No time for shenanigans. Let's round up this class action lawsuit news already!
Supply Line Child and Slave Labor Class Actions Against, Nestlé, Hershey, Mars Dismissed
A handful of proposed class action lawsuits were filed in February 2018 against some of the world’s largest chocolate companies over allegations that they deceived consumers by failing to disclose on product packaging that their cocoa supply chains relied on slave and child labor. Almost a year later, a Massachusetts federal judge has dismissed the lawsuits against Nestlé, the Hershey Company, and Mars saying that the plaintiff failed to properly state a claim for deceptive and unfair conduct.
Notably, United States District Court Judge Allison D. Burroughs acknowledged in her 15-page order that it is “beyond dispute that the use of child and slave labor in the production of cocoa in Cote d’Ivoire … is widespread, reprehensible, and tragic.” Further, Judge Burroughs added that the fact that major corporations source product ingredients through supply chains “involving slavery and the worst forms of child labor” raises significant ethical questions.
Despite such concerns, however, Judge Burroughs, after reiterating that the question before the court was whether Nestlé, Hershey and Mars were liable for their non-disclosures on product packaging, ruled that the plaintiff’s allegations of deception on the part of the defendants were not plausible given that consumers would not likely form an opinion one way or the other because of the omission:
Nestlé’s act of offering chocolate for sale implies that the product is fit for human consumption … but does not on its own give rise to any misleading impression about how Nestlé or its suppliers treat their workers. Where Nestlé has remained silent about its labor practices at the point of sale, it would not be objectively reasonable for a consumer to affirmatively form any preconception about the use of child or slave labor in Nestlé’s supply chain, let alone to make a purchase decision based on any such preconception. Accordingly, Plaintiff’s Complaint does not state a claim for deceptive conduct upon which relief could be granted under Chapter 93A.”
Judge Burroughs further stressed that the plaintiff did not allege that the defendant’s use of slave and child labor violated state law, but rather took issue with the omission of this fact, and found the plaintiff did not properly plead such a claim: From the order (emphasis ours):
The crux of her claim is that Nestlé engaged in unfair conduct by failing to disclose the existence of child and slave labor in its supply chain on the packaging of its products. In other words, Plaintiff is complaining about this omission and not about the underlying conduct. Plaintiff has not identified any common law or statutory authority requiring such disclosure, nor has she set forth any established concept of unfairness tethered to the disclosure of the labor abuses of a manufacturer’s supplier.”
Judge Burroughs further found that the plaintiff failed to show that the companies’ omissions on their products caused “substantial injury” to customers. Her order granting the cases’ dismissal can be read here.
Gotta Play to Win: Judge Certifies Class Action Over Alleged 19-State Lottery Ticket Scam
A lawsuit filed over what’s believed to be the largest lottery ticket scam in United States history has been granted class action status by an Iowa federal judge. A report from the Des Moines Register says Polk County District Judge Michael Hupper certified a class of consumers who together purchased no fewer than 7.2 million lottery tickets across 19 states and were allegedly scammed by a former national lottery IT worker in Iowa. Despite the Multi-State Lottery Association’s protests that it would be unmanageable for the suit to proceed as a class action, Judge Hupper ruled that affidavits would be useful in helping to identify potential class members.
According to the Register, former Multi-State Lottery Association IT director Eddie Tipton inserted malicious code into “random” number-generating software in 2005. The code allowed Tipton to narrow down the drawing’s winning odds “from as great as five million to one down to 200 to one,” the Register writes.
Tipton’s grift fell apart after he tried multiple times in 2011 to collect on a $16.5 million winning ticket bought at a convenience store. Tipton was sentenced in 2017 to up to 25 years in prison over the scam, the Register says. To date, at least three lawsuits have been filed by consumers who claim they were scammed.
The states with lottery games that may have been affected by Tipton’s conduct are Iowa, Colorado, Wisconsin, Kansas, Nebraska, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, South Dakota, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Delaware, Maine, Vermont, and Tennessee, as well as Washington D.C.
It Was Their “Destiny” – Activision Blizzard Sued Over Bungie Split
It’s been a long and troubled road for both entries of Activision Blizzard and Bungie’s Destiny video games – and it’s all culminating with the filing of several class action lawsuits.
Things were apparently troubled behind the scenes as well, as the two companies announced that they would be parting ways – leaving the rights to the Destiny franchise with Bungie. While this was potentially great news for all the gun-toting space-wizards out there (Activision was rumored to be behind the heavily criticized monetization practices found in Destiny 2), these developments aren’t sitting well with Activision Blizzard stockholders.
Since the split was announced, Activision’s stock has dropped ten percent and several class action lawsuits have been filed. The cases claim that Activision Blizzard misled shareholders about its plans for the Destiny series going forward, as they were well aware of the looming separation with Bungie.
And here I am wishing Peter Dinklage was still the voice of your little robot companion. Oh well. For more on the trials of the franchise, including the latest lawsuits, head over to Screen Rant.
"We on an Ultralight Beam" – Kanye & Fan Settle The Life of Pablo Exclusivity Lawsuit
Kanye West, Tidal and a dissatisfied fan have agreed to settle a potential class action over the exclusivity of Kanye’s album The Life of Pablo. A few years ago, when Kanye dropped the record, the only way you could listen to it was through Jay-Z’s music streaming service, Tidal. Kanye even outright stated that the album would “never never be on Apple…and it will never be for sale.”
But six weeks later, the album somehow made its way to Spotify, Apple Music, and pretty much every other streaming service – with the lawsuit quickly following. The case had the potential to become a class action, but the parties involved instead opted for a quiet settlement. All claims have been dropped, but, at this point, the financial terms of the settlement are unknown.
For more on the story, check out this article over at Digital Music News.
Tech Firm Oracle Sued by Dept. of Labor Over Allegedly Discriminatory Pay, Hiring Practices
Oracle America, Inc., one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent companies, is facing a lawsuit from the U.S. Department of Labor that alleges the tech firm discriminates against non-white and female employees when it comes to wages and hiring practices.
The suit details statistics compiled by the Department of Labor that supposedly illustrate Oracle’s discriminatory practices. The case says that, for example, out of the 500 people hired through the company’s college recruiting program from 2013 through 2016, only five were Hispanic and just six were African American. In some of these years, the case notes, Oracle hired no Black or Hispanic candidates. Rather, 90 percent of these 500 hires were Asian immigrants dependent upon Oracle for visa sponsorship, the suit says.
The Guardian writes that hiring individuals who needed visa sponsorship was a calculated power move to exploit the workers by paying them less. From the article:
The DoL suggested that Oracle also targets Asian workers due to their dependence on the company for authorization to work in the US, which allows the firm to then suppress their wages. The underpayment of Asian employees equals a total loss of $234m, the suit said.”
The Department of Labor further charges that Oracle systemically pays women and people of color considerably less than their peers. This wage disparity is due in part to Oracle’s improper practice of asking job candidates about their prior salaries in order to determine their starting pay, something that’s prohibited under California labor law, the case says. According to the lawsuit, Black, Asian and female employees with years of experience at Oracle are paid as much as 25 percent less than their counterparts.
Further still, the filing says that Oracle keeps non-white employees stuck in lower-paid positions. In fact, the Department of Labor found that out of the company’s few Black employees working between 2013 and 2016 (less than 30), none of them worked in management-level positions.
The Department of Labor, which first filed suit against Oracle in 2017, claims the company has since failed to correct its unjust practices. The result, according to the suit, is that the company now owes its employees well over $400 million in lost wages.
For more background on the case, head over to The Guardian.
Tinder Settles Class Action Over Age-Based Subscription Prices for $17 Million
Tinder has reached a $17.3 million agreement to settle a class action lawsuit’s claims that the online dating service discriminated against older Tinder Plus subscribers by charging them more than younger users.
Tinder Plus memberships differ from free accounts in that they allow users to look for matches in different cities, “rewind” left swipes and use more “Super Likes.” Filed by a California woman, the lawsuit took issue with Tinder charging users ages 30 and up a $19.99 monthly fee while charging younger users just $9.99 per month for the same premium service.
According to NPR, Tinder defended its “tiered pricing” initiative through a spokesperson who said, “Lots of products offer differentiated price tiers by age, like Spotify does for students, for example. Tinder is no different; during our testing we've learned, not surprisingly, that younger users are just as excited about Tinder Plus but are more budget constrained and need a lower price to pull the trigger.”
The settlement will provide $11.5 million worth of Super Likes, as well as $5.75 million in cash or cash-equivalent benefits to class members who submit a claim. More specifically, Tinder will automatically credit each class member’s account with 50 Super Likes—a $50 value. Individuals who submit a claim may choose one of the following additional rewards: $25 in cash, 25 additional Super Likes, or a one-month subscription to Tinder Plus or Tinder Gold.
Check out The Verge for more on the story.
Hyundai Agrees to Settle Shattering Sunroof Class Action
Hyundai Motor America has recently agreed to settle a class action lawsuit filed by a Hyundai owner who alleges the panoramic sunroof on certain vehicle models is prone to shattering.
Which models, you ask? According to the lawsuit, the alleged defect has affected the following vehicles that came factory-equipped with a panoramic sunroof:
2011-2016 Sonata Hybrid; 2010-2016 Tucson; 2012-2016 Sonata; 2012-2016 Veloster; 2013-2016 Santa Fe; 2013-2016 Santa Fe Sport; 2013-2016 Elantra GT; 2012-2016 Azera; and 2015-2016 Genesis.
The settlement aims to compensate Hyundai drivers by shifting the expenses related to the allegedly defective sunroofs “away from the individual class members and onto Hyundai.” How, you ask?
Under the settlement, Hyundai will be required to:
double the sunroof warranty on the above vehicles – to 10 years and 120,000 miles; provide free sunroof repairs going forward, even if the automaker believes the incident was caused by road debris; provide reimbursement for past repairs, including the cost of labor, repairs to paint and upholstery, and the cost of rental cars and tow trucks; pay $200 to anyone who experienced the shattering firsthand; warn all class members of the risk of their sunroofs shattering; pay up to $600 to anyone who, after receiving notice of the risk, decides to replace his or her vehicle with a non-Hyundai; or, alternatively, pay $1,000 to anyone who trades in his or her vehicle for a new Hyundai without a sunroof.
Hyundai, it should be noted, denies the presence of a defect in its vehicles’ panoramic sunroofs but “has an interest in its customers’ satisfaction and has therefore agreed to the settlement of this matter.” The settlement is now awaiting a judge’s final approval.
Check out the settlement agreement for more details.
Class Action Alleges Apple iOS Update Renders Old iPhone Chargers Useless
A proposed class action was filed in California federal court this week by a woman who alleges Apple released system updates for iPhones that were secretly designed to reject old charging devices and force users to purchase new ones.
The plaintiff in the case, as first reported by MacRumors, supposedly purchased an iPhone 7 sometime in September 2016 and used the included Apple power adapter to charge the device. Everything was going swimmingly, according to the complaint, until Apple pushed out an iOS update in October 2017. Around that time, the plaintiff says she attempted to charge her phone using the same old charger she had always used and received a message that read, “This accessory may not be supported.”
This alert, according to MacRumors, is designed to protect devices from “potentially dangerous aftermarket accessories” that could, say, light your phone on fire. But the plaintiff says she was using an Apple-certified power adapter that, as long it was used with an Apple-certified cable, shouldn’t have triggered the message.
The plaintiff alleges that the message, which apparently forces users to “either purchase new iPhones or new chargers,” is all part of Apple’s plan to line its pockets “to the detriment of Class Members.” She says she felt “ripped off, cheated, and violated” because Apple never warned her when she purchased the phone that her original charger would eventually become incompatible with the device.
While this certainly isn’t the first lawsuit to question Apple’s iOS updates, MacRumors asserts that “it simply doesn’t make sense” for Apple to release an update that would disable its own chargers.
Check it out for yourself at MacRumors.