The old adage goes (to our understanding, anyway) that teamwork makes the class action dream work. Keeping true to that idea, we’re taking our regularly scheduled Class Action Roundup in a different, more collaborative direction.
For this week’s roundup, you’ll find write-ups from all of our staff writers on the most important class action lawsuit and settlement news. Heck, we might even do this next week too. (That was a joke, you see, as this is our job and therefore our obligation to put together another roundup sometime in the next week or so.)
USC Agrees to Pay $215 Million to Settle Gynecologist Sexual Abuse Class Action Lawsuit
The University of Southern California announced on October 19 that it will pay $215 million to settle claims that former campus gynecologist Dr. George Tyndall sexually abused and harassed hundreds of students over his nearly 30-year tenure at the school. NBC News, citing the Associated Press, writes that the settlement, which awaits a judge’s approval, will provide anywhere from $2,500 up to $250,000 to women who claim Dr. Tyndall engaged in sexual misconduct with them between 1988 and 2016.
The accusers allege Dr. Tyndall “routinely” made crude comments, took lewd photos, and forced patients to strip naked under the guise of medical treatment. Since the first allegations came to light last year, approximately 500 women have accused Dr. Tyndall of sexual abuse and multiple class action lawsuits have been filed in federal court.
The settlement, however, is not without detractors, including those who argue USC intentionally withheld what it knew about Dr. Tyndall’s alleged behavior. An attorney who represents more than 80 women currently suing USC argues the settlement is no more than a low-ball offer meant to protect the accused and the institution. The attorney, NBC News writes, has even counseled clients against taking part in the settlement. Put simply, attorneys for the accusers claim $215 million is simply not enough money considering the full scope of Dr. Tyndall’s alleged conduct.
"In our opinion, for what some of the victims went through, this is a nuisance amount and may not properly compensate victims for what some of them have suffered," attorney Gloria Allred said.
The Los Angeles Times writes as many as 17,000 students and alumnae may be eligible to take part in the settlement, which stems from a specific federally filed class action but is open to every woman who ever had an appointment with Dr. Tyndall.
While Dr. Tyndall has yet to be charged with any crime, NBC News says the Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles County district attorney’s office are reviewing the accusers’ claims.
Head over to NBC News for more.
Ticketfly Owner Eventbrite Slammed with Class Action Lawsuit Following May 2018 “Cyber Incident”
It’s been a bad few months for big-name ticket brokers, with Eventbrite recently admitting that a substantial data breach hit its Ticketfly subsidiary back in late May. Now, the ticketing company, right on schedule, is facing a proposed class action lawsuit in Illinois state court.
According to Billboard, the suit claims Eventbrite’s supposedly inadequate cybersecurity prevention, detection and response procedures are to blame for consumers’ sensitive data being left out in the open to ransomware hackers. Ticketfly, the suit says, “failed to prevent, detect, or otherwise act in a reasonable manner or within a reasonable time.” According to Ticketfly, 27 million users had their information accessed as part of the cyber incident. (It goes without saying that if you hold a Ticketfly account, it’s time to change your password.)
Another sticking point in the lawsuit is Ticketfly’s supposed failure to take the extra step to adequately notify users that their data had been compromised.
“Aside from a passive support page and a single Tweet on social media,” the case says, “Eventbrite failed to take measures to alert [the plaintiff] that her [personally identifiable information] had been compromised in the data breach.”
Billboard reporter Taylor Mims has everything you need to know.
Alleged Misrepresentation of Promo Clips in iTunes Season Pass Sparks Class Action Against Apple
Apple has been hit with a proposed class action lawsuit that claims the company misrepresents what cord-cutting iTunes users get with their “season passes.” The lawsuit, filed October 5th in California, revolves around the fact that Apple allows customers to either buy TV shows by the individual episode or to purchase an entire season’s worth of episodes in one shot via a season pass. The problem with this, the lawsuit says, is that short promotional clips included with the season pass are each counted as a single episode, leading users to believe they’re getting more full-length episodes than they actually are. From the complaint:
Consumers purchase the Season Features, reasonably believing that each episode is a standard, plot-based episode and that, by purchasing the Season Features, they are receiving a significant discount over purchasing each episode individually, however, because many of the episodes in the Season Features are promotional clips, consumers are not receiving the number of episodes and the discount they expected.”
For example, one plaintiff in the case claims she bought a season pass for Genius: Einstein thinking that she would be getting 13 episodes of the show. In reality, the plaintiff says, seven of those “episodes” were promotional clips, leaving only six actual episodes for a price tag of $25.
9to5Mac has the full story here.
At Long Last, Walmart Settles Cashier Seating Litigation
Walmart has agreed to pay $65 million to finally settle a nine-year-old lawsuit over the lack of seating for its cashiers. If granted final approval, the settlement will cover up to 100,000 current and former cashiers in California, making the deal one of the largest ever under the state’s Private Attorney General Act, a law that allows workers to sue their employers on behalf of the state.
Reuters points out that Walmart has denied any wrongdoing. For years, though, the retailer claimed that having stools at cash registers posed both a safety and productivity concern. In addition to the monetary award, Walmart has agreed to provide seating to cashiers in California as part of the settlement.
For more on the settlement and the case leading up to it, Reuters has the scoop.
Reality TV Workers Sue Property Brothers Producer Cineflix Over Alleged Misclassification
Property Brothers producer Cineflix Media has been hit with a $35 million class action over claims that hundreds of the company’s workers were improperly classified as independent contractors and deprived of proper wages and benefits.
Filed by a story editor who worked on HGTV’s Property Brothers out of the defendant’s Toronto office, the case describes a systemic misclassification scheme whereby Cineflix allegedly denied the companies’ non-union, freelance workers the appropriate minimum wage and overtime and vacation pay.
The Hollywood Reporter writes that a larger industry trend is blossoming in Canada in which contract non-union workers are hired for reality TV and required to perform in highly controlled conditions without receiving the benefits that come along with being true employees.
Although class members are not unionized, the lawsuit has caught the attention of the Canadian Media Guild, which expressed its support for the workers and called the case a “big step” toward fair employment in reality television.
USA Diving and RipFest Facing Sexual Abuse Class Action
Another a proposed class action was filed earlier this month against Indianapolis-based USA Diving over claims that the organization allowed athletes to be sexually abused while under its care. Cases like this have become all too familiar, with at least six others filed this year over alleged sexual abuse in the sports community.
The lawsuit was filed by two women who claim they were sexually assaulted at RipFest, an Arcadia, Indiana diving academy owned by former U.S. Olympic diving coach John Wingfield. The case claims Wingfield received a number of sexual abuse complaints about RipFest coach Johel Ramirez Suarez and instead of taking action, essentially swept the reports under the rug.
One of the plaintiffs, an employee at the diving academy, says she was sleeping in the club’s dormitories during the fall of 2016 when she woke up to Ramirez Suarez sexually assaulting her. The other plaintiff, a young diver who the coach supposedly recruited from Michigan to join RipFest’s program, claims the man regularly abused her during stretching exercises. She was only 16 at the time, according to the lawsuit.
The case argues that USA Diving, Wingfield, and RipFest were aware of the abuse taking place at the diving club and should have done something to prevent it instead of enabling alleged perpetrators to commit sexual assault.
NBC’s WTHR has the full story.
Class Action Lawsuit Calls E-Scooters a “Public Nuisance”
A proposed class action was filed in California last week in which eight plaintiffs claim a group of electronic-scooter companies is responsible for “assaults” committed by e-scooter riders.
The lawsuit accuses Lime and Bird, among other e-scooter companies, of “gross negligence” and “aiding and abetting assault” by releasing thousands of scooters to the public without warning riders and pedestrians alike that the devices could be dangerous. The plaintiffs, who allegedly suffered injuries related to tripping over, being hit by, and/or riding the e-scooters, claim the devices are “not suitable” for repeated use in public and don’t come with adequate instructions and regulations.
One plaintiff, a 62-year-old street performer, allegedly suffered a fractured arm and severed bicep after being struck by an e-scooter rider, causing him to miss weeks of work. The man, echoing the sentiments of the other plaintiffs, is hoping to hold the e-scooter makers accountable for injuries caused by what he likes to call their “human meat grinder.”
Check out The Washington Post for more details.