Save Money. Live Better…? Words to live by…except for…Walmart got hit with a discrimination class action lawsuit this week, filed by an employee alleging the company denies its staff benefits for same-sex spouses. Filed by Jacqueline Cote, the lawsuit claims that Walmart repeatedly denied medical insurance for her wife before 2014, when the retail giant started offering benefits for same-sex spouses.
The back story…Cote and Simpson met in 1992, while they were both working at Walmart in Augusta, Maine. They subsequently moved to Massachusetts and remained employees of Walmart. They were married in May 2004, days prior to the legalization of same-sex marriage in that state.
In 2007, Smithson quit her job at Walmart to take care of Cote’s elderly mother. As a result Cote attempted to have Smithson added to her employee health plan the following year.
In 2012, Cote’s wife was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, which resulted in the couple incurring $150,000 in medical bills.
According to the proposed Walmart class action, Cote tried to enroll her spouse online, but the system wouldn’t let her proceed when she indicated her spouse was a woman. When she sought an official explanation, she was told that same-sex spouses were not covered. Cote continued to try and have Smithson enrolled in her Walmart employee health plan every year thereafter including the year Smithson was diagnosed with cancer.
The lawsuit seeks damages for the couple and any other Walmart employees who weren’t offered insurance for their same-sex spouses. A federal commission concluded that Walmart’s denial amounted to discrimination and said in May that Cote could sue.
Although no other Walmart employees are named in the suit, it seeks damages for those who come forward. Further, the suit seeks damages for Cote and her wife, Diana Smithson, and it asks Walmart to acknowledge a legal responsibility to continue offering benefits for same-sex spouses.
What’s Gerber been Puffing On? Gerber, famous maker of healthy baby foods and an instantly recognizable household brand, got slapped with a consumer fraud class action lawsuit alleging the company is misleading parents into buying a product that is far from nutritious. The product? Graduates Puffs food for toddlers. Puffs? Really?
According to the Gerber Graduates lawsuit, the packaging for Puffs is dominated by pictures of fruit or vegetables: juicy peaches, slices of ripe banana, nutritious sweet potatoes. But the ingredients list belies these pictures. Banana-flavored Puffs contain no bananas, only a trace amount of banana flavoring. Sweet potato-flavored Puffs don’t contain actual sweet potatoes, or any other vegetable, only miniscule amounts of sweet potato “flavor.” The closest thing to a fruit or vegetable in Puffs is a very tiny amount of dried apple puree, powder, in other words.
The suit alleges that parents trying to buy healthy and nutritious snacks for their toddlers have trusted Gerber’s reputation and package presentations, paid Gerber’s premium prices based on that reputation, and, in exchange, unwittingly provided their toddlers with empty calories. Far from the healthy treat the labels and Gerber’s reputation suggest, Puffs are little more than flour and sugar. Doesn’t sound like brain food to me…
The lawsuit was filed in the Superior Court of California, San Francisco County, and is titled Gyorke-Takatri, et al., v. Nestle USA, Inc. and Gerber Products Company.
Huge Settlement for a Huge Loss…and a cautionary tale in more ways than one…a Florida jury awarded a $24,057,83.00 verdict in a wrongful death lawsuit involving The Riverside Hotel in Fort Lauderdale. In 2012, a newlywed couple were visiting the hotel on their honeymoon. They were killed by a speeding car. The lawsuit alleged that the Riverside Hotel had actual or constructive knowledge that motor vehicles regularly and routinely exceeded the posted speed limit in proximity to the hotel property.
Michael and Alanna DeMella, who were seven months pregnant, checked into the hotel and went to the pool. According to media reports they had stepped into the cabana restroom moments before the incident. Mrs. DeMella was killed on hotel property while in an on-site pool cabana, by Rosa Kim, who drove into a structure on hotel property utilized by hotel guests in the pool area as she used excessive speed on the adjacent road.
In hearing the evidence, the civil jury entered a verdict that found the Riverside was 15% responsible for the tragedy and that they should pay that portion of the verdict.
That’s a wrap folks…See you at the Bar!
Kenneth Cole bagging profits at customers’ expense? At least those are the allegations in a consumer fraud class action lawsuit filed against Kenneth Cole Productions Inc.
Specifically, the Kenneth Cole Outlet lawsuit alleges that the retailer misleads customers into believing they are purchasing items at a savings at its exclusive outlet stores by listing artificially high “suggested retail prices” on its product tags next to the term “our price” which is significantly lower. The lawsuit claims that because these products were never for sale in any other store, Kenneth Cole is in violation of California and federal laws.
“The plaintiff, in short, believed the truth of the price tags attached to the products she purchased at a Kenneth Cole outlet, which expressly told her that she was getting a terrific bargain on her purchase,” the complaint said. “In fact, she was not getting a bargain at all.” Filed by lead plaintiff Peggy Cabrera, the lawsuit asserts that Cabrera was induced to purchase a sweater and shirt top from a Kenneth Cole Outlet store in California after noticing significant differences in price between the “MSRP” and “our price” label, particularly after observing that not all product price tags made this distinction.
“In reality, Kenneth Cole never intended, nor did it ever, sell the item at the represented ‘MSRP,’” the complaint states. “Thus, plaintiff was deceived by the false price comparison into making a full retail purchase with no discount.”
In the lawsuit, Cabrera contends that Kenneth Cole is taking advantage of the term “outlet store” because the idea of shopping there conveys to reasonable consumers that at least some products comprise merchandise formerly offered for sale at full-price retail locations, which is not the case at exclusive Kenneth Cole outlets.
Further, the complaint states that the Federal Trade Commission explicitly describes the fictitious pricing scheme employed by Kenneth Cole as deceptive, making it a violation of the FTC Act, as well as the California Business and Professions Code.
Pure Leaf Iced Tea = Pure B.S.? While we’re on the subject of consumer fraud…Unilever United States Inc. and PepsiCo. Inc. are facing a putative class action alleging false advertising regarding their jointly produced Pure Leaf iced tea products. Specifically, the lawsuit claims the teas are falsely branded as “All Natural” and free from preservatives when in fact they contain a non-naturally produced citric acid as a preservative.
Named plaintiff Momo Ren alleges that the defendants engaged in an aggressive marketing campaign that claimed the teas are “nothing but all natural, freshly brewed tea from tea leaves,” which was designed to attract consumers seeking those types of products.
According to the Pure Leaf lawsuit, citric acid is no longer made from fruit but rather manufactured through citric acid bacteria fermentation. It is classified by the USDA as a “synthetic allowed” substance. Therefore, PepsiCo. and Unilever, through a partnership with Unilever-owned Lipton Tea conspired to produce Pure Leaf, the advertising for which is in violation of federal and state consumer protection laws against misbranding.
“By marketing the products as being ‘All Natural’ and free of preservatives, defendants wrongfully capitalized on and reaped enormous profits from consumers’ strong preference for food products made entirely of natural ingredients and free of preservatives,” the suit states.
The plaintiff has filed claims of deceptive trade practices, negligent misrepresentation, breach of express warranty and unjust enrichment and seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
Toyota Power Steering… Don’t have a dollar figure for this one BUT 800,000 Toyota customers are going to sleep easier as a result of a settlement reached with the car maker in a pending defective automotive class action lawsuit. The suit, filed in California federal court, claims that the power steering systems of some Corollas caused the vehicles to drift out control.
According to court documents, lead plaintiffs Irene Corson and Susan M Yacks, and Toyota, sought preliminary approval of the deal in March, the terms of which state that Toyota denies any defect with the electronic power steering system in the 2009 and 2010 model year Corollas at issue.
Under the terms of the settlement, class members who have complained about the on-center steering feel of their vehicle will have their retuned electronic control units installed at no cost. For those who haven’t previously complained, the retuned electronic control unit will be available at a 50 percent discount. Class members who paid out-of-pocket to have the returned electronic control unit installed may be reimbursed up to $695, according to the settlement memorandum.
Court documents show that The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration opened an investigation in February 2010 of the electric power steering system in the Corolla and Matrix models. The investigation revealed related consumer complaints dealing with operational issues, not failure of steering elements. The investigation was closed by May 2011.
Under the terms of the deal, class counsel can ask for attorneys’ fees and expenses, and class representative incentive awards up to $750,000. The case is Irene Corson et al. v. Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc. et al., case number 2:12-cv-08499, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
Ok—that’s it for this week folks—see you at the bar! And Happy 4th of July!
The King of Coffee is facing a class action lawsuit alleging a bit of consumer fraud—in the guise of misleading advertising. The lawsuit alleges Starbucks advertised prices for product that are lower than those charged by baristas. That’s not very nice.
Specifically, the Starbucks lawsuit contends that the coffee brewers advertising for reduced-fat turkey bacon breakfast sandwich and sausage and cheddar breakfast sandwich include prices that are lower than that which the plaintiff, Sarah Martin, paid. The turkey bacon sandwich was advertised for $3.45 when it actually costs $3.75, while the sausage and cheddar sandwich was advertised as $3.25 when the actual price is $3.45, according to the complaint.
Apparently, there are at least seven Starbucks locations in Los Angeles county where the in store pricing is different from the advertised price. The potential class action suit alleges violations of the California statutes covering consumer protection, false advertising, unfair competition, unjust enrichment and fraud. That should about cover it.
Further, the lawsuit contends that Starbuck’s policy regarding receipts helped it conceal the alleged false advertisement. “Plaintiff and members of the proposed classes relied to their detriment on Starbucks misrepresentations regarding the price of goods,” the complaint states. “Starbucks also has the policy of asking consumers whether they would like a copy of their receipt, which makes it harder to discover the misrepresentation.”
The putative class would include any Starbucks customer who purchased items at California locations where the wrong price was advertised in the last four years.
The case is Sarah Martin et al. v. Starbucks Corp. et al., case number BC582335, in the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Los Angeles.
AT&T is in the Cross-hairs… of an unpaid overtime class action lawsuit brought by a training manager who alleges the company is in violation of California labor law and the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Specifically, the AT&T lawsuit contends that the telecommunications giant intentionally misclassified the workers as being exempt from overtime requirements in order to avoid giving them the extra pay they were entitled to under state and national employment laws.
Filed in the US District Court for the Central District of California, plaintiff Wendell Watson alleges that despite assigning the trainers their work and being aware that they often worked longer than 40 hours a week, AT&T refused to pay overtime to training specialists nationally.
Here’s the skinny, according to a statement issued by attorney’s representing the plaintiff: AT&T employees involved in designing company trainings often work nights and weekends interviewing experts at the company and then passing the information on to instructors. In the lawsuit, Watson, an AT&T training design manager since 2001, states that the workers not only did not receive overtime but also regularly worked more than five consecutive hours without a required half-hour meal break or a second break after working for 10 hours.
The lawsuit also states that “In addition, the California plaintiff and California class members regularly work and have worked without being afforded at least one 10-minute rest break, in which they were relieved of all duty, per four hours of work.”
AT&T is also being accused of failing to provide accurate wage statements, such that workers were not able to determine how much and for what hours they were being paid. Not an uncommon complaint these days, sadly.
The case is Walton v. AT&T Inc., case number 2:15-cv-03716, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
Here’s some good news to help your Friday along… A $10.2 million settlement has been agreed between the plaintiffs in a robocall class action lawsuit and JPMorgan Chase Bank NA. The bank allegedly made unsolicited robocalls to more than 2 million customers’ cellphones, in violation of the Telephone Consumer protection Act (TCPA).
According to the robocall agreement, if approved, Chase will pay $10.2 million into a non-reversionary settlement fund, with approximately $45 to $55 to be paid to each of the 2.2 million class members.
Filed by plaintiff Sheila Allen in November 2013, the lawsuit contends JPMorgan Chase and Chase Auto Finance Corp. violated the TCPA by placing approximately 80 calls to Allen’s cellphone from July 2013 through to November 2013.
Allen alleges that the robocalls left voicemails telling her to call back certain numbers to discuss her account, even though she had no auto loan with Chase and never provided her phone number to the bank in connection with any car loan.
Despite Allen contacting Chase repeatedly, requesting the phone calls stop, nothing changed. Further, she contends she was not provided with any instructions on how to opt out of the automated calls, nor was she given the opportunity to opt out.
The case is Sheila Allen v. JP Morgan Chase Bank N.A., case number 1:13-cv-08285 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
Hokee Dokee—That’s a wrap folks…See you at the Bar!
Taxing Trip to Wal-mart? Wal-Mart’s made our list this week—this time it’s a breach of contract class action, alleging the discount retailer shortchanged customers over four years with respect to sales tax, is seeking certification. The lawsuit claims Wal-Mart defrauded its customers by as much as $9 million.
Filed in 2014, the Wal-Mart complaint specifically alleges that the retailer incorrectly applied lower sales tax rates to consumer returns. Plaintiffs are contending that Wal-Mart violated the terms of its sales agreement by refunding its customers less than the purchase price.
The lawsuit claims that an analysis done by Wal-Mart showed that there were nearly 20 million returns to stores with lower sales tax rates from 2007-09. During that time, the retailer used a flawed formula to recalculate how much customers spent, based on the sales tax of the store where the return was processed. The complaint alleges that Wal-Mart should have looked up how much customers paid for the items in the stores where they were purchased.
“Because the plaintiffs’ claims meet the requirements of Rule 23, and the representatives class counsel demonstrated the capacity to adequately represent the class, the court should certify the class and appoint the attorneys as class counsel,” plaintiffs Shaun Brandewie and John Newbrough state in the motion for certification. Both plaintiffs made several purchases at Wal-Mart, returned them to other locations, and were not refunded their full return. All of the discrepancies described in the complaint are for less than $1.
According to the motion for certification, the class is readily discernable because it includes anybody who purchased an item at Wal-Mart and was refunded an amount less than what they paid. Wal-Mart tracks sales and return data such that the amounts paid for items and the amounts refunded are easily ascertainable, the motion said. Hey—every penny adds up…
Defend this, Conesys… Conesys Inc, an aerospace and defense electronics parts manufacturer, is facing a potential unpaid wages and overtime class action lawsuit filed by employees who allege the company fails to pay them overtime or compensate them for meal and rest breaks.
Filed in California state court, on behalf of plaintiff Rafael A. Lozano, a machine operator at AEC, the Conesys lawsuit claims that for at least four years had a “consistent” policy of failing to pay all wages owing to their California-based employees, as well as failing to provide meal and rest breaks required under California labor law.
“As a result of the defendants’ unlawful conduct, plaintiffs and other members of the…class have suffered damages in an amount subject to proof, to the extent that they were not paid for all wages earned,” the lawsuit states.
Torrance, California-based Conesys, based in Torrence, CA, has over 1,000 workers worldwide, including several facilities located in Torrance. The lawsuit alleges that in California, the company unevenly rounds out the amount of time employees’ work, which denies them compensation for any time worked beyond that of eight hours per day or 40 hours per week.
Additionally, the lawsuit states that Conesys’ corporate practice of rounding out hours worked has resulted in its employees being issued with inaccurate wage statements, and, in some cases, being effectively paid below minimum wage.
Further, the complaint also states that Conesys failed to provide the necessary breaks, which in California requires employers to provide a short, paid rest break for shifts of at least four hours, and at least one uninterrupted 30-minute meal break when employees work a shift of more than five hours, and two, if the shift runs for longer than 10 hours.
The plaintiff is asking for compensation for missed pay for himself and other employees allegedly shortchanged by Conesys going back up to four years, as well as penalties against the company and “reasonable” attorneys’ fees and costs.
The case is Lozano et al. v. Conesys Inc. et al., case number BC570320, in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles.
Here’s a Happy Ending. The fast food chain Wendy’s has reached a proposed settlement in a pending discrimination class action lawsuit. The complaint maintains that Wendy’s Pittsburgh-area restaurants have architectural barriers that limit access to wheelchair-bound individuals, a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Plaintiff Christopher Mielo and Wendy’s reportedly reached the settlement on January 26th. Meilo, a mobility disabled man who regularly used a wheelchair to get around, filed the lawsuit in 2014, alleging that within the Pittsburgh area 17 Wendy’s restaurants had excessively sloped parking spaces and access aisles, accessibility barriers that make it difficult for wheelchair users to access the restaurant’s facilities independently. According to the lawsuit, these accessibility barriers are a violation of the ADA.
The lawsuit states, “The architectural barriers described above demonstrate that defendant’s facilities were not altered, designed or constructed in a manner that causes them to be readily accessible to and usable by individuals who use wheelchairs.”
Under the terms of the settlement, Wendy’s would be required to remove the alleged architectural barriers in order to come into compliance with ADA standards and requirements. More specific terms have not been made public.
The Wendy’s Wheelchair Access Class Action Lawsuit is Christopher Mielo v. Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers of New York Inc., Case No. 2:14-cv-00893, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.
Hokee Dokee—That’s a wrap folks…Time to adjourn for the week. See you at the Bar!
Remember the tooth fairy? When you lose a tooth, if you put it under your pillow, a fairy will come in the night and replace your tooth with some money—you remember, right? Well, apparently, if you want bigger breasts, there’s a cream that you can use that will make them larger and firmer. And then all your problems will go away. If it doesn’t work—you can file a consumer fraud lawsuit and make more money than you spent buying the dodgy product in the first place. Note—if you got a nickel from the tooth fairy and she was a no show—there was no such recourse. But hey—times have changed.
US-based Talika is being sued by a women who claims the company’s breast enhancing cream did not live up to its advertising claims, and as a result, she wasted $60. Really?
Raisbel Pena who lives in the Bronx, not that that should have anything to do with her decision-making process, has filed a lawsuit in Manhattan against Talika—the maker of Bust Serum 2.0 for $5 million (that’s some exchange rate—spend $60 get $5M…) claiming that in her month and a half of use (I’m presuming she would have followed the instructions religiously) she did not see any progress. So, she’s suing for damages alleging she could have purchased a less expensive bust serum. No comment.
It’s false advertising and unfair trading—business as usual. According to Pena’s lawsuit, Talika’s “misleading marketing campaign begins with its “deceptive product claim” that after six weeks of use breasts will grow a cup size and also experience “push up effect” and be 70 percent firmer.
Ok—who’s on drugs here? Think about it, there’s a reason plastic surgeons live well.
“Both [claims] imply that the product is not just cosmetic in nature, but will actually cause physical alterations to breasts, including increased breast volume,” the lawsuit states. “[The] defendant’s exhaustive advertising campaign builds on this deception.”
According to Pena, she bought the product in 2014 and used it for long enough that she should have noticed the promised results, that is, if the cream did what the advertising claimed it could do, regardless of how well you followed the instructions. In any event, not surprisingly, Talika USA has yet to respond to the lawsuit.
I can’t help wondering what would happen if the cream actually did work…
Here’s the YouTube promo….