License to Steal? Depends how you define the term “Steal” – if Time Warner has its way, it will be defined as a “modem lease fee.” Not surprisingly, this seemingly minor addition to the monthly fees their customers already face is being challenged in not one but two consumer fraud class action lawsuits. The allegations involve said modem “lease” fees, and the way in which the company announced the new fees. As many as 15 million customers could be affected by the lawsuits.
In the Time Warner class action papers filed in New York and New Jersey courts, customers contend that the $3.95 fee is illegal because it’s not included in existing customer agreements, the company did not give mandatory 30-day notice and it notified customers with a “paltry postcard.”
Furthermore, while Time Warner told its customers that they could buy their own modems, it stipulated that customers could only use approved devices—all of which are the more expensive Motorola models.
“It’s just a scam to increase revenue,” said Steven Wittels, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs. The fee took effect October 15, and is projected to raise $40 million a month and more than $500 million a year in revenue for Time Warner, which is currently valued at around $19.7 billion. ChaChing!
Time Warner contends it was going to use the funds to improve its infrastructure and service. That’s a lot of infrastructure!
The suits were brought on behalf of Manhattan resident Kathleen McNally and Fort Lee resident Natalie Lenett as well as all customers in the 29 states where Time Warner operates.
Iraq War Toxic Exposure Settlement. 12 soldiers who became ill after serving in the Iraq war have been awarded an $85 million settlement in their personal injury lawsuit against American military contractor Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR).
In their lawsuit, the first concerning soldiers’ exposure to a toxin at a water plant in southern Iraq, the servicemen allege that KBR was negligent. Specifically, they claim that as a result of exposure to sodium dichromate, they now suffer from respiratory diseases. Furthermore, they are deeply concerned that a carcinogen the toxin contains, hexavalent chromium, could cause cancer later in life.
Each of the dozen Army National Guardsman involved in the lawsuit was awarded $850,000 in non-economic damages and another $6.25 million in punitive damages for “reckless and outrageous indifference” to their health.
Another lawsuit from Oregon Guardsmen is on hold while until trial is completed. Additional, similar lawsuits are also pending in Texas involving soldiers from Texas, Indiana and West Virginia.
KBR was the engineering and construction arm of Halliburton during the Iraq war. Halliburton and KBR split in April 2007.
Wal-Mart Injured Workers Settlement. Wal-Mart’s back in our weekly wrap–can you guess what for? Yes—it’s employment related. Final approval of an $8 million settlement has been granted by a federal judge, ending a workers compensation class action lawsuit brought by injured Wal-Mart employees in Colorado against the retailer and its service providers. The workers compensation lawsuit was brought in March 2009. The plaintiffs alleged the retailer, Claims Management Inc (CMI) and Concentra Health Services hindered medical providers from making independent judgements on how to treat injured workers.
Under the terms of the Wal-Mart settlement, Wal-Mart Stores and its adjuster, CMI, must pay $4 million, while Concentra in Colorado, through its insurer, will pay another $4 million. Further, each injured Colorado Walmart worker who was treated at a Concentra facility will receive $520, while those treated at other facilities will receive $50.
The settlement also stipulates that Wal-Mart and CMI provide training to adjustors who will handle future worker compensations claims in the state. And, Concentra must also provide periodic training to its marketing and sales force regarding state laws that prohibit outside interference in how care is provided.
And on that note…I’ll see you at the bar–martinis are chilling! Have a great weekend!
Yes, a judge in California has ruled that CVS cashiers don’t have a right to a seat while they’re working the cash register. If you recall, both Wal-Mart and Home Depot were recently hit with similar labor law class action lawsuits—only in those cases it was over chairs for greeters, not cashiers.
In the Home Depot case, the court ruled in favor of the employees who brought the lawsuit; not so with CVS as the job of cashier does not “reasonably permit the use of a seat”. CVS also argued in its defense that they could not maintain the company’s commitment excellent customer service if cashiers were to be sitting down on the job (gives a whole new meaning to that phrase, huh?). I’m not sure what defines “excellent” customer service, but I guess sitting down might make it harder for CVS cashiers to go grab a pack of smokes for a customer or perhaps quickly bag toiletries.
The ‘sit on the job’ CVS lawsuit alleged violations of California’s 2004 Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act (aka the “Sue your Boss” law). The lawsuit was brought by former CVS employee Nykeya Kilby—who, btw, was terminated after working at CVS for eight months. Cause of termination: missing work. But the interesting thing here is that Kilby apparently never requested a chair while employed. Go figure.
So if you’re keeping score, it’s Greeters: 1, Cashiers: 0 —for now.
Under-performing, under investigation and in trouble–that could be the new tag line for Olympus, who got served with a securities lawsuit this week. And, to make matters worse for the Japanese manufacturer of imaging equipment–they are now under investigation by the SEC and FBI. Nice. That ought to keep them up at night…
The securities class action lawsuit was filed against Olympus Corporation (“Olympus”), on behalf of purchasers of Olympus American Depository Receipts (pinksheets: OCPNY, OCPNF) between November 7, 2006 and November 7, 2011, inclusive (the “Class Period”).
According to the lawsuit, Olympus falsely represented its finances for over five years and hid large losses by characterizing them in its financials as “fees” paid to investment advisers for work on corporate acquisitions.
Olympus’ false statements and material omissions, according to the lawsuit, artificially inflated its stock price and investors suffered heavy losses after Olympus disclosed the truth about its financial statements on November 7, 2011. Investors’ American Depository Receipts dropped dramatically from $13.72 on November 7, 2011, the last day of the Class Period, to $9.05 on November 8, 2011, or 34%. Olympus’ top executives resigned in what has become a financial scandal in Japan.
Recently, on its webpage, Olympus admitted discovering that it had been wrongfully “engaging in activities such as deferring the posting of losses on investment securities.” Olympus offered its “deepest apologies” to shareholders for the “inconvenience” caused by the fall of its share price. Uh–I don’t think an apology is going to cut it in this instance…
Wal-Mart Netflix Antitrust Lawsuit News…A potential settlement agreement looks possible in an antitrust class action lawsuit brought by current and former Netflix customers against Wal-Mart and Netflix. Emails were recently sent out announcing that Wal-Mart wants to settle. Netflix has decided to continue its fight. Really?
The potential settlement would see Wal-Mart pay $27.25 million in cash and gift cards. The Wal-Mart settlement class includes anyone in the U.S. or Puerto Rico who paid a Netflix subscription fee for DVD rentals from May 19, 2005, through September 2, 2011. More details on the lawsuit are available at OnlineDVDclass.com.
FYI–in case the details of the Wal-Mart – Netflix lawsuit don’t immediately come flooding back to mind…(because it was filed in 2009 maybe) the allegations are basically: “This antitrust class action arises out of a conspiracy among defendants Netflix, Wal-Mart stores, and Walmart.com to divide the markets for the sales and online rentals of DVDs in the United States in order to avoid competition, monopolize, and illegally restrain trade in at least the online DVD rental market.”
Oracle Overtime Lawsuit Preliminary Settlement…Ah–this old chestnut, again. A California unpaid overtime class action lawsuit brought against Oracle reached preliminary settlement through a court in California last week, to the tune of $35 million.
The plaintiff class includes some 1,725 Oracle employees who alleged that they were not paid overtime and meal allowances. The suit was filed by quality software assurance engineers, customer support engineers and project managers who worked for Oracle and Peoplesoft in Redwood City and Pleasanton from 2003 to 2006.
According to California County law, staff working more than eight hours a day or 40 hours in a week are eligible for time-and-a-half. However, Oracle incorrectly classified the three groups of workers as administrative roles, making them exempt from the payments.
Oracle did not change its overtime policy for customer support engineers and project managers until 2007, though quality assurance engineers still do not qualify for overtime and the settlement for them extends to November 2010. A final hearing is set for March and will allow any workers to raise objections or go after individual claims against the software giant.
Ok–That’s enough for this week. See you at the bar. Bottoms Up!
More Foreclosure Fraud. It seems that between Chinese drywall and questionable foreclosures, Florida homeowners just can’t catch a break. A class action lawsuit was filed this week on behalf of tens of thousands of homeowners in the Sunshine State, who have allegedly been suffered as a result of GMAC’s use of fraudulent affidavits and other documents in foreclosure proceedings.
It seems that GMAC employees admitted in sworn testimony to signing whatever was put in front of them in foreclosure cases, regardless of the accuracy of those documents, without personal knowledge of the truth of what they are signing, without reviewing the underlying documents to determine whether the documents are accurate, and often not even in the presence of a notary.
Geoffrey Huber, one of the plaintiffs, said he discovered a “robo-signed” affidavit had been filed in foreclosure proceedings on the house he owns in Florida. “I don’t know how they thought they legally could get away with this.” Maybe because very few people ever check the fine print? Seems like a good time to start.
The Complaint alleges that the defects in virtually every foreclosure case filed in the last several years are not mere “technicalities,” nor just “sloppy paperwork.” Indeed, one of the lead plaintiffs in this case alleges that he was not actually in default at the time GMAC initiated foreclosure proceedings.
The lawsuit is seeking damages based on claims GMAC’s actions violated the homeowners’ Read the rest of this entry »
Answer: That depends on how much money you have to spend.
Faced with a potential class action lawsuit over allegations that the world’s largest private employer discriminated (discriminates?) against its female employees, Wal-Mart has so far managed to avoid a trial by insisting that the roughly 1 million women who worked for them since 2001 don’t constitute a class. That’s nine years of legal wrangling and it ain’t over yet.
Just as a quick reference, according to one legal dictionary I checked the definition of a class is: “a lawsuit that allows a large number of people with a common interest in a matter to sue or be sued as a group.” That seems fairly straight forward to me. As indeed it did to a federal court judge in 2004, who ruled that the women do constitute a class. Wal-Mart, apparently having the funds available to drag this out—appealed the decision, but in April, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals also ruled that the 1 million women constitutes a class, and that the case could proceed.
But no. Not yet. Wal-Mart—the harbingers of “Save Money. Live Better.”—seem to be following their own advice to the letter, figuring it’s likely cheaper to fight this now than risk going to court or paying a settlement—both outcomes they are very familiar with—is taking the matter to the Supreme Court.
A recent editorial in the NY Times states this is “probably a smart legal move, given the Read the rest of this entry »