In this edition of the ClassAction.org Roundup, we have some alleged label misrepresentations from Clif Bar and Poland Spring, a Vice gender discrimination suit – and at this point, what would a roundup be without Facebook? All this and more can be found below. Let’s get into it.
Clif Bars May Not Be as Healthy as We Are Led to Believe
On the outside, a Clif Bar may seem like the perfect adventure food to keep you going on that long hike, cycling trip, or a particularly intense game of badminton – but a proposed class action is claiming that the so-called “nutrition” bars are nothing more than big ol’ cookies. According to the complaint, Clif Bars are loaded with an excessive amount of sugar, to the extent that as much as 37% of the calories in one bar come from added sugar. For context, The World Health Organization recommends that no more than 10% of an adult’s calories (and less than 5%, ideally) should come from added sugar.
The real issue isn’t the amount of sugar, though. People can eat what they want. The case takes issue with how the product is marketed. Clif Bars are packaged to resonate with the health-conscious consumer – throwing around claims like “nutrition for sustained energy,” “made with organic rolled oats” and “energy bar.” While it may be difficult to argue the validity of each statement on its own, the suit claims that the contents on the inside don’t accurately reflect the healthy vibe purported on the outside.
Food Navigator has the rest of the story, here.
Poland Spring Groundwater Lawsuit Springs Back to Life
Keeping with the theme of seemingly mislabeled food and drink, a proposed class action filed against Nestlé Waters over its Poland Spring water has been revived. Initially dismissed last year, the case claims that Poland Spring water contains “not one drop” of natural spring water and now, a judge has allowed an amended complaint to proceed on behalf of consumers in eight states, including Maine.
The crux of the suit stems from what can legally be called “spring water.” The lawsuit argues that Poland Spring water doesn’t come from a natural spring as advertised but is instead collected from wells that the company drills – and, in turn, it doesn’t meet the definition set forth by state law. Nestlé Waters, however, continues to argue that its Poland Spring products meet “all FDA regulations defining spring water.”
More information on the suit can be found over at Vox.
Facebook to Change Advertising Practices Following Discrimination Lawsuits
Facebook announced that it will make changes to its advertising services to settle numerous lawsuits that alleged the company enabled discrimination by allowing businesses to exclude minority audiences when showing ads for housing, jobs and other offers.
After a 2016 investigation found that Facebook allowed advertisers to prevent having their posts shown to users based on their race, the company was hit with a stream of lawsuits that claimed the social media giant was violating civil rights law. The suits alleged that by allowing posters to gear ads toward certain demographics, Facebook was effectively denying users access to housing, employment and credit opportunities based on age, gender and race.
Moving forward, Facebook says it will offer advertisers a “smaller set of targeting categories” for ads related to property listings, job openings and credit offers. Additionally, Facebook will build a platform that gives users access to all housing ads regardless of whether they are shown the posts individually.
For more on the story and what led up to these changes, head over to Vox.
Vice Agrees to $1.875 Million Settlement in Gender Discrimination Class Action
Vice Media has agreed to pay $1.875 million to settle a wage discrimination class action lawsuit that claimed female employees were systemically paid less than men for comparable work.
As reported by Variety, the case was filed in February 2018 over claims that Vice routinely paid male employees more than females, regardless of position. Men were also allegedly given favorable job assignments and were promoted more often and more quickly than women.
One plaintiff, a former Vice project manager, alleged she hired a male subordinate who the company promoted to her supervisor based on the belief that he would get along with male clients. Additionally, the man was paid $25,000 more than his female manager, which was apparently a widespread pattern within the company.
The settlement will reportedly cover attorneys’ fees and provide $15,000 awards for the five named plaintiffs, leaving about 670 remaining class members with around $1,720 each.
Class Action Lawsuit Claims Realtor Commission Structure Violates Antitrust Law
A proposed class action was recently filed against the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and several major real estate brokerages and franchisors over potential antitrust law violations.
At the heart of the case, as reported by Forbes, is the current real estate broker commission structure set up by NAR and followed by brokerages/franchises, including defendants Realogy, HomeServices of America, RE/MAX and Keller Williams. When brokers list a seller’s property on a Multiple Listing Service (MLS), NAR apparently requires that they make a “blanket, non-negotiable offer” to pay the buyer broker’s commission fees. This rule, the case explains, means buyer brokers don’t have to compete with each other in the market by offering lower commissions. Sellers, on the other hand, are allegedly forced to pay artificially inflated commission fees, a cost the suit says “would be borne by the buyer in a competitive market.”
In an opinion piece posted on Inman.com, 7DS Associates managing partner Robert Hahn calls the lawsuit a potential “nuclear bomb on the industry.” Not only is the suit seeking damages for potential class members – those who have sold a home listed on a named MLS within the past five years – it is also seeking to prohibit the defendants from requiring that sellers pay the buyer broker, a move Hahn claims could prove to be “a real threat” to the industry.
“If the court rules in favor of the plaintiffs here,” Hahn writes, “Realtor associations evaporate, the MLS likely dies off, and the entire infrastructure of residential real estate in the United States has to be remade.”
Head over to Forbes for more details.
Supreme Court Kicks Google Cy Pres Settlement Decision Back to Lower Court
In a recent decision, the Supreme Court remanded a lawsuit that questioned whether cy pres settlements can be considered “fair, reasonable, and adequate” under the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(e)(2), a law governing class action lawsuits.
The original case, according to The National Law Journal, was filed in 2010 against Google for allegedly violating the Stored Communications Act by sharing users’ search queries with third parties. Google reportedly reached an $8.5 million settlement with the plaintiffs, but because the potential class was so numerous, members would stand to receive only a few cents each if the settlement amount were to be split between them. The court decided to instead award a majority of the settlement – more than $5 million – to six cy pres recipients who are allegedly “devoted to web privacy.” Several class members objected to the settlement, however, and argued that such an agreement was not “fair, reasonable, and adequate” to the class, who would receive nothing at the end of the day.
That’s when the Supreme Court entered the scene, with an opportunity to decide whether cy pres settlements can be considered “fair, reasonable, and adequate” when they award funds to “unrelated third parties and lawyers but not to the parties making claims,” The National Law Journal writes. The decision turned out to be a bit anticlimactic, though.
Sidestepping the cy pres question, the high court kicked the case back to the Ninth Circuit to determine whether the plaintiffs even had standing to sue in the first place. After the Google case settled, the Supreme Court ruled in another case, Spokeo v. Robins, that plaintiffs must suffer “a concrete injury” in order to have any standing to assert their claims. The Google case, therefore, was sent back a lower court to be reconsidered in light of the more recent Spokeo decision.
The National Law Journal has more of the story.