Class Action Lawsuits: Common Law

Common Law - The FindLaw Consumer Protection Law Blog

Recently in Class Action Lawsuits Category

We all hear about the massive, multi-million dollar class action settlements. These cases make headlines both for the stunning verdicts, and also frequently for resolving claims for hundreds or thousands of individuals all in one fell swoop.

While many people ignore the class action notices that get sent to them, failing to review these and file your claim could result in you never actually getting your slice of the pie. Below, you'll find general tips on how to claim your slice of the class action pie.

A recently filed lawsuit in the Northern District of California Federal Court alleges that Coca-Cola engaged in unfair and deceptive marketing practices in an effort to mislead consumers. While there is no claim of tampering with the results of the Coke Versus Pepsi challenge results, the lawsuit does claim that the beverage-maker intentionally downplayed the harmful health effects of sugar in their advertising. Additionally, the suit alleges that Coca-Cola has deliberated focused marketing on children despite having pledged not to do so.

This case is part of the larger war on sugar. Makers of sugar-sweetened beverages, and food products that needlessly contain high-fructose corn syrup, have found themselves coming under increased scrutiny over the past decade as a result of the relatively new found public awareness of the dangers of sugar. The organization that filed suit specifically stated when asked about Pepsi, that they were not sued because Pepsi doesn't misrepresent the effects of sugar to consumers.

Volkswagen Offers $15 Billion to Settle Diesel Scandal Case

Volkswagen owners may be happy to hear that the car company that rigged its diesel emission tests has submitted a $15 billion settlement offer for review with a federal court in San Francisco. The settlement, if approved, would set aside about $10 billion dollars for owners and pay about five billion dollars in fines to state and federal agencies.

According to Bloomberg News, which first reported the settlement, the car maker is also going to announce a settlement with states in another separate case soon. The settlement amount under consideration now is reportedly more than any other automaker has ever paid to settle a civil suit, and the automaker is still facing cases on three continents.

Feds Blame Oil Company Negligence for Toxic Spill in California

A year ago this week,Plains All American Pipeline spilled more than 120,000 gallons of oil on the California coastline, killing wildlife and causing environmental damage. On the one-year anniversary of the spill, May 19, federal regulators released a report holding the oil company responsible for the devastation.

The findings were released just two days after the company was indicted on 46 criminal counts in Santa Barbara County Court, reports ABC News. With the evidence of its negligence and possible criminality piling up, Plains All American Pipeline is no doubt preparing for a slew of additional lawsuits related to the oil spill.

Not So Cute: EOS Lip Balms Sued for Causing Blisters

You know those cute little egg-shaped lip balms that celebs say are the bomb? Well, they are insofar as they will leave your lips looking coarse and scorched and your skin blistered, according to a lawsuit filed by Rachel Cronin against EOS lip balm on behalf of a class of people harmed by the product, reports Jezebel.

Fitbit Sued, Heart Monitors Not Counting Every Beat

Every beat counts, according to Fitbit's advertising for its heart rate monitors. But consumers in California, Colorado, and Wisconsin today filed a nationwide class action lawsuit against the company, alleging that the monitors do not and cannot accurately measure heart rates during intensive exercise, according to a press release.

Diet Pill Wrongful Death Suits Survive

Three lawsuits against a diet drug maker for wrongful death of one woman were consolidated and allowed to continue, a federal court judge in Hawaii ruled this week. Sonnette Marras, wife and mother of seven, died due to liver damage caused by OxyElite Pro diet pills, say the plaintiffs, who between the three cases sued a slew of associated individuals and entities..

Walgreens Settles Consumer Protection Lawsuit

Consultations with pharmacists can save lives. By consulting with patients, pharmacists can ensure they have the right medication for their conditions and that multiple medications won't be harmful.

Apparently, Walgreens pharmacists were shirking that responsibility, and now the chain is paying over half a million dollars to settle a consumer protection lawsuit.

FTC Sues AT&T for Throttling Wireless Customer Data

The Federal Trade Commission announced today that it has filed a lawsuit against mobile phone carrier AT&T for allegedly misleading customers by charging them for "unlimited" data plans while reducing their data speeds significantly.

In its complaint filed in U.S. District Court, the FTC alleges that AT&T failed to disclose to customers with unlimited mobile data plans that once a certain amount of data had been used during a single billing cycle, AT&T reduces the speed of that user's data. This speed reduction, known as "throttling" often results in users being unable to use popular web applications such as web browsing, streaming video, or using GPS navigation on their mobile devices.

AT&T Data Throttling Program

According to the FTC's complaint, AT&T stopped offering unlimited data plans for smartphone customers in June of 2010. However, in order to keep customers from changing carriers, AT&T allowed the millions of customers who had signed up for unlimited data to be "grandfathered in" and continue under the terms of their previous plan, giving them unlimited data usage for $30 a month.

In July 2011, AT&T began throttling the speeds of unlimited mobile data plan customers. The threshold at which AT&T would begin throttling data speeds varied depending on geographic region, with customers in urban markets often being the first to be throttled. The reduction in speed also varied. According to the FTC's complaint, some users experienced speeds up to 95% slower than they would have absent the throttling.

The FTC alleges that AT&T did not properly disclose this throttling to unlimited mobile data plan customers, in violation of the section of the FTC Act prohibiting "unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce." Although the company did announce its data-speed throttling in customer bills, a national press release, and text messages or emails sent directly to some customers, these FTC's complaint alleges that these methods failed to notify a large number of customers or disclose the degree of the speed reduction.

Small Claims Lawsuit

The FTC's lawsuit isn't the first lawsuit regarding AT&T's reduction of unlimited data plan customers' data speeds. In 2012, a California man successfully sued AT&T in small claims court, winning $850 after alleging that AT&T's throttling violated his contract with the carrier.

With an estimated 3.5 million AT&T unlimited data plan customers who may have been affected by the speed reductions, the amount of damages at stake in this lawsuit are likely to be much higher.

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Southwest Airlines Owes Passengers Free Drinks: Settlement

Southwest Airlines will be issuing a lot of free drinks -- almost 12 million actually -- after settling a class action lawsuit over drink coupons.

A class of plaintiffs, led by a Chicago lawyer, sued the airline claiming that they were denied use of their drink vouchers that came with their premium Southwest Business Select seats.

The airline claims that the vouchers were good only for a single flight, but the passengers believed they were entitled to use any unused vouchers on later flights, as the coupons bore no expiration date. Both sides agreed to settle the matter for an amount up to $58 million.

Attorney Adam Levitt brought the lawsuit in 2010 claiming breach of contract and consumer fraud. He apparently boarded a flight after paying a Business Select fare, but saved his drink voucher for a later flight. On the later flight, he was told his drink ticket was no good. So the lawyer did what lawyers are trained to do -- he sued.

After some wrangling, the consumer fraud issues were eventually dismissed and the only remaining issue was whether Southwest breached its contract by refusing to honor the drink coupons on different flights.

While a Southwest spokesperson maintains that the airline could have won had the lawsuit been litigated, the airline decided to settle the lawsuit. Apparently, a potential $58 million penalty was less expensive (or less troublesome) than engaging in a courtroom battle against their passengers.

Class members can recover their $5 drink coupons by filling out a claim form and attesting to the number of vouchers that they held. You may be able to make your claim even if you lost your original vouchers.

If you have questions regarding this class action or any other consumer issue, you may want to contact a consumer rights attorney. An attorney can help review your claim and options for relief.

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