The Practice of Law After COVID-19, Volume 6
What’s Important to Know About Virtual Trials
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold, the legal community has been forced to adapt and adjust to a new way of practicing law. Attorneys have incorporated technology into the daily minutiae of their practices, given that in-person events have largely shifted to a virtual format in most jurisdictions. While you may have already taken part in telephone court hearings or zoom depositions, you probably have not yet experienced a virtual trial.
On October 15, 2020, airport food supplier, Host International Inc., was served with proposed class claims in California Superior Court in the County of Los Angeles. A group of former Host International employees allege that the company failed to pay past wages and accrued vacation time owed to the former employees, despite being aware of the dire economic circumstances many of them faced in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent shutdown.
On October 13, 2020, class claims were filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York against famed ice cream brand, Haagen-Dazs, alleging that the front label on the brand’s Coffee Almond Crunch ice cream bars misled consumers as to the true ingredients of the product.
On October 1, 2020, class claims were filed against grocery delivery company, Instacart in federal court in the District of Georgia alleging that Instacart’s policies violate the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”).
In the complaint, named plaintiff Nieves Lopez describes how she was hired by Instacart in February 2019 as a salaried employee in a managerial position. In April 2020, the plaintiff was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, adjustment disorder, anxiety and depression. She subsequently requested and was granted intermittent FMLA leave through June 1, 2020. The complaint further explains that plaintiff believed that, based on Instacart’s representations, that she would be able to use her paid time off (“PTO”) in connection with her extended FMLA leave.
On September 24, 2020, class claims were filed against popular food delivery service, DoorDash Inc., by a Missouri restaurant in federal court in the Northern District of California. The suit claims that the defendant engaged in a pattern of behavior that deceptively directed customers away from restaurants with whom DoorDash does not have a relationship.
On September 28, 2020, class claims were filed in federal court in the Central District of California by a group of Los Angeles County indoor mall stores against Los Angeles County, along with the LA County Department of Public Health and other County officials. The suit alleges that the defendants’ choice to refuse to allow indoor mall stores to reopen for in-person shopping on the basis of protecting public health, has no public health justification.
Procedural Check-In on COVID-Related Litigations
As COVID-19 developed into a global crisis, many legal experts have speculated as to which lawsuits were likely to rise to the forefront. Seven months into the pandemic, here is a snapshot of the procedural status of some of the resulting litigations:
On September 21, 2020, class certification was granted in federal court in the Northern District of California to a class of consumers who allege that popular Keurig single-serve coffee pod brand, Green Mountain Inc., intentionally misled consumers regarding the recyclability of its product.
On September 10, 2020, Southern California federal court Judge M. James Lorenz declined a motion to dismiss putative class claims against One Brands, alleging that the defendant, a subsidiary of Hershey Co., intentionally misled consumers as to the true ingredients in its popular protein bars.
On September 8, 2020, a Vermont restaurant filed suit in Massachusetts federal court against Wind River Environmental, after the company flooded the unnamed restaurant with countless gallons of human feces, urine and sewage.
The legal profession poses a multitude of challenges to female attorneys and the women profiled in this series lead the way by example, in effecting change and working to shatter the glass ceiling. In doing so, they’ve experienced a great deal of change in the industry throughout their careers.
On September 8, 2020, class claims were filed in New Jersey Superior Court against two long-term healthcare providers, Andover Subacute Rehabilitation Center I and Andover Subacute Rehabilitation Center II (“Facilities”), alleging that the Facilities deliberately misled the families of residents, and the residents themselves, as to the quality of care provided and the safety standards in place.
On September 1, 2020, international consulting firm Deloitte was served with class claims in federal court in the Southern District of New York, alleging that the company’s parental leave program is highly misleading.
In the complaint, named plaintiff Saxon Knight describes how Deloitte advertises to both the public and its employees, that it offers a progressive parental leave program. The plaintiff argues that the defendant company makes it a point to self-promote its parental leave policies and has been generously lauded by the media for its commitment to allowing employees to take up to 16 weeks of paid leave.
On August 31, 2020, class claims were filed in federal court in Minnesota against DAP Products Inc. (“DAP”), the makers of DAP 3.0 “Crystal Clear” Kitchen, Bathroom and Plumbing Sealant, alleging that the product yellows within several weeks of being applied.
On August 26, 2020, Wyndham Vacation Resorts Inc. (“Wyndham”) was served with class claims in federal court in the District of Delaware, alleging that its timeshare ownership program employed misleading sales and marketing tactics to fraudulently induce plaintiffs to enter into sales agreements for pricy timeshares.