Articles Posted in Class-Action

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As consumers become increasingly aware of the potentially harmful side effects of certain chemicals used to extend the shelf life of prepared foods, the demand for packaged foods that are free of preservatives has gone up and continues to go up. Many consumers are prepared to pay a higher price for foods bearing labels such as “organic” and “all natural,” while others simply refuse to buy any foods they cannot be certain are free from artificial preservatives.

The more scrupulous buyers check the ingredients of everything they buy before taking it to the checkout counter, and over the years, people have come up with a few different rules regarding what to look for in the ingredients label. For example, some say you shouldn’t buy anything containing any ingredients you can’t pronounce, while others claim you simply shouldn’t buy anything with more than five ingredients.

Still others just rely on the product’s label. If the company claims their product is free of artificial preservatives, most customers will take that claim at face value and grab the product without bothering to check the ingredients label. Others rely on labels with terms like “all natural,” even though products don’t need to meet any legal qualifications in order to put that label on their products (as opposed to the term “organic,” which does require the product to be certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture). Continue reading

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For years the NutriBullet blender has been marketed as a small, convenient blender people can use to make single-serving smoothies and other cold drinks, then pop off the cannister and drink. The blender has been marketed as a “nutrition extractor,” implying people can get more nutrition in their diets by drinking their fruits and vegetables with the help of the blender. What the blender’s marketing fails to mention is the allegation that it tends to build up the pressure and explode.

Capital Brands, the company that makes the NutriBullet blenders, advises users of the product to only make cold drinks in the blenders and avoid putting anything hot in it to avoid overheating. They also recommend using it for no more than 60 seconds, at which point a safety mechanism will turn the NutriBullet off in order to avoid any accidents as a result of overheating.

But consumer lawsuits claim the blender has been known to overheat and even explode, even when consumers follow the directions and use it with cold foods for less than 60 seconds. One such lawsuit was brought against the company in North Carolina and is currently pending in court. In California, one consumer rights attorney says he has brought almost two dozen lawsuits against Capital Brands over the alleged defect in their NutriBullet blenders.

Now Deveta White has joined the list of consumers to sue Capital Brands over their allegedly dangerous NutriBullet blenders. The only difference is that White’s consumer lawsuit is the first to seek to represent a class of similarly situated plaintiffs against Capital Brands. Continue reading

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While most companies let people return a product a month or two after purchase if something goes wrong, some companies go above and beyond by offering a lifetime guarantee. The idea is to ensure customers that nothing will go wrong with the product during its lifetime, and if something does go wrong, the company will either replace the item or reimburse them the cost of the item. A lifetime guarantee is a sign that the company believes in the quality of its products and will go to great lengths to make sure their customers remain satisfied.

But some people choose to interpret “lifetime warranty” to mean the product is guaranteed to last for the rest of their lifetime, rather than the standard lifetime of the product. According to Shawn O. Gorman, the Executive Chairman of L.L. Bean, some customers were taking advantage of the company’s lifetime warranty to mean anything they bought from the company would not be subject to wear and tear, and if it were, the company should reimburse them for the item or replace it.

According to an open letter to the public released by the company on February 9th, some people were taking advantage of the lifetime guarantee by trying to get replacements or reimbursements for products several years after they had been purchased. Some had even sought replacements or reimbursements for used L.L. Bean items they had bought at garage sales. As a result, the company recently decided to get rid of its century-old lifetime guarantee and to replace it with a one-year warranty – which can only be used if the customer still has their receipt. The company said it will still work with customers who want to return or get reimbursed for a product more than a year after the date of purchase, but only if the product is defective. Continue reading

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Despite the fact that judges are the ones who set bail, one Cook County court judge, Judge Celia Gamrath, says it is up to lawmakers, rather than judges, to determine how judges are allowed to set bail.

The issue in question is the fact that Cook County judges have been using a cash bail system. The intention behind such a system is to give defendants a reason to appear in court, but a recent class-action lawsuit alleges it has also had the effect of discriminating against minorities and the poor, who are often unable to come up with the cash necessary to pay their own bail.

The lawsuit was filed against five Cook County court judges on behalf of two detainees who sat in jail for almost a year because they couldn’t afford to post their own bail. They both eventually pled guilty to the charges against them.

Alexa Van Brunt, one of the attorneys who filed the lawsuit against the judges, said they plan to appeal Judge Gamrath’s decision, claiming they hadn’t even had a chance to fully explain their arguments regarding the allegedly unconstitutional nature of the current cash bail system before Judge Gamrath dismissed them.

Van Brunt noted that the lawsuit might feel political to Gamrath because the class action is asking her to make a ruling about other Circuit Court judges. In fact, that’s not what they’re trying to do at all – instead, they are just asking the judge to help make sure the courts follow the law. But Van Brunt claimed the judge chose to get the lawsuit off her desk rather than face the consequences of ruling on a potentially sticky situation. Continue reading

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We all know the basic concept of supply and demand. When supply is low and demand is high, prices tend to go up. When this happens with houses, realtors refer to it as a “seller’s market,” but what if it’s really a “realtor’s market?”

That allegation is at the heart of a recently proposed class action lawsuit against Houlihan Lawrence, a large brokerage firm with 30 offices spread throughout the northern New York suburbs and Fairfield County, Connecticut.

The lawsuit was filed by Pamela Goldstein, an associate general counsel for a communications company who fell in love with a four-bedroom, white, colonial house located in White Plains, New York. The agent who showed her the house, Daniel Cezimbra, allegedly told her there were other offers on the house and that she had better act fast and bid above the $599,000 asking price.

Goldstein took his advice, and eventually bought the house for $637,000, but then she discovered something that made her question that interaction – and her agent’s motives.

It turns out that Houlihan Lawrence was also representing the person selling the house. This meant that, when Cezimbra was supposed to be negotiating on Goldstein’s behalf and representing her interests in the bidding war, he was going up against his boss – who also happens to be his brother-in-law. No matter how hard people work to be fair and unbiased, it has to be hard to do your best negotiating when the person across the table from you has the power to fire you. Continue reading

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With the fast-paced, highly competitive nature of technology today, companies are sometimes so eager to get a new product out on the shelves before their competitor that they don’t always take the time to work out all the kinks before the big reveal. Such was allegedly the case when Apple introduced their new butterfly keyboard in 2015.

The keyboard looks much like any other keyboard on the surface, but underneath the keys is a new butterfly mechanism, which Apple claimed would make for a more responsive and comfortable keystroke than the previously standard scissors design. The new design also takes up less space, so Apple could either make room for other things or just make a sleeker laptop. At the same time, Apple claimed the new design would be exponentially more stable than previous designs.

Despite that assertion, consumer complaints about the new keyboard started popping up almost as soon as it hit the shelves. Customers have regularly complained about keys getting stuck and becoming unusable, while others claim they hear high-pitched sounds when pressing keys on their new and not-so-improved keyboard.

Problems with the butterfly keyboard are so common that more than 20,000 consumers have signed a petition on Change.org calling on Apple to replace the allegedly defective keyboard.

If the petition is unsuccessful, the consumer class action lawsuit that was recently filed against Apple might have more luck getting the tech giant reimburse its customers.

The consumer lawsuit was filed in the Northern District Court of California and is seeking to represent thousands of consumers who have allegedly suffered as a result of the new keyboard’s alleged design flaws. The class-action lawsuit was filed by two lead plaintiffs, Zixuan Rao and Kyle Barbara.

Rao bought a 15-inch MacBook Pro with a butterfly keyboard in early 2018, but one of the keys soon started to malfunction. When he took it to an Apple store, representatives were allegedly unable to fix the problem but offered to ship the computer to their Repair Center. Rao decided against that course of action since it would have meant going a week without his computer.

Barbaro bought a 2016 MacBook Pro, only to have his caps lock key and space bar stopped working. Apple was able to fix it, but the space bar again stopped working, by which time, Barbaro’s computer was out of warranty and Apple told him that he would have to pay $700 for them to fix the key. Continue reading

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It’s common for early versions of a new technology to suffer from some kinks that still need to be worked out, but usually, developers find remedies for those problems in later versions of the technology. Unfortunately, Apple allegedly failed to find a fix for their defective Apple Watch screen, according to a recent consumer class action lawsuit.

The lawsuit, which was filed in California, is seeking $5 million in damages – enough to take the case to the federal level if a judge agrees to certify the class and the parties agree that federal court is the best venue for arguing the case.

The lawsuit alleges Apple Watch screens are prone to shattering, cracking, and popping out through no fault of the wearer. According to the complaint, Apple knew about this problem when it started selling its smartwatches (and possibly even earlier), but failed to do anything about it. The problem allegedly started with the very first Apple Watches the tech giant ever sold and has continued through Series 3, which is the latest version to be sold by the company.

Although Apple forums are full of complaints about the Apple Watch screens, Apple refuses to publicly admit the devices have a problem. The only step the company has made toward remedying the situation is to offer extended warranty plans for certain versions of the Apple Watch for screens that had popped out as a result of a battery swelling issue. Apple announced in spring of 2017 that it would begin offering these extended warranty plans. Continue reading

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Employers have increasingly been including arbitration agreements in their contracts with their workers. These clauses require the worker to give up any right to sue their employer in court, instead of requiring them to pursue all legal disputes in arbitration, where employers have significant advantages over their workers.

Because arbitration was initially designed as a way to resolve disputes between businesses, it was not set up to handle classes of plaintiffs, and as a result, most people tend to interpret arbitration clauses as automatically banning class arbitration.

But a new data breach lawsuit filed against Lamps Plus alleges employees should be able to file class arbitrations, as long as the arbitration agreement does not specifically ban class arbitration.

The case involves a class of workers who are attempting to sue Lamps Plus for allegedly failing to properly secure their IRS information, which was stolen in a data breach. The case went before the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, wherein the company tried to have the case moved to arbitration, but the plaintiffs claimed the arbitration agreement was invalid and asked to be certified as a class. The court partially ruled in favor of Lamps Plus by agreeing to enforce the arbitration agreement, but it also ruled that the case could go forward as a class arbitration.

The decision was appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which agreed with the lower court to enforce the arbitration agreement, but on a class basis. That decision was further appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has agreed to consider the case. Continue reading

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One of the biggest advantages to settling a lawsuit outside of court is that it removes the uncertainty of going to trial. The plaintiffs are sure to get some financial benefit, rather than risking it all at trial, and the defendants often pay a lower amount than they would have had to pay if they had left it up to a jury. Both parties get to avoid the time, expense, and hassle involved in pursuing a legal dispute that has the potential to drag on in the courts for months or even years. This is why most class action lawsuits settle before ever reaching court.

But if the parties reach a settlement agreement and one or more of the plaintiffs don’t agree with the terms of the agreement, they can choose to opt out of the class. Plaintiffs who decide not to opt out, and take the settlement, are usually prevented from filing similar lawsuits against the defendant in the future as part of the settlement agreement. It’s for this reason that, when someone decides to opt out of a class, it’s often because they want to reserve their right to sue the defendant. In most cases, they think they can get better terms, either by pursuing a lawsuit all the way through a trial or pushing for a more favorable settlement agreement.

This is the case with the recent class action copyright lawsuit against Spotify. The music streaming company recently reached a settlement agreement worth $112.55 million with a class of more than 535,000 plaintiffs. After the class members were notified of the settlement and its terms, about 1,200 members opted out of the class. Continue reading

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While online tools can be a great way for consumers to gain information on products before they buy, they can be a hassle for sellers. Brick-and-mortar retailers have long complained about shoppers coming in to look over their merchandise before buying it for a lower price online. There have also been multiple scandals involving books and other goods that go on sale at one retailer, and because of Amazon’s automatic price check, they go on sale for that same price on Amazon. This can then cause a domino effect of other retailers selling the product for the lower price, which some people claim devalues the items being sold.

But what about houses?

Selling a house is problematic enough on its own, but now homeowners looking to sell have to deal with buyers who use Zillow’s online tool, Zestimate, to get an estimate of the price of their house. Zestimate takes the information on a house and uses a proprietary algorithm to calculate an estimated home price. Of course, Zestimate only has access to information on the house that’s publicly available, whereas an appraiser would have access to much more information on a property, making their appraisal different from Zillow’s online estimate.

Nevertheless, buyers come in expecting to pay the amount they saw on Zillow, even though the site warns consumers that the number is only an estimate and homes might very well sell for more or less than the amount provided by their online tool. It is not an appraisal and most of its estimates have a 4.6% error rate, meaning the price it gives could be 4.6% more or less than the actual price of the property. Zillow says the estimate is meant as a starting point, not a final number. Continue reading