The Practice of Law After COVID-19, Volume 2
Considerations Upon Returning to the Courtroom
As the United States court system attempts to slowly move towards pre-pandemic productivity, judiciaries must balance the need to progress pending litigation and keeping Americans safe amid the COVID-19 health crisis. Reopening is taking place in “stages” in many states, each with decreased restrictions as the courts strive to regain full operation. The expansive nature of the American judicial system equates to numerous different policies and precautions implemented, but the following are general measures courts across the country are putting in place as they process the backlog of matters postponed by the pandemic shutdowns.
The battle continues between aviation giant Boeing and a class of pilots who were trained and certified to fly the now grounded 737 MAX jet. Plaintiffs claim their careers have been seriously affected by Boeing’s fraudulent assurances to the aviation community that the jet was safe to fly.
On June 24, 2020, a settlement of over $10 billion was announced by Bayer AG, bringing an end to nearly 75% of the lawsuits involving its glyphosate-based weed killers, including the well-known Roundup® products. In the announcement, Bayer estimated that the settlement will cover all litigations headed by the plaintiff law firms leading the federal multidistrict litigation, in addition to the California state court bellwether cases.
On June 15, 2020, the campaign of former 2020 presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, “Bernie 2020,” was served with class claims in Minnesota federal court, alleging that the campaign violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) by sending unsolicited text messages from the Sanders campaign to individuals’ cell phones using an automatic telephone dialing system (“ATDS”).
Counsel Financial President & CEO, Paul Cody, and Managing Director of Strategic Initiatives and Financial Operations, Todd Kushman, were recently guests on a Litigation Finance Journal podcast to discuss the unique financial products offered by Counsel Financial, how they differ from other lenders in the litigation finance industry and the opportunity for partnership among financing companies with differing business models.
In recent months, there has been no shortage of distressing news. An inspiring story on beating the odds from someone who was able to rise above an extraordinarily difficult start to life is a refreshing change. This edition of Women in the Law profiles an extraordinary female attorney who faced hardships that many of us cannot imagine and has come out the other side with an intense determination to succeed.
On June 8, 2020, 3M Company (“3M”) filed trademark counterfeiting claims against Amazon sellers KM Brothers Inc., KMJ Trading Inc., Supreme Sunshine, Inc. and Mao Yu in federal court in the Central District of California Western Division. The suit alleges that the defendants took advantage of the COVID-19 global pandemic and consumers’ need for personal protection equipment (“PPE”) by selling counterfeit 3M branded N-95 masks.
Lawsuits to Watch
As industries across the planet continue to weather the COVID-19 pandemic, the effect on the legal industry resulting from the global shutdown will be substantial, re-shaping the way litigation unfolds in the future. As the court system slowly begins to implement reopening plans with challenging and changing rubrics, the practice of law will need to evolve as well to accord with this “brave new world.”
On June 4, 2020, a group of teachers filed proposed class action claims against actress Reese Witherspoon and her clothing company, Draper James, claiming a promotion that promised free dresses to teachers nationwide allegedly deceived entrants into providing the defendants with sensitive personal information.
On May 29, 2020, CBD company Just Brands USA Inc., known more commonly as JustCBD, was served with putative class claims in federal court in the Central District of California by a group of dissatisfied customers who allege that the company has been selling CBD products that contain less of the active ingredient than stated on its packaging.
On May 29, 2020, New York-based consulting firm Deloitte Consulting, LLP (“Deloitte”) was served with class claims in federal court in the Southern District of New York, alleging that the company failed to take reasonable and adequate measures to secure the personally identifiable information (“PII”) of online unemployment applicants.
*This article is for informational purposes only. Counsel Financial is a business and not a law firm engaged in the practice of law and, as such, cannot provide legal advise.
On May 27, 2020, car rental company Enterprise Leasing Company was served with class claims in federal court in the Middle District of Florida, alleging that the company violated the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (“WARN Act”), when it terminated hundreds of employees without cause and without sufficient - or any - advanced written notice.
Named plaintiff in the suit Elva Benson had previously worked for Enterprise at the company’s Orlando International Airport location. In mid-March as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to worsen in the United States, Enterprise furloughed plaintiff and hundreds of other employees. At that time, plaintiff argued, Enterprise was well aware that its business was suffering and that the COVID-19 pandemic and corresponding stay home orders, would severely inhibit its business. Several weeks after furloughing employees, Enterprise abruptly terminated hundreds of employees in a mass layoff, with no written warning to employees.
On May 19, 2020, pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson (“J&J”), announced that it would permanently halt production of its controversial talc-based baby powder throughout the North American market, including in the United States and Canada. In public comments made by the company in the announcement, J&J indicated that the decision was made for economic reasons and not tied to product safety, alluding to the thousands of lawsuits currently facing the company that allege its talc-based products cause cancer and contains asbestos.
Starting your own law firm can be a daunting prospect for even the most experienced attorneys. There are a multitude of significant considerations: how to handle the departure from your current firm, who to bring with you, how to manage the impact on your clients. There are so many components to consider that some lawyers never progress beyond a mere contemplation of their dream to be on their own.
While there is no limit to the information immediately available to us in today’s era of endless technology, there is no substitute for firsthand experience. Regina Calcaterra, Esq., founding partner of Calcaterra Pollack LLP, is the ideal person to advise other attorneys on what it takes to venture out on your own. Regina carries an impressive list of accolades—she specializes in complex federal and state litigation representing public entities, labor, health and welfare funds, businesses and individuals.
On May 13, 2020, another coronavirus-related class action suit was filed against the cruise industry, this time in federal court in the Southern District of Florida against Celebrity Cruise Inc. The suit alleges that the cruise line was aware of the dangerous conditions presented by a COVID-19 outbreak aboard a vessel due to the virus’s ability to rapidly spread, and yet failed to reasonably protect passengers.
On May 11, 2020, class claims were filed against food delivery service Grubhub in Colorado federal court, alleging that the company knowingly promoted a false advertising campaign with the intent to steer users to its partnered restaurants by incorrectly listing on the app that non-partnered restaurants are either closed or not accepting online orders.
On April 27, 2020, two similar proposed class action claims were filed in California federal court against The Regents of the University of California and the Board of Trustees of California State University in the Northern and Central District Courts of California, respectively. The suits allege that the defendants failed to return fees to students that were paid to the educational institutions for services no longer offered due to the shutdown of campuses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On April 30, 2020, actress and budding homeware designer, Drew Barrymore, alongside Walmart and Jet.com, were served with federal copyright infringement claims in the Central District of California. The lawsuit alleges that the retailers offered for sale Barrymore’s Flower Home products, which featured an unauthorized copy of the plaintiff’s unique design.
It’s hard to imagine that just a few short months ago, the thought of American life grinding to a halt seemed unfathomable. And yet, here we all are. For those of us fortunate enough to be able to work from home, a “new normal” has developed since the time that stay-at-home mandates threw us into a chaotic new reality. This new normal has blurred the lines of our work and home lives, as many of us now juggle Zoom meetings from our living rooms in between home schooling children and checking in on our families and friends.
On April 23, 2020, two similar, but separate class action lawsuits were filed in the Southern District of New York and Northern District of New York by students at Columbia University and Cornell University, respectively, alleging that the Ivy League universities failed to reimburse students for tuition, fees and other costs, after the COVID-19 pandemic caused the transition to an online format.
On April 27, 2020, New Jersey District Court Judge Freda L. Wolfson ruled that most of the plaintiffs’ experts in the Talc Multidistrict Litigation (“MDL”) met the stringent scientific requirements of the Daubert standard. The ruling is being hailed as a major victory by the plaintiffs in the suit. Had Judge Wolfson granted in full the defendants' request to bar the plaintiffs’ expert testimony, the MDL would likely have collapsed.
“Do you give up a little liberty to get a little protection?” This rhetorical question was posed by the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci. Dr. Fauci’s question arose during an April 2020 Snapchat Live interview, in response to the notion that the United States could start to implement digital contact tracing to help limit the spread of COVID-19. According to Dr. Fauci and many public health care experts, digital contact apps will be necessary for the country to gain a firm grasp on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic as the nation makes moves towards reopening.
With the ongoing COIVD-19 pandemic continuing to put strains on an already over-burdened American healthcare system, some states have taken steps to ensure that the looming threat of a lawsuit does not stand in the way of medical professionals providing care to the onslaught of patients inundating hospitals. Situations that many healthcare providers are facing during this pandemic, such as a lack of ventilators, medical equipment and supplies, have triggered a need for ventilator triage policies at many hospitals located in the hardest hit areas of the county. The dire circumstances, in some cases, have forced doctors to make judgment calls as to which patient will get a life-saving ventilator, which many have feared will open up a slew of unwanted future lawsuits. The threat of potential lawsuits likely weighs heavily on the minds of healthcare workers, including recent medical school graduates who may not yet have malpractice insurance.
On April 14, 2020, another class action lawsuit was filed against the cruise industry for failure to respond in a timely manner to the threat of COVID-19. The most recent suit was filed in federal court in the Southern District of Florida against Celebrity Cruises, Inc. (“Celebrity”).
On April 7, 2020, class claims were filed against Costa Cruise Lines (“Costa”), owned by Carnival Corporation, in Florida federal court alleging that Costa knowingly subjected over 2,000 passengers aboard the Costa Luminosa to the highly-contagious Coronavirus.
On April 10, 2020, class claims were filed against Six Flags Theme Park Inc., alleging that the company has continued to charge some of its customers monthly membership fees while at the same time prohibiting access to Six Flags’ various theme parks due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
On April 2, 2020, event ticket sales company StubHub Inc., was served with class claims in federal court in the Western District of Wisconsin, that alleged defendant is attempting to profit from the COVID-19 pandemic by refusing to issue cash refunds to customers who purchased tickets through StubHub for events that have been cancelled due to the ongoing crisis.
On March 31, 2020, U.S. District Court Judge for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division, Sara L. Ellis, granted class certification to a class of African Americans who argue that defendant Personnel Staffing Group, LLC (d/b/a Most Valuable Personnel (“MVP”)) systematically steered African American workers away from work assignments at defendant Gold Standard Baking Inc. (“GSB”) because of GSB’s discriminatory hiring policy.
On March 30, 2020, class claims were filed in federal court in the Northern District of California against video conferencing provider, Zoom Video Communications, Inc., alleging that the company failed to properly safeguard the personal information of millions of its users.
On March 30, 2020, class claims were filed in New Jersey federal court against Heritage Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (d/b/a Avet Pharmaceuticals Inc.), alleging that the defendant has been manufacturing, distributing and selling the generic medication metformin that contains dangerously high levels of the carcinogen N-nitrosodimethylamine (“NDMA”) which can cause serious damage to the liver.
On March 13, 2020, class claims were filed in federal court in the Southern District of Florida against the People’s Republic of China, National Health Commission of the People’s Republic of China, Ministry of Emerging Management of the People’s Republic of China, Ministry of Civil Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, The People’s Government of Hubli Province and the People’s Government of the City of Wuhan, alleging that the defendants knew that COVID-19 was dangerous and capable of causing a pandemic, yet responded slowly and/or chose not to disclose the health crisis in favor of economic self-interest.
On February 27, 2020, a Miami jury ordered Johnson & Johnson (“J&J”) to pay Florida native, Blanca Moure-Cabrera, $9 million after finding the American multinational corporation caused Moure-Cabrera’s mesothelioma due to exposure to asbestos contained in its talcum powder products.
On February 28, 2020, Apple Inc. (“Apple”) submitted a $500 million proposed settlement to Northern California district court Judge Edward J. Davila for preliminary approval, bringing an end to a multidistrict litigation (“MDL”) between the tech giant and iPhone users who accuse the defendant of releasing software updates that purposefully slowed down older versions of the iPhone.
On February 24, 2020, an $18.6 million proposed settlement was submitted to Utah federal court judge David Nuffer for preliminary approval, with regard to class claims that trucking company C.R. England, Inc., prompted would-be commercial truck drivers into enrolling in a $5,000 for profit, in-house commercial truck driving school with false guarantees that students would become employed with the company after graduation from the program.
On February 6, 2020, pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson was ordered by a New Jersey jury to pay four plaintiffs $750 million in punitive damages in the talc litigations. The punitive damages award, which was later reduced in accordance with New Jersey state law by New Jersey Superior Court Judge Ama C. Visomi to $186 million, comes on the heels of a separate jury trial awarding the plaintiffs $37.3 million in compensatory damages in September 2019.
On February 11, 2020, class claims were filed in New Jersey Superior Court against popular fashion retailer, Old Navy and its outlet store, alleging that the store engaged in a uniform policy of displaying fictitious purported “original” prices, as well as false “sale” prices and percentage-off discounts in advertising, marketing, and sale of apparel in stores.
On February 10, 2020, a proposed class action was filed in New York Supreme Court, New York County, against Baby Brezza Enterprises LLC, the manufacturer of automatic baby formula mixing machines Baby Brezza Formula Pro and Formula Pro Advanced, alleging that the products in question failed to perform as advertised.
What is a key component to becoming an effective attorney? If you ask people who aren’t attorneys, they will say a love of arguing makes a good lawyer. And how many times have you encountered a proud parent who insists their child is destined for the courtroom because they argue with their parents constantly? But is that what makes a good lawyer in reality? Most lawyers would say that, while being able to formulate a strong argument is a crucial part of the profession, being empathetic to the issues facing others and effective listening are the best traits for a strong client advocate. So, while a love of debating is what often draws students into law school, it is a love of justice and the desire to help others that makes them into successful counsel. Attorney Kelly Reed embodies all of these points of view.
On February 3, 2020, attorneys for the retail superstore, Walmart, petitioned U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte, Jr. to enter a judgment as a matter of law in favor of the company, thus attempting to undo a $6.1 million jury verdict awarded to a class of Walmart employees who had alleged that they were discouraged from taking outside meal breaks when Walmart required workers to leave through a metal detector. In its bid for a favorable judgment as a matter of law, Walmart argued that the plaintiffs failed to prove these allegations.
January 27, 2020, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) and New York attorney general Letitia James filed suit against erstwhile CEO and convicted felon, Martin Shkreli of Turing (Vyera) Pharmaceuticals and Retrophin, and his co-founder Kevin Mulleady, over an alleged scheme to preserve a monopoly on the drug Daraprim.
On January 27, 2020, animation company Pixar was served with copyright infringement claims in federal court in the Northern District of California by San Francisco-based artist and tattooist Sweet Cicely Daniher, who alleged that Pixar directly copied the make, model, exterior color scheme, interior color scheme and exterior mural of her 1972 Chevrolet G10 van in the upcoming film, Onward.
On January 13, 2020, opening arguments commenced for a case involving a former Ford Motor Company (“Ford”) employee who claims his ex-employer gave managers “free reign” to provide Caucasian employees preferential treatment in their requests for overtime hours. The plaintiff claims that Ford’s acts are not only discriminatory, but that Ford would retaliate against any employee who complained about company practices.
On January 10, 2020, plaintiffs in an action against TurboTax parent company, Intuit, made a motion in federal court in the Northern District of California for class certification, partial summary adjudication and entry of final injunctive relief.
January 14, 2020, Amazon-owned audiobook provider Audible has reached a preliminary settlement agreement with a group of the largest US book publishers over a planned expansion feature that would give customers access to closed captions for audiobooks.
On January 2, 2020, chocolate manufacturer Hershey Co. and its newly acquired subsidiary, One Brands, were served with putative class claims in federal court in the Southern District of California, alleging that the defendants’ had engaged in deceptive marketing, advertising and labeling of its ONE protein bars.
On December 18, 2019, a proposed $27 million settlement was submitted to Florida federal court Judge Paul G. Byron for preliminary approval, bringing an end to class claims between more than 250,000 Geico customers and the insurance provider. The alleged claims arose from customers who filed insurance claims with Geico for damaged cars declared “totaled” and were denied coverage for approximately $80 in fees when registering a new vehicle.
Endo International, PLC, an Irish generics and specialty branded pharmaceutical company, generates over 90% of its sales exclusively from the United States healthcare system. The company’s second largest source of revenue, the narcotic “Opana,” was marketed to shareholders in 2006 after Endo applied to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to have the drug labeled as abuse-deterrent.
Lawsuits are no laughing matter…unless they are. Some lawsuits deal with complex legal concepts and far-reaching societal implications, while some have a man attempting to sue his boss for passing too much gas. With another decade in the books, we take a look back at some of the most outrageous and hilarious lawsuits over the last 10 years.
Tik-Tok, the video-sharing social networking service that has taken youth by storm, recently was the target of a lawsuit alleging that it collected and shared personally identifiable information about children under the age of 13. On December 6, 2019, a proposed class of parents and children asked an Illinois federal court to approve a $1.1 million settlement to resolve alleged claims.
On December 2, 2019, a group of members of the United States Military and their spouses filed a class action suit in federal court in the Middle District of Florida alleging that The Michaels Organization, LLC, Michaels Management Services, Inc., Interstate Realty Management Company, AMC East Communities, LLC, Clark Capital Realty LLC and Harbor Bay at MacDill (“the defendants”), failed to properly develop, build, maintain and manage housing at the MacDill Air Force Base after hazardous mold was discovered in their properties.
On November 23, 2019, Mars Inc., makers of the popular M&M brand ice cream products, is facing class claims in federal court in the Southern District of New York over allegations that it mislabels the flavoring of its ice cream treats and is in essence committing “food fraud.”
On November 18, 2019, was with class action claims were filed in federal court in the Southern District of Florida, against fast-food giant Burger King, alleging that the restaurant’s new meat alternative “Impossible Whopper” burgers are not truly vegan.
On November 18, 2019, U.S. District Court Judge for the Central District of California, Stephen V. Wilson, denied billionaire tech entrepreneur Elon Musk’s bid to throw out defamation claims against him made by famed British cave diver Vernon Unsworth, who Musk referred to as “pedo guy” in a July 2018 tweet.
On November 8, 2019, U.S. District Judge for the Central District of California, R. Gary Klausner, granted class certification to the U.S. Senior Women’s National Soccer Team (“WNT”) in its suit against the U.S. Soccer Federation Inc.
The action was filed on March 8, 2019, just months before the team’s historic World Cup victory, naming all 28 current WNT players as named plaintiffs. In the complaint, the players claim that the U.S. Soccer Federation is in violation of the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, alleging that the defendant’s pay structure is unfair to the women’s team in comparison to the less successful men’s league.
On November 8, 2019, a $5.4 million settlement was submitted to California federal court Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel for preliminary approval, bringing an ended to claims that the juice-making giant, Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc. conceals the true quality of the ingredients in certain of the brand’s juice-based beverages.
On October 31, 2019, Facebook, Inc. was served with proposed class claims in the Northern District of California alleging that the company discriminates against older and female Facebook users who were purportedly denied the opportunity to receive advertising and information about financial services opportunities.
On October 8, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a bid by the Los Angeles Rams to stay the vicious legal battle with its former hometown of St. Louis over the NFL team’s abrupt relocation from Missouri to California. The city of St. Louis is seeking to recoup millions of dollars spent in an effort to keep the team in its city.
October 29, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit revived a suit accusing pop-superstar Taylor Swift of plagiarizing lyrics for her 2014 hit song “Shake it Off.” The complaint accused Swift of illegally copying a “six-word phrase and a four-part lyrical sequence from [Sean] Hall’s Playas Gon’ Play (2001),” which was performed by 3LW.
On October 24, 2019, Goodyear Tire & Rubber company (“Goodyear”) filed suit in federal court in the Northern District of Illinois, alleging that an Illinois punk rock band, The Goodyear Pimps (“The Pimps” or “the band”), has been improperly using Goodyear’s trademarked winged foot design logo and the company’s famous Goodyear Blimp image on the band’s merchandise, Facebook page and website.
October 15, 2019, Walmart agreed to a $14 million settlement with an Illinois Class of pregnant and formerly pregnant employees who claimed the company’s policies on disability accommodations discriminated against them based on their pregnant status.
On October 4, 2019, the Nebraska Supreme Court upheld an $800,000 jury verdict over doctors’ failure to diagnose a foot condition, holding that the questions examined by jurors did not move into the territory of asking them to walk a mile in the plaintiff’s shoes.
On October 3 2019, two women filed suit against former Spiderman trilogy star, James Franco, in a proposed class action over allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination at his now shuttered acting and film school.
On September 23, 2019, a group of former students of the now defunct for-profit Charlotte School of Law (“CSL”), filed suit against their would-be alma mater and its parent company, Sterling Capital Partners (“Sterling”), in Illinois state court.
On September 20, 2019, class claims were filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois against breast implant manufacturer Allergan alleging that the defendant’s BIOCELL textured saline- and silicone-filled breast implants cause an increased risk of developing breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (“BIA-ALCL”).
On September 6, 2019, well known, controversial rapper Chris Brown and the production company that produced one of Brown’s 2017 music videos, Majestic Hour Production Inc., were served with a suit from a former music video back-up dancer in Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleging that she was injured on the set of the video.
On September 16, 2019, a proposed class action was filed in the Southern District of California against General Motors (“GM”), alleging that GM concealed a known defect from its U.S. customers who purchased or leased certain Cadillac models equipped with GM’s Cadillac User Experience navigation/radio touch screen display (“CUE System”).
September 11, 2019, a Connecticut Superior Court Judge Carl Schuman upheld a $542,464 verdict against pharmaceutical giant, Boehringer Ingelheim, originally awarded in May 2019 in the ongoing Pradaxa litigation.
The suit was originally filed in May 2016 by plaintiff Eugene Roberto. Plaintiff alleged that Boehringer Ingelheim’s label for its popular blood thinning drug Pradaxa, did not adequately warn about the risk of bleeding. The suit, which by this time was merged with the Pradaxa multidistrict litigation (“MDL”), was selected by the plaintiffs’ steering committee to go to trial as a bellwether case.
On September 9, 2019, a proposed class of investors filed a complaint in the Supreme Court of the State of New York against Sundial Growers over its $143 million IPO. Named plaintiff, Trisha Peters, filed the complaint after news surfaced regarding a defective order of cannabis that contained visible mold, parts of rubber gloves and “other non-cannabis material,” according to the complaint.
In today’s world of social media influencers and so-called self-help gurus, it has suddenly become trendy to be focused on self-care, meditation and mindfulness. However that same world, combined with constant communication, has made our lives busier than ever often resulting in relegating self-care to the bottom of our to-do lists. This can be especially true for working mothers who want to give their all to both their career and their family, often putting themselves last in the order of importance. But self-care isn’t just a passing fad—it is an important part of modern life and is crucial to living a well-balanced life. In this edition of Women in the Law, we profile a successful attorney who has made self-care and meditation central to her day-to-day life.
On August 13 2019, a three-judge panel in New Jersey’s appellate court rejected condominium developer K. Hovnanian’s bid to have architectural firm RTKL pay its share of a $4 million jury verdict. The panel found that RTKL should not pay Hovnanian’s $3 million share of the jury verdict for its decision to push construction forward on a 132-unit condominium despite knowing the plywood used was not flame retardant.
On August 26, 2019, Oklahoma state court Judge Thad Balkman found Johnson & Johnson (“J&J”) responsible for causing the opioid crisis in Oklahoma, and ordered that J&J must pay $572 million to repair the damage. This ruling comes almost six weeks after the conclusion of a seven-week bench trial, where state attorneys successfully proved J&J and its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., created a public nuisance by overstating the benefits of narcotic painkillers while downplaying the risk for addiction.
On August 13 2019, cosmetic company Younique agreed to a $3.25 million settlement, ending class action claims alleging that the company falsely marketed its mascara product as containing “natural fibers.” The settlement fund’s purpose is to make payments to customers in 11 states who bought the “Moodstruck 3D Fiber Lashes” between 2012 and 2015 based upon the assumption Younique used natural fibers in the production of the lashes.
On August 19, 2019, punitive class claims were filed in Texas District Court against Enterprise Products Partners LP, Oiltanking Partners LP and CenterPoint Energy. alleging that the defendants’ actions severely damaged class members’ property and diminished property values in surrounding areas.
On August 2, 2019, a group of dissatisfied customers filed a motion for class certification in federal court in the Eastern District of Illinois. Plaintiffs are seeking a 17-state potential class action against cosmetics retail giant Ulta Beauty.
On July 19, 2019, a group of young adults filed suit against the popular vape pen manufacturer, JUUL, in California state Superior Court, County of San Francisco, alleging that the company targets nonsmoking youth with their marketing tactics in order to create a new generation of life-long nicotine addicts.
On July 22, 2019, American automotive giant Ford Motors Co. was hit with a staggering $1.2 billion putative class action lawsuit in Michigan federal court alleging that Ford manipulated its coastdown testing and used inaccurate drag and resistant figures to boost the vehicles’ EPA mileage ratings, making the vehicles more appealing to potential buyers.
On July 17, 2019, ConAgra Grocery Products Company, Sherwin Williams and NL Industries came to an agreement with ten counties in California that alleged the companies’ lead-based paint was the cause for a public health crisis in California. The settlement brings to an end nearly 20 years of litigation and demands each company pay a sum of $101,666,666.67—totaling $305 million—to be paid to the plaintiffs. The settlement states that the monies will be used “to address public health hazards, bodily injury, personal injuries, and property damage related to Lead Paint.”
On July 11, 2019, a California state appeals court found that a jury had heard erroneous instructions involving a plaintiff who hit a freeway barrier to avoid an errant flying mattress. The appellate panel found that the lower court erred in permitting a special exception that “excuses law violations if a defendant can prove it tried but could not comply with the law.”
On June 28, 2019, a Philadelphia jury awarded $500,000 to plaintiff Linda Dunfee, against Johnson & Johnson, which was found liable for design defects in a pelvic mesh implant that left plaintiff in severe pain. This marks the ninth verdict against Johnson & Johnson and in favor of plaintiffs injured by pelvic mesh design defects.
On July 5, 2019, BMW of North America LLC was met with proposed class claims in New Jersey federal court alleging that the company placed their customers in harm’s way by selling motorcycles with defective gear indicators; which, in turn heightened the risk of accidents, as well as opening the door to other safety issues. Named plaintiff Daniel Casey argued that the gear indicators in the motorcycle intermittently displayed the wrong gear or no gear at all. This phenomenon has been a point of a complaint by numerous customers, according to Casey.
On June 28, 2019, online fashion website Fashion Nova Inc., was served with class claims in federal court in the Southern District of Florida by a group of plaintiffs alleging that the company violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) by negligently and willfully contacting consumer’s cell phones and therefore invading their privacy.
Photo by Gavin Whitner
On June 21, 2019, a group of music industry heavyweights filed a proposed class action suit against UMG Recordings Inc. (“UMG”) in California federal court alleging that the recording company negligently stored artists’ Master Recordings in an inadequate and substandard storage warehouse located on the backlot of Universal Studios that was a known firetrap.
On June 19, 2019, an $8.2 million settlement was proposed to California federal court Judge M. James Lorenz for preliminary approval, bringing an end to class claims that superstore chain Target Corp. (“Target”) engaged in deceptive marketing practices in the promotion of its Target REDCard.
On June 13, 2019, California federal court Judge Edward J. Davila granted preliminary approval for a $2.5 million settlement between The Coca-Cola Co. (“Coca-Cola”) and a proposed class of consumers who accused Coca-Cola of misleading consumers as to the true ingredients of its popular Seagram’s Ginger Ale products.
On June 12, 2019, premium humane milk producer Fairlife LLC was served with proposed class claims in federal court in the Northern District of Illinois claiming that the company engages in deceptive marketing tactics.
In the complaint, named plaintiff Andrew Schwartz and Alice Vitiello ague that Fairlife intentionally deceives customers into believing that the company treats its cows humanely in order to charge consumers a premium price for the product. Fairlife has built a brand image as a responsible, humane producer of milk and has boasted that its cows have comfortable sand beds and that freestanding stalls are provided to allow the cows constant care and relaxation.
On June 6, 2019, a $210 million settlement that brought a close to a multidistrict litigation (“MDL”) between Hyundai Motor America Inc. and a nationwide class of consumers who alleged that Hyundai, and its affiliate Kia Motors America, misrepresented the fuel economy on certain 2011, 2012, and 2013 vehicles including the popular Elantra and Sonata, was affirmed by an 8-3 en banc Ninth Circuit decision.
On May 31, 2019, Missouri federal judge Stephen R. Bough granted preliminary approval for a $15.25 million settlement between drugstore giant CVS and a class of its customer telephone service representatives.
Named plaintiffs in the suit, Timothy Woods and Kimberly Gibson, filed class claims against CVS in July 2014, alleging that CVS was depriving call center employees of proper compensation by requiring them to power up their computers and upload applications before officially clocking into work and starting their paid work day.
On May 24, 2019, class claims were filed in Maryland federal court against General Motors LLC (“GM”) alleging that the American car maker knowingly sold and leased thousands of 2016-2018 Chevy Malibu vehicles (“class vehicles”) equipped with a defective electronic throttle control and/or accelerator pedal position sensor.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that most people have, at some point in their lives, felt pressure to conform to an expectation that society has arbitrarily levied upon them. This is especially true for women. As women, we are constantly bombarded with contradictory representations in the media and on television of how the perfect modern woman should look and act. When it comes to the idealized image of the female attorney, generally the message is the same—she is aggressive, she is loud and she is always impeccably dressed and coifed. This image seldom bears any real resemblance to the actual women who spend their days tirelessly fighting for their clients and trying to change the tides of gender inequality in the legal field. This month, we spoke with attorney Brenda S. Fulmer to get her perspective on the challenges facing the modern female attorney—her answers were refreshing and hopeful for the future.
On May 21, 2019, it was announced that Starbucks is facing two separate lawsuits in federal court in the Southern District of New York and New York State Supreme Court, respectively, both of which allege that Starbucks has been exposing both its employees and customers to a well-known toxin at several of its Manhattan locations.
On May 14, 2019, cosmetics giant L’Oreal USA Inc. (“L’Oreal”) was served with class claims in federal court in the Southern District of New York by consumers who allege that the company intentionally mislead consumers as to the true ingredients in L’Oreal Ever Sleek Keratin Caring products.
On May 15, 2019, a group of physically disabled New York City residents filed proposed class claims against the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (“MTA”) and the New York City Transit Authority alleging that the defendants are in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) by failing to install elevators or other stair-free routes in New York City subway stations.
On May 7, 2019, former employees of local hospitals in Newark, New Jersey owned by Cathedral Healthcare System, filed class claims against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark alleging that the Archdiocese deprived around 135 former hospital employees of at least $2.7 million in lifetime pension payments.
On May 7, 2019, electronics giant LG Electronics USA Inc. (“LGEUS”) was served with class claims in New Jersey federal court alleging that the company violated the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.
In the complaint, plaintiff Misa Choi claimed that the defendant company fraudulently classified herself, and her fellow class members, as exempt from overtime premium payments by regularly issuing so called “paper promotions” to entry-level associates. LGEUS’s “paper promotions” nominally promoted entry-level associates to assistant managers without modifying the employees’ responsibilities, authorities or tasks assigned to them. As a result, plaintiff argued that the defendant actively encouraged employees to mistakenly consider themselves management and therefore exempt from, and not entitled to, overtime payments.
On May 2, 2019, federal judge for the Northern District of California Elizabeth D. Laporte, rejected defendant Amazon.com Inc.’s (“Amazon”) bid to dismiss claims that the online retail giant has infringed upon and diluted Williams-Sonoma’s service mark and engaged in unfair competition by marketing Williams-Sonoma products for resale on its website.
On April 29, 2019, the Georgia Court of Appeals upheld a $2,236,850.28 verdict awarded to a Georgia man who fell 10 feet through an open hatch on a Golden Isles Cruise Lines casino boat in December 2014.
In its appeal, Golden Isles argued that the trial court erred in denying its motion for summary judgment because the one-year contractual limitations period governing the plaintiff’s claim expired before he filed his lawsuit. However, the court found that the reason for the plaintiff’s delay was as a result of the owner of Golden Isles, who was a long-time friend of the plaintiff, and the company’s insurance adjuster, insisting that they would “take real good care” of the plaintiff.
On April 25, 2019, class claims were filed against popular bubble tea chain Vivi Bubble Tea Inc., in the Eastern District of New York, alleging that the company failed to design, construct, maintain and operate their website to be fully accessible and independently usable to consumers that are blind or vision impaired in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).
On April 23, 2019, in the wake of substantial media coverage surrounding the alleged attack on Empire actor Jussie Smollett, the two brothers accused of perpetrating the supposed hate crime filed suit against Smollett’s attorneys. The brothers are claiming that the legal team defamed them by continuing to insist in the media that the brothers committed a hate crime. Smollett was represented by Tina Glandian and Mark Geragos.
On April 19, 2019, class claims were filed in federal court in the Southern District of California against the world’s largest food company, Nestlé USA Inc. (“Nestlé”). The suit alleges that Nestlé has “been making its chocolate fortune off the backs of child labor and child slave labor in West Africa.”
On April 16, 2019, class claims were filed against famed motorcycle manufacturer, Harley Davidson Motor Company (“Harley Davidson”) in federal court in the Northern District of California. The suite alleges that the company knowingly sold tens of thousands of motorcycles with a hidden and dangerous defect in its anti-lock braking system (“ABS”).
On April 12, 2019, two concerned mothers filed class claims in federal court in Utah against Owlet Baby Care Inc. the makers of the popular Smart Sock baby monitor, alleging that the company intentionally misled and deceived consumers as to the true nature of its product.
On April 12, 2019, class claims were filed against Young Living Essential Oils in Texas federal court by a company representative who claimed that the company is operating under a “pyramid scheme” business model.
In today’s world of the 24-hour news cycle and the instantaneous publishing power of social media, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to judge what is fact from mere conjecture. At times, it feels like we live in a culture where jumping to conclusions and making broad generalizations has become de rigueur. The subject of this month’s edition of Women in the Law, San Francisco attorney Lori Andrus, is of the opinion that in order to succeed and to make strides, women need to be aware of this potential pitfall and become the most prepared and knowledgeable person in the room.
On April 5, 2019, proposed class claims were filed in Delaware federal court against popular on-demand food delivery service DoorDash Inc. A group of plaintiffs alleged that the company unlawfully collected sales tax from customers in states that do not permit the collection of sales taxes, including New Hampshire, Delaware and Montana.
On April 3, 2019, litigation was commenced against the makers of the popular iced tea brand, Arizona Tea, in federal court in the Eastern District of New York, alleging that the company intentionally misled consumers as to the true ingredients of its Green Tea with Ginseng and Honey.
On April 3, 2019, Earl Enterprises Holdings Inc. (“EEH”), the owner of popular chain restaurants such as Earl of Sandwich, Buca di Beppo and Planet Hollywood, was sued in federal court in the Middle District of Florida, wherein a proposed class of plaintiffs alleged that the company failed to exercise reasonable care in securing and safeguarding its customers’ sensitive personal information. EEH had announced that it experienced a year long data breach affecting customers’ names, credit card numbers and expiration dates and security code numbers.
On March 27, 2019, popular American chain restaurant TGI Friday’s Inc. (“Friday’s”) was served with class claims in New York federal court alleging that the brand intentionally misleads and deceives health-conscious consumers into believing that Friday’s “Potato Skins” snacks actually contain real potato skins.
On March 22, 2019, a group of former students of the now defunct Charlotte School of Law filed suit against the owners of the for-profit former law school, Sterling Capital Partners, in Illinois federal court. The suit alleges that the defendant recklessly attempted to increase the school’s enrollment, revenue and profit by decreasing admissions and curricular standards leading to the school’s loss of accreditation by the American Bar Association (“ABA”) and the eventual closure of the school.
On March 21, 2019, American beer giant Miller Coors LLC, filed suit against rival brewing company Anheuser-Busch in federal court in the Western District of Wisconsin alleging that Anheuser-Busch premiered a false and intentionally misleading advertising campaign during the 2019 Super Bowl. Plaintiff claims that the ad deceived consumers into believing they were consuming corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup (“HFCS”) when drinking Miller Lite and Coors Light beers.
On March 15, 2019, a Brooklyn-based high-end puppet designer filed suit against popular pop band Fall Out Boy, in federal court in the Southern District of New York, alleging that the band infringed and exploited its copyrights and intellectual property by making the new face of the band two highly identifiable llama puppets, created by the plaintiff.
On March 14, 2019, a group of parents and current university students filed class claims in federal court in the Northern District of California against the perpetrators of recent elite college admission cheating scandals, in addition to naming several of the involved schools as defendants.
On March 12, 2019, a $4.2 million settlement was submitted to Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elihu M. Berle for final approval, bringing an end to a proposed class of housekeepers employed by Marriott International Inc. (“Marriott”) who alleged that the hotel chain violated California Labor Code §226.7, 226(a) and 2698 and violated the Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act when it failed to provide class members rest periods during the work day.
On March 11, 2019, U.S. District Court Judge for the Eastern District of New York, Brian M. Cogan, granted preliminary approval of a $1.5 million settlement between Consumer Goods Inc., the makers of Purex laundry detergents and a class of consumers who alleged that the company intentionally misled customers through the marketing, labeling and advertising of Purex products as containing “natural elements” despite the products including synthetic ingredients.
On March 1, 2019, preliminary approval was granted for a $2.9 million settlement by U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Ohio Western Division, in the Snap Fitness membership fees class action.
On February 27, 2019, class claims were filed against the John McEnroe Tennis Academy (the “Academy”) in New York federal court by a disgruntled former driver who alleged that the defendant institution, along with its owners and day-to-day overseers, failed to adequately compensate Academy drivers for overtime in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).
On February 25, 2019, BeSweet Creations LLC, manufacturer of the popular gummy bear vitamin supplements “Sugar Bear Hair,” filed suit in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida against rival supplement producer, TrueReflections Inc., alleging that the company violated the Federal Trademark Act (Lanham Act).
Fielding a litany of questions when sharing what you do for a living is a familiar situation for many. The day-to-day grind of life as an attorney often does not reflect the excitement portrayed in television legal dramas. For attorney Karen Beyea-Schroeder, however, the early years of her career played out like a well-paced episode of the late 1990s legal program, JAG.
On February 13, 2019, class claims were filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York against celebrity chef Lidia Bastianich alleging that Bastianich’s New York City restaurant, Felidia, violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) by requiring employees to work in excess of 40 hours per week without appropriate minimum wage, overtime and spread of hours compensation for the hours they worked.
On February 14, 2019, State Street Global Advisors Trust Company (“SSGA”), the sponsors of the world famous “Fearless Girl” statue filed suit against Kristin Visbal (sculptor of the iconic statue) in New York State court. SSGA alleges that the artist has been selling unauthorized replicas of the statue causing irreparable harm to not only Fearless Girl and her message but also to SSGA, its reputation and its rights.
On February 8, 2019, class claims were filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York against the makers of the popular Drizzilicious line of snack foods, alleging that the company, Snack Innovations Inc., mislabeled its products in such a way as to intentionally mislead consumers with respect to the ingredients contained by the products.
On February 8, 2019, a $3.2 million settlement was submitted to Northern California federal court Judge Jeffrey S. White for preliminary approval, bringing an end to class claims that accused energy company Chevron Corp., of misclassifying drill-site managers as independent contractors.
On January 30, 2019, well-known model Carmen Electra, along with fellow models Lucy Pinder and Dessie Mitcheson, filed suit in Colorado federal court against Denver strip club, Shotgun Willie’s, alleging that the defendant violated the Lanham Act by using the plaintiffs’ images in club promotions.
On January 23, 2019, Epic Games Inc. (“Epic”), creator of the popular video game Fortnite, was served with claims that the game-maker misappropriated the signature dance moves of professional rapper Blocboy JB, known as “The Shoot.”
On January 24, 2019, U.S. District Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh Jr., granted initial approval to a $24 million settlement between the former NFL team, the St. Louis Rams, and a class of football fans who purchased personal seat licenses (“PSLs”) during the Rams’ last season in St. Louis in 2014, shortly before the team was moved to Los Angeles.
On January 17, 2019, U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of New York, Analisa Torres, granted approval of a $9 million settlement between a class of consumers and Premier Nutrition Corp., the manufacturer of Premier Protein shakes.
On January 7, 2019, class claims were filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York against celebrity chef Chris Santos and his business partners, who collectively own the well-known upscale New York City restaurant and lounge, Beauty and Essex. In the lawsuit, a group of former busboys and barbacks claim that the restaurant violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and New York Labor Law.
On January 4, 2019, a $5.4 million settlement was submitted to Northern California District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers for preliminary approval. The settlement will bring to a close class claims alleging that defendant ABM Services Inc. (“ABM”), violated Section 2802 of the California Labor Code, the Private Attorneys General Act and the Unfair Business Practices Act, when it required its employees to use personal cell phones for work-related purposes without reimbursement.
On January 3, 2019, North Carolina federal judge Catherine C. Eagles granted approval for a $1.3 million settlement to end class claims between rideshare giant Uber Technologies Inc. and a class of more than 5,000 Uber drivers who allege that Uber misclassified them as independent contractors.
On December 17, 2018, actor Alfonso Ribeiro, well known for his role as Will Smith’s loveable preppy cousin, Carlton Banks, on the hit 1990s television show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, filed two separate lawsuits in California federal court against videogame makers Epic Games and Take-Two Interactive alleging that the companies illegally used Ribeiro’s signature dance move “The Carlton.”
On December 17, 2018, a $2.4 million settlement was submitted to Connecticut federal court Judge Robert N. Chatigny for approval, bringing a close to class claims against pharmaceutical giant Jonson & Johnson (“J&J”) alleging that the company intentionally mislead customers as to the quality of certain J&J baby products.
In the mass tort realm, 2018 proved to be a year of high-volume verdicts and settlements coupled with highly publicized cases. As the year comes to a close, here is a look back at some of the noteworthy cases that saw significant developments over the past 12 months.
On December 11, 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it had reached a $3 million settlement agreement with Target Corp., bringing an end to whistleblower claims that Target pharmacies in Massachusetts automatically refilled prescriptions of Massachusetts Medicaid beneficiaries without an explicit request for each refill by the beneficiary. The suit alleges the actions were in violation of Massachusetts Medicaid regulation 130 CMR 406. 411 (c)(6) and the U.S. False Claims Act.
On December 4, 2018, class claims were filed in New York federal court against celebrity watering holes Rose Bar and Jade Bar. Female employees allege that the popular bars inside New York City’s exclusive Gramercy Park Hotel violated the Fair Labor Standards Act and New York Labor laws.
On December 7, 2018, class claims were filed against cereal giant Kellogg Co. in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California alleging that the company’s popular Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Soft Baked Breakfast Bars (Strawberry) and Kellogg’s Cracklin’ Oat Bran cereal contain the probable carcinogen glyphosate.
On December 4, 2018, the fate of a famous painting by Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro was the focus of arguments in Los Angeles federal court. Rue Saint-Honore in the Afternoon. Effect of Rain, the painting in question, has a long and storied past dating back to 1930s Germany and is currently said to be valued at around $30 million. The plaintiffs in the suit, the Cassirer family, argue that the painting rightfully belongs to them and not Madrid’s Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, where it has been on display since it was acquired from a Swiss collector in 1988. In the complaint, the plaintiffs allege that the painting was illegally confiscated from Lilly Cassirer in 1939 by Nazi officials as she was fleeing Germany The plaintiffs argued that the confiscation was in violation of several international laws. After the painting was illegally obtained, it was next traced to the collection of a New York art dealer, then to a Swiss collector who eventually sold it to the defendant.
On November 26, 2018, a $1billion lawsuit was filed in California federal court against Walt Disney Company (“Disney”) and Fox Entertainment LLC (“Fox”) by renowned Asian resort developer, Genting Malaysia Berhad (“GENM”). The plaintiff alleges it entered into agreements with Fox in 2013 to build a theme park called “Fox World,” which was to become the centerpiece of Resorts World Genting, an integrated resort complex in Genting Highlands, Malaysia. Court documents note that Fox will soon be acquired by Disney. Resorts World Genting is the only legal land-based casino in Malaysia and the resort complex attracts over 23 million tourists a year. The resort includes seven hotels, performance venues, shopping malls, gondola lifts, an indoor Snow World attraction, a bio park, temple, bowling alley and arcade, as well as restaurants, bars and clubs.
Don’t be afraid to be who you are—a sentiment often promulgated among young people by teachers, parents and ad campaigns hoping to encourage confidence in one’s own skin. But sometimes that is easier said than done. As we get older and more experienced, we may consciously, or subconsciously, temper our personality to fit societal expectations, particularly in a professional setting. Women have an especially fine line to tread in the professional arena, most notably in male-dominated professions such as the law. When you meet a woman who stands out from the crowd and who is unapologetically herself, you can’t help but admire her for the trail she is blazing for all women in the legal industry.
Fresh off the heels of the successful first run of the show “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” Netflix has settled claims by a religious group called the Satanic Temple stemming from the show’s usage of a “androgynous goat-headed deity” image. The figure is featured prominently in the “Academy of the Unseen Arts,” a fictional satanic school which the titular character attends. Plaintiffs allege the image is used to represent the evil antagonists of the series and in doing so, violates a trademark held by the Satanic Temple.
An $18.9 million settlement has been reached in the National Hockey League (“NHL”) concussion multidistrict litigation (“MDL”). Plaintiffs in the MDL similarly allege that while playing professional hockey for one or more of the Member Clubs or the NHL, they were subjected to head trauma and/or injuries and/or brain trauma and/or injuries and that these injuries have caused, or may cause a variety of neurodegenerative, cognitive, emotional, and/or mental health conditions.
On November 8, 2018, Australian songwriters Sean Carey and Beau Golden filed proposed settlement documents with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, bringing an end to copyright infringement claims between the plaintiffs and well-known music super stars Faith Hill, Tim McGraw and Ed Sheeran.
On November 6, 2018, video game developer Riot Games was sued for permitting ongoing sexual harassment, misconduct and bias in the workplace, which combined to create a hostile working environment.
The suit was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court by former Riot Games employee, Jessica Negron and current Riot Games employee, Melanie McCracken.
On October 30, 2018, California Judge Ioana Petrou granted approval for a $6.8 million settlement in favor of employees of The Wine Group LLC, who alleged that the company, the world’s second largest winemaker by volume, violated multiple state labor statues by denying employees meal and rest breaks as well as failing to properly pay overtime and minimum wages.
On November 2, 2018, a $6.6 million preliminary settlement was reached between hotel chain Motel 6 and a putative class of Latino hotel guests who claimed that the defendant unlawfully disclosed their personal information to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) agents.
On October 30, 2018, class claims were filed in federal court in the Eastern District of New York against alternative-dairy producer Miyoko’s Kitchen Inc., claiming that the company, which makes a variety of vegan “dairy” products such as butter and cheese, intentionally mislead consumers by labeling it’s European-Style Cultured Vegan Butter as butter.
On October 26, 2018, superstore Walmart Inc. agreed to a $160 million settlement to end an investor class suit in federal court in the western district of Arkansas.
On October 19, 2018, a proposed class of consumers who purchased Sexy Hair Concepts shampoos from Ulta Beauty stores asked Massachusetts Judge F. Dennis Saylor to grant approval for a $2.3 million settlement.
“Our voices are stronger together.” We’ve heard this phrase time and time again, but over the past two years it has taken on a life of its own. From the moment thousands gathered for the Women’s March on Washington in early 2017, there has been a shift in the collective consciousness and solidarity among women in America. Recently, it seems, each passing month brings a new challenge and along with it a new cause to rally around, both of which serve to bond women together in their quest for genuine equality.
On October 15, 2018, coffee company Nespresso S.A. filed suit in the Southern District of New York against Brooklyn-based coffee company, Ameruss of NY Inc. (“Ameruss), claiming that Ameruss violated U.S. trademark laws by calling their coffee pods “NYXpresso pods.”
On October 12, 2018, natural beauty company Burt’s Bees became the latest retailer to face a civil rights lawsuit, which alleges that the Burt’s Bees website, BurtsBees.com, fails to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).
On October 9, 2018, a class of Bank of America, N.A. (“BofA”) mortgage loan officers petitioned U.S. District Judge Edward Chen to grant preliminary approval for an $11 million settlement.
The suit was originally filed in May 2016 in Alameda County Superior Court by named plaintiff Gina McLeod and was later moved to federal court in the Northern District of California by defendant BofA in June 2016.
On October 8, 2018, coffee giant Starbucks was served with a proposed class action suit in Manhattan federal court alleging that the company deliberately misled customers as to the true nature of the ingredients in its Starbucks White Chocolate Doubleshot Energy Drinks.
On October 5, 2018, class claims were filed in federal court in the middle district of Florida against Westminster Pharmaceuticals LLC (“Westminster”) and CVS Pharmacy Inc., alleging that the companies manufactured and distributed adulterated generic prescription thyroid medications to patients.
On September 27, 2018, California federal Judge William H. Orrick granted approval to a $4.9 million settlement between Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (“PG&E”) and the San Francisco Herring Association (“SFHA”), which is comprised of a group of commercial herring fisherman from the San Francisco Bay area.
On September 13, 2018, a proposed settlement of $18.8 million was reached between Southwest Airlines Co. (“Southwest”) and a class of 2,000 current and former Southwest pilots who alleged that the airline denied them paid sick leave and matched retirement contributions for periods of short-term military leave that lasted 14 days or less (“STML”), all in violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (“USERRA”).
On September 18, 2018, a record-breaking $6.2 billion settlement was reached between Visa Inc. and Mastercard Inc., along with a number of high profile banks including JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp, and a class of around 12 million retailers who accused the credit card companies and banks of violating federal antitrust laws. Plaintiffs alleged that the entities compelled retailers to pay deliberately inflated “swipe fees” on every purchase made with a Visa or Mastercard credit card, which the banks then utilized to fund consumer credit card rewards.
On September 13, 2018, a disgruntled customer of the Swedish furniture company, Ikea, filed a proposed class suit against the company in federal court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The complaint alleges that Ikea intentionally misled customers as to the company’s return policy when the transaction included the use of an Ikea coupon.
The path of the female attorney is not always easy nor is it the same for every woman in the legal industry. When trying to find a place in a profession such as the law, which is still for the most part considered a “boys’ club,” many lawyers believe that they must adhere to antiquated ideas of how a lawyer “should” act. However, our latest profiled attorney in the Women in the Law Series, New York and New Jersey attorney Debbie Gough, decided to turn her back on such preconceived notions and chose instead to embrace what makes her different. For Ms. Gough, mantras of truthfulness, passion and empathy have guided her to become a zealous, top-notch litigator as well as a more discerning human being.
On September 11, 2018, a $42.5 million settlement was reached between a class of investors who claimed that biomedical company Intuitive Surgical Inc. violated federal security laws when it purposefully misled shareholders as to the safety of its da Vinci robotic surgery device.
On September 7, 2018, a class action suit against sportswear giant Adidas America Inc. was removed from the California state court in San Diego to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California. The suit, which was filed on July 3, 2018, claims that a June 2018 data breach of Adidas customers’ personal information was the result of the company’s negligent failure to implement proper cyber security measures.
On August 30, 2018, the makers of the now iconic pine tree-shaped air fresheners, Car-Freshner Corp., filed suit in federal court in the Northern District of New York against Bob Ross Inc. and Surreal Entertainment, alleging that the defendants violated state and federal trademark laws by selling pine tree-shaped car fresheners which pictured the face of the famed host of The Joy of Painting.
On August 24, 2018, after four years of litigation in Florida federal court, a settlement was reached between a class of patients who claim that they were overcharged for emergency radiological services in hospitals owned and operated by defendants JFK Medical Center and HCA Holdings, Inc. According to court documents, the settlement will be valued at around $220 million.
On August 28, 2018, superstore BJ’s Wholesale Club Inc. (“BJ’s”), filed suit in federal court in the Northern District of Illinois against a group of America’s most successful producers of chicken products, alleging that defendants, including Tyson Foods and Perdue Farms, violated federal antitrust laws by illegally conspiring to increase the price of chicken sold in the United States from 2008 through 2016.
On August 17, 2018, plaintiff Dr. Miles Conway filed suit against social media giant Facebook Inc. in federal court in the Southern District of Florida, alleging that the company has negligently and carelessly failed to take down a fake Facebook account that operated under the plaintiff’s name, despite multiple attempts by the plaintiff and his friends to have it removed from the site.
On August 14, 2018, book distributor Readerlink Distribution Services, LLC was sued for violations of the federal Lanham Act, violations of the Illinois Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act and of the Illinois Right of Publicity Act in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, by a professional freelance translator who accused the company of falsely attributing her English to Spanish translation of a Star Wars book named “Star Wars: Poe Dameron: Flight Log,” to a poorly-worded Spanish language translation of another book called “Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Rey’s Survival Guide.”
On August 14, 2018, Illinois federal court Judge John J. Tharp denied a bid by well-known baby food manufacturer, Gerber Products Company, to dismiss class claims that allege the company fraudulently marketed its Good Start Gentle (“GSG”) infant formula as able to actively reduce the risk of developing allergies to cow’s milk and decrease incidences of atopic dermatitis (also known as eczema).
On July 30, 2018, the descendants of famed actor and action star Steve McQueen filed suit in California state court against legendary sports car company Ferrari alleging that Ferrari infringed upon the family’s intellectual property rights when it launched a 70th anniversary collection of Ferraris which included one model called “The McQueen.”
On July 29, 2018, just ten days after the horrific sinking of a Missouri Duck Boat on Table Rock Lake, estate representative for victims of the accident filed suit in U.S. District Court in the Western District of Missouri against the owner and operator of the Ride the Duck tour company and the manufacturer of the land-to-sea amphibious vehicle.
On July 24, 2018, national legal non-profit A Better Balance issued a press release announcing that it filed a class action in New York State Supreme Court, Orleans County, on behalf of two former Walmart employees, which challenges Walmart’s “no-fault” absence control policy “as systematically violating the rights of women who need leave for pregnancy-related illnesses or medical care.”
John Hancock Life Insurance Company (U.S.A.) has entered into a preliminary settlement with certain owners of its universal and variable universal life insurance policies who have policies that contain a contractual promise that “Applied Monthly Rates will be based on [John Hancock’s] expectations of future mortality experience”—and nothing else.
On July 18, 2018, New Jersey federal court Judge Peter Sheridan granted preliminary approval to a $1.4 million settlement between iconic New York City department store Bloomingdale’s and a class of customers who allege that the store violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) by sending members of Bloomingdale’s Loyalist Program unsolicited texts detailing store promotions.
A proposed settlement has been submitted to Delaware federal court judge John E. Jones III for preliminary approval in the GameStop data breach class action.
The suit was originally filed in September 2017 by named plaintiffs Crystal Bray and Samuel Cook. Bray and Cook allege that class members had their personal and non-public information—including names, addresses and credit/ debit card numbers and expiration dates—compromised during a massive cyber data breach that the defendant company experienced between August 10, 2016 and February 9, 2017.
On July 6, 2018, American automaker Ford Motor Company was served with proposed class claims filed by Texas ambulance company, TacMed Holdings Inc., which claims that Ford was aware of serious engine defects in its Transit Vans for years prior to issuing a safety recall.
On June 25, 2018, popular lifestyle and beauty website PopSugar was served with a proposed class action suit in California federal court alleging that the website copied postings of thousands of popular social media “influencer” Instagram accounts in an effort to draw in clicks.
German automaker Volkswagen AG (“VW”) is facing yet another class action lawsuit, this time filed by an employee who claims that VW violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, as well as the Tennessee Human Rights Act.
On June 26, 2018, a jury in Florida federal court awarded $1.8 million to a class of eight exotic dancers who alleged that their employer had willfully violated the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Plaintiffs originally filed suit in October 2014. The plaintiffs alleged that they were classified as independent contractors by the various executives and managers of the Miami-area gentlemen’s club, King of Diamonds, despite having to adhere strict rules set in place by the club. King of Diamonds is owned by parent companies Galardi South Enterprises Inc. and Fly Low Inc.
Popular superstore Target Corp and toddler product manufacturer Prince Lionheart are facing punitive class claims in Florida federal court filed by angry parents who allege that a potty-training seat sold by Target and produced by Lionheart poses a serious threat to toddlers.
Named plaintiffs, Natalie and Yosef Belkin, purchased a Prince Lionheart toilet-training product called the weePOD Basix in May 2018 at a Target store located in Boca Raton, Florida. The weePOD is a plastic seat that is placed on top of a toilet to better enable a toddler to sit. The product also features a higher plastic area in the front that allegedly reduces mess and back splash, and is known as the pee shield.
On June 18, 2018, The Walt Disney Co. and its subsidiary animation studio, Pixar, were served with a copyright infringement lawsuit in the Northern District of California, because, Plaintiff claimed, defendants stole the idea behind its mega hit movie “Inside Out” from him.
On June 15, 2018, well-known television personality Dr. Mehmet Oz, along with the producers of his hit television show, ZoCo Productions LLC and Harpo Productions Inc., agreed to a $5.25 million settlement to end class claims alleging that Dr. Oz made misrepresentations regarding the quality, effectiveness and sponsorship of weight-loss supplements featured on The Doctor Oz Show.
On June 11, 2018, world famous music producer DJ Khaled filed a trademark infringement suit in federal court in the Southern District of New York against Curtis Bordenave and his company, Business Moves Consulting Inc., alleging that they intentionally filed for and misused trademarks for ASAHD, ASAHD Couture, A.S.A.H.D., A Son and His Dad, and We The Best Lifestyle.
Joseph DiNardo, Esq., founder and director of Counsel Financial, went “Bald for Big Bucks” on Monday, June 18, 2018 in honor of his late wife, Marcia, who battled stage IV pancreatic cancer with absolute strength and spirit. $100,000 in donations have been pledged to date, with additional commitments still pouring in.
Pictured from left to right: Melissa Ruggiero, Jessica Literman, Stephanie Duerr, Matt McCormick, Kim Gomlak and Ashley Smith
Counsel Financial’s team of employees laced up their running shoes and took part in the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge® in Buffalo, New York on June 14, 2018. The event, held annually to promote corporate teamwork and camaraderie in the local business community, drew a record field of over 14,000 employees from companies in the Western New York region. The local race is one of 13 worldwide, across seven countries and five continents.
On June 12, 2018, notice of a proposed $2.2 million settlement was sent out to around 93,000 class members who filed a class action lawsuit against restaurant delivery service, Caviar. Plaintiffs allege that the company misled patrons into paying an 18% service charge that was labeled as a “gratuity fee” on orders.
When this series of interviews first began on the cusp of 2018, we reflected on the momentous events of 2017. It was a year that began with women taking to the streets to show solidarity for one another in protesting for equal rights, and ended with a multi-industry whistleblowing initiative to stop sexual harassment in the workplace. As we move forward in 2018, it seems like this will be a year of no excuses.
On June 4, 2018, California federal judge Philip S. Gutierrez awarded plaintiff Edgar Babayan, $1.9 million in a default judgment against skincare company Honest Creams LLC. In the suit, filed on January 18, 2018, Babayan alleges that Honest Creams blatantly copied three before-and-after photos that he had taken in 2011 to show the beneficial effects of his own skincare line.
On May 29, 2018, Eastern District of New York Federal Magistrate Cheryl L. Pollak granted preliminary approval of a $27 million class settlement between British Airways and a class of British Airways Executive Club members.
On May 25, 2018, Tesla and a class of Model X and Model S vehicle owners who purchased Tesla’s Enhanced Autopilot asked a California federal court to preliminarily approve a $5.4 million settlement that would put an end to a putative class action. The suit alleges that the company delay in releasing Enhanced Autopilot and corresponding safety features was a violation of California’s Unfair Competition Law, Consumers Leal Remedies Act and False Advertising Law.
Approved by U.S. District Judge Janis C. Sammartino on Monday, May 21, 2018, P.F. Chang’s has agreed to a non-revisionary settlement of $6.5 million for alleged wage and labor violations. The class to benefit includes all non-exempt, hourly workers who were employed by the chain’s restaurants from January 22, 2009 to May 21, 2018.
On Friday, May 19, 2018, attorneys for a class of plaintiffs suing Caribbean Cruise Line Inc. (“Caribbean Cruise”) told U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly that the company was failing to abide by previously agreed upon settlement terms in an effort to avoid paying the $76 million maximum cap on the settlement. Caribbean Cruise has objected to 75% of the claims formerly approved by the settlement administrator.
On May 15, 2018, a putative class action accusing fitness and health company Under Armour Inc. of failing to protect the personal information belonging to subscribers of the company’s popular MyFitnessPal app was transferred to federal court in the Central District of California.
Since this interview series began, we have brought to light many common issues that affect women in the legal industry. We have discussed the myth of “having it all,” the need to find your inner strength to fight for those who have none and the desire to find your voice in the crowd. All of these themes have individually touched on the professional challenges that women attorneys face in order to succeed. However, in honor of the month of May, a month in which Americans take time to honor their mothers, this edition of Women in the Law will discuss a different kind of challenge, one many women in this country face—the challenge of being a working mother.
On May 10, 2018, a $2.5 million settlement was reached between candy manufacturing giant Ferrara Candy Co. and a putative class of dissatisfied candy lovers who claimed that the defendant included excess non-functional empty space or “slack-fill” in the opaque “theater boxes” of candy manufactured by the company.
On May 8, 2018, putative class claims were filed against popular coffee brand New England Coffee Co. (“New England”) and its parent company Reily Foods Co., alleging that the defendants deceptively marketed New England’s Hazelnut Crème coffee.
Reality star and model Kendall Jenner, along with New York-based DJ Daniel Chetrit and Apple Inc. are facing claims of trademark infringement in the Southern District of New York. Los Angeles-based artist Robert Karageuzian filed the suit on May 3, 2018. Karageuzian is the founder of PIZZABOYZZZ, an artist collective that manufactures clothing, decorative pins and other products all featuring a common pizza theme. The PIZZABOYZZZ collective also maintains a popular Instagram account with over 47,000 followers.
Class Claims Consolidated in Suit Against California Fertility Clinic for Negligent Destruction of Embryos
On April 30, 2018, Federal Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley consolidated three proposed class action suits against California-based fertility clinic, Pacific Fertility Center, and its parent company, Prelude Fertility, in the Northern District of California. The newly consolidated cases similarly revolve around the events of March 4, 2018 when the temperature of a liquid nitrogen-filled storage tank allegedly rose to an unsafe level, causing the storage tank to fail and destroy 4,000 eggs and embryos. In addition to claims of negligence, plaintiffs allege breach of contract claims against the clinic and are asking for in excess of $8 million in damages. Customers of the Pacific Fertility Center pay around $8,345 for one cycle of retrieving, freezing and storing eggs and embryos. The plaintiffs have 30 days from April 30, 2018 to file a consolidated complaint.
On April 17, 2018, the parents of Anthony Borges filed the first civil action on behalf of a survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting.
Fifteen-year-old Anthony Borges took five bullets from shooter Nikolas Cruz—three in the legs and two in the torso—while heroically blockading a classroom of 20 students.
On April 23, 2018, a $22 million settlement was submitted to Washington federal judge Ronald B. Leighton for preliminary approval in the proposed class action litigation involving claims that the popular “take-and-bake” pizza chain Papa Murphy’s violated the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”).
On April 20, 2018, a $2.9 million settlement agreement was submitted to California federal Judge S. James Otero for approval regarding a class action suit which alleged that luxury retailer Neiman Marcus intentionally misled customers who shopped at its outlet store, Last Call, by listing item prices as “compared to” a higher price.
The team at Counsel Financial recently returned from yet another great Mass Torts Made Perfect™ conference in Las Vegas, NV. To kick off the week, they channeled their inner Mario Andretti and hit the Las Vegas Motor Speedway!
On April 16, 2018, organic food grocery store chain Trader Joe’s Co. and its subsidiary, Trader Joe’s East Inc., were served with a proposed class action suit alleging that the company is misleading consumers as to the true ingredients of its popular fruit bars.
On April 6, 2018, a lawsuit was filed against Capital One N.A. by Capital One account holders who alleged that the company violated customer contracts by charging numerous undisclosed fees for both out-of-network and in-network ATM transactions.