Recently the U.S. Supreme Court struck another blow against consumers and employees in the case of Lamps Plus, Inc. v. Varela. Yet again the Court reasoned backward from the result it wanted to reach and went out of its way to find in favor of a corporate defendant – at the expense of individual citizens – by reading into a contract language that did not exist.
Looking for legal information and resources? If so, take a moment to check out Halunen Law’s Consumer blog for articles related to consumer class actions.
Halunen Law plays key role as co-counsel in victory for consumer rights and arbitration
Many companies include forced arbitration clauses and class action waivers in their contracts or terms of service. They do this to block consumers from banding together and holding them accountable in court when disputes arise, instead forcing them to proceed on an individual basis in private arbitration. These clauses overwhelmingly favor corporations, who win the majority of individual arbitration proceedings. And when consumers do win, the monetary awards they receive are often far less than sufficient to cover the damages they have suffered. Adding insult to injury, there is virtually never a right to appeal an arbitrator’s award, and the consumer is simply stuck with that award, even if it unfair, illogical, or legally wrong.
On October 2, 2017, the United States Supreme Court denied Samsung’s appeals from two joint decisions by the Ninth Circuit of Appeals on Norcia v. Samsung Telecoms. Am. LLC, 845 F.3d 1279 (9th Cir. 2017) and Dang v. Samsung Elecs. Co., 673 F. App’x 7798 (9th Cir. 2017). Before Norcia and Dang decisions, it was common practice for a manufacturer to include terms and conditions inside a product’s packaging. Within those terms were clauses forcing consumers to forego their rights to band together or go to court against the manufacturer. The Ninth Circuit’s decisions struck down enforcement on the grounds that for the clause to be applied, a consumer must know about it prior purchasing the item. The opinion became law for many consumers, including those in the country’s most populous state—California.
Mandatory arbitration and class action lawsuits are much in the news lately. The recent disclosure of the hacking at Equifax has people thinking about these topics, and some class actions have already been filed. Public Justice Executive Director Paul Bland is interviewed about the Congressional Review Action attack on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s arbitration rule. Paul explains why these issues have a significant impact on the broader public and why mandatory arbitration is so harmful to the consuming public.
This recent posting by Public Justice shows the importance of preserving the class action mechanism from arbitration clauses that prohibit class actions. Individual consumers often do not have the resources to challenge illegal conduct by a large corporation. In the attached story, if class actions were not available, military personnel would not have been able to challenge a blatant violation of the law by the Bank of America.
Read the full article here: hhttp://bit.ly/2wBlw42
In the ever-evolving world of consumer purchasing, companies are placing contracts in increasingly inconspicuous places. And the small print document that came with your recent electronics purchase, chances are it includes an arbitration clause. The clause likely prevents the purchaser from filing a lawsuit against the manufacturer in court, and allows for resolution of disputes only by a paid arbitrator. More than ever companies are attempting to force consumers to arbitrate any and all disputes by burying an arbitration clause deep within a booklet contained in a “shrink wrapped” product box—and if you don’t reject the clause within a certain period of time, you are deemed to have agreed with it. At Halunen Law, we think that’s not right.
Almost $1 billion of $1.3 billion donated to “America’s Worst Charities” in the past decade went to for-profit solicitors rather than the intended beneficiaries of these donations, reported The Tampa Bay Times in conjunction with the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) and the Cable News Network (CNN). Entitled “America’s Worst Charities,” the exposé listed detailed information pertaining to the top forty-eight “worst” charities in the nation and their for-profit solicitors. In addition, charity executives used donation dollars for their own private gain, including the purchase of automobiles, luxurious cruises and trips, and meals at Hooters, alleged the Federal Trade Commission.
Courts have ordered several charities and for-profit solicitors to stop their illegal practices and pay millions of dollars to consumers who have been defrauded. However, there are charities that allegedly mishandled donation funds that have not yet been sued, including, according to the report, Woman to Woman Breast Cancer Foundation, Disabled Police and Sheriffs Foundation, and Firefighters Charitable Foundation.
Halunen Partner Melissa Wolchansky spoke on “The Effect of Pom Wonderful v. Coca-Cola on Commercial and Consumer Litigation” for the Food, Drug & Device Law and Consumer Litigation sections of the Minnesota State Bar Association. The presentation, given on August 7, 2014, addressed the impact of a recent U.S. Supreme Court case, Pom Wonderful v. Coca-Cola on consumer class action litigation. From a consumer perspective, this was a positive case because it allowed the plaintiff to challenge label misrepresentations by Coca-Cola even when the label met certain FDA requirements.
When I tell people that I am an attorney, often their next question is “what type of law do you practice?” Answering “class action” frequently leaves them baffled. Most people have heard of class actions—the movie Erin Brockovich is usually mentioned—but they know little about them. Below are some of the frequently asked questions and brief explanations.
What is a class action?
When people think of a law suit they frequently think of areas of the law (i.e. criminal law, family law, bankruptcy law, etc.). Class action is not an area of law; rather it is a way of conducting a law suit. The subject of a class action can be as varied as debt collection or a group of people who all bought a faulty toaster. What makes it a class action is that a group of people (oftentimes who have never met and will never meet one another) are banding together to sue.
“What’s the point? They’re so big and I’m just one person.” Everyone has experienced this moment of frustrated defeat. It usually comes immediately after hanging up with some faceless person on the other end of a corporate “helpline.” For the hour and half of time you just wasted, all you receive is the knowledge that there was nothing that that person could do to help. The corporation has ripped you off, you tried to get them to fix it, and all they’ve done is make you even madder. AWWWW!!! It is at this moment that the crushing feeling of helplessness sets in. So what’s the point?
Actually, there may be something you can do. Perhaps you remember the ruckus raised over “natural” foods. As consumers became more health conscious, the food industries responded by providing “natural” foods. These ranged from granola to toothpaste. But some of these claimed “natural” foods were full of synthetics. The FDA refused to get involved, so some consumers began public awareness campaigns against these pseudo “natural” products. Individual consumers also turned to the courts. By using class actions, consumers caused whole industries to begin taking synthetics out of their “natural” products and today many (but not all) “natural” products are actually natural.
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