Articles Posted in Class-Action

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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

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After three dismissals, a class-action consumer lawsuit filed against Barnes & Noble over a 2012 data breach has been sent back to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

In September of 2012, Barnes & Noble became aware that their credit card scanners had been compromised by “skimmers” which would collect the data from the credit cards that were swiped and transfer them to a third party, which would then sell the information online. Barnes & Noble waited a month before alerting their customers to the data breach, so in addition to allegations that Barnes & Noble failed to properly protect its customers’ data, the class action lawsuit further alleged the bookstore had violated the California Security Breach Notification Act.

Nevertheless, the district court dismissed the case three times. The class of plaintiffs appealed to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which reversed the decision to dismiss it and sent the case back to the district court.

One plaintiff’s accounts were frozen for three days, meaning she had no access to her own funds in that time period. Another plaintiff had their credit card inactivated for a week, thereby denying them the use of that card. Yet another plaintiff reinstated credit monitoring on their card, which is an additional charge of $17.99 per month. Still another plaintiff was unable to receive the value of their Barnes & Noble’s bargain. Continue reading

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You know how when you post a photo on Facebook of yourself with some friends and Facebook automatically prompts you to tag those people? And it doesn’t just prompt you to tag “your friends” it prompts you with their names because Facebook already knows what you and everyone else on Facebook look like.

While the immediate result is simply a matter of convenience, it’s also kind of scary to know that Facebook is using facial recognition software to identify you. That means that even if your friends don’t tag you in all their photos, Facebook still knows where you were and with whom.

Nimesh Patel was so upset by this idea that he sued Facebook, on behalf of himself and a class of other Facebook users, for allegedly violating their privacy. Although Patel lives in Illinois and the complaint alleges Facebook violated the Illinois Biometric Privacy Act (IBPA), the case has been moved to the federal court for the Northern District of San Francisco. The federal judge hearing the case has recently decided to certify the class, which means it will now be allowed to move forward through the courts.

In agreeing to certify the class, Judge James Donato also defined the parameters of the case, which consists of two main parts: 1) whether Facebook collected this biometric data on consumers under the IBPA; and 2) whether consumers were notified about the biometric data and its uses and had given their consent. Continue reading

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Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is the highest grade of olive oil and people are often willing to pay a higher price for bottles claiming to be filled with EVOO. By definition, EVOO has been made by cold-pressing olives, without using any sulfates or other chemicals in the extraction process. It’s also supposed to have a superior taste compared to all the other forms of olive oil, although the average consumer is unlikely to be able to tell the difference. Unfortunately, there are plenty of olive oil manufacturers who rely on that ignorance.

Although we all do it, there are a few problems with buying a bottle just because it’s labeled “extra virgin olive oil.” The first is that bottles bearing that label are all too easy to obtain here in the U.S., despite the fact that real EVOO is the best of the best, and yet a glance at American grocery store shelves would have you believe that virtually every olive oil sold here is EVOO.

The truth is that EVOO is one of the largest (and oldest) scams in the world. Tests conducted by the University of California-Davis to the National Consumers League have found that more than half the olive oil labeled EVOO in the U.S. is actually adulterated with other oils, such as sunflower seed and peanut oils. Not only do these oils lack taste, they also lack the renowned health benefits of EVOO and can even cause allergic reactions in some consumers. Continue reading

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The makers of products for newborns and young children, Johnson & Johnson, were subject to suit for their talcum powder.  It was alleged that lung cancer came about due to use of that powder.  As a result, a New Jersey banker and his wife were awarded $37 million in compensation for damages sustained.  More specifically, $30 million for him and $7 million for his wife.  Johnson and Johnson assumed 70% of the liability for the illness. The supplier of the talc mineral is what was linked to the cross contamination with asbestos being mined.  For that reason, they were hit with the other 30% of the liability.  In addition, there are thousands of other cases tying its talc products to ovarian cancer.

The way the mesothelioma acted was by having inhalation of the baby powder dust by regular use since his 1972. The jury was a seven-woman jury, which had found that asbestos was concealed in their products, making the product deadly.  This is despite the evidence that Johnson & Johnson has long tested its products for contamination and the other party argued that asbestos exposure could have come from somewhere else other than the talc.  “The evidence was clear that his asbestos exposure came from a different source such as the asbestos found in his childhood home or schools,” a spokeswoman had said and they will most likely consider an appeal.  Punitive damages are also yet to come, as the second phase of the trial is to begin next week.  On Tuesday, the jurors will make the decision as to whether or not to award punitive damages. Johnson & Johnson said it was disappointed by the jury’s most recent decision. Johnson & Johnson still affirms that its products are not carcinogenic and never have or do not contain traces of asbestos fibers. Continue reading

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A federal judge recently dismissed a consumer class action lawsuit that had been filed against McDonald’s in Chicago over the fast food franchise’s so-called “Extra Value Meal.”

Customers who want a variety of offerings from the McDonald’s menu have the option of either ordering them individually or ordering them together in a pre-packaged and pre-priced “Extra Value Meal.” The labeling of these combo meals implies that buying them together would provide a better value for the customer, but according to the recent class action lawsuit, that is a deceptive implication.

Kelly Killeen, the named plaintiff who filed the lawsuit, alleges she recently bought a sausage burrito breakfast Extra Value Meal at a McDonald’s location in Chicago for $5.08. The meal consisted of two sausage burritos, hash browns, and coffee, all of which Killeen alleges would have cost her $4.97 if she had ordered them individually, rather than as an “Extra Value Meal.”

Judge Elaine Bucklo dismissed the lawsuit, saying that because all the prices for each item, as well as each “value meal” were clearly labeled and available to the public, the fast-food chain could not be held liable if consumers did not take the time to compare prices themselves. Continue reading

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It was only a matter of time that a backlash would occur against one of the largest social media networks.  This time, it was because of breach of trust issues.  It was the Presidential campaign of Donald Trump that saw the retention of private data of 50 million Facebook users, despite their attempts at claiming to have deleted it. The most recent case has been filed in Cook County, Illinois.  That claim included allegations similar to the other pending lawsuits against Facebook that will be tried in the federal court.  In the complaint, an argument is made that Facebook, Cambridge Analytica, and its corporate parent, SCL Group, violated users’ privacy when they violated Illinois laws against fraud.  In their response, Mark Zuckerburg and other Facebook executives called their actions a “breach of trust.”

The public at large was concerned about the mass data collection encouraged by Facebook, which assisted developers to build on the platform and provide greater insight into market manipulation and user behavior.  It was clearly written in the complaint that, “Facebook is not a social media company; it is the largest data-mining operation in existence.”  On top of that, Cook County is the second-largest county in the USA, behind Los Angeles County.  For that reason, from an international perspective, the case also has the ability to garner a high level of interest. It must be noted that this suit is not the first of technology-based lawsuits when it comes to privacy.

The fact of the matter is simply this: knowledge of your data can make millions, and this is exactly what Facebook did.  Users of Facebook feel violated enough to go ahead and file suit.  Members whose information was collected by Cambridge Analytica, the same firm that worked closely with the Trump campaign.  Facebook had known about the security breaches and did nothing to protect its users is what is alleged in the complaint.  Users also have a higher risk of identity theft as a result.  At the very least, Facebook acted negligently. Moreover, it is not just members of Facebook that are filing.  Investors have also come on board, in the making of “misleading statements” and they failed to disclose details about party access to data which is the reason why Facebook stocks have fallen. The officers of Facebook owed a fiduciary duty to investors to deal truthfully and honestly with them.   Because of the global reach, it is likely that more venues and jurisdictions will be involved.  Out of all, the most direct liability is against Cambridge Analytica.  They have violated city, state and Federal laws. The reputation of both companies is at stake as well. Continue reading

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Would you buy makeup that had been opened and used by someone else?

According to a recent class action consumer lawsuit, that’s allegedly what Ulta Beauty, a multi-million-dollar cosmetics company, has been doing. When people return cosmetics to the company for a refund, for any reason, store employees were allegedly instructed by managers to repackage and re-seal the returned items, then put them back on the shelves to be resold.

The allegations started with a Twitter user who claims to be a former employee of Ulta. According to a series of tweets she posted, the alleged practice of repackaging and re-sealing used products extended to all the company’s products, from makeup to fragrance to haircare tools. After she posted these accusations, other Twitter users, also claiming to have worked for Ulta, jumped to back up her claims, while others rejected them.

While the social media storm was no doubt a PR nightmare for Ulta, the Bolingbrook-based company now has a bigger problem on its hands: a consumer class action lawsuit seeking to represent anyone who has ever purchased products from Ulta. The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Chicago by Kimberley Laura Smith-Brown, who lives in Los Angeles and says she has bought dozens of Ulta products over the past six months, including eyeliner and lip balm.

While the complaint acknowledges that using cosmetics that have been opened and used by someone else is unsanitary, the lawsuit is more concerned with Ulta’s unjust enrichment as a result of this business practice. Aside from allegedly gaining the additional funds from selling the same products twice, the lawsuit also wants to sue Ulta for allegedly deceiving customers about the quality of the cosmetics they were buying. If Ulta’s products really were second hand, then they shouldn’t be charging full price for them, according to the lawsuit. Continue reading

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The constitutional basis on which pharmaceutical legislation has been enacted is being challenged.  Many Pharmaceutical Manufacturing companies are afraid that this new law has the capability of dictating health care policies when it comes to the governing of prices at which drugs can be sold. The complaint as filed has indicated that the sole determinant of price fixing should be manufacturers only, the inclusion of other entities reduces competition.  To them, it is believed that prices can be thwarted as a result.

Other core belief systems are challenged including what lies in the public interest of the health forum and increases the scope for debate on the matter.  Should having affordable access to medicine matter or does competition and profit for companies that gain matter? Whether public policy overrides or the victimization of the pharmaceutical companies will be seen.

The pharmaceutical company believed it was in its best interest to sue so that the legislationn is not enacted in other states. California is considered a state that is of high influence and for such reasons, a national trade group that represents 37 drug companies tried to defeat the bill.This same trade group for drugmakers cited concerns within its lawsuit that California’s law illegally tries to dictate national health policy. It further went to indicate that because the law is tied to a national measure of drug prices, advance notification requirement could restrict drugmakers’ ability to raise prices in other states. In what seems an otherwise futile attempt to sue, the main rationale behind the suit is also to ensure that the implementation does not become as at the national level, thereby reducing profit margin for such companies.  The law requires pharmaceutical companies to notify insurers and government health plans at least 60 days before a planned price increase of more than 16 percent during a two-year period and to explain the rationale for the increase. The information would be available on a government website. Continue reading