Skip to content
August 22, 2014 / Priscilla Szeto

Man Suffering from Mental Breakdown Shot to Death by Police Officer

police-shooting-crosshairs-tape

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

whole-foods-market-logo-in-helvetica-1024x632

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

TraderJoesLogo-copy1

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.

July 23, 2014 / Alexis Domb

Settlement Reached in Suave Keratin Infusion Class Action

xsuave,P20karatin,P20infusion_jpg_pagespeed_ic_xdpW2jEAmf

On July 9, 2014, a federal judge granted approval of a $10.2 million settlement in the Suave Keratin class action lawsuit, which alleged that Unilever PLC—the manufacturer of the Suave Keratin Infusion 30-Day Smoothing Kit—had engaged in the sale of defective products. The class action, filed in 2012 (Sidney Reid, et al. v. Unilever United States Inc., et al., Case No. 1:12-cv-06058, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois), alleged that Unilever’s Suave Keratin Smoothing Kit caused consumers to suffer hair loss and/or scalp injury.

Class members of the Suave Keratin class action settlement include all individuals who purchased the Suave Professionals Keratin Infusion 30-Day Smoothing Kit in the United States for personal or home use prior to February 17, 2014.

The lawsuit claimed that Unilever allured consumers into buying the Suave Keratin Infusion Smoothing Kit by making false and misleading statements about the safety of its hair product. Specifically, this class action argued that Unilever failed to disclose to consumers the unreasonable risk of hair and/or scalp injury associated with use of the Suave Keratin 30-Day Smoothing Kit.

Unilever denies such allegations but has agreed to the settlement to avoid the burden of ongoing litigation. Under the terms of the settlement, a Reimbursement Fund worth $250,000 and an Injury Fund worth $10 million will be created. The Injury Fund will compensate injured class members for their medical expenses and emotional distress.

The settlement provides that class members who suffered Smoothing Kit injuries may submit reimbursement claims ranging between $40 and $25,000, based on the extent of their injuries and proof of their treatment costs. Additionally, class members who did not suffer injury from the Smoothing Kit may receive reimbursements of up to $10.

U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo granted approval of the Unilever class action settlement after the final fairness hearing. Judge Castillo overruled objections from class members who argued the payout was too small for those who suffered serious injuries as a result of using the Suave Smoothing Kit. Furthermore, Judge Castillo stated that class members were free to opt out of the settlement and file their own individual personal injury lawsuits.

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

July 2, 2014 / Scott Tillett

California Federal Court Denies Certification of Consumer Class Action Against ConAgra Foods

cans

On June 13, 2014, a California federal judge denied a motion to certify a class of California consumers in a class action against ConAgra Foods for alleged deceptive and misleading advertising of the company’s Hunt’s tomato products, PAM cooking sprays, and Swiss Miss hot cocoas.

Plaintiffs Levi Jones, Christin Sturges, and Edd Ozard filed the class action on behalf of themselves and all Californians who had purchased Hunt’s, PAM, and Swiss Miss products, alleging that the company mislabeled its products as 100% natural, when they contained chemicals, preservatives, and other artificial ingredients and made unlawful claims respecting the products’ antioxidant properties. By filing the lawsuit as a class action, the plaintiffs sought to represent a larger group, or “class”; in this case, California consumers who had also purchased the products. In order to proceed as a class action in federal court, the plaintiffs were required to file a motion for class certification, demonstrating to the court, among other things, that the class meets various prerequisites, including commonality of the claims of the various class members (e.g., that they have all been subjected to the same unlawful practices by the defendant), that the named class members’ claims are typical of those of the class members they seek to represent, and that the plaintiffs’ lawsuit will adequately protect the interests of the class.

The court denied the plaintiffs’ motion for class certification with respect to each of the three products at issue for several reasons. The reasons cited by the court included difficulties determining who the class members are and how many of which type of product each class member purchased due to numerous label changes for the various products and lack of consumer receipts. The court also determined that individual issues would predominate over common ones related to whether the challenged “100% natural” and antioxidant claims in the various product advertisements and labels were material to consumers and/or whether they relied upon the alleged misrepresentations in deciding to purchase the products. The plaintiffs may decide to appeal the decision, but have not indicated that they will do so at this time.

If you or someone you know has purchased a product based upon false or misleading advertisements, you may be entitled to relief. Please call Khorrami Boucher, LLP for a confidential consultation.

 

July 2, 2014 / Alexis Domb

Consumers File Class Action After Getting Burned by Merck’s Coppertone SPF 55+ Products

43415_w

On June 4, 2014, San Diego woman Danika Gisvold filed a class action accusing Merck & Co. Inc. of consumer fraud (Danika Gisvold v. Merck & Co. Inc., et al., Case No. 14-cv-01371, S. D. CA.). The class action lawsuit asserts that Merck is tricking consumers into paying higher prices for its Coppertone sunscreen products with Sun Protection Factors (SPF) of 55 to 100+, even though they allegedly contain “virtually identical active ingredients as the Coppertone SPF 50 Products,” which cost less.

The class action alleges that Merck is conducting a “false, misleading, and deceptive” advertising campaign. The lawsuit also claims that “Merck has consistently conveyed the message to consumers…that the Coppertone SPF 55-100+ collection provides superior UVB protection compared to the comparable lower SPF valued products…” The class action claims that the Coppertone’s 55-100+ SPF sunscreens in fact do not offer greater sun protection.

According to the complaint, “[c]onsumers have become familiar with SPF values because they have appeared on sunscreen product labels for decades,” and “[c]onsumers have learned to associate higher SPF values with greater sun protection.” The class action stresses that consumers reasonably assume that a product with SPF 100+ provides double the sun protection as a product with 50 SPF.

The complaint alleges that the US Food and Drug Administration and other scientific studies have revealed that products with SPF values over 50 do not provide greater sun protection than SPF 50 products. Plaintiff Gisvold asserts that “none of the sunscreen products in the Coppertone SPF 55-100+ collection provide any additional clinical benefit over the Coppertone SPF 50 products.”

The class action complaint states, “As a result of Merck’s superior UVB protection claims, consumers…have purchased products that do not perform as advertised.” According to Topclassactions.com, Merck allegedly continues to claim that the Coppertone SPF 55-100+ sunscreens offer “superior UVB protection and sells the products for a premium price.”

Plaintiff Gisvold asserts that Merck has violated California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act, Unfair Competition Law, as well as breach of express warranty.

If you or someone you know has purchased a product in reliance on misleading labeling or advertising, you may be entitled to relief. Please contact Khorrami Boucher, LLP for a confidential consultation.

 

July 2, 2014 / Alexis Domb

Hydroxycut Cuts its Losses by Agreeing to Settle in Consumer Fraud Class Action

hydroxycut-hardcore-elite

Iovate Health Sciences USA, Inc. has recently decided to settle a class action lawsuit brought against it for allegedly making false and misleading statements in advertising and labeling its Hydroxycut dietary supplement products. (Daniel Garcia v. Iovate Health Sciences U.S.A., Inc., Case No. 1402915 ,filed with the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Santa Barbara.)

The class action argued that Iovate, in marketing its Hydroxycut products, violated California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act, Unfair Competition Law, as well as breach of express warranty. The suit alleged that Iovate falsely advertised the efficacy of over thirty of its products, such as its Hydroxycut Weight Loss Drink Mix, Hydroxycut Green Coffee, and Hydroxycut Premium Cleanse.

As a result of the Iovate Hydroxycut Settlement, class members who bought certain Hydroxycut supplement products between July 20, 2008 and March 19, 2014 may receive refunds for their purchases if they have a purchase receipt. In addition, Iovate has agreed to a Settlement Fund of $550,000 to reimburse class members who no longer have their receipts for the price of up to two bottles of Hydroxycut purchased. The deadline for Hydroxycut purchasers to file a claim for reimbursement pursuant to the settlement is July 30, 2014. (See the Stipulation and Agreement of Settlement.)

If you or someone you know has purchased a product in reliance on misleading labeling or advertising, you may be entitled to relief. Please contact Khorrami Boucher, LLP for a confidential consultation.

 

July 2, 2014 / Blake Gaines

Federal Judge Refuses to Dismiss Chocolate Mislabeling Claims Against Mars

Mars-Candy-Coupons

On June 17, 2014, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh refused to dismiss a class action lawsuit alleging that Mars mislabeled calorie and nutrient information on M&Ms, Twix, Snickers, and Dove chocolates. The complaint attacks Mars’ advertisements that the chocolates are “natural source(s) of cocoa flavanols.”

The class representative, Phyllis Gustavson, claims to have spent over $25 dollars on these products, which purportedly violate Food & Drug Administration (FDA) requirements by using undefined terms, like “source,” and by making nutritional content claims for the nutrient flavanol without a fixed percentage of the established daily value.

Gustavson claims that the Mars chocolates in question cannot contain sufficient flavanols to meet the FDA’s requirements because the FDA has yet to establish a recommended daily value for flavanols. Mars filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that its advertisements simply inform customers that flavanols are naturally present in the chocolate, but at no specific level. Nevertheless, Judge Lucy Koh disagreed, denying Mars’ motion, stating that the term “natural source” arguably “implies that the nutrient is present in substantial quantities.”

Additionally, Gustavson claims that Mars violated FDA regulations by not including directions prompting customers to read the full nutrition information regarding the high levels of fat contained in the products located on the back of the packaging.

Gustavson also accuses Mars of not identifying “polyglycerol polyricinoleic acid” by its known name.  Mars made no efforts to challenge this claim.

If you or someone you know has been misled by nutritional representations made by Mars, you may be entitled to relief. Please call Khorrami Boucher, LLP for a confidential consultation.

June 10, 2014 / Blake Gaines

New Regulations Prohibit Insurance Companies from Delaying or Refusing Necessary Treatment for Individuals with Autism

Autism1

California insurance companies have denied coverage for treatment of autism with increasing regularity. In response to this serious issue, the California Department of Insurance and the Office of Administrative Law recently bolstered the Mental Health Parity Act by requiring health insurance plans cover behavioral health treatments for individuals with autism. These regulations will enable more rigorous enforcement practices and impose stricter penalties on insurance companies that delay or refuse coverage for necessary autism treatments.

Industry professionals have credited Insurance Commissioner, Dave Jones, with the recent regulatory improvements. For example, Julie Kornack, a senior public policy analyst at the Center for Autism and Related Disorders, stated “This really is making the state law and making the public policy clear. You shouldn’t underestimate that we have an insurance commissioner who is committed to the autism community and to make health plans behave. That’s not something you find in every state.”

The new regulations forbid “unreasonable” denials and delays of necessary behavioral health treatments. For example, the regulations identify “unreasonable” delays as delays due to an alleged need for IQ testing and “unreasonable” denials as encompassing refusals due to the experimental nature of certain treatments. “Unreasonable” denials also include refusals of treatment from an appropriately accredited treatment provider not specified as a doctor or one who does not have a specific license.

Furthermore, the new regulations bar insurance companies from imposing limitations on coverage for necessary treatment visits, or from instituting monetary caps on treatment unless the limit uniformly applies to an entire policy.

Multiple non-profit autism organizations, such as Autism Speaks, recognize the necessity of neurological, language and speech therapy, and occupational therapy treatments, which can decrease a variety of issues that autistic individuals face. In accordance with the recently approved regulations, if these treatments are deemed medically necessary they should be covered by health insurance plans offered in California.

Commissioner Jones believes that the recent regulatory changes “will help end improper insurer delays and denials of medically necessary treatments for autistic individuals.” Additionally, the Commissioner stated, “This regulation provides clear guidance to the industry, stakeholders and consumers on the requirements of the Mental Health Parity Act.”

If you or someone you know has been denied coverage for necessary autism treatment forApplied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), speech therapy, or occupational therapy, you may be entitled to relief. Please call Khorrami Boucher, LLP for a confidential consultation.

 

June 5, 2014 / Alexis Domb

The Skinny on Laci Le Beau Diet Tea: California Federal Court Allows Consumer Class Action to Proceed

thCAXKMJBY

On May 14, 2014, a California federal judge declined to dismiss a putative class action against Natrol Products, Inc.—a nutritional supplement company—alleging that advertising of its Laci Le Beau Super Dieter’s Tea as a weight loss aid designed to support reduction of excess body fat and accumulated toxins is false and misleading.

Augustine filed her class action complaint in December 2013 (Augustine et al v. Natrol Products, Inc., Case No. 13-cv003129, S. D. CA.), alleging false advertising and labeling of the Dieter’s Tea. The class action claims that the product’s marketing is “false or deceptive” and that regular use of the product is not only ineffective for weight loss and appetite suppression, but can actually cause dependence on stimulant laxatives and serious health problems.

According to the complaint, the tea’s main ingredient, Senna, is “an herbal laxative that does not assist in weight loss and actually causes chronic bloating and constipation.” As confirmed by the National Institute of Health, Senna is not safe for long-term use, despite that Natrol’s packaging encourages regular use as part of a “lifestyle.” The class action suit claims studies reveal that regular consumption of Senna has been tied to health dangers, such as toxicity, hepatitis, liver failure, arthritis and finger “clubbing,” laxative dependency, and even cancer.

In the recent motion to dismiss, Natrol argued to the court that Augustine’s claims were too vague and that the statements on the tea’s packaging are not likely to deceive consumers, but merely contained nonactionable puffery. The court rejected this argument concluding that a reasonable consumer may be deceived by the statements on the tea’s packaging. The court has allowed the case to move forward, giving Augustine a chance to pursue her claims against Natrol on behalf of herself and others who purchased the Dieter’s Tea.

If you or someone you know has purchased a product in reliance on misleading labeling or advertising, you may be entitled to relief. Please contact Khorrami Boucher, LLP for a confidential consultation.

 

 

Consumer Advocate Legal Update

Insight and Commentary on Consumer Legal Issues

Plaintiffs-Advocate

Insight and Commentary on Individual Rights

Fair Employment Legal Update

Insight and Commentary on Legal Employment Issues

KB News

Legal Updates and News About Khorrami Boucher, LLP

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 479 other followers