It’s Friday the 13th today – but there’s nothing to worry about. We’re back with another Class Action Roundup, bringing you news and updates from across the country.
Can You Trust Angie’s List Reviews?
We’ve written before about the confusing world of paid reviews. In August of last year, Yelp faced a lawsuit from reviewers who argued that they should be paid for their work. That might sound like a silly lawsuit, but one thing came to light that surprised many: some Yelp reviewers were paid for their reviews, with certain “Elite squad” and “Yelp scout” members offered special offers, merchandise and – yes – money for their reviews. Paying for reviews may be a bit of a grey area ethically, but it’s not in and of itself illegal. Sites that present reviews as fair and impartial may end up in trouble, however, if readers aren’t getting what they expect. In a lawsuit filed this week against Angie’s List Inc., plaintiff Janelle Moore claims that Angie’s List profits by manipulating review filters for local services, showing misleading results to users who have paid for the service. In the suit, filed in Pennsylvania, she says the company “deceives, defrauds, and misleads” its members by pretending to be a “passive conduit” when in reality companies can influence their ranking by paying advertising fees.
Data Breach Drives New Uber Lawsuit
Another day, another Uber lawsuit. In July of last year, we wrote about worldwide protests against the ride-sharing company. Then, there was the lawsuit over the drivers’ minimum wage demands, which just recently moved forward to trial. In December 2014, Forbes reported on a class action over the company’s $1 “Safe Rides Fee,” filed by two Uber passengers who questioned the company’s representation of its background checks as “industry leading.” It’s beginning to feel like Uber only needs one more lawsuit to get class action bingo – and this week, that suit came. Drivers in California filed a suit alleging that a data breach had put the personal information of more than 50,000 current and former drivers in danger. Uber announced last February that it was contacting drivers affected by the March 2014 breach, and the lawsuit now accuses the company of negligence for putting off telling the drivers. The suit seeks to represent drivers from multiple states and alleges violations of federal and California data security laws.
Oldest Trick in the Book? Anti-Aging “Hoax” Hit with Lawsuit
Any product that promises a seemingly miraculous cure should probably be taken with a grain of salt. G. M. Collin’s Phyto Stem Cell+ range of skin care and anti-aging products is a good example. The products allegedly claim to reverse the signs of aging “by improving the vitality of skin cells and repair[ing] DNA” – but this week the company was hit by a lawsuit claiming G. M. Collin’s marketing was deceptive, misleading, and nothing more than a hoax. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit claim the skin care products don’t actually contain any living plant cell extracts – even though their labels suggest that these are the active ingredients. Analysis of the products also found no ingredients that can actually repair skin DNA, the suit claims.
Why would a company make a product that doesn’t actually work? The lawsuit’s allegations are clear: “G.M. Collin does so with one goal in mind — reaping enormous profits at the expense of consumers.”
Ethicon Pelvic Mesh Bellwether Settles Mid-Trial
Vaginal mesh lawsuits have been going on for some time now, with multiple companies facing claims that they manufactured and sold defective devices. Because of the vast number of lawsuits (which are mass torts, rather than class actions), a number of companies are now facing bellwether trials – trials that take place with representative plaintiffs in the hopes of showing how the litigation will ultimately resolve. If several bellwether trials end in settlements, a company may choose to settle rather than face the costly and time-consuming prospect of going to trial for every single plaintiff (which, in these cases, sometimes number in the thousands). That’s why bellwether trials matter – and why it’s big news that Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon unit has settled its latest pelvic mesh bellwether mid-trial. The company has agreed to pay an undisclosed sum and the trial, into its fifth day, ended without a ruling from the jury. The settlement follows last Thursday’s $5.7 million jury verdict against Ethicon in a similar lawsuit heard in California.
Children’s Purchases Means Facebook’s in Trouble
PCWorld is reporting that Facebook will have to fight a class action lawsuit over unrefunded purchases made by children without their parents’ permission following Judge Beth Labson Freeman’s decision to allow the suit to continue. The lawsuit was first filed in 2012 and alleges that, by allowing children to make purchases in games and Facebook-linked apps, the site violates California state law. In one case, the child of a plaintiff racked up more than $1,000 of purchases without realizing Facebook credits were linked to real world currency – and when the parent sought a refund, Facebook offered less than $60. The certified class covers the years 2008 to 2015, meaning potentially millions of Facebook users who were minors at that time could file claims if the suit settles.