Study Offers Insight into True Impact on State Court Trials in 2020
New data released by the Court Statistics Project shows that state court trials drastically decreased in 2020. Civil jury trials were hit the hardest as states saw activity decrease by 74% from 2019 to 2020. Criminal jury trials followed closely behind, with a decrease of 60% from 2019 to 2020. Bench trials fared better with civil bench trials seeing a 42% decrease and criminal bench trials seeing a 35% decrease from 2019 to 2020.
In the past week, 3M has declared two victories in the Earplug Litigation. The first came on Wednesday, December 15, 2021 when a Pensacola jury decided that the defendant’s earplugs were not defectively designed or unreasonably dangerous. The plaintiff was former U.S. Army soldier Carlos Montero, who served in the military for 23 years from 1995-2018 and alleged hearing loss and bilateral tinnitus.
On December 13, 2021, parties announced a $380m settlement had been reached in the USA Gymnastics sexual abuse litigation. The settlement was reached in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Indiana.
The plaintiffs’ claims stem from the allegations of abuse against team doctor Larry Nassar. Hundreds of gymnasts filed lawsuits against USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee citing negligence that allowed the abuse to go on for years.
On December 10, 2021, a federal jury awarded $22.5 million to U.S. Army soldier Theodore Finley holding 3M liable for hearing loss from defective earplugs used in combat. The former soldier was awarded $7.5 million in compensatory damages and $15 million in punitive damages. This is now the largest jury verdict to date. Previous jury verdicts were $13 million, $8.2 million, $7.1 million and $1.7 million.
On November 16, 2021, claims were filed in the United States District Court Western District of Washington at Seattle against Zillow Group Inc. (“Zillow”) and three of its executives: Richard Barton, CEO, Allen Parker, CFO and Jeremy Wacksman, COO (collectively, “Defendants”). The plaintiff claims Defendants made misleading statements about the program, Zillow Offers.
On Monday, November 15, 2021, a Florida jury awarded more than $13 million to Army Sergeant Guillermo Camarillorazo, holding 3M liable for hearing loss resulting from the use of defective earplugs in combat. The jury awarded Sgt. Guillermo $816,395 in compensatory damages and $12,245 in punitive damages. This is the largest jury verdict to date. Previous jury verdicts were in the amounts of $8.2 million, $7.1 million and $1.7 million.
On November 10, 2021, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Craig Whitley of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Western District of North Carolina, issued an order transferring claims against Johnson & Johnson (“J&J”) related to its talc-based products to a federal court in New Jersey where the multidistrict litigation, In re: Johnson and Johnson Talcum Powder Products Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability, is currently pending.
On October 29, 2021, parties in the In Re: Johnson & Johnson Aerosol Sunscreen Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation told the judge they had reached a tentative settlement agreement. Last month, the cases were consolidated into a Multidistrict Litigation (“MDL”) in front of U.S. District Judge Raag Singhal in the Southern District of Florida.
On October 25, 2021, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Craig Whitley of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Western District of North Carolina, issued an order instructing a Johnson & Johnson (“J&J”) subsidiary to show cause why the case “should not be transferred to another judicial district where venue is proper.”
On October 25, 2021, parties in the Zantac MDL participated in a court conference via Zoom to present to Judge Robin L. Rosenberg of the Southern District of Florida a proposed joint plan for selection of bellwether cases in the Zantac litigation. Plaintiffs in the litigations all similarly allege that they developed cancer after taking the heartburn drug.
On October 19, 2021, 3M announced a settlement of nearly $99 million with plaintiffs alleging contamination of the Tennessee River. The claims were filed in federal court in the Northern District of Alabama and state court in the Circuit Court of Morgan County, Alabama.
On Friday, October 8th, 2021, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (“JPML”) consolidated suits related to Johnson & Johnson Sunscreen Products, sending claims to U.S. District Judge Anuraag Singhal in the Southern District of Florida. The lawsuits were filed against Johnson & Johnson (“J&J”) and Costco Wholesale Corporation by a group of plaintiffs alleging J&J’s Aveeno and Neutrogena-branded sunscreen products were contaminated with benzene, a carcinogen.
On Friday, October 8th, 2021, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (“JPML”) consolidated suits related to Philips Sleep Apnea Devices. The claims were sent to U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti in the Western District of Pennsylvania. The lawsuits were filed against Koninklijke Philips NV (“Philips”) by a group of plaintiffs alleging the defendant manufactured defective sleep apnea breathing machines.
On September 28, 2021, a motion for class certification was filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington by the plaintiffs in a proposed class suit against video gaming company, Valve Corp. (“Valve”), alleging that the defendant took advantage of minor children by failing to disclose that its virtual “loot boxes” simulate online gambling.
On September 27, 2021, class claims were filed in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County against the Wurzak Hotel Group Mark LLC, which operates the Hilton Philadelphia City Avenue and the Sheraton Valley Forge properties, alleging that the defendant violated the contract entered into with the plaintiffs by refusing to refund any of the fees or deposits paid to the hotel in anticipation of the plaintiffs’ fall 2020 wedding reception, which was cancelled due to state COVID-19 restrictions.
On September 24, 2021, class claims were filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado against the U.S. Department of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austen, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, Food and Drug Administration Acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock and the United States of America arguing that the defendants cannot force military members to submit to a COVID-19 vaccine.
On September 21, 2021, attorneys for Turnbull and Lake Counties filed a bench brief asking Northern District of Ohio Judge Dan Aaron Polster to exclude 39 potential jurors from the upcoming bellwether trial in the opioid litigation because they have not been vaccinated against COVID-19.
In the brief, the plaintiffs argue that allowing unvaccinated jurors on the jury will likely cause disruptions during the proceedings and an increased risk of a mistrial.
On September 21, 2021, class claims were filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas against United Airlines Inc. (“United”) by a group of employees who allege that the airline has discriminated against employees who have resisted the companywide COVID-19 vaccine mandate based on religious or medical grounds.
In the complaint, named plaintiffs David Sambrano, David Castillo, Kimberly Hamilton, Debra Jennefer Thal Jonas, Genise Kincannon and Seth Turnbough describe how on August 6, 2021, United’s CEO Scott Kirby announced a companywide COVID-19 vaccine mandate which requires employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine within five weeks of the FDA granting full approval to a vaccine or five weeks after September 20, 2021, whichever came first.
On September 16, 2021, streaming giant Netflix was served with defamation and invasion of privacy claims by 1960’s chess prodigy, Nona Gaprindashvili, who alleges that she was portrayed in a belittling and grossly sexist manner by Netflix in its popular series, The Queen’s Gambit.
In the complaint filed in the U.S District Court for the Central District of California, the plaintiff describes her career as a pioneer of women’s chess and how she became a beloved symbol of female empowerment in her native country of Georgia.
On September 9, 2021, class claims were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois against tech company Brainshark Inc. alleging that the company’s Machine Analysis software captures, collects or otherwise scans users’ facial geometry without informed written authorization.
In the complaint, named plaintiff Lori Wilk describes how Brainshark offers a popular software as a service web-based application that is used by over 1,000 companies. According to the suit, the defendant’s technology obtains videos of sales employees performing presentations and then using what the defendant describes as emotion analysis scores, rates the employees’ performances. The defendant says that by providing automated scoring of a salesperson’s performance, managers can more easily train employees and improve sales techniques.
On September 9, 2021, class claims were filed in the Central District of California against rum producer Diageo North America, Inc. alleging that the company engages in misleading business practices with the marketing and sale of its Ron Zacapa 23 Centenario Rum (“the Product”) which the defendant promotes as being aged 23 years prior to being put on the market.
On September 2, 2021, U.S. District Court Judge for the Southern District of Ohio Eastern Division Edmund A. Sargus Jr., issued an order rejecting defendant C.R. Bard’s bid for summary judgment as the first bellwether in the Hernia Mesh multidistrict litigation continues.
The plaintiff in the bellwether, Steven John, claims that he sustained significant injuries as a result of the implantation of the defendant’s Ventralight ST device.
On August 25, 2021, class claims were filed in federal court in the Northern District of Indiana against the National Collegiate Athletic Association (“NCAA”) and the University of Notre Dame Du Lac (“Notre Dame”) alleging that the defendants have a reckless disregard for the health and safety of generations of Notre Dame football student athletes.
On August 23, 2021, Sterling Jewelers Inc. the parent company of popular specialty jewelry store Jared the Galleria of Jewelry (“Jared”) was served with class claims in federal court in the Southern District of Florida alleging that it overstates diamond weights at both its brick-and-mortar locations and on its website.
In the complaint, named plaintiff Thomas Kimbro argues that Jared, which operates over 200 retail locations nationwide, systematically inflates the total weights of uncertified diamonds knowing that the average customer would have no way of knowing that the diamond weight was inflated prior to purchase.
On August 21, 2021, class claims were filed in the Southern District of Illinois East St. Louis Division against food giant Kellogg Sales Company alleging that the company actively misleads consumers as to the true nature of the ingredients in the brand’s popular breakfast food Frosted Strawberry Pop-Tarts (“the Product”).
On August 19, 2021, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. (“J&J”) and retail giant Costco Wholesale Corporation filed a response motion with the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (“JPML”), agreeing with calls from plaintiffs in the carcinogenic sunscreen litigations to consolidate all related cases into a multidistrict litigation (“MDL”) centralized in the District of New Jersey under Chief Judge Freda L. Wolfson.
On August 17, 2021, class claims were filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County against the Art Institute of Chicago (“AIC”) alleging that the school had engaged in the unlawful collection, use, storage and disclosure of sensitive and proprietary biometric identifiers of individuals on the AIC campus.
On August 12, 2021, two Ohio counties filed a motion in limine in federal court in the Northern District of Ohio Eastern Division in preparation for the counties’ upcoming October bellwether trials in the Opioid Litigation.
In the motion, the two counties, Trumball and Lake County, seek to exclude any reference to prescription opioids as “legal” drugs or to distinguishing them from “illegal” drugs. The plaintiffs argue that characterizing prescription opioids and other controlled substances as “legal” or distinguishing them from “illegal” drugs is misleading and states a legal conclusion.
On July 27, 2021, class claims were filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York against insurance giant Progressive Corporation (“Progressive"), alleging that the company deceptively paid claimants less than the actual value for their vehicles that were completely destroyed.
On July 29, 2021, Black Widow star, actress Scarlett Johansson, filed suit against The Walt Disney Company (“Disney”) in the Superior Court for the State of California, alleging that Disney’s release of her latest film, Black Widow, on the Disney+ streaming service the same day as it was released in theaters was a violation of her contract.
In the complaint, the plaintiff argues that based on her impressive reputation as a reliable box office draw, Marvel Studios (“Marvel”) and its parent company Disney, agreed that her compensation for starring in Black Widow would be largely based on box office receipts generated by the movie.
For most attorneys, there will always be select cases that stand out in their memory as unique for any number of reasons. Those are the cases that have become tried and true “war stories” and are dusted off at parties and events. However, not every attorney can boast that one of their most memorable cases went on to become a wildly successful true-crime podcast and ultimately an NBC television series.
Texas attorney, Kay Van Wey of Van Wey & Williams Trial Law Firm, boasts a career widely characterized by outstanding cases and newsworthy verdicts. On the heels of the premiere of the new NBC show, Dr. Death, a series based in part by one of Kay’s most well-known cases, we were able to sit down with Ms. Van Wey to talk about her intriguing career, the world of medical malpractice and what drives her to seek justice for her clients.
On July 26, 2021, class claims were filed in Massachusetts federal court against Dutch sleep apnea therapy machine manufacturers Koninklijke Philips N.V., Philips North America LLC and Philips RS North America LLC (collectively, “Philips”) alleging that through the degradation of a noise-abating insulation foam used in the majority of Philips’ defective sleep products, users were exposed to toxic chemicals.
On July 20, 2021, U.S. District Court Judge for the Southern District of New York Katherine Polk Failla, issued an order refusing to dismiss claims of breach of implied contract and unjust enrichment against The Manhattan School of Music (“the School”). The suit was filed by a class of disgruntled students who were forced to pay the school’s full tuition and fees for the Spring 2020 semester, despite the majority of the semester being fully virtual.
On July 14, 2021, Northern District of California Judge Richard Seeborg issued an order denying winemaker Cooper Cane’s bid to dismiss class claims alleging that the defendant intentionally misled consumers in describing certain vintages of its pinot noir.
On July 12, 2021, class claims were filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York against popular yogurt brand Chobani LLC, alleging that the brand misleads consumers by promoting itself as the first Fair Trade USA Dairy company.
In the complaint, named plaintiffs Jessica Austin and Peter Hoffman describe how Chobani proudly represents its products as Fair Trade Certified Dairy on the labels and boasts that when consumers purchase Chobani products, they are empowering dairy farmers and laborers, supporting safe working conditions for laborers and promoting animal care. However, the plaintiffs argue, that rather than supporting dairy workers, the so-called Fair Trade Certified Dairy Standard is a sham process that does not reflect the needs and values of workers.
Cannabis Company Faces Copyright Infringement Claims Over Unauthorized Use of Sacha Baron Cohen Image
On July 12, 2021, actor Sacha Baron Cohen and his company, Please You Can Touch, LLC, filed suit against cannabis company Solar Therapeutics, Inc. and its president, Edward Dow III, in federal court in the District of Massachusetts. The suit alleges that Solar Therapeutics deliberately featured both Mr. Baron Cohen’s likeness and his wildly popular “Borat” movie character, along with the phrase “It’s Nice,” referring to Borat’s common catchword “Nice!”, in a commercial billboard on a busy Massachusetts interstate highway.
Counsel Financial recently announced its continued commitment to the American Association for Justice (“AAJ”) as the headline Diamond Sponsor of the upcoming AAJ Annual Convention. The conference will take place July 12-15 at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas. The Convention draws the nation’s top plaintiffs’ lawyers who converge to discuss the latest developments in litigation across numerous practice areas, participate in specialized continuing legal education programs and network with fellow attorneys engaged in similar cases.
On June 24, 2021, class claims were filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois against popular cosmetic retailer Ulta Beauty Inc. alleging that the company has been illegally collecting, storing and using biometric identifiers and biometric information collected via its Virtual Beauty Programs without consent, in direct violation of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (“BIPA”).
On June 25, 2021, fast-food giant McDonald’s Corporation urged Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division Judge Charles R. Norgle, Sr. to toss out class claims alleging that the voice recognition technology utilized by the company’s drive-thru artificial intelligence (“AI”) voice assistant collects customers’ voiceprint biometrics without permission.
On June 23, 2021, U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Ohio, Judge Aaron Polster, issued an important order on whether jurors in the upcoming Prescription Opioid multidistrict litigation (“MDL”) would be required to have received a COVID-19 vaccination.
On June 21, 2021, skincare giant Neutrogena was served class claims in federal court in the Central District of California alleging that the company’s sunscreen products contain dangerously high levels of benzene, a carcinogenic impurity that has been linked to leukemia and other cancers.
On June 18, 2021, a federal jury awarded a $1.7 million verdict to service member Lloyd Baker in the third 3M Combat Arms Earplugs bellwether trial. This most recent plaintiff victory represents a second loss for 3M in the multidistrict litigation, following a staggering $7.1 million plaintiffs’ verdict in the first bellwether in April 2021.
As law firms across the country continue to cautiously navigate the post-COVID landscape, many are reexamining what running a successful law firm looks like. For years, the thought of a remote or partially remote law firm seemed like an anathema to many lawyers. However, after successfully weathering over a year of restrictions due to the ongoing pandemic, many attorneys are seeing the benefits of embracing some of the virtual aspects of remote practice.
In this series, we are speaking to some of the all-stars of the plaintiffs’ bar to discuss how they are tackling the move back to “normal” firm life. We recently spoke with Amelia Warden, Chief Financial Officer of the renowned Flint Law Firm, to discover how her firm has changed over the past year-and-a-half and what the future holds for the firm.
On June 1, 2020, class claims were filed in federal court in the Eastern District of New York by a group of artists who alleged that the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”) and the City of New York violated the Visual Artists Rights Act by its willful destruction of a work of visual art during its ongoing campaign to clean up graffiti.
On June 7, 2021, popular food delivery services Grubhub, Seamless, Postmates, UberEats and DoorDash were served with class claims in federal court in the Southern District of New York, alleging that the companies are “bleeding New York City restaurants dry” by charging fees while collecting millions of dollars at the restaurants’ expense, in what the plaintiff referred to as a blatant disregard of the laws of the City of New York.
On June 8, 2021, class claims were filed in federal court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against the Central Bucks School District (“the District”), by a group of female teachers who alleged that the District violated their rights under the federal Equal Pay Act.
In the complaint, named plaintiff Dawn Marinello described how she began working as a teacher within the District in 2016, entering the position with substantial career experience as an educator. Plaintiff alleged that she was expressly told by the District that salaries were decided by factors within a proscribed Salary Schedule and that the gender of the teacher did not impact their compensation.
On May 28, 2021, U.S. Chief District Judge for New Jersey, Freda L. Wolfson, partially shot down a bid by Johnson & Johnson unit, J&J Consumer Inc. (“JJCI”), to dismiss class claims, alleging that the defendant’s popular Neutrogena brand makeup remover wipes caused adverse skin reactions by upholding eight of the 10 counts comprising the claims.
On May 20, 2021, class claims were filed in the Circuit Court for St. Louis County, State of Missouri against Conopco, Inc. (d/b/a Unilever), maker of Dove “Men + Care” anti-perspirants, alleging that the company engaged in false, misleading and deceptive marketing of its products.
On May 17, 2021, class claims were filed in federal court in the Central District of California against actress Gwyneth Paltrow’s luxe lifestyle and wellness brand, GOOP Inc., alleging that the company’s kitschy “This Smells Like My Vagina” candle may explode during normal use.
On May 7, 2021, class claims were filed in federal court in the Southern District of Florida against superstore Costco Wholesale Corporation (“Costco”), alleging that the retail giant intentionally misled consumers as to the details of its Interstate Battery Warranty.
On May 2, 2021, class claims were filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York against Nestlé Waters North America, Inc. (“Nestlé”) alleging that the company actively misled consumers as to the true ingredients of its Poland Spring brand sparkling water.
On April 30, 2021, class claims were filed in federal court in the Central District of California by a group of investors against Volkswagen AG, Volkswagen Group of America Inc. (“VWoA”) and two of the company’s executives, CEO Scott Keogh and Volkswagen head of communications, Mark Gillies, concerning the automaker’s poorly planned April Fools prank in which it announced its intention to change its name to Voltswagen.
On April 16, 2021, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (“JPML”) issued a transfer order centralizing all litigations alleging that All-Clad’s multi-ply stainless-steel cookware was deceptively marketed to consumers as dishwasher safe, be transferred to the Western District of Pennsylvania under federal court Judge J. Nicholas Ranjan.
On April 27, 2021, class claims were filed in federal court in the Northern District of California against tech giant Google LLC (“Google”) alleging that the COVID-19 contact tracing technology the company co-created with Apple has exposed users’ private personal and medical information. The suit claims that the sensitive data was retrievable by numerous third parties, and also by other contact tracing app users who were within a certain proximity of a fellow user.
Returning to the office, employee vaccinations, flextime—these are all considerations facing contingency-fee firms as the U.S. looks toward a gradual return to some semblance of pre-pandemic life. We recently spoke to Matthew Haynie, Esq. of Forester Haynie about his views on how the pandemic has impacted his firm operations and what he sees the future looking like.
CFS: As we pass the one-year mark of COVID-19 regulations and closures impacting the court system, how has your firm changed in the last 12 months?
On April 19, 2021, class claims were filed in federal court in the Northern District of Illinois against popular convenience baked goods company, Sara Lee Frozen Bakery (“Sara Lee”), alleging that the company engaged in deceptive, unfair and false merchandising practices regarding its popular All Butter Pound Cake (the “product”).
On April 15, 2021, class claims were filed in federal court in the Eastern District of California against Victoria’s Secret Stores LLC (“Victoria’s Secret”) and its parent company, L Brands Inc., by a group of employees who alleged that they were denied payment for all hours worked because of company compelled temperature screenings while off the clock.
On April 11, 2021, class claims were filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York against grocery store chain Whole Foods Market Group Inc. (“Whole Foods”) alleging that it engages in false, deceptive and misleading advertising in relation to its Lemon Raspberry Italian Sparkling Mineral Water (“the Product”), which depicts pictures of fresh lemons and raspberries on the label.
On April 6, 2021, class claims were filed in federal court in the Northern District of Illinois against The Kraft Heinz Company (“Kraft”) over claims that its popular Kraft Mac & Cheese products (“the Products) have improper and misleading packaging, also displayed in its marketing.
On March 31, 2021, class claims were filed in the Circuit Court for the Eleventh Judicial Circuit for Miami-Dade County against Event Entertainment Group Inc. over the company’s decision to withhold ticketholder refunds from the cancelled 2020 Ultra Music Festival.
On April 1, 2021, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation issued a transfer order centralizing all suits in the Robinhood January 2021 Short Squeeze litigation in the Southern District of Florida under Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga. According to the transfer order, the newly consolidated actions share factual questions arising from trading restrictions imposed by Robinhood and other brokers in late January 2021 in response to a dramatic rise in trading and share prices for a group of so-called “meme stocks.” Meme stocks include GameStop Corp, AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc, American Airlines Group Inc., Bed Bath & Beyond Inc., BlackBerry Ltd., Express, Inc., Koss Corporation, Naked Brand Group Ltd., Nokia Corp, Sundial Growers Inc., Tootsie Roll Industries, Inc. and Trivago N.V.
On March 25, 2021, class claims were filed in California federal court in the Northern District of California San Jose Division, against insurance giant GEICO General Insurance Company (“GEICO”) alleging that GEICO unfairly profited from the COVID-19 pandemic.
On March 10, 2021, plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit against cereal giant, Kellogg Sales Co. (“Kellogg”), reached a revised $13 million settlement and presented it to California Northern Court Judge Lucy Koh for preliminary approval.
On March 8, 2021, Northern District of California Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley denied cryopreservation tank manufacturer Chart Industries’ (“Chart”) motion for summary judgment, thus keeping alive proposed class claims over the March 2018 malfunction of a Chart cryopreservation tank at the Pacific Fertility Center (“PFC”).
The suit was originally filed on March 13, 2018, by named plaintiff S.M. In the complaint, the plaintiff describes how she, and many others, relied on PFC and its Chart cryopreservation tanks to maintain and preserve her frozen eggs indefinitely. However, on March 11, 2018, the plaintiff received an email informing her that earlier that week, the cryopreservation tank containing her frozen eggs had lost liquid nitrogen for a brief period of time which “may have resulted” in the loss of her eggs.
On March 7, 2021, class claims were filed in federal court in the District of Colorado against United Airlines over U.A. Flight 328, which made headlines on February 20, 2021, when it experienced what has been described as spectacular engine failure in one of the plane’s two engines.
In the complaint, named plaintiff Chad Schnell describes how approximately four minutes after takeoff, as the Boeing 777-200 aircraft reached an altitude of 12,000 feet, passengers heard loud noises and began to experience violent shaking of the plane. Shortly after the extreme turbulence began, passengers - including the plaintiff - witnessed from the plane’s windows missing pieces from the right engine and a fire that ignited within the engine.
On February 25, 2021, plaintiffs in the TikTok multidistrict litigation (“MDL”) submitted a motion to Judge John Z. Lee of the Northern District of Illinois, requesting preliminary approval of a $92 million settlement in the TikTok litigations. The settlement, if approved, will bring an end to an MDL comprised of 21 putative class actions that similarly allege that defendants TikTok Inc. (“TikTok”) and its parent company Byte Dance Technology Inc., mishandled issues of plaintiffs’ privacy.
As the legal system continues to adapt to the constant change brought about by the global pandemic, many law firms are looking ahead to plan for the future. We explore how law firms have changed and what modifications are here to stay in our new series, Post-Pandemic Law Firm Landscape. Hear firsthand from plaintiffs firms on how they've navigated the current state of the legal system and their outlook moving forward.
On February 22, 2021, class claims were filed in Texas Federal Court in the District Court of Harris County against Griddy Energy LLC (“Griddy”) by a group of Griddy customers who allege that they were charged excessive electricity prices due to Winter Storm Uri in February 2021.
On February 23, 2021, class claims were filed in federal court in the Eastern District of California Fresno Division, against retail giant Walmart Inc. alleging that the defendant implemented an illegal policy requiring its non-exempt workers to undergo COVID-19 screenings prior to each shift without pay.
The battle against insurance carriers over a lack of business interruption coverage in the wake of the on-going pandemic continues with a group made up primarily of Washington State dentists and orthodontists, in addition to other businesses like restaurants, filing a motion for Western District of Washington Judge Barbara J. Rothstein to certify questions of common state law to the Washington State Supreme Court.
The controversy surrounding the meteoric rise and fall of the GameStop stock continues, as yet another class action complaint involving the incident was filed on February 16, 2021, in Massachusetts federal court. In the suit, plaintiff Christian Iovin alleges that defendant Keith Patrick Gill, a professional securities broker, purposefully incited a market frenzy by advocating for amateur market traders to enact revenge on big hedge fund companies by artificially inflating the price of shares of GameStop.
On February 5, 2021, baby food giant Gerber Products Co. (“Gerber”) was served with class claims in federal court in the District of New Jersey alleging that unbeknownst to consumers, and contrary to the representations made by Gerber, its baby food products contain heavy metals, including arsenic and cadmium.
On February 3, 2021, restaurant and arcade chain Dave & Buster’s filed suit against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (“the Governor”) in federal court in the Northern District of New York alleging that Cuomo’s decision to close down all arcades statewide, while allowing comparable businesses to remain open, is arbitrary and unconstitutional.
On January 22, 2021, class claims were filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York, against textbook giant McGraw Hill LLC, by a group of McGraw Hill authors who allege that the company breached its contract with contributing authors by reducing royalties when it sells their textbooks in an electronic format.
On January 28, 2021, class claims were filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York against popular brokerage firm app, Robinhood, over the company’s abrupt removal of GameStop and other contentious stocks. This was in response to a trading war of attrition raging between the independent retail investors that convene on the sub-Reddit r/WallStreetBets and short-selling hedge funds.
On January 21, 2021, class claims were filed in federal court in the Northern District of Illinois against Easy Healthcare Corporation, the developer of popular fertility app Premom, alleging that the defendant company had been sharing users’ personal information and location data with Chinese companies.
Thinking about Leaving Your Firm?
The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way many attorneys practice law. Across the country, courthouses are undertaking virtual trials in an effort to keep the judicial system moving while adhering to social distancing measures. Along with virtual hearings and proceedings has come serious consideration of moving toward an “at home” practice.
With the option of going remote becoming more and more plausible, thoughts of breaking away from your current firm—with or without additional attorneys and support staff—may come into play. Or perhaps your firm is the regional office of a national firm and you are entertaining the concept of an independent practice. At a minimum, given the financial and legal impact on law firms due to our collective sequestration, the future of your current path may be subject to change.
On January 8, 2021, class claims were filed in the Southern District of New York against the company behind the popular Keebler cookies alleging that the company engaged in false, deceptive and misleading product labels.
In the complaint, plaintiff Sharon Pizarro alleges that the defendant promotes its popular Keebler Fudge Stripe shortbread cookies as “made with real Keebler fudge.”
On December 18, 2020, popular streaming service Netflix reached an undisclosed settlement with the estate of famed Sherlock Holmes author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (“the Estate”), bringing an end to claims that Netflix infringed on plaintiff’s copyrights in its new movie, Enola Holmes.
On January 7, 2021, consumer goods company Unilever United States was served with class claims in New Jersey federal court alleging its popular TRESemmé Keratin Smooth Shampoo and TRESemmé Keratin Smooth Color Shampoo (“the products”) contain an ingredient that causes significant hair loss and scalp irritation upon proper application.
On January 4, 2021, class claims were filed in federal court in Massachusetts against popular tourist attraction, Boston Duck Tours, by a group of current and former employees of the company who allege that Boston Duck Tours violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) by failing to pay employees their rightful wages for overtime hours.
The challenges presented in 2020 have caused most people to radically alter the way they do business and how they live their lives in general. Activities that were once conducted in-person have been transitioned to taking place online, from trials and court hearings to holiday dinners and birthdays.
Now more than ever, many of us may find ourselves glued to our devices as we strive to stay connected, through social media apps like Facebook, or to look for mindless entertainment on apps like TikTok. But while most people don’t see the harm in hours spent on social media, it’s important to be aware of the amount of potentially sensitive personal information that you may be inadvertently revealing online.
On December 10, 2020, class claims were filed in New York Supreme Court in New York County against the popular at home fitness company Peloton alleging that the company has denied, and continues to deny, deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals equal access to the same goods, services and benefits it provides to non-disabled Peloton app subscribers.
On December 11, 2020, class claims were filed against American automaker General Motors (“GM”) in federal court in the Eastern District of Michigan. The suit alleges that GM failed to inform consumers of a serious defect in the lithium-ion battery used on the company’s popular Chevrolet Bolt (“Chevy Bolt”) vehicle.
On December 6, 2020, class claims were filed against the makers of the popular snack food PopChips in federal court in the Southern District of New York. The suit alleges that PopChips Ridges Cheddar & Sour Cream chips (“the product”) are mislabeled in an attempt by the manufacturer to intentionally mislead consumers as to the true ingredients in the product.
On November 25, 2020, preliminary approval was granted by U.S. District Court Judge Henry Edward Autry for a $5,000,000 settlement ending class claims between superstore giant Walmart and a class of plaintiffs who alleged that the defendant routinely and systematically breaches the terms of its return policy.
On November 19, 2020, class claims were filed against Kimberly-Clark Corporation (“Kimberly-Clark”) in federal court in the Eastern District of New York. The suit alleges that the company neglected safety and sanitation responsibilities owed to its customers and the public at large when it was discovered that the defendant’s Cottonelle Flushable Wipes and GentlePlus Flushable Wipes products were contaminated with a dangerous bacterial strain.
On November 16, 2020, Eastern District of New York Judge Eric R. Komitee granted preliminary approval for a $1.3 million proposed settlement that ended claims between pet supply store Petco and a class of former employees.
On November 13, 2020, major home appliance manufacturer Whirlpool Corporation (“Whirlpool”) was served with class claims in federal court in the Southern District of California alleging that the company manufactured and distributed defective refrigerator-freezers.
On November 3, 2020, class claims were filed against Costco Wholesale Corporation (“Costco”) and dog food maker Diamond Pet Foods Inc. (“Diamond”) in federal court in the Western District of Washington. The suit alleges that Diamond’s brand—Kirkland Nature Domain—mislabeled its Turkey Meal & Sweet Potato Formula for Dogs and Chicken and Pea Formula for Puppies (together, “Kirkland Products”), thereby misleading consumers as to the true nature of the ingredients of the products.
On October 19, 2020, class claims were filed against Frito-Lay Inc. in federal court in the Southern District of California by a class of consumers who allege that the defendant chip company knowingly misrepresented the true ingredients in its Baked Lays Cheddar & Sour Cream flavor chips (“the mislabeled chips”).
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.
On August 24, 2020, class claims for violations of the federal securities laws were filed in federal court in the Northern District of California against biotech company Vaxart Inc. (“Vaxart”). A group of securities holders alleged that Vaxart engaged in artificially inflating the company’s stock price by announcing false and misleading information concerning the company’s COVID-19 oral recombinant vaccine candidate.
New Attorney Licensing and the Bar Exam During COVID-19
Taking the bar exam is a pivotal point in the transition from law student to lawyer. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, those preparing for bar exams across the country have faced a number of setbacks. State bar examiners have oscillated between postponing in-person exams to instituting online exam platforms. Law students and professors alike have called for the enactment of an emergency diploma privilege which would allow all graduates to practice law under the supervision of a licensed attorney—totally bypassing a bar examination.
On August 12, 2020, popular food chain Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. (“Chipotle”) was served with proposed class claims in federal court in the District of Arizona, alleging that the company discriminates against female employees who are breast feeding.
Tensions continue to mount in the class action lawsuit between upmarket grocery chain Whole Foods Inc. (“Whole Foods”) and a class of employees who allege that the store violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act by refusing to allow employees to wear “Black Lives Matter” face masks while on duty. Plaintiffs filed a reply brief in support of their emergency motion for preliminary injunction on August 11, 2020, in swift response to the defendant’s August 5, 2020, memorandum in opposition of preliminary injunction.
On August 7, 2020, plaintiffs in the class action suit against Walmart, which centered on claims of price gouging for meat products, submitted a settlement worth up to $9.5 million to Southern District of Florida Judge Jose E. Martinez for preliminary approval. The class alleged that the defendant engaged in systematic overcharging for beef, pork, poultry, fish and other types of packaged foods.
On July 29, 2020, a 69-year-old great-grandmother filed suit in Circuit Court in Orange County Florida against the Walt Disney Company, in addition to other Disney entities and employees, alleging that the defendants attempted to rob her of her physical liberty, her personal dignity and good name after she was arrested for possession of a hemp-based CBD oil while on a family trip to Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in 2019.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the United States, consumers are relying heavily on cleaning supplies and accompanying advertising of the products’ germ-killing capabilities. On July 31, 2020, class claims were filed in federal court in the Southern District of California against Edgewell Personal Care Company, manufacturer of the popular Wet Ones hand wipes, alleging that the defendant misled consumers in representing that the product kills 99.9% of germs.
On July 7, 2020, class claims were filed in federal court in the Southern District of California against hand sanitizer manufacturer, Vi-Jon Inc., alleging that the defendant actively misled consumers by advertising its products as capable of killing 99.9% of germs.
Post COVID-19 Courtrooms: Breaking Down NJ’s Proposed Court Reopening
As the nation continues to grapple with rising coronavirus infection rates, there have been recent developments in the reopening of the U.S. court system. On July 22, 2020, the New Jersey judiciary announced its plan to resume jury trials in September 2020. Many courts across the nation will look to New Jersey and its efforts to resume in-person courthouse appearances for guidance in reopening.
On July 20, 2020, the Florida Education Association filed suit in Miami-Dade Circuit Court against Florida state governor Ron DeSantis, Florida Commissioner of Education, Richard Corcoran, the Florida Department of Education, the Florida Board of Education and Miami-Dade County Mayor, Carlos Gimenez, alleging that the defendants are violating the Florida state constitution by attempting to recklessly reopen in-person schools in fall 2020.
FeganScott is nationwide class action law firm that specializes in litigation involving sexual abuse, discrimination, consumer fraud and antitrust cases, and describes itself as a powerful ally for consumers and small businesses. Attorney Beth Fegan, along with her husband, Timothy Scott, built the practice from the ground up in 2019. Beth recently spoke to us on the subject of start her own firm and managing employees spread out across the country.
On July 20, 2020, another class action suit was filed against an insurance company over the failure to provide business interruption coverage related to losses from the COVID-19 pandemic. In the suit, filed in federal court in the Southern District of Florida, the operators of the well-known South Florida theater, Miracle Theater, filed an action against General Security of Arizona (“General Security”) and SCOR SE (“SCOR”), alleging that the insurance carriers breached contractual obligations and failed to pay the plaintiff for losses and expenses caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
On July 11, 2020, class claims were filed against upscale grocery giant, Whole Foods Market Group, in federal court in the Southern District of New York, alleging that the grocery chain intentionally misled customers as to the true ingredients of its Unsweetened Organic Vanilla Coconut Milk beverage.
“Take care of yourself,” is a phrase we hear now more than ever, in this strange time of COVID-19. The global pandemic has escalated the notion, both physically and mentally. The word “pandemic” generally alludes to physical illness, but mental health repercussions can in some cases be felt just as strongly as the potential physical effects of illness, as people learn to live with this new sense of isolation from each other.
Organizations across the globe—from the World Health Organization to the CDC—have advised as to the importance of mental health during COVID-19, as people continue to be inundated day and night by an endless 24-hour news cycle and by constantly accessible social media surrounding the spread of the virus. The CDC has advised Americans to “be kind to your mind” during this unprecedented time and offers tips for coping with the resulting stress.
On July 10, 2020, putative class claims were filed in New Jersey federal court against RCN Telecom Services LLC (“RCN”), alleging that the telecom company engaged in a bait-and-switch and billing fraud scheme against its broadband internet customers.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many in the legal community expressed concern over the possibility that it would result in a significant slowdown in the number of new cases filed, notably class action cases. However, as the country begins to move forward and a “new normal” emerges, legal experts report a significant increase in the number of newly filed-class action lawsuits.
Update from the Experts: A Panel Discussion on Domestic & International Mass Torts, Class Actions and COVID-19 Litigation
On July 1, 2020, the New York State Court Officers Association filed claims against Chief Judge of the State of New York, the Honorable Janet DiFiore, and the New York State Office of Court Administration, alleging that the New York State courthouses failed to provide a safe working location by properly cleaning and sterilizing the court officers’ work environment.
Class claims were filed in federal court in the Western District of Pennsylvania against the City of Pittsburgh and multiple other city officials, including Pittsburgh mayor William Peduto, by a group of protestors who alleged that Pittsburgh police responded to a peaceful protest with undue aggression.
Burns Charest LLP describes itself as a young firm with a dynamic and impressive pedigree. The firm was launched in 2015 and was the culmination of the combined efforts of experienced trial lawyers Warren Burns, Korey Nelson and Dan Charest. Founding member, Warren Burns, recently spoke to us about the challenging process of starting the firm and offered his advice to attorneys looking to take start their own firm.
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.