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October 21, 2014 / Shauna Madison

IKEA Swing Falls Short of Expectations; Injures Children

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After IKEA  received various reports of children falling out of the GUNGGUNG swing and injuring themselves, it has recalled more than 2,000 swings in the US and 300 swings in Canada. The recall states that “IKEA urges customers who have a GUNGGUNG children’s swing to immediately remove the swing from children and bring it back to any Ikea store for a full refund.”

In its advertisement, IKEA boasts that swinging develops a sense of balance and body perception as well as brings a feeling of well-being and relaxation. However, after three months of being on the market, IKEA has received four reports of the suspension fitting breaking while in use, causing children to fall from the swing and injure themselves. In one particular incident, a child fell from the swing and sustained a fractured leg.

If you or someone you know has suffered injuries as a result of a defective product, please contact Khorrami Boucher, LLP for a private consultation.

October 21, 2014 / Shauna Madison

Transgender Inmate Fails To Prove Jail Ignored Sexual Assault Risks

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On December 7, 2012 D.B., a transgender inmate housed at Orange County Jail, filed a lawsuit against Orange County and Orange County Jail officials for the sexual assault she endured as a result of being housed with another inmate rather than in protective custody. D.B. is a male-to-female transgender individual who was “assigned female at birth” but identifies as a male and has undergone various procedures, including breast and cheek augmentation.

Despite D.B.’s status as a transgender inmate, fear of being housed with other inmates, and evidence that transgender inmates are thirteen times more likely to face sexual assault in prison than non-transgender inmates, Orange County Jail housed D.B. with another inmate. As a result of her placement, D.B. was sexually assaulted on December 8, 2009. After the assault, D.B. filed a lawsuit against the jail seeking to prove a violation of her Eight Amendment rights as well as to hold them responsible for the assault. However, on September 18, 2014, a federal judge dismissed this case.

The judge held that D.B. “failed to produce evidence from which a reasonable factfinder could determine that Orange County was deliberately indifferent to the risk of sexual assault faced by transgender inmates.” In ruling against D.B., the judge also noted evidence that simply stating there had been prior incidents of sexual assault to transgender inmates at Orange County Jail was too vague to support D.B.’s assertions that the Defendant’s deliberately ignored the risks.

If you or someone you know has experienced what you believe is a violation of your constitutional rights, you may be entitled to relief. Please call Khorrami Boucher, LLP for a confidential consultation.

October 21, 2014 / iymanstrawder

New Litigation Blames Johnson’s Baby Powder for Causing Ovarian Cancer

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For over a hundred years, new moms have trusted Johnson & Johnson baby products to provide the purest and gentlest care for their newborn babies. In addition to being used by babies, Johnson’s Baby Powder has been used for generations by many Americans as a hygienic product and as a method to treat various skin issues and infections. The multibillion-dollar company markets its baby products as “clinically proven to be pure, mild, and gentle,” but just how pure and gentle are these products?

New lawsuits suggest that the Johnson & Johnson’s pure and gentle baby powder causes ovarian cancer. In a South Dakota lawsuit, the court found in favor of plaintiff Deane Berg, an avid user of Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at age 49. Similar lawsuits have been filed alleging a link between baby powder and cancer. Talc, the key ingredient in baby powder, is a soft mineral that is crushed and dried for use in consumer products. Talc is used in baby powder for its ability to absorb moisture, reduce friction, and prevent rashes. When talc-based products such as baby powder are dusted on sanitary pads and tampons or when applied directly to the genital area, talc particles can travel through the bloodstream and into a woman’s fallopian tubes, causing cancerous cells to develop. With nearly 14,000 American women losing their lives in 2013 to ovarian cancer, researchers have suggested that a significant percentage of ovarian cancer cases can be linked to the talc ingredient. A study at Harvard Medical School, led by Dr. Margaret Gates found in a 2009 study that women who use talcum powder around their genital area are 40 percent more likely to have ovarian cancer.

With the growing concern over talcum powder causing cancer, baby powder litigation has become more frequent with plaintiffs alleging that Johnson & Johnson knew about the dangers of the talc ingredient and failed to warn them that the powder could possibly cause ovarian cancer. While most of the baby powder cancer lawsuits have been filed individually, a recent lawsuit filed in the Circuit Court of St. Louis Missouri, seeks to bring a class action lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson on behalf of 65 women. While the lawsuit initially faced adversity when Johnson & Johnson tried to dismiss the case, it returned back to Missouri state court where it was originally filed and remains in the litigation process. Each of the women involved in the lawsuit allege that they have ovarian cancer as a result of using either Johnson’s Baby Powder or the company’s Shower to Shower powder.

If you have ever used Johnson’s Baby Powder or Shower to Shower Powder and were diagnosed with ovarian cancer, you may be entitled to relief. Please contact Khorrami Boucher, LLP for a confidential consultation.

October 6, 2014 / iymanstrawder

Parents of a Toddler Who Fell to His Death at Staples Center Are Allowed to Seek Punitive Damages

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Last Friday, a judge ruled that the parents of a two year old boy who fell to who his death at Staples Center can seek punitive damages in their wrongful death lawsuit against L.A. Arena Co. and L.A. Arena Funding. On November 21, 2010, two year old Lucas Tang and his parents sat in a luxury box at a Lakers game against the Golden State Warriors. About an hour and a half later, young Lucas was placed on a beverage bar which is an 11 inch wide shelf that sits below a small wall and a 10 inch glass barrier. Hoia Mi Nguyen, the mother of the two year old, placed the toddler on the beverage bar so that she could “take a picture and capture the moment for his first Lakers game.”

After taking four pictures, two year old Lucas fell over the barrier in the luxury box. Nguyen states, “I was holding my camera and I took the last picture of him and I glanced down at the fourth picture. When I glanced back up to take the next one, I noticed he wasn’t there.” Two year old Lucas fell more than 25 feet from the third row of the luxury box and suffered head injuries. Later that evening, Lucas died in the hospital.

Lucas’ parents, Hoia Mi Nguyen and Henry Tang, originally brought suit against Anschutz Entertainment Group Inc. (AEG), but was later replaced with its subsidiary, L.A. Arena Co., who own and manage the Staples Center. In plaintiffs’ original complaint they alleged that the design of the luxury box “sacrifices the safety of users and places them in a position of risk of bodily harm or death.” The case was brought before Judge Susan Bryant- Deason who granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment, finding that the Staples Center had no obligation to properly supervise Lucas to prevent him from falling. In Judge Bryant-Deason’s opinion, it was not reasonably expected that Lucas’ parent would place him “in an openly and obviously dangerous situation by putting him on top of the beverage bar where . . . he could climb over the tempered glass and fall.”

After finding that Judge Bryant-Deason abused her discretion, the case was sent back to Los Angeles Superior Court where Judge Mitchell Beckloff is presiding. Judge Mitchell decided that Lucas’ parents could move forward with their claims for unlawful business practices against L.A. Arena Co. and L.A. Arena Funding and could sue for punitive damages. Judge Beckloff scheduled trial of the lawsuit for July 28th.

If you or someone you know has been injured due to unsafe premises, you may be entitled to relief. Please contact Khorrami Boucher, LLP for a confidential consultation.

September 24, 2014 / Shauna Madison

Lewis County Jail Sued For Outdated “Post Card Only” Policy

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On April 11, 2014, Prisoner Legal News (PLN), a project of the Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), filed a lawsuit against Lewis County of the State of Washington and several of its employees directly involved in the operation of Lewis County Jail. The complaint alleged that defendants violated several of the prisoners First and Fourteenth Amendment rights by enforcing a “post card only” policy. PLN also asserted that the rights of the individuals who attempted to correspond with these prisoners were also violated.

PLN publishes and distributes a 64-page monthly magazine that reports on criminal justice issues as well as prison and jail related civil ligation with an emphasis on prisoner rights. From September 2013 through October 2013, PLN mailed informational brochures to several prisoners of Lewis County Jail. Unbeknownst to PLN, the Lewis County Jail had a “post card only” policy. This policy prompted the County Jail employees to return over 45 mailings to PLN due to their “unauthorized status.”

On April 21, 2014, PLN filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to stop Lewis County from enforcing their “post card only” policy during litigation. Although the Lewis County Jail argued that the policy has since been changed and that the case is now moot, Judge J. Richard Creatura of the U.S. District Court of Washington at Tacoma stated that “there is substantial evidence to believe that this policy has not been adopted.”

In a 27-page order, Judge Creatura granted PLN’s injunction and enjoined defendants from restricting incoming and outgoing prisoner mail to postcards only, and ordered defendants not to refuse to deliver or process prisoner personal mail on the ground that it is in a form other than a postcard.

In this order, Judge Creatura explained that in order to obtain a preliminary injunction, four elements must be met: (1) that plaintiff is likely to succeed on the merits, (2) that plaintiff is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, (3) that the balance of equities tips in plaintiff’s favor, and (4) that the injunction is in the public interest. In his discussion of how these elements were met, Judge Creatura also stated that the post card only policy “prevents family members from sending items like photographs, copies of bills, and medical information; None of these things can be easily replaced by telephone calls or regular visitation.”

If you or someone you know have experienced what you believe is a violation of Constitutional rights, you may be entitled to relief. Please call Khorrami Boucher, LLP for a confidential consultation.

September 24, 2014 / iymanstrawder

Faulty Ignition Switch in GM Vehicles Causes 19 Deaths

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General Motors agrees to set up a victim’s compensation fund to pay for 19 deaths caused by faulty ignition switches in their vehicles. The estimate of deaths due to ignition switch problems originally stood at 13, but has recently risen to 19 deaths and is likely to go higher. Compensation expert for General Motors, Kenneth Feinberg, has determined that 19 wrongful death claims are eligible for compensation. Due to confidentiality agreements, Feinberg is not at liberty to identify any of the victims eligible for payment, or to state whether the 19 wrongful death claims include the 13 deaths originally documented by General Motors.

The ignition switch defect responsible for the 19 deaths was installed in 2.6 million GM cars and causes the ignition to slip out of the “run” position which stalls the vehicle and disables the car’s airbags. Although GM admitted to knowing about the ignition switch problem for over a decade, it did not begin recalling the vehicles until earlier this year. Feinberg has received 125 death claims due to faulty ignition switches in older Chevrolet models and over 320 claims for compensation due to injuries. Of the 320 injury claims, 58 fell into the most serious category seeking compensation for injuries resulting in amputation, permanent brain damage, and loss of limb. The remaining 262 claims fall into less serious injuries that resulted in hospital stays or outpatient medical treatment within 2 days of the car accident. Feinberg has not released the dollar amount that GM plans to offer each eligible claim, but GM estimates that it will cost $400 million to compensate all victims, acknowledging that it can rise to $600 million.

The compensation fund began accepting claims on August 1st, and the deadline for filing a claim is December 31st. The fund accepts claims from anyone who was a driver, passenger, pedestrian, or an occupant of another vehicle that was injured in a car accident caused by the ignition switch defect. Those who file a claim and accept compensation, agree not to sue GM, while those who do not take part in the compensation fund are free to file a lawsuit against GM.

If you or someone you know has suffered injuries as result of a defective product, you may be entitled to relief. Please contact Khorrami Boucher LLP for a confidential consultation.

September 16, 2014 / iymanstrawder

Class Action Suit against Southwest for Wiretapping

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Plaintiff Aaron Siani says Southwest Airlines secretly recorded a cellphone conversation without his consent, in violation of his right to privacy. On September 1, 2014, Siani received a call from a Southwest customer service agent regarding a refund for airline tickets he had previously purchased. After providing personal information to the representative, Siani asked whether the conversation was being recorded and the representative acknowledged in the affirmative that it was. Had he known that the conversation was being recorded, Siani says that he would have been more careful with the sensitive information that he communicated to the representative.

On September 7, 2014, in California federal court, Plaintiff Siani brought a class action suit against Southwest Airlines Co. alleging that the airline has a uniform practice of having employees record cellphone conversation without customers’ consent, in violation of California state law. California Penal Code Section 632 requires that all parties must consent to an electronic amplifying or recording device. As a “two-party state,” California customers must be notified of the recording and must give consent prior to being recorded. Siani says that he did not give consent, and had to ask the Southwest representative whether the call was being recorded before he was informed that it was.

The class action suit seeks an injunction, $5,000 per violation per each class member, and an order preventing Southwest Airlines from recording calls to Californians without consent and to maintain client confidentiality in regards to the information that airline representatives receive. According to the complaint, the class may include more than 10,000 members of California residents whose phone conversations with Southwest were recorded without their consent in the past year.

If you are someone you know has suffered injuries as a result of illegal recordings of confidential communications, you may be entitled to relief. Please contact Khorrami Boucher, LLP for a confidential consultation.

August 22, 2014 / Priscilla Szeto

Man Suffering from Mental Breakdown Shot to Death by Police Officer

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A Pennsylvania police officer is facing claims filed against him for having fatally shot a man inside his own home before the police obtained a mental health warrant.

On November 7, 2012, “an employee or agent of Community Counseling Services requested that a mental health commitment warrant be issued against” Brian Williams after he allegedly “threatened to kill his wife” during a counseling session. Police officers from Overfield Township, including police officer Mark Papi, subsequently went to William’s home despite not having the warrant yet at the time of their arrival.

When Williams refused to exit, the officers “did a number of things to further antagonize” Williams, who was suffering from a mental health breakdown at the time. The officers pepper-sprayed the Williams family dogs and also prevented Williams’ wife and mother from going inside the house, even though Williams said he would “come out as long as he got to talk to his wife and mother.” After finally expressing a willingness to come out, the officers, rather than wait for William’s peaceful exit, instead took out their shields and guns and entered through the front and basement doors. Williams was knocked down and shocked with taser guns; shortly thereafter Officer Papi, who was instructed to “stay outside, in the perimeter of the home,” charged into the home and shot Williams; Officer Papi was the “only officer who discharged his weapon,” and Williams’ cause of death was listed as “multiple gunshot wounds.”

On July 3, 2014, Judge Robert Mariani denied Papi’s Motion to dismiss the unreasonable seizure as well as assault and battery claims filed against him in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, arguing that he was entitled to qualified immunity under the Fourth Amendment. The opinion noted that the defendant Papi made a lot of “assertions of fact in support of his Motion that either involve gross generalizations or cannot reasonably be implied from the facts of the Complaint.” An example cited was defendant’s assertion that Williams was in a “dangerous state of mind, as revealed by the indisputable fact that police were at his residence to execute a mental health warrant . . . .” Judge Mariani rejected these assertions noting that, “it cannot be said that a passive individual with a mental health warrant against him is just as dangerous as an obstreperous one . . .the circumstances of William’s own death . . . cannot be generalized according to abstract notions of ‘danger’ . . . .”

In denying the motion, Judge Mariani concluded that there is “no reason to believe that qualified immunity exists as a matter of law.”

If you or someone you know has been a victim of police misconduct, you may be entitled to relief. Please call Khorrami Boucher, LLP for a confidential consultation.

August 21, 2014 / Alexis Domb

Whole Foods Class Action Accuses Grocer of Mislabeling

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class action lawsuit recently filed against Whole Foods asserts that the popular specialty food retailer is mislabeling products as “organic” or “all natural”—in spite of such products not meeting those standards—to trick consumers into paying premium prices.
Arkansas woman Connie Stafford is seeking damages on behalf of herself and any Arkansas resident who purchased the following products from Whole Foods: 365 Everyday Value Cola, 365 Everyday Value Ginger Ale, 365 Everyday Value Root Beer, 365 Everyday Value Organic Tomato Ketchup, or 365 Everyday Value Organic Chicken Broth. The complaint alleges violations of state consumer protection laws. (Connie Stafford v. Whole Foods Market California Inc., Case No. 14-cv-00420, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas).

The Whole Foods class action argues that those laws “recognize that the failure to disclose the presence of risk-increasing nutrients is deceptive because it conveys to consumers the impression that a food makes only positive contributions to a diet, or does not contain any nutrients at levels that raise the risk of diet-related diseases or health-related conditions.” The five products listed above feature labels with phrases like “organic” or “all natural.”

Despite those labels, however, Whole Foods’ store brand cola includes synthetic ingredients, such as caramel coloring and tartaric acid; the root beer and ginger ale both contain carbon dioxide and citric acid. According to the class action, Whole Foods designed its marketing campaign to increase sales of those products. The class action also contends that “a reasonable person would attach importance to the [mislabeling]…in determining whether to purchase the products at issue.”

Plaintiff Stafford’s lawsuit is only one of an increasing number of lawsuits being filed across the country where consumers seek monetary damages and an injunction on purportedly illegal terms on food and beverage labels, such as “all natural” and “organic.” Cases like the Whole Foods class action have been popping up in courts across the nation, and false advertising has become a hot-button issue, especially in California.

According to Food-NavigatorUSA.com, California federal judges have allowed class actions against companies like Blue Diamond and Dole to proceed. Moreover, a California judge recently granted final approval of $3.4 million settlement in a class action against Trader Joe’s.

If you or someone you know has suffered injuries as a result of false or misleading advertising, you may be entitled to relief. Please contact Khorrami Boucher, LLP for a confidential consultation.

August 1, 2014 / Alexis Domb

Settlement Finalized in Trader Joe’s ‘All Natural’ Class Action

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On July 11, a federal judge in California granted final approval of a $3.4 million settlement in the class action lawsuit accusing Trader Joe’s Co. of falsely advertising some of its products as “All Natural” when, in fact, those products contained artificial ingredients. (Tamar Davis Larsen, et al. v. Trader Joe’s Co., Case No. 3:11-cv-05188-WHO, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California).

According to the complaint, the products at issue include Joe-Joe’s Chocolate Vanilla Creme Cookies, Joe-Joe’s Chocolate Sandwich Creme Cookies, Trader Joe’s Fresh Pressed Apple Juice, Trader Joe’s Jumbo Cinnamon Rolls, Trader Joe’s Crescent Rolls, Trader Joe’s Buttermilk Biscuits, Trader Joe’s Fruit Jellies, and Trader Giotto’s “100% Natural” Fat-Free Ricotta Cheese.

The class action asserted that Trader Joe’s falsely labeled such products as “All Natural” or “100% Natural” even though they contained synthetic ingredients, such as xanthan gum and sodium acid pyrophosphate. In the complaint, plaintiffs rely on the United States Food and Drug Administration’s statement that a product is not “natural” if it contains color additives, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.

California residents Tamar Davis Larsen and Aran Eisenstat brought the suit on behalf of tens of thousands of customers who purchased Trader Joe’s products allegedly falsely labeled as “All Natural” or “100% Natural” from October 2007 to present.

The suit asserted claims for common law fraud; unjust enrichment; unlawful, unfair, and fraudulent business practice in violation of California’s Unfair Competition Law; false advertising; and violation of the Consumer Legal Remedies Act.

Trader Joe’s denied all claims but agreed to the settlement, which was granted preliminary approval by U.S. District Judge William Orrick in February. Judge Orrick recently gave final approval, finding that the terms are fair, reasonable and adequate.

Under the terms of the settlement, Trader Joe’s has agreed to stop using the disputed labels on the products unless they are reformulated or the law is altered such that the use of “All Natural” or “100% Natural” would not be false or misleading. Each class member with proof of purpose can be fully reimbursed for each product purchased since October 2007. Class members without proof of purchase will be entitled to receive reimbursement for up to ten products. If there are remaining settlement funds, those funds will be distributed to class members in the form of products at Trader Joe’s grocery stores througout the country.

If you or someone you know has suffered injuries as a result of false or misleading advertising, you may be entitled to relief. Please contact Khorrami Boucher, LLP for a confidential consultation.

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