Copping out on COBRA? Brunel Energy Inc and Brunel Energy Group Health Plan got hit with a class action this week. It was filed on behalf of current and former participants in the Brunel Energy Group Health Plan (“the Plan”) who allege Brunel failed to provide health care coverage continuing health care coverage (commonly called COBRA coverage) to employees and their beneficiaries who were covered under the Plan through an insurance policy with BUPA International.
According to the complaint Brunel did not notify employees of their entitlement to COBRA coverage or of their right to obtain coverage at a reduced rate as authorized by Congress in its recent economic stimulus package.
According to the Complaint, when asked for a COBRA package by a terminated employee, Brunel advised the former employee that COBRA coverage was not available. Even after being notified by the U.S. Department of Labor that the former employee was entitled to elect COBRA coverage at the statutorily reduced rate, the Complaint alleges that Brunel did not offer the coverage. Would this come under the heading of ‘cost savings’?
The Complaint seeks an injunction requiring Brunel to bring its health care plan into compliance with the law and an order requiring Brunel to reimburse former employees and their beneficiaries for certain health care costs they would not have incurred had they been allowed to elect COBRA coverage. Wait—there’s more—the complaint also seeks civil money penalties of up to $110 dollars a day for Brunel’s failure to provide statutory notices describing the Plan and apprising employees and their beneficiaries of their COBRA rights as required by law.
Don’t Mess with our Vets. JP Morgan Chase was all apologies this week, on the back of a settlement reached with its customers who are or were military personnel, who had filed a class action against the bank alleging that it was wrongly foreclosing on families of service personnel and overcharging them on their mortgages to boot. Does that come under the definition of ‘free market economy’? (don’t get me started on that one)
Well, it obviously did in JP Morgan’s version. But, in February, a J.P. Morgan executive apologized at a U.S. House hearing on its behavior. Then they rolled out a series of programs to help active members and veterans—programs including educational initiatives. And, they said that the bank would no longer foreclose on any currently deployed military personnel. How generous of them.
The financial protections that the suit sought to have reinstated are in fact afforded US military personnel under the Service members Civil Relief Act (SCRA). So, maybe it wasn’t just an attack of conscience on JP Morgan’s part.
In any event, Reuters reported that under the terms of the settlement “J.P. Morgan said it will pay $12 million to the class-action suit and set aside $15 million for additional damages on a case-by-case basis. Any unused funds will be used to benefit a charity selected by the U.S. military.” (Reuters.com)
Baby Brain Food? Guess Not. If you got duped into buying an expensive brand of infant formula—Enfamil, made by Mead Johnson & Co—you may be pleased to know they’ve reached a preliminary settlement in the class action they were facing concerning allegations of false advertising.
The suit claimed that Mead falsely represented that Enfamil LIPIL is the only infant formula that contains DHA and ARA—fatty acids it claims are “clinically proved to improve brain and eye function in infants.” Are you kidding? If that really were the case they’d be putting that stuff in the tap water.
If the settlement is approved, people who purchased Enfamil LIPIL formula for six months or less between October 13, 2005 and March 31, 2010, can file a claim to receive either one 12.5 oz container of Infant Formula or $6 in cash.
For those folks who purchased Enfamil LIPIL formula for more than six months between October 13, 2005 and March 31, 2010, you can file a claim to receive either two 12.5 oz containers of Infant Formula or $12 in cash. You can find out if you’re eligible to be a class member here.
Ok. That’s it for this week. See you at the bar.
Lawyers Giving Back looks at a side of lawyers you don’t hear too much about—the side that gives back…pays it forward..and shares the love. We’ve found quite a number of attorneys who log non-billable hours helping others—simply because they believe it’s the right thing to do. Their stories are inspiring, and hey, who knew lawyers were so…good? If you’ve got a story to share about an attorney who’s doing the right thing, let us know—we’d love to let others know, too. Today, we’re talking with “The Park Slope Attorney”, Jaime Lathrop…
It is a big job, but somebody’s got to do it. Thousands and thousands of people in the New York area are facing foreclosure, many without the money to pay a lawyer to help them save their homes.
“We have no shortage of clients,” says attorney Jaime Lathrop, a private practice attorney from the Park Slope neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY, who is the Director of the Foreclosure Intervention Program.
Since March 2009, working with the Brooklyn Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP) and a grant from City of New York’s housing division, Lathrop has gathered together a group of 80 lawyers to do pro bono work for homeowners who are staring down the barrel of foreclosure. “I recruit, train and assign volunteer lawyers who represent homeowners in settlement conferences, negotiate workouts and help with mortgage modifications for Brooklyn homeowners in foreclosure.”
About 80 lawyers are now working on foreclosure issues for homeowners.
Lathrop, who is a graduate of Brooklyn Law School, clearly feels for homeowners who were often steam-rolled into a precarious financial situation as a result of the subprime mortgage crisis.
And he also feels a true obligation to help. “We have a system of law in the United States that left unchecked will always favor the interests of the few over the interests of many,” says Lathrop. “It is important for attorneys to see that everyone gets equal protection under the law.”
The Huffington Post recently posted a story about the Brooklyn Volunteer Lawyers Project calling it a “lifeline for people trying to avoid foreclosure”.
In addition to its work for homeowners in foreclosure crisis, the Brooklyn Volunteer Lawyers Project has been providing pro bono civil legal assistance to Brooklyn residents who need it most since 1990. It matches up volunteer attorneys from private practice with people in need of critical legal services.
Its mission is to “help people regain dignity and control over their lives”.
VLP receives funding from the New York Bar Association as well as private donors.
Jaime Lathrop is in private practice in Brooklyn, NY. His practice is focused on real estate law, family law, criminal law, bankruptcy and elder law. He has also been selected as a featured speaker at today’s New York State Bar Association’s General Practice Section’s Annual Meeting at the Hilton New York.
One Percent Solution? Wasn’t it about this time last year when the big bank bailouts were front page news? You know, billions of tax payers’ dollars forked over to some of the biggest lending institutions in the country to help stave off complete economic obliteration stemming from bad lending practices and resulting mortgage foreclosures?
Well, sadly, and the cynic in me says predictably, it seems the bailout bucks may not be reaching their intended destination. Washington homeowners are suing Bank of America claiming the lending giant is intentionally withholding government funds intended to save homeowners from foreclosure.
The lawsuit claims that Bank of America systematically slows or thwarts Washington homeowners’ access to Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds by ignoring homeowners’ requests to make reasonable mortgage adjustments or other alternative solutions that would prevent homes from being foreclosed.
FYI—Bank of America accepted more than $25 billion in government bailout money financed by taxpayer dollars purposely to help struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure. Apparently, one in eight Read the rest of this entry »