Yoohoo! Yahoo Breach…Again! Just in case you missed this—Yahoo got hit with a data breach class action lawsuit filed by a user who claims the internet company was negligent in protecting its customers data. Earlier this week, Yahoo revealed it had been the target of a data breach which affected 1 billion users. Yup—that’s ONE BILLION users.
Filed by New York resident Amy Vail, the suit alleges negligence, breach of express and implied contract, and violation of California’s unfair competition law.
In a statement issued Wednesday, December 14, 2016, Yahoo stated it believes that in 2013 hackers stole personal information related to 1 billion of its users by hacking their email accounts. This incident is separate from a similar one which Yahoo made public in September. However, the lawsuit contends that Yahoo has said some of the activity from both data breaches may be connected to a single state-sponsored actor.
According to the lawsuit, Yahoo does not know who took the information, and has been unable to identify the intrusion in which it was taken.
“As a result of defendant’s failure to maintain adequate security measures and timely security breach notifications, Yahoo users’ personal and private information has been repeatedly compromised and remains vulnerable. Further, Yahoo users have suffered an ascertainable loss in that they have had to undertake additional security measures, at their own expense, to minimize the risk of future data breaches,” the lawsuit states.
Yahoo revealed earlier this year that “state-sponsored actors” had hacked similar types of data from 500 million of its users in late 2014.
In a recent press release, Yahoo also noted that an investigation into the 2014 breach revealed the hackers’ ability, in some cases, to fake online “cookies”, enabling them to access users’ accounts without a password.
Vail is represented by Lee Cirsch, Robert Friedl, and Trisha Monesi of Capstone Law APC. The suit is Vail v. Yahoo, case number 3:16-cv-07154, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
Teaching by Example? (Or Not…) A $100 million settlement has been reached between DeVry University and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over allegations of for-profit education fraud, specifically, that the for-profit university used false statistics about its graduates’ job placement rates in order to lure students and increase enrollment.
According to the terms of the DeVry Settlement, DeVry will pay $49.4 million, which will be distributed by the FTC, and forgive $30.4 million in student loans and $20.2 million owed by former students. DeVry also said it had agreed to change its practices to “maintain specific substantiation” about graduates’ outcomes.
The FTC filed the lawsuit against DeVry in January, claiming the for-profit school deliberately misled customers through advertising claims it made in print, radio, online and TV that 90 percent of its graduates landed jobs within six months of initiating a job search.
Additionally, the suit claimed DeVry misled students when it claimed that its bachelor’s degree graduates had 15 percent higher incomes a year after their studies ended than graduates of all other colleges and universities, the FTC stated.
The terms of the settlement now “prohibits DeVry from including jobs students obtained more than six months before graduating whenever DeVry advertises its graduates’ successes in finding jobs near graduation.”
Further, the settlement stipulates that DeVry must notify students who are receiving debt relief, as well as credit bureaus and collections agencies. DeVry has also agreed to release transcripts and diplomas that they had been withholding from students who had outstanding debt.
The case is Federal Trade Commission v. DeVry Education Group Inc. et al., case number 2:16-cv-00579, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
All is Not Gold…? And the final biggie to report this week: a $60 million settlement has been granted preliminary approval, potentially ending an antitrust class action lawsuit against Deutsche Bank AG which claims the bank engaged in illegal price-fixing of the gold market.
The lawsuit was brought by investors and traders in March 2014, alleging UBS Deutsche, HSBC, Societe Generale SA, The Bank of Nova Scotia and Barclays conspired to manipulate the London gold fix, which is used as a benchmark to determine the price of gold and gold derivatives.
Under the terms of the preliminary agreement, the class would include anyone who sold physical gold or derivatives based on gold or bought gold put options on COMEX or other exchanges from January 1, 2004, through June 30, 2013.
The MDL is In Re: Commodity Exchange Inc., Gold Futures and Options Trading Litigation, case number 1:14-md-02548, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Cha Ching! That’s a wrap folks! See you at the Bar!!
It’s Easy!! Let’s Hope So. Staples will be wanting that “it’s easy!” button as it responds to the consumer fraud class action lawsuit it’s facing this week over allegations it cheats consumers on its reward program. Naughty, naughty…
Filed by Staples customer Neil Torczyner, the lawsuit asserts the company spreads discounts for coupons across a customer’s total collected points in a purchase rather than applying them against the item the coupon was used for, allegedly shorting the total number of rewards points the customer racks up.
The Staples lawsuit states that the points are valuable to consumers because they can be credited against purchases at Staples stores and online. Therefore, the points should be added up in the way the company advertises.
“By employing this deceptive method of calculating rewards points, Staples shorted its members’ account credit which could have been used towards the purchase of most merchandise in Staples’ stores, online at staples.com, or by phone,” the lawsuit states.
Here’s the skinny: Torczyner claims he noticed the problem when he used a coupon for a package of bottled water. The coupon took $1.50 off the cost of the water itself, making it a non-qualifying purchase for rewards points purposes, according to the suit. He claims that when he looked at his rewards points it seemed that Staples had spread out the value of the coupon over the whole transaction, limiting the number of points he could collect for items that were qualifying and that weren’t impacted by the coupon. He should have received $7.98 in points, but received $7.02 instead, according to the complaint.
Torczyner is looking to represent a class of customers who were allegedly cheated out of rewards points when they used coupons. The case is Neil Torczyner v. Staples Inc., case number 3:16-cv-02965, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.
Rainbow Effect at Walmart? Here’s a happy ending…a $7.5 million settlement has been reached in a discrimination class action against Walmart. The lawsuit was brought by several thousand workers who claimed they were denied healthcare coverage for their same sex spouses.
Initially brought on behalf of gay workers at Walmart, the lawsuit was filed in July 2015, a month after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage under the 14th Amendment. Former Walmart employee Jacqueline Cote brought the lawsuit, claiming she was denied spousal health insurance for her wife, Dee Smithson. The couple had married in 2004. In 2012, Smithson was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The couple subsequently incurred $150,000 in debt from uninsured medical expenses.
The Walmart settlement effectively ends the class action that alleged, specifically, the big box retailer had violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Equal Pay Act and state employment law by not offering health insurance benefits to same-sex spouses before January 1, 2014.
Under the terms of the agreement, the $7.5 million will be divided among the few thousand employees who were unable to obtain coverage for their spouses from January 1, 2011, through December 31, 2013.
According to the settlement motion, nearly 1,000 class members have already been identified, and there could be hundreds more. Approximately 1,200 workers had enrolled their same-sex spouses in health insurance and around 1,100 of them would be covered by the class period.
The claim terms are such that class members can file a long-form claim to be reimbursed for out-of-pocket health care expenses of more than $60,000, at a rate of 2.5 times the qualifying costs, or at a rate at 100 percent of the cost for amounts of less than $60,000. Class members can also file a short-form claim without documentation for a pro rata payment of up to $5,000 per year or $15,000 for the three-year class period. For her role as class representative, Cote will receive a $25,000 service payment.
The case is Cote v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., case number 1:15-cv-12945, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.
FloodSafe Auto-Shutoff Settlement…to the tune of $14 million. This settlement received final approval this week, ending two defective products class action lawsuits brought against Watts Regulator Co., and its insurer.
The two lawsuits represent two classes of homeowners who claimed that Watt’s defective water shut off devices and water heater supply lines caused massive plumbing damage to people’s homes.
The two lawsuits were filed separately, by Curtis Klug and Durwin Sharp who both claimed a defective line of water supply and heater connectors caused extensive property damage. Specifically, Klug’s complaint stated that Watts’ FloodSafe Auto-Shutoff Connectors, which are used to supply water to faucets, toilets, washing machines, dishwashers, icemakers and other common household appliances, have defective shut-off devices, allegedly let water leak, resulting in property damage. Similarly, Sharp’s suit claimed Watts manufactured and marketed certain water heater supply lines that malfunctioned, when the inner-tubing in certain water heater connectors failed, causing leaks and eventually major property damage.
According to the settlement terms Watts will pay $14 million into a common settlement fund, $10 million for Sharp’s action and $4 million for Klug’s settlement class. Sharp and Klug will each receive $5,000 as class representatives.
The settlement class in Klug’s case includes everyone in the United States who owns, leases or resides in a built structure with a FloodSafe connector since November 2008.
Sharp’s settlement class covers all people, also after 2008, who own, lease or live in a house or building containing a water heater connector.
The cases are Klug v. Watts Regulator Company, case number 8:15-cv-00061 and Sharp v. Watts Regulator Company, case number 8:16CV200 in United States District Court for the District of Nebraska.
So that’s it for this week. See you at the Bar!!
Overworked Oilers? Another week, another several employment lawsuits. This one, an unpaid overtime class action lawsuit, has been filed against oilfield services company Schlumberger Tech Corp, by workers who allege the company is in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
According to the lawsuit, the defendant schedules workers for long shifts but pays them salaries plus a day rate, instead of overtime rates as required by both state and federal labor law. The laborers are not exempt from overtime as they perform manual duties that fit within a checklist set by their superiors, the lawsuit states.
“All these workers are regularly scheduled to work 84 hours per workweek, but often worked more,” attorneys for the plaintiff Andrew Fritchman state. “Instead of paying them overtime, SLB paid its [measurement while drilling] employees a base salary plus a day rate.”
According to the complaint, Fritchman worked as a “measurement while drilling” employee, a largely manual job that didn’t leave room to deviate from the company’s outlined plan for how each day was to be conducted. Measurement while drilling workers are tasked with recording data gathered during drilling operations. A college education is not required to do this work, the plaintiff asserts.
Fritchman is claiming that he and other workers performing the same job worked grueling schedules, working and living in the field sometimes for weeks. Typically, a schedule would require one worker on the “day” shift and the other on the “night” shift. Those shifts were 12 hours, and the employees worked seven days a week. Ah, yeah, that doesn’t sound good…
The plaintiffs assert that instead of paying its workers overtime as required by FLSA, the Ohio Prompt Pay Act, the Ohio Minimum Fair Wage Standards Act, and the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act, the company paid them a salary plus a day rate.
The lawsuit is seeking back pay, liquidated damages, attorneys’ fees and costs under FLSA for the company’s misclassifying its workers as exempt from overtime rules.
The case is Fritchman v. Schlumberger Tech Corp., case number 2:16-cv-01752, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.
$1B Hip Award. I’m willing to bet Johnson and Johnson is not celebrating this weekend. A jury in Dallas this week awarded $1 billion to six plaintiffs who are suing Johnson & Johnson (J&J) alleging the DePuy Pinnacle hip implant made by the company’s subsidiary, DePuy Orthopaedics Inc., was defective and has caused them adverse health effects and subsequent surgeries to remove the device.
The DePuy Pinnacle metal-on-metal hip implant has an unreasonably high failure rate. The lawsuits filed against DePuy, claim the metal-on-metal design allows metal debris to come loose from the device, ultimately being absorbed by the patient’s surrounding tissue.
Although J&J won the first case in 2014, in March of this year another federal jury in Dallas awarded $502 million to five plaintiffs whose suits were combined. The DePuy Pinnacle hip award was later reduced to $150 million under Texas law. However, because this latest set of lawsuits was tried under California law, the award won’t be subject to a punitive damages cap.
J&J is currently facing 8,500 similar lawsuits brought together in an MDL in federal court in Dallas. All the plaintiffs allege the company failed to adequately warn of the side effects associated with the hip implant.
According to media reports, evidence presented in court showed J&J paid kickbacks to surgeons to promote the device, even though the company was aware that the implant was associated with greater risks than other similar devices.
DePuy stopped selling the metal-on-metal Pinnacle devices in 2013 after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration strengthened its artificial hip regulations.
It would be interesting to know how many hours J&J spends in court each year, defending itself against defective products litigation…
AMEX Calling? A $9.25 million settlement has received final approval this week, ending a class action lawsuit against American Express. The lawsuit claimed the company made numerous unsolicited telemarketing calls, in violation of the Telephone Consumer protection Act (TCPA). You think?
According to the terms of the AMEX settlement, the funds will be distributed between two plaintiff classes, specifically, those who received debt collection calls on AmEx accounts and those who received telemarketing calls on behalf of the credit card company.
$1 million will be distributed among the debt collection class, defined as those who received calls from third-party vendor West Asset Management Inc. between 2009 and 2013 hoping to collect on AmEx debt. Attorneys for the plaintiffs state that as only 135 members of that class filed claims, each plaintiff will receive over $4,400 from the fund. That’s a nice little pay day.
The class of plaintiffs who received telemarketing calls from vendor Alorica Inc. between 2009 and 2016 will share up to $8.25 million after attorneys’ fees have been paid. There are a reported 55,000 members of that class who filed claims, so the payment per class member will be $88.
The case is Ossola et al. v. American Express Co. et al., case number 1:13-cv-04836, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
Well, that’s a wrap for this week. See you at the bar.
Phantom at the Cable Co.? No stranger to the class action lawsuit, Comcast got hit with a proposed unfair business practices lawsuit filed by a former customer who claims the telecom company overbilled, misrepresented certain charges, and billed “phantom” charges upon account cancellation. Sound familiar?
According to the Comcast lawsuit, filed by Keven Danow, Comcast Corp., and its cable subsidiary continued to bill his late stepfather’s estate for two years following the man’s death in 2014. They did this through recurring automatic bank withdrawals. When Danow complained to Comcast, he was told that because the company had no active account information there was no business relationship and therefore they had no grounds upon which to address his concerns. Nice.
“Defendant routinely engages in deceptive and unfair business conduct to extract money from customers to which it is not entitled,” the proposed class action states. “Comcast is now targeting former customers who have no business relationship with Comcast.” Hard to have a business relationship if you’re deceased. Just sayin’.
Citing a similar proposed class action against Comcast, recently filed in California, and a $2.3 million fine paid by the company to the Federal Communications Commission for unauthorized charges for unwanted equipment or services, Danow asserts that Comcast’s behavior is part of a pattern of deceptive or unfair business practices. No comment.
“Having engaged in deceptive and unfair trade practices as a core component of its business, Comcast has now targeted former customers, who no longer have any business relationship with Comcast,” the complaint states. “Comcast has illegally accessed former customers’ bank accounts months or years after the end of any business relationship between the parties and absconded with funds on deposit.”
Danow is claiming violation of the Electronic Fund Transfer Act, unjust enrichment, violation of New York business law and applicable statutes for other states.
The case is Keven Danow v. Comcast Corp. et al., case number 2:16-cv-06052, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Walmart Pays Up. $54 million in damages has been awarded by a California federal jury against Walmart in an employment lawsuit brought by 839 truckers.
The Walmart lawsuit alleges the big box retailer violated California labor law as well as federal labor law by failing to compensate its drivers for pre- and post-trip inspections and California-required rest breaks.
The jury found in favor of the truckers on those charges, but did not award damages for time spent washing trucks, fueling, weighing the trucks’ load, waiting at vendor and store locations, performing adjustments, complying with U.S. Department of Transportation inspections, or meeting with driver coordinators.
Additionally, the jury found that the drivers were under Walmart’s control during federally mandated 10-hour layover breaks. The truckers alleged that during these breaks, for which they were required to stay with their trucks, they were paid $42 for the time, not the $67 to $90 they would have earned had they been paid minimum wage during the class period. The jury awarded the drivers $44.7 million in compensation.
Determinations for penalties and liquidated damages have yet to be made. Attorneys for the truckers stated that should the court find that Walmart’s defense was not carried out in good faith, the jury’s award would be doubled. Further, the jury found Walmart intentionally failed to pay class members for more than 100,000 pay periods, and that, according to the class attorneys’ math, each unpaid period will carry a $250 fine, adding approximately $25 million to the total settlement figure.
The case is Ridgeway et al. v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. et al., case number 3:08-cv-05221, in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
Take that Telemarketers! Here’s a win—one for the little guy and a hoorah on behalf of all of us who get those pesky unsolicited phone calls. This week, preliminary approval of a $1.1 million proposed settlement was granted, in a Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) class action lawsuit pending against Alpha Gas and Electric in New York.
Filed by Stewart Abramson in July 2015, the lawsuit asserted that Alpha Gas, which provides gas and electrical services for both residential and commercial customers in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio, used telemarketing to obtain new clients and allegedly made a telemarketing call to Abramson’s cell phone.
Here’s the skinny: eligible class members are defined as: all persons who, at any time, used, regularly placed or received calls on or from or owned any of the phone numbers that are listed and/or contained in the Class List, and who, from July 8, 2011 through the date of class certification, the defendant called using an automated telephone dialing system or prerecorded voice, or who were listed on the Do Not Call list or otherwise did not consent to the receipt of such calls, or who otherwise have claims against the Released Parties arising under the TCPA or similar federal, state or local laws governing such matters, including, without limitation, the claims alleged in the Action, including calls placed to cell phones without the recipients’ consent.
Abramson, as named plaintiff, is seeking an incentive award of $10,000.00. Further, Alpha has agreed to review and amend its future telemarketing compliance with the TCPA and related laws.
A final settlement hearing is scheduled for April 2017. Potential class members will have until February 8, 2017 to object to the settlement agreement or otherwise opt-out of the settlement.
Well, that’s a wrap for this week. See you at the bar…
So Volkswagen’s Not the Only Emissions Cheat? Maybe…Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and engine maker Cummins Inc. got hit with a proposed consumer fraud class action alleging the diesel engines in Dodge Ram trucks hide the trucks’ emissions, which are above the legal limit.
Specifically, the plaintiffs claims that Chrysler and Cummins conspired to knowingly deceive customers and regulators with respect to the emissions levels generated by Dodge Ram 2500 and 3500 trucks outfitted with the Cummins 6.7-liter turbo diesel engine, which were emitting dangerous levels of nitrogen oxides.
“The defendants never disclosed to consumers that the affected vehicles may be ‘clean’ diesels in very limited circumstances, but are ‘dirty’ diesels under most driving conditions,” the complaint states.
According to the Chrysler emissions lawsuit, the engines have a technology built in that traps and breaks down pollutants, a design feature meant to reduce the amount of NOx going into the atmosphere through the trucks’ exhaust. However, when the trucks are traveling for long distances or up hills, they emit far more pollutants that allowed under California and federal law. Nice.
The plaintiffs claim Chrysler and Cummins intentionally mislead the public, illegally sold non-compliant polluting vehicles, concealed emissions levels, knowingly profited from the dirty diesels and used fraudulently gained emissions credits from the US Environmental Protection Agency for use on future production of high-polluting vehicles.
The complaint states that in addition to hiding the true emission outputs, the affected Cummins diesel engines wore out the so-called catalytic converter more quickly because the engines burn fuel at a higher rate. Consequently, truck owners frequently had to replace the converter after the warranty had expired at a cost of approximately $3,000 to $5,000.
The case is James Bledsoe et al. v. FCA USA LLC et al., case number 2:16-cv-14024, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.
Rusty Trucks? What a whopper! A $3.4 billion settlement has been agreed in a defective automotive class action brought against Toyota Motor Co. The lawsuit alleges that the frames in certain Tacoma, Tundra and Sequoia trucks are prone to rust corrosion and perforation.
Under the terms of the deal, approximately 1.5 million vehicles that may have defective frames will be inspected and an estimated 225,000 trucks will have their frames replaced.
The Toyota frame lawsuit was filed in 2015, alleging its 2005-2009 Tacoma trucks were made with frames that are inadequately protected from rust corrosion, rendering the vehicles unstable and unsafe to drive. The lawsuit also alleged that Toyota was aware of the defect but failed to correct it.
The settlement covers 2005 to 2010 Tacomas, 2007 to 2008 Tundras, and 2005 to 2008 Sequoias. The Japanese automaker has promised that vehicle owners will not be charged for the inspection and replacement campaign. The program will last 12 years from the date the vehicle was sold or leased, meaning any future perforations will also be covered. The replacement and inspection policy remains valid if an owner sells the vehicle to another party.
Further, the plaintiffs have asked for certification of a class of Tacoma, Tundra and Sequoia owners or lessees from the 50 states, Puerto Rico, Washington D.C. and all U.S. territories.
The case is Brian Warner et al v. Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc., case number 2:15-cv-02171 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
Adderall Generic Delay. Finally. A $15 million settlement has been approved by a federal judge, ending an antitrust class action against Shire US Inc, that alleged the pharmaceutical company paid competitors to delay selling their less expensive generic versions of Adderall, which is used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Under the terms of the Adderall settlement agreement, plaintiffs Monica Barba and Jonathan Reisman were each granted service awards of $5,000, and 10 named plaintiffs in three related cases were granted $2,500 awards.
According to court documents, some 23,452 claims requesting reimbursement for more than 855,000 Adderall prescriptions have been received by the claims administrator. That’s not insignificant.
About $1 million is expected to be left over once all the claims are paid out, and will be donated to CHADD, a national nonprofit that promotes education and advocacy for people with ADHD.
Filed in 2013, the lawsuit was initially brought by consumers in Florida and Pennsylvania who alleged Shire created pay-for-delay settlements in false patent litigation against Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc. and Impax Laboratories Inc. to delay the generic competition for Adderall reaching the market.
The case is Barba et al. v. Shire US Inc. et al., case number 1:13-cv-21158, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
Well, that’s a wrap for this week. See you at the Bar!