’s causing the alleged problems is the evaporator coil(s).
For those of us not intimately acquainted with the working innards of an air conditioning unit (most of us, I’m guessing) evaporator coils are generally located inside a consumer’s home and are essential to the proper functioning of any central air conditioning system or heat pump.
So–according to the lawsuit, Goodman and Amana central air conditioning and heat pump systems contain defective evaporator coils that improperly and prematurely leak refrigerant (a.k.a. Freon®). Oh that’s good. Not. The defect allegedly renders the systems inoperable because the cooling cycle will not work without refrigerant.
Although Goodman sells these units with a warranty, that warranty is limited in a way that provides insignificant protection to owners of the units. In particular, the Goodman warranty, by its terms, covers replacement parts, but not the labor costs associated with the replacement. According to the lawsuit, the result is that, when a defective evaporator coil fails, Goodman provides the owner with a replacement coil, but does not pay to have the old coil removed or the replacement coil installed. As alleged in the lawsuit, those labor costs typically run in the hundreds of dollars, and in some cases, thousands of dollars. Thus, in at least some instances, the owner is forced to spend as much or more to replace the defective evaporator coil as the cost to purchase a new Goodman unit.
The complaint also alleges that Goodman has known that its units sold since 2007 contained defective evaporator coils, but the company failed to inform consumers about the problem or issue a recall. Indeed, according to the lawsuit, Goodman continued to tout the quality of its air conditioning systems, claiming they were durable, dependable, and long lasting, even though it was aware that the defective evaporator coils would cause the units to fail prematurely and at rates far above the industry average.
The lead plaintiff in the case acquired his Goodman unit when he purchased his new house in September 2011. According to the lawsuit, in or about July 2013, after only one summer of use, the unit stopped cooling the plaintiff’s home. A service technician allegedly found that the unit was low on refrigerant and added four pounds of refrigerant, which immediately leaked out of the system. After observing this, the technician determined that the evaporator coil was leaking and needed to be replaced. According to the complaint, the service technician returned the old defective evaporator and replaced it with a new one, charging plaintiff approximately $650 for this service.
The civil action was filed on behalf of all consumers in North Carolina that purchased a central air conditioning unit or heat pump bearing the trade names Goodman® and Amana® from 2007 to the present.
GM—AGAIN! GM just cannot seem to get it right these days. No, this time it’s not the auto recalls…this week their loan re-financing subsidiary got hit with a class action lawsuit alleging violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).
Brought by Monique Perez of California, the GM lawsuit claims that beginning in late 2013, General Motors Financial Co. Inc. made “virtually daily incessant calls” to Perez’s cellphone regarding a debt allegedly owed by another person named “Melanie.”
Perez claims that by calling from an automatic telephone dialing system (ATDS), which can store or produce telephone numbers to be called using a random or sequential number generator, GM Financial violated the TCPA. Don’t you love technology?
According to the lawsuit, “Plaintiff has never provided any personal information, including her cellular telephone number, to defendant for any purpose. As such, neither defendant nor its agents were provided with prior express consent to place calls via its ATDS to plaintiff’s cellular telephone.”
The plaintiff alleges members of the class not only suffered privacy violations but also suffered cellular telephone charges or saw a reduction in cellular telephone time that had already been paid for.
Perez is seeking to represent a putative class, made up of all US residents who received any telephone call from the company to a cellphone through the use of an ATDS within the past four years. She is seeking $500 per negligent violation and $1,500 per knowing or willful violation of the TCPA for each class member.
So it was all corn after all… Kellogg’s, the maker of Kashi products, has agreed to a $5 million settlement, potentially ending a consumer fraud class action lawsuit that claimed Kashi’s labeling was misleading and fraudulent. Wait—don’t tell me—this stuff is so natural it makes Mother Nature look fraudulent—right?
Right. The Kashi lawsuit alleged that labeling on certain products used labels stating “All Natural” or “Nothing Artificial,” when in fact the products contain a variety of synthetic and artificial ingredients, such as pyridoxine hydrochloride, calcium pantothenate, hexane-processed soy ingredients, ascorbic acid, glycerin and sodium phosphate.
Under the terms of the settlement, Kellogg’s has also agreed to stop using the labels “All Natural” and “Nothing Artificial”. In a statement, Kellogg Co. said it stood by its advertising and labeling practices but that it would change its formulas or labels on Kashi products, nationally by the end of the year.
The settlement was filed May 2 in U.S. District Court in California and is subject to court approval.
Ok Folks—we’re done here—have a great weekend and we’ll see you at the bar!
Caremark to get healthy over vitamin E advertising claims? That’s right folks, the pharmacy chain is facing a consumer fraud class action lawsuit filed by a customer who alleges the labeling on the pharmacy chain’s vitamin E pills state that they have heart health benefits.
Filed by plaintiff Ronda Kauffman, on behalf a proposed nationwide class of consumers who purchased vitamin E pills from the major pharmacy chain, and subclasses for customers in Rhode Island and New York, the CVS/Caremark complaint alleges that the CVS labels are misleading to customers, making them think the vitamins could reduce the risk of heart disease.
“The overwhelming majority of scientific studies find no ‘heart health’ benefit to taking vitamin E supplements,” the lawsuit states. Hey – what about the placebo effect?
7,600 CVS pharmacies nationwide carried the vitamins, which retail for approximately $8 to $20 per bottle, the lawsuit states. Kaufman alleges she bought vitamin E tablets from a CVS store in New York after reading the label and lost money on the purchase, which she wouldn’t have made if not for the heart health claims.
The CVS lawsuit mentions several studies that allegedly show vitamin E provides no heart health benefits. Further, it cites data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which show heart disease to be the leading cause of death in the US.
“Defendants have preyed upon these legitimate health concerns by misrepresenting to consumers that its vitamin E products have a ‘heart health’ benefit when they do not,” the complaint states.
The lawsuit claims CVS has violated deceptive business practice laws in New York and Rhode Island.
So, it’s back to eating your veggies.
Do no evil? Isn’t that it? Well, Google Inc. is facing a proposed antitrust class action lawsuit alleging the company is trying to monopolize the search engine feature on Android smartphones and tablets in violation of state and federal antitrust laws.
The Google lawsuit, Feitelson et al v. Google Inc., case number 5:14-cv-02007, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, claims that Google engages is anticompetitive behavior by allowing Android device manufacturers to preload its popular applications, such as Youtube and Google Maps, only if the companies agree to make Google’s search application the default search engine on their devices. Is that evil—or convenient?
The lawsuit states: “By way of Google’s coercive and exclusionary practice with Android OS device manufacturers … Google restrains and quashes competition for default search engine status before it even can begin. Google’s practice is a pure power play designed to maintain and extend its monopoly in handheld general search.”
Further, the plaintiffs claim that Google’s alleged conduct results in consumers overpaying for certain Android phones and tablets, as the price for the devices may have been lowered if rivals had been given a chance to compete for default search engine status, potentially by paying manufacturers.
“Such payments … would lower the bottom-line cost associated with production of the covered devices, which in turn would lead to lower consumer prices for smartphones and tablets,” the lawsuit states.
The class action seeks to represent all U.S. purchasers of Android phones and tablets made by manufacturers who have entered into an alleged agreements with Google requiring its search engine to be the default search tool on their devices. The suit seeks an injunction on these alleged practices, as well as monetary damages.
Could this end up like Microsoft?
Can you sue for ugliness, too? Vibram’s set to fork over for false health claims about FiveFingers..Turns out reinventing the wheel may be costly afterall. Vibram, the maker of a glovelike running shoe that purported to have health benefits such as reducing foot injuries and strengthening foot muscles—has agreed to settle a consumer fraud class action lawsuit.
The FiveFingers lawsuit alleges the company’s health claims regarding its FiveFingers running shoes were false and misleading. Specifically, the lawsuit alleged that the claims were“deceptive” and stated “that FiveFingers may increase injury risk as compared to running in conventional running shoes, and even when compared to running barefoot.” The complaint also stated that the company misrepresented research on barefoot running, claiming “there are no well-designed scientific studies that support FiveFingers’ claims.”
Under the terms of the proposed settlement agreement, Vibram would pay $94 per pair of shoes bought. More than two dozen models of Vibram shoes will qualify for refund.
Further, Vibram has agreed to discontinue some aspects of its advertising and marketing campaigns and, in the absence of verifiable scientific evidence, will make no other statements about the health benefits of FiveFingers.
Medtronic, the maker of a spinal bone graft product called Infuse Bone Graft, has said it will pay $22 million to settle about 1,000 lawsuits stemming from claims of adverse health outcomes related to the product and claims that the manufacturer illegally promoted the Medtronic bone product for off-label uses. Medtronic is also reportedly preparing a further $140 million to settle an even larger number of anticipated claims.
Medtronic allegedly encouraged physicians to use its Infuse bone stimulator off-label in the cervical spine, which helped generate sales of more than $3 billion for the manufacturer. As of September of 2008, about 680,000 units of Infuse Bone Grafts had been used in the US, according to Medtronic. According to a report by the Senate committee investigating the product, the company’s undisclosed manipulation of information through the medical literature included overstating its benefits and downplaying concerns about serious complications. According to MedPage Today, during the past 15 years, Medtronic has paid $210 million in royalties and other payments to a group of 13 doctors and two corporations linked to doctors. Many of the lawsuits claim that it was by paying spinal surgeons the company was able to promote the off-label use of Infuse.
According to a press release Medtronic issued Tuesday, the $22 million will resolve the claims of some 950 people. A further 750 cases brought by 1,200 people are pending across the use, and there could be another 2,600 claims yet to be brought.
Ok—Folks—we’re done here—have a great weekend and we’ll see you at the bar!
Talc Troubles? It’s one thing to file a consumer fraud class action lawsuit alleging mislabelling infractions regarding “all natural” and “ no preservatives”—for example, but a consumer fraud class action filed this week against Johnson & Johnson alleging its classic baby powder products are associated with a significant increase in the risk of ovarian cancer, well that’s just a whole different level of muckery. Why do I continue to be surprised by these things…
According to the baby powder lawsuit, filed by plaintiff Mona Estrada (Mona Estrada v. Johnson & Johnson et al., case number 2:14-cv-01051, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California) studies have shown a 33% increased risk for ovarian cancer associated with talcum powder among women who use it on their genitals. Yet the only warnings on the product labels tell users to keep the powder away from their eyes, avoid inhalation and to use externally. Estrada, who has used the product since 1950, claims she expected Johnson’s Baby Powder, made of scented talc, to be safe. Further, the lawsuit claims J&J has failed to disclose the information regarding ovarian cancer risk on its product labels.
“As a result of the defendants’ misrepresentations and omissions, plaintiff and the proposed class have purchased a product which is potentially lethal,” the complaint states. Estrada alleges she would not have purchased the powder had she been aware of the risk. You think? Thankfully, Estrada is not claiming any personal injury.
Estrada further alleges she has bought J&J’s powder since 1950 and believed all this time that the product was safe to use on any external part of her body, and that J&J encouraged women to use the product daily.
“Although the label has changed over time, the message is the same: that the product is safe for use on women as well as babies,” the lawsuit states. The lawsuit also states that J&J has known of studies showing that women who used talcum powder on their genital area had a higher risk of ovarian cancer, since at least 1982. Further, the author of a 1982 study was contacted by a J&J doctor who was told the company it should add a warning label to the bottle.
The talc lawsuit goes on to state that the American Cancer Society (ACS) allegedly said that a 2008 study, linking higher usage of talcum powder to increased risk of cancer, showed the powder “probably” increased the risk for cancer. The ACS compared talcum powder to asbestos, postmenopausal hormone therapy and radiation. Oh great.
The lawsuit claims J&J violated the California Consumer Legal Remedies Act and Unfair Competition Law, negligently misrepresented its powder and breached its implied warranty. This is going to be interesting.
Beauty Blunder? Aveda Corp, and its parent company, Estee Lauder Inc, and are facing an employment lawsuit filed by a former beauty school student who alleges the beauty companies treat their trainees as unpaid employees in violation of state and federal labor law. There must be some law of physics that works something like—the larger the company the less they pay—or try to pay…
Filed by lead plaintiff Jazlyn Jennings, the lawsuit claims that Aveda uses students at its California cosmetology schools as unpaid workers, requiring them to provide full hair and beauty services to paying clients, while at the same time claiming to provide educational experience to those trainees. Yes—it’s an educational experience alright—just not the kind the students signed up for.
The nitty gritty—“The California defendants led plaintiff and others…to believe that they were paying tuition to learn the skills necessary to succeed in the glamorous profession of beauty and cosmetology. Instead, they converted students into student employees to profit from their free labor.”
According to Jennings, she trained at the Aveda Institute Los Angeles from April 2011 to June 2012, where she provided haircuts, makeup removal, manicures and other services to customers without being compensated for her labor.
Jennings alleges that the institute’s staff did not properly supervise students who shelled out “thousands or tens of thousands” to participate in its yearlong training program, providing just four supervisors for the 40 students working on the salon floor, in violation of state regulations.
In addition to the Aveda institute in Los Angeles, Jennings also names its San Francisco-based school, the Cinta Aveda Institute Inc., and its Southeast institute operator, Beauty Basics Inc., as co-defendants in the employment lawsuit. “[Defendants] could have hired employees who they would have had to have paid at least minimum wage but instead chose to displace such employees with the free labor they demanded of their student employees,” the lawsuit states.
Additionally, according to the allegations, students were compelled to sell Aveda products to the public, effectively transforming students into “non-commissioned salespeople.” And the litany of bad deeds goes on to include handing over of tips and insufficient or completely absent supervision—if that’s not a contradiction in terms… but you get the picture.
So—bottom line—by failing to pay its “student employees,” the complaint claims that Aveda violated the minimum wage requirements of both California labor law and the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Additionally, Jennings claims Aveda failed to pay overtime, did not provide proper meal and rest breaks, did not provide accurate wage statements and engaged in unfair business practices.
Heads up—Jennings is seeking to represent a class of individuals who provided beauty services or sold products to paying customers in the named Aveda institutes from April 22, 2010, to the present. The class may also include student employees who cleaned or provided support services to Aveda’s beauty institutes in California.
This settlement almost slipped under the radar this week—surprising given that the named defendants are Apple Inc, Google Inc, Intel Inc and Adobe Systems Inc. The tech worker settlement is, not surprisingly, pre-trial in the amount of $324 million—and it’s meant to end an antitrust class action lawsuit brought by by Silicon Valley tech engineers.
The lawsuit was filed in 2011, alleging that the four tech giants conspired to hold down salaries in Silicon Valley. You may remember some finger pointing at Steve Jobs over this one. In any event, the class action, filed in 2011 by Silicon Valley engineers, alleged that Apple Inc, Google Inc, Intel Inc and Adobe Systems conspired to refrain from soliciting one another’s employees in order to avert a salary war.
The trial, which will not be going ahead, surprise,surprise—was scheduled to begin at the end of May on behalf of roughly 64,000 workers who were seeking $3 billion in damages. Whoa Nelly—now that would have had an impact.
Ok—Folks—we’re done here—have a great weekend and we’ll see you at the bar!
GM, Toyota, now Chrysler—Welcome! to the defective automotive class action lawsuit hall of fame…Cast your mind back—when reports of alleged defects with the Chrysler Totally Integrated Power Module (TIPM) in 2011-2012 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Durangos and Dodge Grand Caravans, began to surface…well, predictably, a Chrysler class action has been filed, alleging the alleged defective Chrysler TIPMs can cause numerous electrical problems and serious safety risks. no surprise there. I suppose the good news is that there don’t appear to be any reports of deaths associated with these defects. We hope.
According to the lawsuit, the associated TIPM problems range from difficulty starting the vehicles to stalling to fuel pumps not shutting off. Additionally, the affected vehicles may experience random activation of the built in alarm systems, windshield wipers or horns, headlights going out. Talk about having a bad hair day! That could send a person seriously over the edge.
The alleged defective TIPMs are so common that the replacement parts are backordered for weeks across the US. Terrific.
The plaintiffs allege that to date, Chrysler has refused to reimburse impacted affected owners for their rental car costs or the cost of expensive repairs. Further, Chrysler has to date refused to issue a recall for the TIPM, despite being aware that the defective TIPM pose serious safety risks to those who continue to drive the impacted Chrysler vehicles. So, sing it with me folks—you know the words—Hi Ho, Hi Ho—it’s off to court they go!
Revlon’s hit a Wrinkle with their DNA Advantage product marketing…Wonder if they can make it vanish? The beauty products manufacturer got hit with a consumer fraud class action lawsuit this week—filed by two women who allege the company makes false and misleading claims regarding the benefits of various beauty products. Well, they certainly wouldn’t be the first.
The Revlon lawsuit specifically claims that these products are advertised as providing a “DNA Advantage” despite the fact that none of the products can stimulate, interact with or otherwise affect the genetic code in human skin cells. (Really, we should be very grateful for that…)
Filed by Anne Elkind and Sharon Rosen, of Long Island and California respectively, the lawsuit states: “Revlon claims in its federal trademark registration that ‘DNA Advantage’ refers to an ‘ingredient in the manufacturing of cosmetics and makeup to protect against UV rays’ which is essentially sunscreen. Further, only one of its three ‘Age Defying with DNA Advantage’ products … even contains sunscreen.” Really?
The plaintiffs allege Revlon’s use of the term “with DNA Advantage,” rather than “with sunscreen,” could deceive consumers into believing that the three cosmetic products are scientifically important and beneficial over and above anything having to do with UV protection from sunscreen, Really, it seems to me that if Revlon had found the “Fountain of Youth” we would not be buying this stuff over the counter for under $100 bucks…
The complaint further states that even if the information on the packaging is referring to other ingredients with respect to the “DNA Advantage”, no ingredient identified by its customer service employees is capable of stimulating, interacting with or otherwise affecting the DNA in human skin cells, contrary to Revlon’s advertising claims. Further, Revlon’s packaging of the products features a double-helix design characteristic of the shape of deoxyribonucleic acid or DNA molecules, which could further deceive ordinary consumers.
“Plaintiffs paid more for the products than they otherwise would have absent these statements, and would not have been willing to pay the prices they did, or to purchase them at all, absent the misrepresentations,” the lawsuit states. Well this part adds up.
The complaint, Elkind et al v. Revlon Consumer Products, case number 2:14-cv-02484, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, alleges fraud, false advertising and unfair business practices claims under both New York and California statutory and common law. The lawsuit is seeking class action status, injunctive relief including possibly a recall of the products and payment including punitive damages from the Manhattan-based Revlon Inc, unit.
Pfizer is in a Giving Mood… They agreed to pay a $190M settlement settling a consumer fraud class action lawsuit which alleges the pharmaceutical giant engaged in tactics to delay market entry of generic versions of its epilepsy drug Neurontin.
The lawsuit was filed by purchasers of Neurontin in 2002, claiming Pfizer undertook campaign of sham patent infringement lawsuits and promotion of the drug for unapproved uses in order to maintain market exclusivity. The case is In re Neurontin Antitrust Litigation, No. 02-1390, U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey. That’s an expensive process…
FYI—in 2004, Pfizer pleaded guilty to criminal charges of illegal marketing of Neurontin and paid $430 million to federal and state governments.
Ok—Folks—we’re done here—have a great weekend and we’ll see you at the bar!
Not Paid for Prime Time? What would the week be without an employment class action? This week, among several employment class actions filed, is one against Prime Healthcare Centinela LLC alleging California labor law violations, specifically underpayment of overtime and failure to provide meal and rest breaks to 400 employees at its 12 California hospitals.
In the Prime Healthcare class action, lead plaintiff Evalyn Beauchamp, a social worker for Prime Healthcare’s subsidiary since March 2011, alleges “In violation of state law, defendants have knowingly and willfully refused to perform their obligations to compensate plaintiffs for all wages earned and all hours worked.” And “As a direct result, plaintiffs have suffered, and continue to suffer, substantial losses related to the use and enjoyment of such wages.”
The lawsuit, Evalyn Beauchamp et al. v. Prime Healthcare Centinela LLC et al., case number BC542351, in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles, claims that Prime Healthcare established policies under which hourly employees would be “taken off the clock” for a variety of reasons, including the indicating the end of a worker’s official shift or falsely accounting that a meal break was taken when the employee was actually forced to continue working.
According to the allegations, while Prime Healthcare frequently required its employees to work in excess of eight hours per day and over 40 hours per week, it failed to pay them one and a half times the regular hourly rate as required under California law.
Further, the lawsuit claims Prime Healthcare failed to provide its employees with accurate wage statements and failed to pay separated employees the amounts they were owed in a timely manner.
Beauchamp filed the lawsuit on behalf of all hourly, nonunionized social workers and others in similar positions, claiming the company established policies for employees to clock out when they were still working and did not compensate them for overtime hours worked.
The class action seeks to represent all hourly nonexempt social workers, discharge planners, case managers and others who worked for Prime Healthcare since April 2010, a class she estimates to include 400 people at 12 hospitals.
De-Fault of the Bank? Maybe…If the allegations in this new consumer banking and lending violations class action lawsuit prove true, then yes. Wells Fargo Bank NA is facing a potential lawsuit alleging it violated California consumer laws by billing late fees to, or foreclosing on, state homeowners who had loan modification applications pending with the bank. Something referred to as Dual Tracking. Read on.
The Wells Fargo lawsuit, Garcia et al. v. Wells Fargo Bank NA et al., case number 8:14-cv-00558, in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, alleges Wells Fargo practices “dual tracking”, which is when a bank pursues a foreclosure while simultaneously processing loan modifications. On January 1, 2013, the California Homeowner Bill of Rights was enacted, forbidding this behavior.
“Because the dual-tracking system prevents homeowners from being evaluated for appropriate loan modifications before foreclosure, it has resulted in many unnecessary foreclosures,” the lawsuit states.
Lead plaintiffs, Orange County residents Henry and Renee Garcia, allege they applied for a loan modification with Wells Fargo but that the bank charged them $840 in late fees and prepared to foreclose on the property before the application process was complete. The bank later rejected the application, verbally denied their appeal, and scheduled the home for trustee sale.
According to the lawsuit, the Garcias defaulted on the mortgage for their San Juan Capistrano, CA, home on March 6, 2013. The following month they submitted a loan modification application to Wells Fargo and over the next several months they stayed in frequent communication with bank officials.
However, simultaneous to the processing of the Garcias’ application Wells Fargo recorded a notice of trustee sale on their home, moving forward with the foreclosure process in violation of the state’s consumer protection law, according to the lawsuit. It wasn’t until the following January that the Garcias loan application was denied, according to the complaint. Garcias appealed, but the bank denied the appeal in February and scheduled a trustee sale of the property for March 5, 2014.
In their lawsuit, the Garcias seek to establish two classes: one for alleged victims of dual tracking and another for homeowners who were illegally charged late fees.
The complaint alleges violations of the California Homeowner Bill of Rights’ restrictions on dual tracking and late fees and the California Unfair Competition Law. The plaintiffs are seeking class certification, unspecified damages and restitution, and injunctive relief forbidding the bank from engaging in the alleged activity.
Next Time Ask for Directions? With a name like Compass, you’d think they’d already know how not to go astray… At any rate, here’s proof that employment class actions are worth the effort—a proposed $1.1 million settlement has been reached in a class action accusing Compass Health Inc. of California labor law violations, specifically of underpayment of overtime. Heard that one before?
Under the terms of the settlement, Compass would pay a net settlement amount of up to $700,500 to all members of the settlement class, which is approximately 2,500 current and former hourly nonexempt employees in California who worked for Compass Health between March 29, 2009 and January 6 2014.
According to the lawsuit, the workers alleged Compass miscalculated the regular rate of pay because it didn’t properly include the value of annual safety bonuses. They also claimed meal and rest period violations on the part of the defendant, as well as derivative penalty claims.
Court documents indicated that based on the number of valid claims filed, the average settlement payment would be about $425, with the highest payment being roughly $1,050, which is “an excellent result for the settlement class, particularly when compared to other, similar wage and hour class action settlements involving similar-wage workers.”
Ok—Let’s celebrate that news—Happy Easter—and we’ll see you at the bar!