Articles Posted in Class-Action

MG_6325_1-300x200The FTC sued a student loan debt relief company that promised consumers that it would reduce their monthly student loan payments, or arrange for their student debts to be forgiven in whole or part by their student loan servicers. Instead, the company kept most of the money sent to them by the consumers and failed to negotiate with the servicers or remit the payments in a timely fashion. The district court granted summary judgment to the FTC and issued a permanent injunction against the defendants, as well as a monetary judgment for more than $27 million in restitution.

The United States District Court for the Central District of California granted summary judgment to the Federal Trade Commission in a suit filed against Elegant Solutions, Inc. The FTC filed a complaint against Elegant Solutions for a permanent injunction and other equitable relief pursuant to § 13(b) and 19 of the Federal Trade Commission Act and 57(b) of the Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act.

The FTC’s complaint charged that the defendants participated in acts or practices that violated § 5(a) of the FTC Act by representing in advertising that consumers who purchased the defendants’ debt relief services would be enrolled in a repayment plan that would reduce their monthly payments on their student loans to a lower, specific amount, or have their student loan balances forgiven in whole or part; that most or all of the consumers’ monthly payments to the defendants would be applied toward consumers’ student loans; and that the defendants would assume responsibility for the servicing of consumers’ student loans. The district court found that, in numerous instances in which the defendants made such representations, they were false or not substantiated. The panel determined that these representations constituted a deceptive act or practice in violation of § 5(a) of the FTC Act. Continue reading ›

Hudson’s Bay (HBC), the Canadian retail company that owns Saks, among other high-end stores, has been sued by lenders who claim the reorganization of the company that happened earlier this year was conducted in an attempt to set up a secret corporate shell game that has robbed the credit that exists as insurance on the $850 million loan the plaintiffs have invested in the company.

The lawsuit centers around the fact that, as the owner of stores like Saks and Lord & Taylor, HBC was responsible for guaranteeing payment on all loans for the stores, including making sure the rent was paid if the stores themselves were in financial distress or unable to make rent for any other reason.

Earlier this year, HBC formed a new Bermuda corporation, which is owned by shareholders with a controlling interest in HBC, as well as executives at the highest levels of HBC’s corporate hierarchy. According to the plaintiff, Situs Holdings, this transfer of assets is not only improper but also violates the loan agreement and puts at risk the company’s ability to repay the loan.

HBC denies all the allegations, claiming the restructuring amounted to little more than a change in name and some paper shuffling. It also alleges that Situs never had any claim on the assets of HBC that were reassigned in the course of the restructuring process. The Canadian retail company insists that Situs’s reaction to the restructuring is far beyond what the restructuring actually accomplishes and that the plaintiff’s claims that HBC allegedly conducted this restructuring in secret, deliberately keeping it concealed from Situs, are likewise false. Continue reading ›

Last year we witnessed the filing of a first of its kind putative class-action lawsuit claiming that gift cards that did not contain Braille violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) along with similar state and local laws. Within weeks, more than 240 nearly identical complaints had been filed against a multitude of retailers and restaurant chains in New York. Recently, a federal judge issued the first opinions in these gift card cases dismissing the plaintiffs’ claims. While the court granted the plaintiffs the ability to amend their complaints, it is unclear how they will be able to successfully retool the complaints given that the opinions soundly rejected the plaintiffs’ theories of liability.

The court’s first opinion came in a case captioned Dominguez v. Banana Republic LLC. In the following days, the same judge released similar opinions dismissing six additional Braille gift card lawsuits before him on the same grounds. The factual circumstances in the seven cases are similar. In each case, the plaintiffs alleged that they called the defendant and asked whether the defendant’s gift cards contained the information printed on the cards in Braille. After the defendant responded that the gift cards did not contain Braille, the plaintiffs filed suit alleging violations of the ADA and various state and local laws. Each case was filed as a putative class action on behalf of the named plaintiff and a nationwide class of similarly situated blind individuals. Continue reading ›

ATTENTION BUSINESS OWNERS: we are investigating possible wrongful denials of business interruption insurance claims due to COVID-19. If you would like us to review your policy, feel free to send it along.

With stories of COVID-19, the strain on global healthcare, and social distancing dominating headlines, the pandemic’s impact on the owners of small and medium sized businesses is sometimes lost in the shuffle. At the end of the day, business owners are people too. They deal with the same fears and concerns about Coronavirus as everyone else, plus the added anxiety that comes with being responsible for the livelihoods of employees and their families. In a time when many businesses are facing forced closures, a growing number of business owners have filed claims for business interruption coverage under their commercial insurance policies only to have those claims denied.

Business owners who have had their claims for business interruption coverage denied are not without options though. It is important in such instances to seek the assistance of an experienced insurance coverage and bad faith denial attorney who will help you review your policy, consider your options, and, importantly, determine if the insurance company wrongfully denied coverage. An attorney can negotiate on your behalf with the insurance company, and if necessary, file a lawsuit seeking a declaration of coverage and a judgment requiring payment under the policy. Continue reading ›

CDB is everywhere these days. Products containing CBD can be purchased online, at health-food stores, and even at gas stations. The market for CBD containing or infused products is burgeoning and represents a lucrative opportunity for entrepreneurs as the market is expected to expand to a more than $16 billion industry by 2025. Despite its popularity, there is little in the way of regulation or guidance regarding the advertising and selling of CBD products.

In recent months, there have been a series of class-action lawsuits filed against the manufacturers and sellers of CBD products alleging false and misleading advertising and labeling of these products in violation of consumer protection statutes. In one of these newly filed class-action lawsuits, a putative class of consumers from Massachusetts filed a class-action lawsuit against Global Widget LLC, d/b/a Hemp Bombs (“Hemp Bombs”). The complaint alleges misleading labeling and statements concerning numerous Hemp Bombs products, including gummies, lollipops, capsules, syrup, vape and pet products.

According to the complaint, Cannabidiol (CBD) is a naturally occurring chemical compound known as a phytocannabinoid. CBD is typically derived from hemp plants for its purported medicinal qualities. CBD is used to treat anxiety, insomnia, depression, diabetes, PTSD, and chronic pain. CBD can be taken into the body in multiple ways, including by inhalation of smoke or vapor, as an aerosol spray into the cheek, and by mouth. Food and beverage items can be infused with CBD as an alternative means of ingesting the substance. Continue reading ›

The difference between an individual and class-action lawsuit can be significant for a business. What few business owners realize, however, is that every case begins as an individual case and only later does a court decide whether or not to certify the case as a class action. The question that class action defense attorneys have long considered is whether it possible to pay the named plaintiff’s individual claim and resolve the entire case before the issue of class certification is even considered. This tactic, known as a “pick off,” has been attempted for decades. Although a number of states have rejected the effectiveness of this tactic, Illinois has long been an outlier. Recently, the Illinois Supreme Court revisited its previous pick-off jurisprudence to clarify that a defendant can successfully pick off a named plaintiff in Illinois by “tendering” full relief before a motion for class certification has been filed.

According to the Illinois Supreme Court, tendering full relief entails paying the full amount demanded into the court’s registry, agreeing to pay the plaintiff’s reasonable attorney’s fees and costs, and effectively admitting liability. If there is injunctive or other non-monetary relief sought, the defendant may have to agree to that relief unconditionally as well. Continue reading ›

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and currently the world’s richest man, has been sued for defamation by Michael Sanchez, the brother of Bezos’s girlfriend/fiancé. In his complaint, filed in a California state court, Sanchez alleges that Bezos has falsely spread rumors that Sanchez obtained and provided explicit text messages from and nude photos of Bezos to The National Enquirer. Sanchez claims that the allegedly defamatory comments have caused him to lose clients and be shunned by family and friends. In addition to Bezos, the suit also names Gavin de Becker, a security consultant hired by Bezos, and ten other “john does” as defendants.

The complaint, which reads like a lurid tell-all, is replete with salacious details concerning the Amazon founder. The complaint alleges numerous previously unknown details including when Bezos’s affair with Sanchez’s sister Lauren began, that Bezos and Lauren allegedly consulted a psychic concerning the affair and that Bezos and Lauren are currently engaged. And although the lawsuit requests actual and punitive damages, it does not specify how much money is being sought.

The lawsuit alleges that Bezos began his extramarital affair with Lauren in 2017 when her production company was hired to do work for Bezos’s space exploration company. Bezos and Lauren decided to keep the relationship secret based on advice from a psychic in New Mexico, according to the complaint. At the time, Bezos was still married to his now ex-wife MacKenzie Bezos. Sanchez, who claims that he has acted as Lauren’s agent since at least 2010, claims that he agreed to keep the affair secret to protect his sister’s personal and professional reputation. Instead, the complaint alleges that Sanchez “was instrumental in covering up first, the existence, and second, the timing of the affair.” Continue reading ›

Facebook has agreed to pay $550 million to settle a class-action lawsuit over its use of facial recognition technology in Illinois. According to the complaint, Facebook’s photo-labeling service called Tag Suggestions, violated the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act by harvesting biometric from the photos of millions of Illinois users without their permission and without telling them how long Facebook would store the data. The case proceeded to settlement after a federal appellate court rejected Facebook’s attempt to have the case dismissed and ruled that the case could go to trial. We previously wrote about that decision here.

Under the terms of the settlement, Facebook will pay $550 million to eligible Illinois users and cover the plaintiffs’ legal fees. The firms representing the plaintiffs called it the largest cash settlement ever to resolve a privacy related lawsuit. The settlement dwarfs the $380.5 million that Equifax recently agreed to pay to settle a class-action suit over its 2017 data breach.

Facebook disclosed the settlement as part of its quarterly financial results, in which it took a charge on the case. The sum, while appearing large at first blush, barely amounts to more than a rounding error for Facebook, which reported $21 billion in revenue in the fourth quarter of 2019 alone. This represents a 25% increase in revenue over the same quarter in 2018. Continue reading ›

Arbitration and the enforceability of arbitration provisions have been hot topics in employment and consumer litigation for a number of years. Over the last decade, the U.S. Supreme Court has issued numerous opinions on the subject as well have a number of state supreme courts. In Shockley v. PrimeLending, 929 F.3d 1012 (8th Cir. 2019), the federal appellate court of the Eighth Circuit recently held that an arbitration provision in an employee handbook was not binding on the employee.

The plaintiff, Jennifer Shockley, was employed by PrimeLending from June 2016 through July 2017. After leaving the company, Shockley filed a collective action lawsuit against PrimeLending in federal court for allegedly violating the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). PrimeLending moved to compel arbitration on the basis that a provision in its employee handbook required all disputes to be decided by binding arbitration. The District Court denied PrimeLending’s motion. On appeal, the Eighth Circuit affirmed.

PrimeLending maintained an intranet accessible by its employees, which contained employment-related information, such as its new hire policies and its employee handbook. The employee handbook contained an arbitration provision which provided:

If the dispute cannot be settled through negotiation, you and the Company agree to attempt in good faith to resolve the covered dispute exclusively through final and binding arbitration in accordance with the terms, conditions, and procedures of this Arbitration Clause. Continue reading ›

Settling most cases is a difficult process, particularly when the parties dispute what exactly happened or when the underlying claim turns out to be smaller than anticipated. In Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) cases, the process can be even more difficult depending on the court’s interpretation of the FLSA’s enforcement provision, section 16, which permits the Department of Labor to supervise settlements.

Courts have reached differing interpretations regarding this statutory language and whether it requires DOL or judicial approval of all FLSA settlements. The parties to an FLSA case may wish to avoid having to submit a settlement agreement to the court to obtain approval before a case can be settled. Such reasons include a desire to keep the settlement terms confidential, the cost of obtaining judicial approval, and the time delay inherent in having to obtain judicial or DOL approval. The question that has long plagued litigants and attorneys alike is whether the parties can find a means of settling their matters without having to seek review, as they do with virtually every other kind of employment case. Continue reading ›

Contact Information