Is Facebook Big Brother in Disguise? Maybe….A federal privacy class action lawsuit against Facebook has been filed by a man who is not a Facebook user alleges the ubiquitous social media site violates the law in the same manner as Big Brother would. How, you ask? By collecting facial recognition data from user-uploaded photos without first notifying and receiving informed written consent from the people in the photos, both users and “unwitting” non-users of the site.
Specifically, Illinois resident Frederick Gullen contends that Facebook has stored over a billion templates of faces, which can uniquely identify a person in the same way a fingerprint or voiceprint does. However, the site fails to provide a publicly available policy of its guidelines for retaining and destroying non-users’ public information, according to the lawsuit.
In 2010, FB released its tagging feature, which works by scanning for faces in user-uploaded photos. It then extracts geometric data from each face, which is used to create a template of that face, “[u]nbeknownst to the average consumer,” according to Gullen.
“If no match is found, the user is prompted to ‘tag’ (i.e., identify by name) a person to that face, at which point the face template and corresponding name identification are saved in Facebook’s face database,” Gullen states. “However, if a face template is generated that matches a face template already in Facebook’s face database, then Facebook suggests that the user ‘tag’ to that face the name already associated with that face.”
The lawsuit contends that there could be tens of thousands of Illinois residents who aren’t Facebook users who but have had their photos uploaded to the social network.
According to the lawsuit, in May Gullen was “tagged” in a photo uploaded to Facebook by someone else without his permission. The template created from his facial features was also used by Facebook to recognize his gender, age, race and location.
Think all this is paranoid? Well, Google your image—you may be surprised at what comes up.
The lawsuit seeks to represent a class of Illinois residents who aren’t Facebook users but have been tagged in photos on Facebook.The case is Gullen v. Facebook Inc., case number 1:15-cv-07681 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
E-Cigarettes are Bad for You? Apparently, yes they are, according to a consumer fraud class action lawsuit brought against RJ Reynolds Vapor this week. The lawsuit claims the company’s electronic cigarettes contain carcinogens, which consumers were not warned about. Yes, that would make sense.
According to the e-cigarette lawsuit, filed by named plaintiff Jerod Harris, the manufacturer markets Vuse electronic cigarettes in a way that fails to inform customers of the potential health risks incurred by using the products, specifically, inhalation of the carcinogens formaldehyde and acetaldehyde. This violates California state consumer protection and unfair competition laws.
The lawsuit contends that RJ Reynolds began selling e-cigarettes in California during a time when consumers believed the product to be a healthy alternative to traditional cigarettes. This was because e-cigarettes contain nicotine but no carcinogens, they believed. However, RJ Reynolds knew this was not true, Harris claims in the lawsuit.
“Defendant knew of this public misperception regarding the true nature of e-cigarettes, yet introduced the products without disclosing the carcinogenic exposures resulting from ordinary use thereof,” the complaint states.
E-cigarettes are battery-operated products. They work by converting nicotine and other chemicals into an aerosol which is inhaled. According to Harris, consumers incorrectly believe that they are only inhaling water vapor, not aerosol. The suit cites a study and independent testing that shows aerosol contains cancer-causing formaldehyde and acetaldehyde.
The lawsuit also asserts that contrary to the marketing of e-cigarettes, which suggest they are a safer alternative than traditional cigarette, there are several studies which show they pose health risks to users and have adverse effects on the health safety of children and teenagers.
The lawsuit accuses RJ Vapors of violating California’s Unfair Competition Law and the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act by omitting the fact that the e-cigarettes expose users to carcinogenic chemicals.
The lawsuit seeks to represent a class of all California residents that purchased Vuse products from July 1, 2013, to the present. The case is Harris v. R.J. Reynolds Vapor Co., case number 3:15-cv-04075, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
They’ll be Driving Checks to the Bank…to the tune of $36 million—that’s the proposed settlement amount in a defective products class action lawsuit pending against Dyson-Kissner-Moran Corp, and two of its subsidiaries, who manufacture boat fridges.
In 2012, a lawsuit was filed alleging fridges intended for use in motor homes and boats (N1200, N6 and N8 models) had a defect that caused them to corrode, overheat and occasionally catch fire. That’s handy. A fridge that not only keeps food—it cooks it too. Nice touch.
Under the terms of the proposed settlement, the companies would pay $11 million a year for three years, with $3 million added in the third year.
Ok – That’s a wrap folks…Happy Labor Day – See you at the Bar!
It Takes a Brave Man… A brave folk has manned up and filed a lawsuit against Ashley Madison in the US—this one in Alabama. The data breach class action, filed in federal court, claims the site and its owners and operators failed to protect its customers’ data or promptly alert them of the data hack that occurred in July. You think? The cyber attack publicly exposed information on 37 million Ashley Madison members. Oh yeah baby—that’s bad.
The lead plaintiff, who filed under the pseudonym “John Doe,” is claiming that Toronto-based Avid Life Media Inc, the parent company of Ashley Madison, was negligent and violated Alabama state and federal laws by not implementing proper security measures to protect its customers’ information and by not deleting its members’ data even after they paid $19 to have their information taken off the website.
According to the Ashley Madison lawsuit, in 2012 the plaintiff created an account with Ashley Madison. At that time he was not in a relationship, currently he is engaged. He states he became aware his information had been made public on August 21, roughly the same time his friends, customers and neighbors alerted him they were aware of his account. Doe contends he and his fiancée have also received a number of embarrassing messages from friends and family through social media. Ok—that’s not nice.
“Plaintiff was not in a relationship at the time he accessed the site, however, he is now in a committed relationship with his soon to be wife, and they have suffered much embarrassment and emotional distress as a result of Ashley Madison’s failure to protect Plaintiff’s private information,” the complaint states.
Doe claims that by allegedly misrepresenting to him that it had protected his data and deleted his account information when it hadn’t, Ashley Madison has violated the Federal Stored Communications Act and Alabama’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
Doe is also asserting breach of implied contract, bailment, conversion, fraud and misrepresentation and seeks compensatory and punitive damages. The case is John Doe v. Avid Life Media, Inc. et al, case number 6:15-cv-01464, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama.
You know, the truth really is stranger than fiction—you just can’t make this stuff up.
Would you Like Those Delivered? Hell yes! And make sure the check’s in with the groceries. A big win for consumers who purchased groceries for delivery from Safeway—a federal judge in California has ruled that Safeway must pay about $30 million in damages to named plaintiff Michael Rodman and class members, because the grocery chain has been found liable in a breach of contract consumer fraud class action lawsuit. The lawsuit was brought by Rodman and fellow customers who allege the grocery chain overcharged for groceries purchased for delivery: it has promised price parity with store bought merchandise.
In the ruling, U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar held that $30 million is roughly the sum of what Safeway made by concealing markup prices for groceries delivered to class members from April 2010 to December 2012.
However, Judge Tigar ruled that Safeway was not liable for customers who used its delivery service prior to 2006 when the service was run by a third-party vendor.
“Class members are entitled to recover the aggregate amount of the difference between the prices charged during the class period for items purchased in the online store as compared to the price customers would have been charged for those items in the physical store from which they were selected and delivered,” Judge Tigar ruled.
The case is Rodman v. Safeway Inc., case number 3:11-cv-03003, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
Truck Drivers Gettin’ a Break… Now here’s a result—to the tune of $28 million—a settlement has been reached in an employment class action lawsuit pending against Schneider National Carriers Inc. The lawsuit was brought by more than 6,000 California truck drivers who alleged the company had violated state wage-and-hour laws and failed to provide meal and rest breaks.
The plaintiffs are California-based truckers who worked for Schneider as intermodal, dedicated or regional drivers from November 2004 to the present.
As a class, they have asked the court to approve the settlement, thereby ending the litigation which began in 2008. A final hearing is scheduled for late September.
Under the proposed Schneider National Carrier settlement terms, 73 percent of the $28 million, or about $20.5 million, will be paid to settle claims made by the so-called dedicated and intermodal driver subclasses. The remaining $7.56 million would be used to settle the claims of the regional driver subclass.
“This settlement represents a substantial recovery for the class, and a well-crafted compromise of the divergent positions of the parties,” the motion states, and: “clearly meets, and exceeds, the standards for preliminary approval.”
The case is Morris Bickley et al. v. Schneider National Carriers Inc., case number 4:08-cv-05806, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
Ok—That’s a wrap folks…Happy Labor Day—See you at the Bar!
Were Car Makers Keyless & Clueless? Heads up—Anyone with a keyless system for their Toyota, Ford, Nissan, Honda, BMW, General Motors, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, or Hyundai—a defective automotive class action lawsuit has been filed against these car makers alleging that a flaw in the design of keyless fob systems has led to 13 documented deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning. The plaintiffs estimate that at least 5 million vehicles are affected by the alleged defect. Got that? Read on.
According to court documents filed in California court this week, the plaintiffs claim that reasonable drivers misunderstand that keyless-ignition fobs do not turn their vehicles engines off. Further, the cars don’t have a safety mechanism to automatically turn off the engine after it’s been left idling for a set amount of time. When the car engines are left running in owners’ garages, it can lead to in an increased risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
“As a result, deadly carbon monoxide, often referred to as the ‘silent killer’ because it is a colorless, odorless gas, can fill enclosed spaces and spread to the attached homes,” the plaintiffs said. “The results have been at least 13 documented deaths and many more serious injuries requiring hospitalization, all from carbon monoxide poisoning.”
According to the keyless ignition fob lawsuit, in cars that use traditional keys, the engine can no longer operate once it’s removed from the vehicle. By contrast, keyless-ignition fobs can remotely turn on the engine, but have nothing to do with turning off the engine. Therefore, drivers can park their cars and exit with the keyless fob and still leave the engine running no matter how far the fob goes from the car.
The lawsuit alleges the defendants and their research and design companies installed the keyless fob systems without instituting proper safeguards and warnings.
Further, the plaintiffs contend that the lack of an auto-off feature is not mentioned in the car manuals, therefore failing to warn of the risk for carbon monoxide poisoning. The cars have no audible warnings alerting drivers that the engine is still running.
The plaintiffs assert that individuals personal injury lawsuits have been filed over the lack of an auto-off feature, resulting in confidential settlements. Similarly, consumers have filed complaints with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. However, the plaintiffs contend the automakers haven’t taken action in response to the complaints.
In fact, the plaintiffs assert that the automakers have known for years about the deadly consequences of drivers’ leaving their vehicles without hitting the start/stop button used in keyless-ignition cars, but that they refuse to act.
The lawsuit states that the auto-off feature is feasible and has already been implemented by some of the automakers. The plaintiffs claim that while some new vehicles are now outfitted with the auto-off system, the automakers are doing nothing to rectify older models or notify drivers about the potential safety risk.
The lawsuit asserts national claims for negligent failure to recall and unjust enrichment, as well as state claims for fraudulent concealment, violation of state consumer protection acts and breach of implied warranty, among others.
FYI—The case is Draeger et al. v. Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc. et al., case number 2:15-cv-06491, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
Washio Employees File Suit against the App’s Spin Cycle. This week, a potential employment class action lawsuit has been filed against Washio Inc., a mobile laundry application, over allegations it pays its employees below the minimum wage. Further, the complaint claims that Washio misclassifies its standard employees as independent contractors to avoid state labor laws. Washio, Uber, Lyft—are these the new face of employment law violators?
The Washio lawsuit was filed by Akil Luqman, a former Washio employee who worked for the company between March and June picking up and delivering customer laundry. In the lawsuit, he asserts the company paid employees for each customer stop, in violation of minimum and overtime wage laws. Further, he claims the company denied rest and break periods, failed to fully reimburse work expenses and issue correct pay stubs, and classified full-time hourly workers as independent contractors.
The complaint states that Washio’s classification of its employees as independent contractors “was in fact subterfuge by [Washio] to avoid granting employee status” because the company controlled the amount, time and place of the work performed and the level of pay the plaintiffs received.
The complaint also claims that Washio was in violation of California labor law because it failed to pay overtime or provide rest periods and breaks, despite frequently scheduling employees to work more than eight hours in a day and/or 40 hours in a week.
According to the complaint, Washio still operates in violation of state and federal labor laws, and therefore, the plaintiffs are seeking a permanent injunction halting the company’s actions, and an order requiring Washio to provide the names and contact information for all current and former employees that may be included in the proposed class.
Additionally, plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages related to lost wages, undisclosed withholdings, unpaid overtime, unreimbursed expenses, denial of proper rest and break periods, and legal fees.
Luqman is represented by Kevin T. Barnes and Gregg Lander of The Law Offices of Kevin T. Barnes. The case is Luqman v. Wash.io Inc., case number BC592428, in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles.
Here’s One for Every Tuna Lover—Sorry—Tinned Tuna Lover. A consumer fraud class action settlement has been reached between Starkist and consumers who alleged the company under-filled some of its 5-ounce canned tuna products by several tenths of an ounce. According to federal law a 5 ounce can of tuna must contain an average of 2.84 to 3.23 ounces of tuna, depending on variety.
According to the Starkist tuna settlement, if you purchased one or more of the StarKist Products between from February 19, 2009 through October 31, 2014, you may be eligible as a class member:
One or more 5 oz. can of Chunk Light Tuna in Water,
One or more 5 oz. can of Chunk Light Tuna in Oil,
One or more 5 oz. can of Solid White Tuna in Water, or
One or more 5 oz. can of Solid White Tuna in Oil (collectively, the “StarKist Products”)
Class Members who wish to file a claim must complete the appropriate form online or by mail, which must be postmarked no later than November 20, 2015 in order to be considered for benefits.
To file a claim and learn more about the settlement visit https://www.tunalawsuit.com
Ok—That’s a wrap folks…See you at the Bar!
Were you “Outed”? …by the massive data breach of Ashley Madison? Are you one of some 37 million people who got caught with their firewalls down—sorry Ashley Madison’s firewalls? Well, further to all the talk about filing a class action, this week a data breach lawsuit was filed against the website.
The Ashley Madison lawsuit, filed on behalf of all Canadian subscribers, targets the dating website for married people as well as Avid Dating Life, Inc. and Avid Life Media, Inc., the corporations who run the website. The lawsuit is seeking $750 million in general damages and $10 million in punitive damages.
Eliot Shore, a widower from Ottawa, is the plaintiff in the lawsuit. He signed up with the website “for a short time in search of companionship” but, allegedly, never went on a date.
The plaintiffs are seeking compensation and access to justice for all affected. “Another major aspect of this is behaviour modification; (our clients) went to this website being promised anonymity and confidentiality, but their privacy has been violated. Corporations need to be accountable for what’s happened so that others can follow,” attorneys for the plaintiffs stated. True enough.
TWC got TCPA Troubles? Time Warner Cable Inc,(TWC) got hit with a putative class action lawsuit this week, filed by a former customer who asserts the company violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Specifically, the plaintiff, Raquel S. Mejia, alleges TWC used an autodialer to make at least two unsolicited sales calls a day to her cellphone in an attempt to win her business back.
Mejia claims she stopped using TWC in 2007 and never gave her consent to TWC to call her phone, nor did she have any business relationship with the cable provider after 2007.
According to the Time Warner Cable lawsuit, Mejia states that there were several indicators that the calls were made by autodialers, in violation of the TCPA. Specifically, she would sometimes answer a call and only hear background noise at what appeared to be a call center. A live call center representative would often take a few moments before engaging her, an indication they were not actively aware of an automatic dialing system’s activities, she claims.
“Based on the circumstances of the calls, including but not limited to the multiple calls over a short period of time, plaintiff was not immediately engaged by a live person … and defendant called despite plaintiff’s requests to defendant to stop calling (indicating a computer automatically dialed the number again), plaintiff believed defendant called her cellular telephone using an ATDS that automatically selected her number from a computer database,” the complaint states.
Stating that “the TCPA was enacted to protect consumers from unsolicited telephone calls exactly like those alleged in this case,” Mejia, on behalf of herself and all others who received similar allegedly illegal calls, is suing for an injunction against the practice and treble damages of $500 per TCPA violation. She is also seeking attorneys’ fees and costs, the complaint states.
The case is Raquel S. Mejia, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated v. Time Warner Cable Inc., case number 15-cv-06445 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Defective Air Conditioning Coils… remember those? A lawsuit against Lennox industries was the result and this week a settlement has been reached. The Lennox Air Conditioning lawsuit claimed the company’s air conditioning units are susceptible to formicary corrosion as a result of the deficient materials used in the manufacture of its coils. FYI—an evaporator coil is a part of an air conditioning system or heat pump system in the cooling mode.
Lennox denies all of the claims in the lawsuit, but has agreed to the settlement to avoid the cost and risk of further litigation.
The Lennox settlement class includes all U.S. residents who, between October 29, 2007 and July 9, 2015, purchased at least one new uncoated copper tube Lennox brand, Aire-Flo brand, Armstrong Air brand, AirEase brand, Concord brand, or Ducane brand evaporator coil, covered by an Original Warranty, for their personal, their family, or their household purposes, that was installed in a house, condominium unit, apartment unit, or other residential dwelling located in the United States.
Original Coils may have been purchased separately, as part of an air handler, or they may have been included as part of a Packaged Unit.
The final approval hearing is scheduled for December 2, 2015. The lawsuit is: Thomas v. Lennox Industries Inc., United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, Case No. 13 CV 7747.
Ok—That’s a wrap folks…See you at the Bar!
Are Tide Pods staining your laundry? According to a consumer fraud class action lawsuit, the candy-colored laundry detergent packets may end up staining Procter & Gamble Co’s bottom line as well. The Tide Pod lawsuit alleges that P&G’s Tide laundry pods can stain light-colored laundry. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Lisa Guariglia, Micheline Byrne and Michele Emanuele, asserts that P&G engaged in deceptive trade practices and breached implied warranties. The complaint states that “Tide Pods have serious design defects … that cause them to produce permanent blue/purple stains on white and light-colored laundry, even when used as directed by P&G.”
In the lawsuit, Guariglia estimated that Tide Pods ruined at least $200 worth of her laundry, including towels, sheets and clothing, which had blue/purple stains that allegedly appeared after she began using Tide Pods. She further states that despite rewashing with other detergents and pretreating the stains with Shout stain remover, which is made by SC Johnson & Co., the stains remained. Similarly Emmanuele said she was unable to remove the stains she blamed on Tide Pods even with bleach. She estimated the detergent ruined at least $650 worth of towels, sheets and clothing. Plaintiff Byrne claims that in December 2012 her son and daughter had blue/purple stains on their clothes but she used Tide Pods for at least 18 more months before realizing the detergent was the cause. She estimated the detergent damaged at least $500 worth of clothing and other laundry.
The lawsuit states: “P&G failed to inform consumers, through the directions on the packaging or any other written disclosure, even when consumers use Tide Pods as instructed by P&G, that blue/purple staining will result due to defects in the design.” However, “on P&G’s own website, P&G has acknowledged that Tide Pods can cause blue/purple stains on laundry and insists that this staining can only occur when the consumer is not using the product correctly,” the suit states. The complaint cites an article in Consumer Reports magazine, published February 20, 2014, which quotes a P&G spokesperson who said such stains can be caused by not putting a Tide Pods pack into the washing machine before clothing is inserted or by overstuffing a machine with laundry. “P&G reiterated over and over, in its responses to consumer complaints, that it would not put a product on the market that would ruin laundry, that Tide Pods have been successfully tested, and it is certain that if used as directed, Tide Pods do not stain laundry,” the lawsuit states. “However, it is clear from plaintiffs’ experiences, as well as those of the customer complaints set forth above, and the hundreds of additional complaints on the Tide website, that even when used as directed, Tide Pods permanently stain white and light-colored laundry.” So—no more blaming dodgy washing on the laundry fairy! The lawsuit seeks to represent anyone in the United States who bought Tide Pods and had laundry damaged.
Is MegaRed a Mega Crock? Another wonder supplement got hit with a consumer fraud class action lawsuit this week. This one targets Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC and its subsidiary Schiff Nutrition International Inc, alleging the companies misled consumers about the health benefits of krill oil. According to the complaint, the defendants marketed the krill oil as a dietary supplement with cardiovascular benefits it does not have. Really? How unusual.
The nitty gritty is that the defendants made claims that an omega-3 fatty acid dietary supplement marketed as MegaRed would help prevent heart disease. According to the proposed MegaRed class action, these types of claims have drawn attention from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has allegedly condemned such advertisements, describing claims about omega-3’s health benefits as “false and misleading.” Well, that certainly did a lot of good.
“In conjunction with their extensive, long-term campaign of deceptive advertising and misleading statements,” the complaint states, “defendants have violated [the FDA’s] clear directives by … consistently and repeatedly falsely telling consumers that taking just ‘one small softgel per day’ may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.” Further, the complaint cites a guideline by the American Heart Association recommending that patients consume 500 to 1,000 miligrams of omega-3 fatty acids daily to help combat heart disease. A single MegaRed capsule, the supplement’s recommended daily dose, contains only 50 mg of omega-3 fatty acids.
The proposed class action asserts the packaging for MegaRed is misleading because it claims that using “just one small softgel” of the supplement daily “may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.” Schiff has marketed the size of the MegaRed capsules, which are slight in comparison to fish oil capsules, as having similar health benefits, which is one of the product’s main advantages. Named plaintiff in the complaint, Jeffrey Johnson, a “health-conscious individual” contends that he and others like him were misled by the marketing claims, and as a result paid a premium for the supplement, which costs significantly more than fish oil. The proposed class action complaint accuses Schiff of unjust enrichment, on behalf of a nationwide class; and violations of the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act; California Unfair Competition Law; California False Advertising Law; and California Sherman Food, Drug and Cosmetic law, on behalf of a Californian subclass. Plaintiffs are seeking an injunction prohibiting Schiff from further misleading advertisements, as well as actual and punitive damages.The case is Johnston v. Schiff Nutrition International et al., case number 3:15-cv-03669, in the US District Court for the Northern District of California.
Strike One for the Little Guys. A $13.1 million settlement has been awarded to Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority workers who alleged the authority was in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act shift work. According to court filings, “The parties now believe that considering the costs and risks of continuing this litigation, it is in their best interests to fully and finally resolve plaintiffs’ claims.” The parties filed a joint motion for approval, which involves some 2,300 current and former bus and trolley drivers. If approved, the SEPTA settlement will end a case first brought in June 2011, alleging SEPTA did not pay its drivers for off-the-clock time spent doing tasks before pulling their vehicles out at the start of their runs.
“Resolution of the FLSA claim requires a factual determination of the amount of time operators are required to work prior to their scheduled start, and a legal determination regarding whether this time is compensable and subject to the overtime provisions of the FLSA,” a three-judge Third Circuit panel stated. The case is David Bell et al. v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, case number 2:11-cv-04047, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Ok – That’s a wrap folks…Happy Friday…See you at the Bar!