Toyota rejoins the automotive class action lawsuit alumni this week—with the filing of a new consumer fraud class action alleging it concealed information regarding oil consumption in the engines of some of its most popular models. The lawsuit claims that the engines in certain Toyota vehicles were prone to rapidly burning through oil just as they approached warranty expiration, causing owners thousands of dollars in repair costs. Now that’s convenient.
Filed in California federal court, the complaint alleges the defect can cause safety risk that can lead to catastrophic engine failure. The lawsuit claims the models affected include the Toyota Camry, Corolla, Matrix and RAV4.
According to the complaint, Toyota Motor Corp. was aware of the defect, and it notified authorized dealers of the problem in 2011, however, Toyota refused to pay to fix the vehicles when contacted by the plaintiffs. Really?
“Plaintiffs … bring this claim since the oil consumption defect typically manifests shortly outside of the warranty period for the class vehicles—and given defendants’ knowledge of this concealed, safety-related design defect—Toyota’s attempt to limit the warranty with respect to the oil consumption defect is unconscionable here,” the complaint states. The lawsuit states that the plaintiffs’ vehicles exhausted their oil supply in 3,440 to 4,300 miles ??” well before an oil change would typically be performed at 5,000 miles under Toyota’s recommended maintenance schedule. And, according to the lawsuit, once the plaintiffs contacted Toyota, it refused to repair the vehicles under the warranty, claiming it had either expired or failed to cover the defect.
Toyota was made aware of the problem after receiving information from dealers and records from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The company also knew the nature and extent of the problem from its internal record keeping and durability testing, and from warranty and post-warranty claims, the complaint alleges.
The claims, which seeks unspecified damages, were brought under various state consumer protection and business law statutes, on behalf of consumers in California, Florida, Washington, New York and New Jersey. Additionally, the lawsuit claims violations of express warranty, fraud, and breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing.
The vehicles cited in the complaint are the 2007 to 2011 Toyota Camry HV, 2007 to 2009 Toyota Camry, 2009 Toyota Corolla, 2009 Toyota Matrix, 2006 to 2008 Toyota RAV4, 2007 to 2008 Toyota Solara, 2007 to 2009 Scion tC, and 2008 to 2009 Scion xB. The defect is found on 2AZ-FE engines.
Bicycles—that’s the answer… oh dear.
Walgreens may soon be dispensing settlement checks…the pharmacy chain reached a proposed $29 million settlement this week, which involves nine California wage and hour class action lawsuits, consolidated in federal court in California. The lawsuits had all alleged that Walgreens failed to provide its employees with adequate breaks, and pay them overtime for mandatory security checks.
Additionally, the wage and hour lawsuits claimed Walgreens failed to provide duty-free meal and/or rest periods, failed to pay all wages owed at termination, failed to reimburse employees for business expenses, failed to provide itemized wage statements.
The Walgreens settlement covers Walgreens nonexempt employees who worked at a California Walgreens store from May 13, 2007, including pharmacists and regular retail store employees.
A hearing will be held May 12, 2014, to determine whether to grant preliminary approval to the Walgreens unpaid overtime class action settlement.
Walgreens agreed to the settlement as a quick means for a resolution, despite its ongoing dispute of the claims. What – so it costs less to pay your employees than go to court? And the learning here would be?
Although the settlement was agreed in principal in August 2013, it has taken several months to finalize the details, consequently a preliminary settlement hearing will be held May 12, 2014. Here’s hoping…
Trader Joe’s trading a lawsuit for settlement? Heads up all you Trader Joe’s shoppers out there—a potential settlement is in the works regarding the consumer fraud class action lawsuit pending against Trader Joe’s. The class action claims certain food products carried and sold at the food retailers’ outlets are labeled as being “All natural”, when they contained synthetic ingredients. Yup. Heard that one before.
The lawsuit goes…certain Trader Joe’s food products were improperly labeled, marketed, supplied, and sold as “All Natural” and/or “100% Natural” even though they contained one or more of the following allegedly synthetic ingredients: ascorbic acid, cocoa processed with alkali, sodium acid pyrophosphate, xanthan gum, and vegetable mono- and diglycerides. The products at issue are: Trader Joe’s Chocolate Vanilla Creme Cookies; Trader Joe’s Chocolate Sandwich Creme Cookies; Trader Joe’s Jumbo Cinnamon Rolls; Trader Joe’s Buttermilk Biscuits; Trader Giotto’s 100% Natural Fat Free Ricotta Cheese; and Trader Joe’s Fresh Pressed Apple Juice.
The proposed Settlement Class (i.e., “Settlement Class Member”) covers a class of plaintiffs who purchased, on or after October 24, 2007 through February 6, 2014, the following Trader Joe’s food products: Trader Joe’s Chocolate Vanilla Creme Cookies; Trader Joe’s Chocolate Sandwich Creme Cookies; Trader Joe’s Jumbo Cinnamon Rolls; Trader Joe’s Buttermilk Biscuits; Trader Giotto’s 100% Natural Fat Free Ricotta Cheese; and Trader Joe’s Fresh Pressed Apple Juice (“Products”).
Trader Joe’s, being the latest in a long line of companies facing similar if not the same allegations, denies it did anything wrong or unlawful, of course. They claim, instead that the Products’ labels were truthful, not misleading, and consistent with the law.
For the complete skinny on the Trader Joe’s class action settlement and to download forms, visit: https://tjallnaturalclassaction.com/
Ok Folks, That’s all for this week. See you at the bar!
Fitbit ‘n Burn? We all know the benefits of exercise, and let’s face it—anything we can find to help motivate us has to be a good thing, right? This week, the makers of an activity tracker got hit with a class action…Fitbit, the manufacturer of the Fitbit Force, is facing a consumer fraud class action lawsuit over advertising claims that the device is an “advanced activity tracker.” The device was recalled following reports of skin irritation including blisters, rashes, burns and more. The firm has received about 9,900 reports of the wristband causing skin irritation and about 250 reports of blistering.
According to the lawsuit, Fitbit advertised that the Force is a safe, comfortable, nonhazardous device but at no time during the promotion or marketing of the Force product did Fitbit warn its customers or the general public of any adverse health consequences.
“Fitbit promoted, marketed, advertised, distributed and sold the Fitbit as a health and wellness product to consumers specifically interested in tracking, monitoring, measuring, and improving their overall health and wellness,” the lawsuit states. “When worn and operated as intended, the Force product causes physical injuries included but not limited to skin irritation, rashes, burns, blisters, cuts, boils, open wounds, redness, itching, cracking, peeling, or any other physical injuries.”
The lawsuit, entitled The case is Jim Spivey v. Fitbit Inc. et al., case number 37-2014-00007109, in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of San Diego, seeks class action status and damages for consumers who bought the Force as a result of Fitbit’s alleged misrepresentations about the product’s safety.
More for McDonald’s….McDonald’s got served with two wage and hour class action action lawsuits in Michigan claiming the fast food giant is systematically stealing employees’ wages by forcing them to work off the clock, shaving hours off their time cards, and not paying them overtime among other practices.
In the lawsuits, filed against McDonald’s Corp., its U.S. subsidiary and two Detroit-area franchisees, workers assert McDonald’s regularly forces workers to show up for work at a scheduled time but then has them wait without pay until the store gets busy enough, and that it routinely violates minimum wage laws such as the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Michigan’s minimum wage law.
The suits contend that, using McDonald’s franchisor standards and corporation-provided software, McDonald’s franchisees closely monitor the ratio of labor costs to revenues. When it exceeds a corporate-set target, managers tell workers arriving for their shifts to wait for up to an hour to clock in, and sometimes direct workers who have already clocked in for scheduled shifts to clock out for extended breaks until the target ratio is again achieved. Workers are not paid for these wait times, and McDonald’s Corporation knowingly tolerates this practice, in violation of federal labor law.
The lawsuits also allege that McDonald’s forces its low-paid workers to buy their own uniforms. Because McDonald’s restaurants pay at or near the minimum wage, this drives some workers’ real wages below the legal minimum, in violation of federal labor law.
Canon Techs Win preliminary wage and hour settlement… Preliminary approval has been granted for a $4.4 million settlement in a wage and hour class action lawsuit pending against Canon Business Solutions. The lawsuit was brought by a group of service technicians who alleged the defendant docked workers for lunch breaks they didn’t take and failed to pay them for overtime worked.
The lawsuit, Steven Jones, et al. v. Canon Business Solutions, Inc, case number 2:12-cv-07195, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, was filed by named plaintiffs Steven Jones and Javier Crespo, who will each receive $8,500 in incentive awards. Filed in July 2012, the lawsuit claims Canon violated New York labor law as well as California labor laws, in addition to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
The plaintiffs also allege that Canon’s time-keeping system automatically accounted for breaks of 45 minutes, even in the event the service technicians took shorter breaks. In some cases, the lawsuit contends, the workers “took no meal period because [Canon’s] practice of scheduling work assignments, and its own directives to [the workers], did not permit them to take those meal breaks.” Even in that instance, they said, Canon docked the workers’ pay.
The settlement, if approved, will establish a fund of $4.4 million for the service technicians in the class, and lawyers’ fees. Cha Ching!
According to the terms of the settlement, there are three classes of eligible plaintiffs, namely: New York, service technicians who worked in that state at any time from October 9, 2006, until March 14, 2014; California, service technicians who worked in that state at any time between July 19, 2008, and March 14, 2014; and FLSA, those who worked as service technicians in any other state from June 12, 2010, through to March 14, 2014.
A final hearing is set for September.
Ok Folks, That’s all for this week. See you at the bar!
Is Maximus Maximizing an Unpaid Wages Scam on the Back of Obamacare? A call center unpaid wages class action lawsuit has been filed by employees at an Obamacare call center in Idaho, alleging the contractor, Maximus Inc, miscategorized employees as exempt for overtime, and is in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). So, they clearly think so.
Specifically, the putative Obamacare call center wage and hour class action lawsuit alleges that most employees worked between 50 and 60 hours a week beginning in the summer of 2013, without receiving compensation for the overtime, and that they were made to clock off before they had actually finished their shifts. Additionally, the lawsuit alleges the employees were unable to take mandatory breaks including lunch.
The class action contains two putative sub classes, one consisting of first level supervisors, and the second of call center employee trainers at the Boise, Idaho branch.
Are you Getting Hosed by Home Depot? Home Depot USA Inc is facing a consumer fraud class action lawsuit filed by a customer who alleges the do-it-yourself retail giant sells a line of defective expandable garden hoses that can rupture soon after purchase. An infomercial marketing firm, Telebrands, is also named as a defendant.
Specifically, the Home Depot lawsuit contends that the “Pocket Hose” and “Mini Max Hose” aren’t durable, and are not made of “heavy-duty fire hose construction,” as the companies advertise. Filed by plaintiff Micahel Klemballa, the Pocket Hose lawsuit states “In fact, the design of the Pocket Hose product is fundamentally defective and thus not suitable to be used as a garden hose as advertised.” “When used as instructed, the Pocket Hose will leak and/or burst, rendering the product useless.”
Klemballa alleges that he purchased a Pocket Hose in June which ruptured after he used it just a few times. He contends that thousands of similar complaints can be found on various product review websites and message boards.
The lawsuit, entitled Klemballa v. Telebrands Corp. et al., case number 2:14-cv-01245, in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey goes on to states that in its online advertisements and infomercials, Telebrands misleadingly represents the Pocket Hose as “strong enough for any tough job,” backing the claim with a purported demonstration of the hose pulling a 5,000-pound sport utility vehicle.
However, according to the complaint, the hose, which retails for between $12.99 and $42.99, depending on length, is not even strong enough to withstand normal residential use. (Should I be surprised?) Klemballa states that Home Depot adopted many of Telebrands’ false and misleading claims about the product for in-store displays and ads on its website, and reviewed and approved advertising materials that included the retailer’s own logos and trademarks.
“Defendants’ false and misleading claims are in willful and wanton disregard of the interests of the consuming public, and constitute a knowing attempt by defendants to deceive consumers,” the complaint states.
The lawsuit seeks class certification to represent all consumers who have purchased the Pocket Hose in the US, along with a subclass of New York purchasers.
Let’s hope this isn’t a trend. Service Corporation International (SCI) has reached settlement of a consumer fraud class action lawsuit involving allegations its employees desecrated graves at its Eden Memorial Park.
Specifically, the Eden Memorial class action, brought in 2009 on behalf of 25,000 Jewish families with loved ones buried at Eden Memorial, claimed that for 25 years, SCI employees routinely broke open outer burial containers and caskets and discarded human remains in a dump area on the cemetery grounds to make room for more graves.
SCI is a publicly traded company that runs the largest collection of the “death-care businesses” in the U.S. It has 1,644 funeral homes and 514 cemeteries in 43 states and the District of Columbia.
On February 27, the company announced it had reached a settlement of the lawsuit, four weeks into a trial in California state court. SCI said it would create a settlement fund of $35.25 million, of which $25.25 million will be contributed by insurance companies.
SCI denied any wrongdoing.
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.