Why the EPA Can’t Manage to Ban Known Carcinogens

Of the 80,000 chemicals currently in the marketplace, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has only reviewed the safety of 570. Of those, the EPA has only banned five chemicals. Not on that list? Asbestos, formaldehyde, BPAs, and other known carcinogens.

Before you discredit the EPA as an ineffective agency, or even one that should be abolished altogether as some in Congress are demanding, it’s important to look at the myriad obstacles the agency faces that prevent it from regulating deadly substances.

Nearly every delay and hurdle is traced back to the chemical or energy industry. Industry lobbyists have used every tactic in the book to thwart the EPA, including discrediting the agency’s chemical assessments, sponsoring their own favorable research, and delaying the publication of the EPA’s studies, all while paying off scientists and politicians to support them.

Chemicals Are Considered Safe Until Proven Guilty

62,000 chemicals were grandfathered into the system, with no requirements for testing or meeting safety standards.

The root of the EPA’s problems lies with the flawed Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which governs the EPA’s review of toxic chemicals.

When it passed in 1976, 62,000 chemicals were grandfathered into the system, with no requirements for testing or meeting safety standards. The nearly 20,000 chemicals which have come to market since the TSCA’s adoption are almost as good as grandfathered into the system. The EPA’s authority to ask for safety data on a new chemical is extremely limited, allowing new chemicals to come to market without knowing a lot about their effects.

The law is structured to be favorable to the chemical industry as chemicals are considered safe until proven otherwise by the EPA. In the E.U., however, this is backwards: The burden is on companies to prove the safety of new chemicals before they are introduced in the marketplace.

In 2016, Congress amended TSCA to allow the EPA greater authority to review and ban chemicals. Last December, the EPA announced their 10 priority chemicals for review which included asbestos. Though it’s a positive step, critics have argued that the new bill will weaken effective state chemical safety laws and do nothing to speed up the review process. 

EPA’s Assessments Suffer from the “Highest Risk of Failure”

Before banning or restricting a chemical, the EPA has to conduct its own formal review of the existing research on the safety and effects of a substance.

The EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) is the agency branch that reviews chemical research to determine what the safe level of exposure is in the air, food, water, and soil. Their assessments are then used by regulators to restrict or ban various chemicals.

An IRIS review is a major undertaking; an average report will take seven years to complete. The EPA says that it needs to complete 50 of these assessments every year in order to do its job effectively. Yet throughout the Bush administration, an average of five chemicals were reviewed every year. Obama’s administration wasn’t any better: In 2014, the agency only completed one review. That was better than 2015 though, which didn’t produce a single report.

In 2011, out of the 500 chemicals in the IRIS program under review, almost 400 of them were more than 10 years in the making.

This hasn’t gone unnoticed. In 2009, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) stated that IRIS had the “highest risk of failure” of any federal government department.

Chemical Industry Relies on “Scientists for Hire”

TSCA-Reform-Infographic
Credit: Center for Environmental Health

What’s the reason behind these slow-moving reviews? Primarily industry lobbyists.

Delaying research is the primary weapon in the chemical industry’s arsenal. By forcing the EPA to get second opinions, make edits, present their research again, go through another round of reviews, and so on, not only does it delay report publications for years, but it also helps to make the agency look less credible.

“I have never seen the chemical industry say, ‘Oh, wow! It looks from all of these data and the public literature like we had better start being safer with this chemical.’ They, in my experience, have always defended their chemical, tried to show that it’s safer, or less toxic, than what independent studies show,” said Jennifer Sass, a scientist for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), in an article for Time magazine.

According to the NRDC, chemical companies will put forth their own research to settle the “debates” within the scientific community (debates which only exist in pro-industry minds).

14% of industry studies found chemicals like formaldehyde were hazardous, compared to 60% of non-industry studies.

Industry-funded research, not surprisingly, favors the industry. A study by the Center for Public Integrity found that 14% of industry studies on chemicals like atrazine and formaldehyde (carcinogens which have yet to be banned) found these chemicals were hazardous, compared to 60% of non-industry studies.

There are even pro-industry research journals: Critical Reviews in Analytical Chemistry and Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology. A Vice investigation revealed that one Harvard researcher, Philippe Grandjean, joined the Critical Reviews editorial board in hopes of scientific partnership but resigned when they published two articles denying OSHA’s research that linked lung cancer to diesel fumes, just for the sake of creating public doubt.

Once published, companies will host workshops to discuss the results, and fill them with industry-funded scientists that conclude what the industry wants to hear: that the chemical of concern is safe.

A group that is often represented is Gradient, whose clients include the American Chemistry Council (ACC), an association that represents chemical companies. The Center for Public Integrity reports that half of all of the papers published by Gradient scientists were published by industry-backed publications. Critics refer to them as “scientists for hire.”

Even if experts are aware of the red flags to look out for with industry-funded research, the more of it there is, the more confusing it makes the field of research. Said Jennifer Sass in an article for Vice, “The harm is that it actually muddies the independent scientific literature.”

Whistleblower Reveals EPA Reviews Have Ties to Industry

“The study ended up being the basis for this industry getting yet another exemption from federal law.”

During the “Making EPA Great Again” congressional hearing earlier this month, hosted by the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, critics argued that the EPA’s research lacks sufficient peer reviewthat they only work with those who share their anti-industry, pro-green opinions, resulting in the agency operating within an “echo chamber,” as Rep. Lucas (R-OK) described.

Among those invited to participate in the hearing was a scientist for the American Chemistry Council, Dr. Kimberly White. She emphasized the importance of allowing diverse voices from all over the industry to review and contribute to the EPA’s assessments, using sources other than the EPA’s Science Advisory Board, which, it should be noted, recruits members using a public open-call for nominations.

When pro-industry groups like the American Chemistry Council have their way and are involved in EPA reviews, the quality of reports usually suffer.

In 2004, the EPA investigated whether hydrofracking should fall under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Early on, a draft referred to dangerous levels of contamination caused by hydrofracking and possible contamination of an aquifer. The final report, however, stated that the practice “poses little or no threat to drinking water.”

“The study ended up being the basis for this industry getting yet another exemption from federal law when it should have resulted in greater regulation of this industry,” Weston Wilson, an EPA whistleblower told The New York Times. He revealed that five of the seven review panel members had ties to the oil and gas industry.

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To Protect Profits, Monsanto Campaigns to Reform Science

By campaigning to discredit the IARC over their Roundup research, Monsanto is turning a PR fight into a dangerous battle over scientific facts.

Though Monsanto is facing dozens of lawsuits for its Roundup Weed Killer, which plaintiffs argue caused their non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the company is suing and threatening any group that dares to warn the public about the harmful herbicide, from California to the World Health Organization.

A judge in Fresno recently issued a preliminary ruling allowing California to list glyphosate, the formal name for Roundup, as a carcinogen under the state’s Proposition 65. If the ruling is finalized, it would require that Monsanto warn consumers that Roundup, the most-used agricultural chemical ever, may cause cancer.

Monsanto argued that California’s actions were “unconstitutional” because they relied on research from the International Association of Cancer Research (IARC), which the company argues is “junk science.”

But, this isn’t just a matter of a company refusing to acknowledge damning data. Monsanto is creating an entire campaign to discredit the IARC, a research division of the World Health Organization—turning a PR fight into a dangerous battle over scientific facts.

Glyphosate Labeled a “Probable Carcinogen”

In March 2015, the international team of scientists declared that glyphosate was a “probable carcinogen.”

The IARC, based in France, is made up of independent scientists from around the world whose mission is “to promote international collaboration in cancer research.” Since 1971, they have reviewed more than 900 potential cancer-causing agents through their Monograph Section.

By analyzing existing research, the group ranks an agent based on its likeliness to cause cancer, from Group 1, which contains definite carcinogens like tobacco, down to Groups 3 and 4, which contain agents without any evidence of cancer-causing side effects in humans, like water.

In the middle is Group 2A (probable carcinogens) and Group 2B (possible carcinogens) which includes chemicals and other agents that have some research demonstrating cancer in animals and humans, but not enough to support a Group 3 classification. In March 2015, the international team of scientists placed glyphosate in Group 2A, declaring that it was a “probable carcinogen.” 

Critics of the IARC say that their “probable” and “possible” classifications create unnecessary hysteria and have serious economic implications. But, for many agents—especially new ones, like glyphosate—it can take decades until there is enough conclusive evidence to prove it’s a definite carcinogen, especially since cancer can take years to develop

The American Chemistry Council Campaigns Against IARC

Instead of showing concern over the red flags the IARC’s glyphosate research presents, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) is trying to obliterate the agency.

Last month, the ACC (which represents Monsanto) launched the Campaign for Accuracy in Public Health Research, or CAPHR.

ClassAction.com reached out to CAPHR to better understand their mission. They said that their priority is to “advocate for reform of IARC’s Monographs Program to improve the transparency, reliability, and characterization of IARC’s assessment of cancer hazards.”

“Providing context and helping explain what is often misunderstood with regard to public health will be of great benefit to the American consumer,” the CAPHR team told us. “The findings of health research are of interest to many people, so it’s important that they are both reliable and meaningful.”

Monsanto’s Tactics Are “Reminiscent of Big Tobacco”

“This is reminiscent of the strategies used by Big Tobacco to spread doubt about scientific conclusions,” the IARC told us.

Advocating for greater research transparency and reliability is commendable, but take a quick look at CAPHR’s website and it’s clear that they are trying to position the IARC as an enemy of science. They even have a banner quote on every page from Galileo that reads: “By denying scientific principles, one may maintain any paradox.”

On their website they state that they will challenge the practice of “vilifying anyone in disagreement with study methods conclusions, or policy prescriptions.”

But, the IARC doesn’t appear to be “vilifying” Monsanto for disagreeing with their research. In fact, the group of independent scientists was surprised to be on the defense.

“We were doing our job. We understood there were other issues… economic consequences. But none of us had a political agenda,” Francesco Forastiere, a scientist involved in IARC’s glyphosate review, told the Huffington Post. “We simply acted as scientists, evaluating the body of evidence, according to the IARC criteria.”

The CAPHR campaign, along with industry lobbyists, are petitioning that the U.S. withdraw funds from the IARC completely. The website even includes a letter template to help visitors petition their representatives.

ClassAction.com reached out to the IARC about their thoughts on the campaign:

“The American Chemistry Council campaign against IARC is the latest in a series of attacks aimed at discrediting the WHO Cancer Agency and its Monographs’ evaluation program, through misrepresentations and inaccuracies. This is reminiscent of the strategies used by Big Tobacco to spread doubt about scientific conclusions. Unsurprisingly, the ACC as a chemical industry trade association, whose members include Monsanto, is defending its vested interests through this action.

The EPA May Be Monsanto’s Next Target

Mixed into this debate is the EPA, which is currently working on its own review of glyphosate. Lobbyists demand that the EPA reject the IARC’s findings and completely support the use of glyphosate. Interestingly, a U.S. scientist from the EPA was part of the IARC’s glyphosate review.

But, industry pressure has already affected the agency. The EPA’s review is already a year overdue and they canceled a series of scheduled public meetings on glyphosate last year after receiving criticism about the members of the scientific panel.

Producing and selling harmful chemicals is one thing, but actively distorting public perception about scientific facts is another. If you or a loved one were diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after using Roundup, contact us today. Our legal team is fighting to hold Monsanto accountable.  

Ovarian Cancer Patients Seek Another Talc Victory

The latest talcum powder lawsuit could go a long way toward determining whether Johnson & Johnson is pressed into a wider settlement with thousands of women nationwide who claim that talc-based powders caused their ovarian cancer.

Johnson & Johnson faces an uphill battle trying to convince the jury of its talc products’ safety.

Last year, talcum powder lawsuit defeats cost J&J awards of $72 million, $55 million, and $70 million. In the wake of these verdicts, plaintiff’s attorneys urged J&J to consider settling the remaining cases. But the health products giant has held firm, admitting no wrongdoing and failing to add ovarian cancer risk warnings to talcum powder products like Johnson’s Baby Powder.

The next talc lawsuit—scheduled to begin Monday, February 6—pits J&J against more than 60 women and family members seeking damages for alleged talc-related ovarian cancer.

If 2016 is any indication, J&J faces an uphill battle trying to convince the jury of its talc products’ safety, especially as evidence linking talc to cancer mounts.

Hold J&J Accountable

Swann v. Johnson & Johnson

This case, Swann vs. Johnson & Johnson et. al., puts J&J back in the St. Louis court that last year handed out three talcum powder plaintiffs verdicts totaling $197 million.

J&J is back in the same St. Louis court that handed out three talcum powder plaintiffs verdicts totaling $197 million.

J&J tried to deny jurisdiction in the case for Missouri’s 22nd Judicial Circuit Court, which has a reputation for being plaintiff-friendly. However, a judge denied the jurisdictional appeal, setting the stage for 2017’s first talcum powder cancer lawsuit.

The case combines similar claims from 62 individuals alleging that using Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower Powder for feminine hygiene caused them—or a deceased family member—to develop ovarian cancer.

Plaintiffs hail from more than two dozen states, including Missouri, New Jersey, California, Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, Texas, and Virginia. Their claims include failure to warn, negligence, breach of warranty, and wrongful death. They seek punitive damages, which comprised the bulk of 2016’s sizable talcum powder awards.

After a $72 million talc verdict against J&J in the same court last year, a plaintiff’s attorney told Fortune, “If I were representing them [Johnson & Johnson], I would say, folks, we need to sit down and regroup and start trying to settle these cases.”

But J&J, at least for now, stands by the safety of its talc products. A page on the company’s website maintains talc’s safety, noting that its talc products have been asbestos-free since the 1970s and contain only U.S. Pharmacopoeia grade talc.

Another costly defeat in this 60+ plaintiff lawsuit could force J&J to revisit talc lawsuit settlements. J&J faces more than 2,000 talcum powder lawsuits nationwide. A July 2017 trial is scheduled in Los Angeles Superior Court.

New Study Bolsters Talc-Cancer Link

Johnson & Johnson cites two studies on its website as evidence that there’s no link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer.

So far, though, J&J has failed to counter opposing findings of a link between genital use of talc and ovarian cancer. And a new study published in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention provides additional evidence for talc’s carcinogenic properties.

The study found a “statistically significant association between genital use of talc and ovarian cancer.”

Since the 1970s, dozens of studies have linked talc powder to ovarian cancer. A 2003 analysis looked at 16 separate talc-cancer studies and concluded that women using talcum powder were 33% more likely to develop ovarian cancer.

The latest talc-cancer study—another meta-analysis—came to a similar conclusion, finding a “statistically significant association between genital use of talc and ovarian cancer.”

The American Cancer Society says talcum powder may cause cancer in the ovaries if the powder, applied to the genital area, travels through the vagina, uterus, and fallopian tubes to the ovary. But it also cautions that “if there is an increase risk, the overall increase is likely to be very small.” Women who have won big verdicts against J&J were longtime feminine hygiene talc users.

Winning a talc cancer lawsuit doesn’t require a scientific consensus; all that’s needed is to convince the jury of causation in a specific case. This is done with help from experts such as pathologists. In the case of Jacqueline Fox, a pathologist determined that Ms. Fox’s ovaries became inflamed and then cancerous from talc.

If you or a loved one developed ovarian cancer after using talcum powder, you may have a case. Learn more during a free consultation.

Florida Strikes Down Student Debt Relief Scams

Student loans are now a $1.2 trillion dollar industry—a financial crisis that burdens about 40 million Americans. But instead of helping, some loan servicers and debt relief companies view this as a money-making opportunity.

Navient, the largest loan servicer with control of 25% of U.S. student loans, recently made headlines for allegedly steering borrowers into costly deferment programs, ultimately profiting from $4 billion in extra interest charges nationwide. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau sued the company last month.

But Navient isn’t the only one out to make a buck. Debt settlement companies that promise to eliminate debts, lower payments, and repair credit scores are now being sued for their scam services.  

Triple Digit Fees for Free Services

Before companies conduct any of these free services, they usually charge upfront fees, ranging anywhere from $250 to $5,000.

If—and that’s a big if—debt settlement companies are able to help a borrower reduce their loans or payments, they are using services that any American has free access to.  

There are some federal programs that will forgive student loans, particularly for hard-to-place government jobs, disabilities, or school closures. Borrowers can also consolidate their loans (which can result in lower interest rates) through StudentLoans.gov, and switch to income-driven loan repayment plans with their loan servicers if they meet certain requirements. These services just cost your time to see if you qualify.

Debt settlement companies lure customers in though by saying that borrowers are approved, or pre-approved, for debt-relief services that can reduce debt by 50 to 70%, or even eliminate it altogether.

Before companies conduct any of these free services, they usually charge upfront fees, ranging anywhere from $250 to $5,000, followed by monthly fees averaging around $200 to $300. Though this may seem high, for borrowers crippled with $100,000 or $200,000 in debt, this is a small price to pay for promised long-term relief.

Some Companies Take Customers’ Money and Run

What’s worse, in some cases debt settlement companies fail to do anything for the borrower.

They often take their high upfront and monthly fees, but eventually state they were unable to do anything for the customer, or they just disappear altogether.

Often, while customers are dragged along, assuming the company is managing everything, no one is making loan payments. Customers are left with default loans and even worse credit scores.

“Victims are left deeper in debt, without their problem solved, and not knowing where to turn next. No one can ‘guarantee’ that they can erase your student loan debt or make that debt go away,” said Bruce McClary, vice president of communications at the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

Companies Pose as the U.S. Department of Education

The U.S. Department of Education warns, “If you have to pay, then stay away!”

While you be saying to yourself, “I would never fall for that,” the most deceitful aspect of all of this is that these companies often pose as the U.S. Department of Education.

They may use the Department of Education seal and include references to the “Obama New Student Loan Forgiveness program”—which doesn’t exist—though this may soon be replaced with a false Trump-endorsed program.

Some go as far as to obtain borrower’s loan details so they can cite the amount borrowers owe and to whom, making them appear credible and trustworthy.

The U.S. Department of Education warns, “If you have to pay, then stay away!”

Florida Puts Three Debt Companies Out of Business

Florida recently struck down three of these debt settlement companies, all owned by Chastity Valdes: Consumer Assistance LLC, Consumer Assistance Project Corp. and Palermo Global LLC.

The lawsuit accuses the companies of violating the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, the FTC Act, the Telemarketing Sales Rule, and the Credit Repair Organizations Act.

Under the verdict terms, each company will essentially go out of business. They are required to pay $2.3 million in damagesor turn over all of their assets to authoritiesand are prohibited from selling debt relief or credit repair services in the future.

Florida’s attorney general and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have worked together before to take down fraudulent debt companies. Last May, they filed a lawsuit against Student Aid Center, a Florida-based company that charged fees ranging between $600 and $1,000 for doing nothing more than mailing paperwork to the federal government, which any borrower can submit for free. That lawsuit is pending.

What to Look Out For

There are some telltale signs that a company is not legitimate. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling warns of the following:

  • Upfront payment: Debt settlement companies are required by law to settle or reduce at least one loan before requiring payment. If you choose to use an outside company, make sure they show some progress on your loans before you pay them.
  • Urgent time frames: Offers that require immediate action are likely scams. The federal government does not require you to sign up within 24 hours or one week in order to be eligible for benefits.
  • Warnings against contacting loan provider: If a company warns you not to contact your loan provider, this is a red flag. Most loan providers will work with you to reduce your monthly payments or consolidate your loans (though based on Navient’s track record, you should research what you are eligible for before calling).
  • Advertising in general: Though there are legitimate ways to reduce your loans, these programs are usually not heavily advertised, nor do they reach out directly to eligible candidates. If you are looking for loan forgiveness programs, you’ll likely have to file yourself.

Most importantly, never give your Social Security number, federal aid pin, or power of attorney for your debts to companies unless you can confirm they are legitimate.

 

ClassAction.Com Attorneys File Lawsuit Against L’Oreal, Matrix

While many of us take advertising slogans with a grain of salt, we do at least trust that the products we buy contain the ingredients listed on the bottle.

ClassAction.com filed a lawsuit against L’Oreal and Matrix over an array of hair products that appear not to contain the protein keratin.

We used to, anyway.

In the latest case of a company allegedly promising ingredients and benefits its products do not offer or contain, last week ClassAction.com filed a false advertising lawsuit against L’Oreal USA and Matrix Essentials over an array of hair products that appear not to contain the protein keratin.

The plaintiffs in this class action lawsuit are Brandi Price of New York and Christine Chadwick of California.

Read the Complaint

The products cited in the complaint are the following:

  • Matrix Biolage Keratindose Pro-Keratin + Silk Shampoo
  • Pro-Keratin + Silk Conditioner
  • Pro-Keratin Renewal Spray

“Consumers are tired of not getting what they pay for,” said ClassAction.com attorney Jonathan B. Cohen. “If a company uses a coveted hair care ingredient on a label or in the name of a product, that ingredient better be in the product or consumers are going to hold the company accountable.”

Complaint Alleges False and Deceptive Advertising

The 39-page complaint—filed in the Southern District of New York on January 26, 2017—states:

Through its uniform, nationwide advertising campaign… Defendants have led consumers to believe that their Keratindose Products actually contain keratin and will confer the claimed benefits of keratin to the consumer.

In reality, the Keratindose Products do not contain any keratin at all and are incapable of providing the claimed benefits of keratin to the consumer.

The complaint states that the products’ labels are “false, deceptive and misleading, in violation of the Federal Food Drug & Cosmetics Act and its parallel state statutes, and almost every state warranty, consumer protection, and product labeling law throughout the United States.”

The plaintiffs seek relief for damages, for the defendants to stop engaging in the deceptive advertising alleged in the complaint, and any other relief the Court deems just and proper.

Labels, Slogans Emphasize Healing Powers of Keratin

Keratin2_Blog_720x405

According to the lawsuit, L’Oreal and Matrix consistently tout the restorative powers of keratin in the hair products in question. The complaint cites the following phrases lifted from the products’ labels and marketing campaigns:

  • “Pro-Keratin + Silk”
  • “Pro-Keratin Renewal Spray”
  • “Formulated with Pro-Keratin and Silk, Matrix’s keratin treatment for damaged hair provides targeted reinforcement for over-processed, weak or fragile hair”
  • “Prevent[s] damage”
  • “Restore[s] overprocessed hair”
  • “Shampoo for Overprocessed Hair”
  • “Conditioner for Overprocessed Hair”
  • Makes hair “90% more conditioned after one application” when combining the “system of Keratindose Shampoo, Conditioner and Pro-Keratin Renewal Spray vs. a non-conditioning shampoo”

The complaint states that the plaintiffs enlisted a subject-matter expert to analyze the products in question, “after which the expert confirmed that the Products do not contain keratin.”

The expert confirmed that the products do not contain keratin.

For many, the lawsuit calls to mind the Johnson & Johnson lawsuits—settled for $5 million—over J&J proclaiming its Baby Bedtime Powder “scientifically proven” to help babies fall asleep faster.

Or the recent spate of aloe vera lawsuits, which were filed against several manufacturers and retailers of aloe vera gels and other products that allegedly do not contain any aloe vera, let alone the 100% advertised.

“The beauty industry has preyed upon consumers’ fascination with self-improvement for decades, selling products that do contain promised ingredients and cannot perform as advertised,” Mr. Cohen said. “Companies must be held accountable for attempting to gain a competitive advantage through the deceptive labeling of products.”

Hold the Beauty Industry Accountable

If you purchased a hair product that claimed to contain keratin, you could be entitled to compensation. Please contact us immediately for a free, no-obligation case review to learn your rights and seek justice.

Our attorneys have won more than $2 billion for our clients, and we have never represented a large company. We will fight for you and hold negligent companies accountable.

Johnson & Johnson Pays for Baby Bedtime Products

Desperate parents are usually willing to try anything to help their babies fall asleepeven if it means paying more for a lotion or body wash. Recent class action lawsuits argue that Johnson & Johnson took advantage of parents by falsely advertising their baby bedtime products.

The company offered to settle four class action lawsuits for $5 million last week. The lawsuits alleged that the company deceived consumers into paying a premium for their products by carelessly using the term “clinically proven” to support claims that their bedtime products helped babies fall asleep.

J&J Tests Their Bedtime Routine, Not Products

“J&J did not test the ‘routine’ with products other than the bedtime products.”

On its website, Johnson & Johnson advertises a three-step bedtime routine for babies, which includes a warm bath, massage, and quiet time. Throughout the description of the routine, the company recommends using one of their bedtime products. They include references to “studies” and “research” that supports the effectiveness of each step.

The complaints filed against Johnson & Johnson didn’t challenge whether or not the routine worked, but the role their products played.

One complaint filed in California stated: “J&J did not test the ‘routine’ with products other than the bedtime products, such as J&J’s long-sold ordinary bath products, another company’s products or with no products at all.”

The baby sleep routine could very well be effective, but Johnson & Johnson doesn’t have research to support that their products are superior to others.

From the consumers point of view, this absence of research is hard to tell just by looking at the products. The routine and suite of bedtime products are so intermixed, especially on the product labels, that consumers can be deceived into thinking that the products are also “clinically proven” to help babies sleep.

A complaint filed in Illinois states that this misunderstanding isn’t surprising because Johnson & Johnson “does not sell routines—it sells bedtime products.” It wouldn’t make sense for them to just advertise a routine and not one of their products.

Claims Violate FTC’s Advertising Standards

Johnson & Johnson’s claims violate the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)’s advertising standards, which prohibit companies from making claims that are likely to mislead consumers and affect whether or not they will purchase a product.

While Johnson & Johnson is paying for it this time, the cosmetics industry is filled with similar cases of deceptive advertising, which may be caused by little federal regulation.

Federal regulations for cosmetics are only one page in length and haven’t been updated in 75 years.

Currently cosmetics products do not need FDA approval to go to market, and they are not required to share their ingredients. In fact, federal regulations for cosmetics are only one page in length and haven’t been updated in 75 years.

Weak regulations make it easier for cosmetics companies to make false claims, like aloe vera gels that don’t contain aloe vera, or keratin hair products that don’t contain keratin. 

Greater Federal Oversight is Just What J& J Needs

While false claims cause consumers to spend more money on premium products, the lack of federal oversight can result in more dangerous consequences, which Johnson & Johnson knows only too well.

The company continues to face lawsuits over its baby powder, which has been linked to ovarian cancer. More than 1,000 lawsuits have been filed against Johnson & Johnson for failing to warn consumers of the powder’s cancer risk.

In 2015, the Personal Care Products Safety Act was introduced in the Senate to address the current lack of oversight in the cosmetics industry. If passed, the bill would require companies to register their ingredients with the FDA and allow the FDA to recall unsafe products.

More oversight is just what companies like Johnson & Johnson may need.

If you have been harmed by Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder or duped into paying for pricey products that don’t deliver their promised claims, we want to hear from you. Contact our legal team for a free, no-obligation review.

 

Lawsuits Slam JCPenney, Macy’s for Duping Consumers

You know what they say: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

The lawsuits allege that these department stores listed misleading “original prices” on products so they could offer false discounts.

Lending further weight to that adage, the city of Los Angeles has filed several lawsuits against JCPenney, Macy’s, Kohl’s, and Sears, alleging that the department stores listed misleading “original prices” on products so they could slash them, luring in customers with false discounts.

For example, Kohl’s listed a strapless dress with an “original price” of $50, on sale for $35 and then $15. According to the lawsuit, the dress was never actually sold for $50.

This deceptive tactic is called “false reference pricing,” and companies do it because it works. Here are some other alleged examples cited in the complaints:

  • Macy’s sold a men’s V-neck t-shirt for $19.99, supposedly down from a $29.50 list price, a price at which the shirt was never actually sold.
  • Sears sold a Kenmore front-loading washing machine at $999.99, nearly $200 cheaper than its “list price” of $1,179.99. The washer was never sold at that price, and later went for as low as $650.
  • JC Penney marketed a maternity bathing suit top as $15 off its original price of $46. The price then dropped from $31 to $22, and then $15, just one-third the “original price.” One problem: the top was allegedly never sold for $46.

In a statement, City Attorney Mike Feuer said, “Customers have the right to be told the truth about the prices they’re paying—and to know if a bargain is really a bargain.”

Unfortunately, distinguishing true discounts from phony ones is harder than ever.

Hold Retailers Accountable

Brick-and-Mortar Stores Desperate for Deals

 This isn’t the first time these companies have faced litigation for misleading consumers. JCPenney and Kohl’s both faced similar claims in 2015, and both settled those class action lawsuits for sizable sums: JCPenney settled its suit for $50 million, and Kohl’s settled its claims for $6 million.

Ron Friedman, a Los Angeles-based retail expert, tells the Los Angeles Times, “There is no regular-priced merchandise, especially in stores like Sears or Kohl’s or TJ Maxx. The whole category is all about the sale price.”

Mr. Friedman says these kinds of brick-and-mortar stores are struggling to compete with online retailers, so they rely heavily on amazing deals and sales to lure customers away from sites like Amazon, Wayfair, and Overstock.

According to TruthInAdvertising.org, there were 24 of these kinds of lawsuits filed just in the first half of 2016, against retailers like Macy’s, J. Crew, Gymboree, Ann Taylor, and Ralph Lauren. (In all of 2015, there were 25 such suits.)

Of course, as anyone who shops online knows, false reference pricing is not limited to brick-and-mortar stores.

Amazon Begins Phasing Out List Prices

Seemingly every product on Amazon is (or was) on sale, often at incredible savings—75% or hundreds of dollars off the “list price.” How is this possible? Well, because like the “original prices” at JCPenney and Kohl’s, all too often the item was never actually sold with such a hefty tag.

If everything is always on sale, then nothing is ever on sale.

In the wake of criticism about its pricing—and perhaps to avoid the rash of lawsuits vexing other companies—earlier this year Amazon started phasing out its list prices. In place of List Prices, many if not most items now just say “Price.” Presumably (ideally), this is a more accurate reflection of the product’s cost.

Amazon still has deals, of course. But the gradual elimination of list prices suggests we may not see the ubiquitous, unbelievable discounts to which we’ve become accustomed—and, arguably, desensitized. As TruthInAdvertising’s executive director Bonnie Patten pointed out to the Times, if everything is always on sale, then nothing is ever on sale.

Instead of emphasizing discounts from original or list prices, on their Amazon Wish Lists customers now see if the price of an item has dropped since it was added to the list. This is a clever way for Amazon to have its cake and eat it too: it has managed to have perpetual “deals” occur without deceiving consumers.

If only JCPenney, Macy’s, Sears, and Kohl’s could do the same.

Batteries Powering Holiday Gifts May Present Hidden Dangers

Lithium-ion batteries power many of the gadgets you and your family will receive as gifts this holiday season. But a slew of unprompted explosions in the past year among products containing them have some people questioning how safe the batteries really are.

You have likely seen the viral videos of unsuspecting people going about their business before an explosion rocks their pocket after their Samsung phone or vape pen explodes. People have sustained serious burns on their legs, hands, and even on their face from these battery explosions.

Lithium-ion batteries not only power those items, they also energize about 95 percent of the world’s rechargeable electronic devices, including last year’s hottest gift, hoverboards, according to a CBS News report. As a result, you and your family are likely to receive some gizmos that are powered by these batteries over the holidays. But does that mean that we need to worry about all of the gifts we receive?

Li-ion Power is King of The Battery Jungle

Lithium-ion batteries are the most effective way to store power and allow our gadgets to operate for as long as they do.

The lithium-ion battery has an energy density of 160 watt hours per kilogram, while alternative batteries have about half the capacity. If lithium-ion batteries can store almost double the amount of energy than alternatives, they are the obvious choice for powering millions of products that require a long-lasting power source.

There is a trade off for these extra hours of power though.

One of the integral components of a lithium-ion battery is a highly flammable liquid. It is this liquid that causes the explosion to be so ferocious when the battery malfunctions.

When products containing these batteries explode, the results are brutal.

Although it does not happen frequently, when products containing these batteries explode the results are brutal. This is evidenced in the shocking video footage of cell phones, vape pens, and hoverboards spontaneously bursting into flames, and the gruesome injuries that have resulted.

There is definitely a need to be cautious of these batteries. Nevertheless, potential explosions may not be the greatest danger that lithium-ion batteries pose.

Do Lithium-ion Batteries Pose Any Other Dangers?

Certain products are powered by small batteries that look like buttons, which present a hazard to small children. This additional danger presents a far greater risk than unprompted explosions, resulting in more than 2,800 emergency room visits each year, according to Safe Kids Worldwide.

Swallowing a lithium-ion button battery presents a choking hazard, but as the video above shows they also present a burn hazard. If a child swallows a button battery and does not choke on it, the battery will settle somewhere in the body and proceed to burn through the body tissue it has settled on.

Despite the potential dangers that lithium ion batteries present, it may still be an overreaction to throw away any lithium-ion powered gifts this holiday season. By following some simple safety precautions, you can greatly reduce any potential danger that lithium-ion batteries present.

Lithium-ion Safety Precautions

Under normal circumstances, lithium-ion batteries are not dangerous.

“Lithium-ion batteries have a failure rate that’s less than one in a million,” reported K.M. Abraham, one of the pioneers of the lithium-ion battery, to Consumer Reports.

Some products contain lithium-ion batteries that do not meet the highest safety standards, presenting a much greater risk of exploding.

However, that is only when the batteries are designed properly. Some products contain lithium-ion batteries that do not meet the highest safety standards, and present a much greater risk of exploding.

This was the case with hoverboards, which were often built with cheaply produced batteries that weren’t designed for that kind of use, dramatically increasing the risk of overheating and fire, according to CBS News.

Therefore, it is recommended that you check any products you receive were certified as safe by a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory, according to experts at the Good Housekeeping Institute. This can be done by checking the battery or packaging for symbols with letters like UL or ETL that indicate the battery was tested for safety.

Similarly, the risk of children swallowing lithium-ion button batteries can also be mitigated. First and foremost, products containing these small batteries should be kept out of the reach of children.

Alternatively, if hiding some of these things presents an inconvenience, a piece of duct tape can be placed over the spot where the battery is located to prevent children from getting to it. If your child does happen to swallow a button battery, do not hesitate and go to the hospital immediately.

Although under most circumstances lithium-ion batteries function just fine, there are those shoddily-made batteries in shoddily-made products that can pose grave risks to you and your family. Being cautious about these products can help to ensure you and your family don’t have an explosive holiday season.

 

In Light of Blasts, Senator Demands E-Cig Recalls

(Photo credit: Corey Sipkin)

Citing a flurry of recent e-cigarette explosions, a lack of research, and the generally poor safety record of products manufactured in China, incoming Senate minority leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) has called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to subject the e-cig industry to greater scrutiny and regulation.

In a blistering statement, the current Senate Majority Leader (soon-to-be Senate Minority Leader) noted that despite several nasty e-cigarette explosions in recent months, not one e-cig or vape product has been recalled. He called for more recalls and intensive research into the $10 billion industry.

“They’ve got to get moving. We’ve had a recent rash of explosions here in New York and elsewhere,” Senator Schumer said. “If there is a pattern of brands, the public should know it right away and they should recall some brands, those that are particularly susceptible to exploding.”

“Huff, Puff, Explode”

Senator Schumer called the current e-cig landscape a “huff, puff, explode” situation and said that, according to the FDA, there were at least 92 incidents of e-cigarettes catching fire or exploding between 2009 and 2015. (The actual number may be much higher, as not every incident is reported to the FDA.) He also noted that most e-cig batteries are made in China, which Schumer says has a poor safety record in terms of its exports to the U.S.

Recently, two high-profile eruptions in Sen. Schumer’s home state of New York have cast the industry in an unflattering light. Earlier this month an emergency medical technician (EMT) in the Bronx suffered second-degree burns when his e-cigarette exploded in his pocket.

Around Thanksgiving, a wine store employee at Grand Central Station had an e-cig blow up in his pocket, the video of which went viral.

But the most infamous incident might be that of Leor Domatov, the 14-year-old boy who was partially blinded by a vape explosion at the Kings Plaza Mall in Brooklyn. Domatov spent five days in the hospital, where, according to Gothamist, “he was treated for cuts to his eyes, chemical burns, and injuries to his hands.”

E-Cigs Spark Lawsuits in New Jersey

In neighboring New Jersey, which has also been burned by e-cig blasts, at least four lawsuits have been filed against manufacturers and retailers. Gregory and Stacey Burdash of Berlin, NJ filed a lawsuit after Mr. Burdash alleged that an e-cig battery exploded in his pocket on September 29, 2016.

“I have not been able to return to work, and as the sole breadwinner in the family, it hurts you mentally and physically.”

“I have had incredible pain since then. I have not been able to return to work, and as the sole breadwinner in the family, it hurts you mentally and physically,” Mr. Burdash said.

William D. Gant of Cumberland County claims that he experienced an e-cig explosion in March 2015 that caused him to suffer third-degree burns on his lower extremities. Mr. Gant alleges that his injured foot will require a skin graft.

Two unidentified teens in New Jersey have also filed lawsuits over alleged vape explosions. One says she needed plastic surgery to correct serious injuries to her lips and mouth and that she will need bone grafts for her jaw. The other teen alleges burns to his arms and torso that cause him “unbearable” pain.

ClassAction.com Seeks Justice for Vape Victims

Earlier this year, ClassAction.com filed several e-cig lawsuits against manufacturers and retailers over similar incidents that allegedly occurred in Florida. These complaints seek damages for pain and suffering, mental anguish, medical bills, and lost wages (past and future).

Read the Complaint

If you or a loved one has been injured by e-cigarettes, please contact us for a free case review. Don’t wait; these cases are time-sensitive, and you may be entitled to compensation.

Why a Bayer-Monsanto Merger Could Spell Disaster for Our Food Supply

Combined with Monsanto, Bayer would control a quarter of the world’s seeds and pesticides, potentially affecting the world’s food supply, ecosystem, and supermarket prices.

A merger between Monsanto (the company behind GMOs and the herbicide Roundup) and Bayer (the pharmaceutical company that manufacturers pesticides and seeds under Bayer CropScience) is gathering momentum. Earlier this week, Monsanto shareholders approved Bayer’s $66 billion offer to acquire the company: the largest all-cash offer in history.

What makes this potential merger so important—and scary—is just how powerful it would make Bayer. Combined with Monsanto, they would control a quarter of the seeds and pesticides market worldwide, potentially affecting the world’s food supply, ecosystem, and supermarket prices.

Small farmers, consumers, scientists, and politicians alike hope that the merger will be rejected by antitrust regulators. But with shareholders on board and a new administration on the horizon, the merger may be approved.

Merger Raises Red Flags for Antitrust Regulators 

If the merger is approved, Bayer would own 29% of seeds and 28% of pesticides worldwide. The sheer size of the new company, combined with the similarity of Monsanto and Bayer’s businesses, raises antitrust red flags.

The century-old Sherman Antitrust Act and Clayton Antitrust Act help prevent mergers and acquisitions of this size. Primarily, regulators are concerned about reduced competition which can inhibit innovation, result in price fixing, and leave consumers and employees vulnerable to abusive business practices.

As a preventative measure, large mergers and acquisitions must be reviewed by the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice. This is where Bayer may stumble. The current administration has strictly opposed large mergers, like Staples and Office Depot, among others.

But Bayer may benefit from a change in administration. The company is so optimistic that it promised Monsanto shareholders a $2 billion termination fee if blocked.

“A Marriage Made in Hell” 

If approved, environmental experts warn the merger would be a “marriage made in hell.” After examining the harmful track record of their products, this description may not be far off.

Monsanto is known for a long list of dangerous and controversial biotechnology, including Agent Orange, PCBs, GMOs, and the carcinogenic pesticide RoundUp.

Like Monsanto, Bayer also has a line of genetically engineered (GE) seeds and herbicides and pesticides. Most dangerous are Bayer’s neonicotinoids—pesticides that are the primary cause of the destruction of bee colonies.

Bayer argues that acquiring Monsanto will help the company better address greater demands on the world’s food supply, primarily by selling GE seeds. GE seed cells are modified so that they are resistant to the powerful herbicides and insecticides Monsanto and Bayer sell. By planting GE crops, the companies argue, farmers are able to produce greater crop yields and decrease the overall amount of herbicides and pesticides they spray. 

Farmers Will Pay Higher Seed Prices

What does a Bayer-Monsanto merger mean for the average farmer and consumer? Farmers will first notice higher seed prices and few non-GE alternatives—a cost eventually felt by consumers in the supermarket. 

GE seeds are particularly pricey because they are registered as intellectual property. This prevents farmers from reusing their seeds, a millennia-old farming practice. 

Corn and soy seed prices have increased more than 300 percent since 1995.

Since the introduction of GMOs 20 years ago, seed prices have only gone up. According to Farm Aid’s Alicia Harvie, corn and soy seed prices have increased more than 300 percent since 1995.

Farmers looking for alternatives to genetically engineered seeds are having a harder time finding them. Charles Benbrook, a research professor at Washington State University, found that between 2000 and 2010, non-GE corn seed varieties decreased by 67 percent. Similar trends were found for other plants, including sugar beets, for which Monsanto owns 95% of the seeds.

More Herbicide Will Be Sprayed

Credit: www.justlabelit.org
Credit: www.justlabelit.org

In addition to pricier seeds, farmers are also faced with having to spend more on the seeds’ accompanying herbicides.

After years of spraying, weeds eventually adapt to the herbicides and become resistant to it. This leaves farmers with “super weeds,” requiring them to spray greater quantities of stronger chemicals. 

A study by The New York Times found that since genetically engineered seeds were introduced, herbicide use increased by one-fifth in the U.S. and Canada—countries reliant on GE seeds. In France, a country that is GMO-free, herbicide usage dropped by one-third.

Aside from the costs to farmers, higher quantities of herbicides is also bad news for the health of consumers and the environment. Monsanto’s Roundup is a carcinogen that puts farmers and gardeners that use the spray at a greater risk of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Lingering herbicide residue left on food is also linked to a rise in food allergies, especially gluten intolerance like celiac disease.

Hold Monsanto Accountable

A Potential Disaster for Bees and Biodiversity

Bayer and Monsanto argue that their merger would help to feed a growing world population, but it may actually lead to more food shortages.

The New York Times discovered that over GMOs’ 20-year history, they have not resulted in an increased food supply. What Monsanto and Bayer have managed to do, though, is severely damage the ecosystem—a trend that is likely to result in major food crises in the future.

Pesticides like Bayer’s neonicotinoids have decimated the world’s populations of natural pollinators. Ninety percent of the monarch butterfly population has died over the last 20 years, and between 2006 and 2012, the USDA reported that 10 million beehives were lost

Environmental experts estimate that the work of pollinators equates to $15 billion in agricultural labor. Because of the severity of the crisis, the EPA is  taking steps to regulate neonicotinoids

But Bayer’s pesticides aren’t the only threat to the environment. By using identical genetically modified seeds, companies like Bayer and Monsanto destroy biological diversity. Biodiversity is important because it helps reduce the spread of crop diseases. If every crop has the same genetic makeup, a disease has the potential to wipe out a huge portion of our food supply.

Giving so much control to one company—especially one that is hurting farmers, the ecosystem, and our health—may spell disaster for our food supply.

How Hidden Arbitration Clauses Are Taking Away Your Legal Rights

Arbitration clauses are buried deep within consumer and employer contracts, causing many Americans to unknowingly sign away their rights to a trial by jury.

Arbitration is changing the legal landscape, popping up everywhere from employer agreements to your favorite app’s terms of service. But what is it?

Arbitration agreements require that legal disputes are resolved in private arbitration, rather than in court. Arbitration does not involve a jury; instead, decisions are made by a third-party arbitrator or tribunal. The intent is that if decided outside of court, disputes will be resolved more efficiently.

Initially, arbitration was used between companies. But when employees and consumers were first presented with these agreements, an important shift happened: No longer were the terms agreed to voluntarily and knowingly, but often, without the knowledge of the other party.

These clauses are often buried deep within a contract and use confusing and dense terminology. As a result, many employees and consumers agree to them without understanding that they are signing away their rights to a trial by jury, including class action lawsuits. (Remember that “terms of service” box you clicked in a rush?)

A Timeline of Arbitration’s Rise in Popularity

Arbitration agreements have been around since the 1920’s. But, between 1985 and 2015, 14 Supreme Court decisions made arbitration an industry standard. Here are some key moments in its history.

1925: Federal Arbitration Act

Legalizes arbitration. Initially created to offer an alternative legal procedure for disputes between companies.

1991: Gilmer v. Interstate / Johnson Lane Corp.

Ruled that a non-union employee who was under an arbitration agreement couldn’t settle their workplace discrimination complaint in court. More employers begin to use arbitration agreements.

1999: Meeting of the “Arbitration Coalition”

Corporate attorney Alan Kaplinsky gathers major banks and financial institutions to discuss arbitration clauses. Arbitration becomes increasingly common in the financial sector.

2011: AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion

Plaintiffs fight to file a class action lawsuit against AT&T. The Court rules in favor of AT&T’s class action waiver, causing other companies to adopt similar waivers.

2013: Italian Colors v. American Express

Plaintiff uses the Sherman Actwhich allows citizens to take on monopolistic entitiesto argue their right to form a class action lawsuit against American Express. Court rules in favor of American Express.

The Problems With Arbitration

Arbitration Agreements Are Everywhere

banking-on-arbitration-big-banks-consumers-and-checking-account-dispute-resolution_50b664bb9878f
Credit: The PEW Charitable Trusts

In most cases, you are unable to opt out of arbitration agreements. You either agree to the terms and work for the company or purchase the particular product, or you do not.

In 2010, the National Employment Lawyers Association estimated that one-third of the nonunion workforce in America was forced to sign arbitration agreements.

They’re even more common in the financial sector: In 2016, PEW discovered that 70% of major banks had mandatory arbitration agreements, and 73% used class action waivers.

Though banks argue that their customers willingly signed their rights away, PEW found that 95% of respondents wanted the right to a trial in the event of a dispute with their bank.

James Young, an attorney for ClassAction.com, shared with us just how widespread arbitration has become.

“These clauses have enabled big businesses to force both customers and employees into a seemingly rigged arbitration system for almost every type of legal dispute: consumer fraud, unsafe products, employment discrimination, nonpayment of wages, and countless other state and federal laws intended to protect citizens against corporate wrongdoing.”

Even if You Don’t Sign an Agreement, You Can Still Be Bound by Its Terms

In some cases when individuals have refused to sign arbitration agreements, they were still prohibited from going to court.

Mother Jones reported that even though Fonza Luke refused to sign her employer’s arbitration agreement, when she needed to file a workplace discrimination lawsuit she was told it had to be settled in arbitration. By showing up to work, her employer argued, she had agreed to their terms.

General Mills argued that if you “liked” the company on Facebook, you accepted their arbitration agreement.

A similar decision was made this year by the Sixth Circuit. Former University of Phoenix employees tried to form a class action lawsuit against the school, arguing that they never signed an arbitration agreement. Using Kentucky law, the court ruled that continued employment indicated acceptance of the employer’s terms.

This interpretation is found in consumer agreements as well. By purchasing a product, for example, you have agreed to a company’s terms—whether or not you know what those terms are. In one extremely farfetched incident, General Mills argued that if you “liked” the company on Facebook, you accepted their arbitration agreement.

Mandatory Arbitration Violates the Constitution

The most problematic aspect of forced arbitration is that it strips away the legal rights of employees and consumers.

“By inserting such clauses in every possible contract, businesses effectively moot the judicial system.”

“Mandatory arbitration is a limitation on your right to seek relief,” said James Young. “By inserting such clauses in every possible contract, businesses effectively moot the judicial system. The result is anathema to the founding fathers’ intentions as outlined in our Constitution.”

The Second Circuit recently protected the right to a trial by jury when they ruled that Uber could not force a class action lawsuit into arbitration. The small print of the app’s online agreement, they ruled, did not sufficiently warn customers they were waiving this right.

Explaining the verdict, U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff said that a trial by jury “can be waived only if the waiver is knowing and voluntary.”

The importance of knowingly signing away your rights is currently playing out in many nursing homes. Facilities argue their patients consented to arbitration terms upon their arrival, but families argue their loved ones did not understand what they were signing. When families try to sue nursing homes for neglect or mistreatment, they find their legal rights barred.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid tried to stop this by passing a rule restricting arbitration agreements in nursing homes. However, this was blocked in November 2016 (within days of the rule taking effect) by a Mississippi federal judge.

Mandatory Arbitration Violates National Labor Laws

By prohibiting class action lawsuits, employers are also at risk of violating labor laws. In particular, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) permits employees to organize against employers by forming unions or through collective action.

Employers often argue that the Federal Arbitration Act trumps the NLRAan idea that many courts have sadly supported. As it stands, the legality of mandatory employee arbitration agreements depends on which judicial district is reviewing the case.

This inconsistency has necessitated Supreme Court review. Among the many cases awaiting trial is a case between the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and Murphy Oil USA.

The NLRB, which enforces labor laws, is appealing the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling that Murphy Oil can use mandatory arbitration agreements to prohibit their workers from filing class action lawsuits. They argue it violates the NLRA.

(Click below for Part 2.)

Samsung’s Exploding Washers Leave Consumers Rattled

At this point, the word “Samsung” is almost synonymous with “explosive.”

Samsung has received 733 reports of the washers malfunctioning.

Right on the heels of its massive Samsung Galaxy fiasco, last month the Korean electronics giant recalled nearly three million washing machines over hundreds of reports of the machines vibrating excessively and even firing their tops off.

The recall—which Samsung announced more than a month after the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) warned consumers of the washer risks—impacts 34 models encompassing 2.8 million machines. (For a full list of affected models, see the official CPSC page.) Samsung says it has received 733 reports of the washers malfunctioning, and at least nine reported injuries.

The CPSC page says injuries include “a broken jaw, injured shoulder, and other impact or fall-related injuries.”

Though the recall offers consumers either a free in-home repair or rebate to be used toward a new washer, many aren’t satisfied with Samsung’s response.

Consumers Get “Market Value” for Broken Machines

Unless a consumer purchased a washer after October 6, 2016, he or she has two options:

(1) A free in-home repair of the busted machine, which includes a one-year extension of the product’s warranty, or

(2) A rebate applied to the purchase of a new machine, plus a free installation of that machine and free removal of the old one.

At first glance, this sounds like an okay deal (especially #1). But many consumers have complained about delays in their machine repairs, or not even being able to reach Samsung.

Meanwhile, the rebate in the second option will be for the broken washer’s “current market value,” which naturally will be much lower than it was upon purchase. (Washing machines are like cars: their values plummet as soon as you take them home.)

So, Samsung is offering consumers either a partial refund/rebate for a defective machine that Samsung produced and marketed—or, a repair that has been plagued by delays.

It’s no wonder so many people are heading to court to hold Samsung accountable.

Samsung Faces Multiple Class Action Lawsuits

Way back in March, Suzann Moore and Michelle Soto Fielder filed a class action lawsuit against Samsung, alleging that their washers blew their tops. Ms. Moore said that after two uneventful years, her machine “violently exploded” in December 2015.

The complaint, filed in New Jersey (where Samsung U.S.A. is headquartered), also contends that Ms. Fielder’s machine blew up in February 2016 “with such ferocity that it penetrated the interior wall of her garage.” As with Samsung’s Galaxy phones, there are numerous YouTube videos that appear to show these devices post-explosion.

In the town of Trail, British Columbia, a man filed a lawsuit against Samsung not over physical damage or injuries, but because allegedly the rebate offered by Samsung fails to fully compensate consumers.

For example, a woman who joined the Canadian lawsuit, Brandy Robertson, received only a $410 rebate for a machine that originally cost her $900. Ms. Robertson also said she had to pay a $200 delivery fee for the new machine.

She told CTV News in Vancouver, “They should be replacing full cost of the top loaders… I think they are making money off of their recall.”

If you or a loved one have suffered physical or financial damage because of a faulty Samsung washing machine, contact us today to learn your rights.

Child Deaths Underscore Threat of Falling Furniture

The tragic death of an 18-month-old boy in Yakima, Washington has further stressed the threat of falling furniture, especially for couples with young children.

On average, 26 children are killed every year by furniture and television tip-overs—about one every two weeks. As many as 40,000 people are injured in these incidents annually.

The Yakima accident comes just a few weeks after another IKEA-related death came to light, one of seven fatalities associated with the IKEA line of Malm chests that the furniture giant recalled in June 2016.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), IKEA has also received 41 reports of tip-over incidents related to the Malm line of chests and dressers. These injuries and deaths have spawned several lawsuits.

On December 22, 2016, IKEA announced that it had reached a $50 million settlement with the families of Curren Collas, Camden Ellis, and Ted McGee: three toddlers who were crushed to death by IKEA furniture in recent years. The $50 million (total) will be distributed among the three families.

Hold IKEA Accountable

IKEA Recalled 29 Million Chests in June

In a statement last month, IKEA reiterated that “the safety of our products is our highest priority,” adding, “This additional incident further underscores the need to properly secure chests of drawers to the wall with the included restraints per the assembly instructions.”

But according to The New York Times, the 29 million dressers and chests IKEA recalled in June fail to meet voluntary safety standards set by the CPSC.

After the recall, CPSC chairman Elliot F. Kaye warned, “If you have or think you have one of these products, act immediately. It is simply too dangerous to have the recalled furniture in your home unanchored, especially if you have young children.”

That message has been reinforced by the CPSC’s announcement last month that a two-year-old boy in Woodbridge, Virginia was killed by a falling Malm chest in September 2011.

This is the fourth Malm fatality by the CPSC’s official count, and the seventh such death according to IKEA.

Anchoring Furniture Is Best Way to Prevent Accidents

In July 2015, IKEA gave out free wall anchor kits to customers to increase the safety of its products. Unfortunately, the offer went unnoticed by the bulk of customers, as they were unaware of the threat posed by freestanding furniture.

In a jarring and comprehensive exploration of the tip-over crisis by the Philadelphia Inquirer, Olivia Hall writes, “But some [victims’ parents] say their regrets aren’t from having ignored a warning. They had never heard of tip-overs until one killed their child.”

The CPSC’s guidelines for preventing furniture tip-over injuries are as follows:

  • Anchor and protect!
  • Use sturdy furniture
  • Secure your TV
  • Mount flat-screen TVs
  • Follow instructions
  • Low and stable (CRT TV)
  • Secure top-heavy furniture
  • Remove tempting objects

But the commission may not have been entirely helpful throughout this furniture tip-over crisis.

Philadelphia Inquirer Sues CPSC for Records

The Philadelphia Inquirer and the CPSC should be on the same side of the furniture tip-over issue: both seem to want greater awareness of the risks and more accountability for manufacturers.

But on November 21, the Inquirer filed a lawsuit requesting that the commission be more forthcoming with requested information. According to the eight-page complaint:

… CPSC has ignored entirely seven of the ten [Inquirer’s] requests and, for two of the other three, it still has not informed Plaintiffs what records it does and does not intend to produce. These nine outstanding requests are the basis of this lawsuit.

The requests in question are for the following records:

  • CPSC emails about the July 2015 repair program and June 2016 recall
  • Contracts for CPSC employees hired in connection with the recall
  • A copy of the CPSC’s agency travel policy
  • The names, titles, and salaries of all CPSC employees
  • Market research conducted by the CPSC related to service contracts and the IKEA recall
  • Records of CPSC’s travel card program participation
  • Reimbursement records of any CPSC employees who traveled to Sweden or another IKEA office
  • CPSC reports completed in relation to the IKEA repair and recall initiatives
  • Specific documents regarding IKEA product testing and accident notifications
  • A PowerPoint presentation made to the CPSC by IKEA and its attorneys
  • Correspondence between IKEA attorneys and the CPSC
  • A letter containing IKEA’s full report on one dresser model

The complaint seems to suggest that the Philadelphia Inquirer wants to investigate potential collusion between the CPSC and IKEA. Or, at the very least, the newspaper wants all the facts surrounding the controversial Malm line of dressers and the CPSC’s handling of the issue.

“Hospital data show the trend [of furniture deaths] is not subsiding.”

The Inquirer complaint also emphasizes, “Hospital data show the trend [of furniture deaths] is not subsiding, despite efforts by safety advocates and others.”

A judge in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania will now determine if the lawsuit has merit.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a furniture tip-over incident, please contact us today for a free, no-obligation case review.

Florida Man Files Lawsuit After Vape Explosion

ClassAction.com has filed another product liability and negligence lawsuit against e-cigarette manufacturers and retailers after an alleged vape explosion that injured Florida man James Dardini and adversely impacted his wife, Angela Dardini. This is one of several such cases ClassAction.com has filed in recent months.

Mr. and Mrs. Dardini’s lawsuit alleges that a vape device erupted in Mr. Dardini’s right pocket, causing second and third degree burns that would require at least one skin graft surgery.

The complaint was filed in Volusia County, Florida earlier this fall. Defendants include Kangertech, which allegedly made the vape devices; Sunshine Vapor, the retailer that allegedly sold Mr. Dardini the vape products; and Perfect Vape, which allegedly imported the devices and sold them to Sunshine Vapor.

Read the Complaint

The complaint alleges negligence, design and manufacturing failures, and failure to adequately warn plaintiffs of the products’ risks, among other charges.

The lawsuit seeks compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering, plus any further relief that the Court deems just and proper.

Plaintiff Says Leg Was Engulfed in Flames

Mr. Dardini says he purchased a Kanger vaporizer and battery from the Sunshine store on September 21, 2015. (The complaint includes a receipt from this purchase.) Around 11am on December 28, 2015, while working in Ocoee, Florida, Mr. Dardini says that the vaporizer exploded in his front right pocket, “engulfing [his] leg in flames.”

Mr. Dardini allegedly had to be transported to Health First Hospital in Clermont, Florida, before then being transferred to the Burn Unit at Orlando Regional Medical Center (ORMC) to be treated for second and third degree burns. While at ORMC, Mr. Dardini says he had to undergo “a significant skin graft surgery to his right leg.” (The complaint includes photos of all the alleged injuries and devices in question.)

As a result of this alleged incident, the complaint states, “Mr. Dardini sustained severe, permanent and life-altering injuries to his groin, legs and lower back.”

Mr. Dardini’s wife Angela is a plaintiff because Mr. Dardini’s injuries have allegedly affected their marriage and caused Mrs. Dardini “loss of affection” and “mental anguish.”

Dardini Case Is Similar to Others Filed by ClassAction.com

The Dardinis’ lawsuit shares some similarities with three other e-cig lawsuits recently filed in Florida by ClassAction.com. In one of those cases, that of William Pickett, an e-cig allegedly exploded in his pocket as he drove to work, “engulfing [his] leg in flames.” Mr. Pickett says he suffered second and third degree burns.

In another case, Florida man David Studer was allegedly injured when an e-cigarette battery exploded in his shorts pocket, catching them on fire. Mr. Studer’s complaint says he suffered second and third degree burns on his thigh.

A third plaintiff, James Lauria, claims an e-cigarette exploded in his mouth, blasting a large hole between the roof of his mouth and his naval cavity and fracturing his teeth and hand, among other injuries.

Mr. Lauria says he had to be intubated because his esophagus was so swollen that he couldn’t breathe on his own. He was allegedly airlifted across state lines to the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s (UAB) trauma and burn unit, where he was treated for extensive injuries.

ClassAction.com Fights for Injured Vapers

While the specifics of each lawsuit vary, they all have one thing in common: an e-cigarette exploded, seriously injuring someone who had no way to protect against such a traumatic incident.

Our attorneys are pursuing these lawsuits in the hope that we can stem the tide of this rising public health crisis.

Our attorneys are pursuing these lawsuits against e-cigarette companies in the hope that we can stem the tide of this rising public health crisis. Through legal action, we will obtain relief for these victims and hold e-cig companies accountable for their negligence.

If you or a loved one has been injured by e-cigarettes, please contact us immediately for a free case review. Don’t hesitate; these cases are time-sensitive, and you may be entitled to compensation.

ClassAction.com Attorneys File Lawsuits Over Explosive E-Cigs

[WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS GRAPHIC IMAGES.]

Around 11am on July 29, 2015, James Lauria was taking a vape break from his job as a concierge at the Beach House, a Wyndham Resort in Destin, Florida. Without warning, the e-cigarette in his mouth exploded, blasting a large hole between the roof of his mouth and his naval cavity and fracturing his teeth and hand, among other injuries.

ClassAction.com attorneys have filed a lawsuit against the manufacturers who made Mr. Lauria’s e-cigarette and the retailers who sold it to him.

Mr. Lauria had to be intubated because his esophagus was so swollen that he couldn’t breathe on his own. He was airlifted across state lines to the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s (UAB) trauma and burn unit, where he was treated for extensive injuries.

ClassAction.com attorneys have filed a lawsuit against the manufacturers who made Mr. Lauria’s e-cigarette and the retailers who sold it to him. We have also filed two other lawsuits on behalf of Florida residents injured by e-cigarette blasts. You can read the complaints here:

These lawsuits seek damages for pain and suffering, mental anguish, hospital/medical bills, and lost wages (past and future).

Victim Suffers Fractured Vertebrae, Third Degree Burns

David Studer's leg after an e-cig battery allegedly exploded in his pocket.
David Studer’s leg after an e-cig battery allegedly exploded in his pocket.

Like millions of Americans, Mr. Lauria took up vaping so that he might be able to quit smoking and protect his health. It is tragically ironic, then, that an e-cigarette wound up causing him such terrible pain and suffering.

According to Mr. Lauria’s complaint, the e-cig explosion “caused extensive damage” to him,

including but not limited to puncturing the palette in the roof of his mouth leaving a gaping hole all the way through to his nasal cavity, jamming teeth through his gum, fracturing teeth, burning his left hand which was holding the vaporizer, fracturing his hand and his C-5 vertebrae, burning the left side of his face and chest area, and scratching his left eye from flying debris from the explosion.

In the case of another plaintiff, William Pickett, an e-cigarette exploded in his pocket as he drove to work, “engulfing [his] leg in flames.” Mr. Pickett says he suffered second and third degree burns.

In another case, Florida man David Studer was injured when an e-cigarette battery exploded in his shorts pocket, catching them on fire. Mr. Studer’s complaint says he suffered second and third degree burns on his thigh.

While the specifics of each lawsuit vary, they all have one thing in common: an e-cigarette exploded, seriously injuring someone who had no reason to expect and no way to protect against such a traumatic incident.

Attorney Mike Morgan said, “The scary part about the e-cigarettes is that most of the devices and their components are made in China. The batteries we see exploding are cheaply made or simply re-wrapped lithium ion batteries.”

Mr. Morgan added, “Many of the devices lack proper ventilation, turning the device into a pipe bomb where heat discharged from the battery builds up in the e-cig until the pressure is so great that it explodes.”

E-Cigs Have Same Explosive Batteries as Samsung Phones

But our clients’ experiences are not isolated incidents: there have been dozens such explosions. There were at least 25 e-cig explosions between 2009 and 2014, at least a dozen more in 2015, and there have already been dozens more in 2016. According to The Wall Street Journal, the FDA received 134 reports of vape-related fires and explosions from 2009 to January 2016.

Earlier this month, footage of an e-cigarette exploding in a French man’s pocket went viral online. The man, Amine Britel, said he suffered second degree burns and that his jacket melted around his finger when he tried to extinguish the fire.

As noted by Mr. Morgan, these are the same kinds of volatile batteries that have plagued hoverboards and Samsung Galaxy phones. “As we saw in the Samsung debacle, these batteries are very sensitive and the smallest mistake can lead to disastrous consequences.”

In fact, one of the defendants in Mr. Pickett’s case is Samsung, which allegedly manufactured the exploding battery.

E-cigarette batteries are so volatile (and their ingredients so toxic) that earlier this year the FDA began regulating the vaping industry. The agency hopes that, by taking a closer look at what is going into these devices, it can curb calamities such as Mr. Lauria’s.

How You Can Hold Vape Companies Accountable

The myriad explosions and other health hazards associated with vaping have generated a flood of e-cigarette lawsuits against manufacturers and retailers.

Our attorneys are now pursuing lawsuits against e-cigarette companies in the hope that we can combat this rising public health crisis. Through legal action, we will obtain relief for these victims and hold e-cig companies accountable for their negligence.

If you or a loved one has been injured by e-cigarettes, please contact us immediately to complete a free case review. Don’t hesitate; these cases are time-sensitive, and you may be entitled to compensation.

Johnson & Johnson Can’t Win in Court

The hits keep coming for pharmaceutical titan Johnson & Johnson, which has suffered a series of huge legal and financial blows in 2016. A slew of jury awards and settlements have cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars and severely damaged its credibility in the court of public opinion.

J&J is struggling to fight three mammoth legal battles at once, and the strain is showing both in its courtroom performances and in its bank account.

Hold J&J Accountable

J&J Will Try—Again—to Move Talc Cases Out of St. Louis

After three massive awards for plaintiffs who claimed they contracted ovarian cancer from using Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based products, J&J will attempt to move future talc cases out of Missouri. They tried this once before, last August, arguing that the company and plaintiffs had no ties to St. Louis. The judge dismissed the motion.

The most recent jury award, in October, was $70 million to Deborah Giannecchini. Five months prior, a Missouri jury awarded Gloria Ristesund $55 million.

The first big win for plaintiffs, in February 2016, went to the family of Jacqueline Fox, a woman who passed away from ovarian cancer after a lifetime of using Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder for feminine hygiene. Ms. Fox’s family received $72 million.

There are more than 1,000 talcum powder lawsuits pending in St. Louis, and 200 more awaiting their day in New Jersey courts.

Attorney Jere Beasley, whose firm filed the three Missouri cases and hundreds of others, told Fortune, “If I were representing them [Johnson & Johnson], I would say, folks, we need to sit down and regroup and start trying to settle these cases.”

But as of this writing, J&J seems more concerned with upholding its image as a wholesome family company than admitting wrongdoing and reimbursing the hundreds of women who say they have contracted ovarian cancer from using talc products.

J&J Settles Another Risperdal Lawsuit, Avoiding Trial

Talcum powders aren’t the only Johnson & Johnson products that have spawned a mountain of litigation. The antipsychotic drug Risperdal has allegedly caused many young boys to grow breasts, a condition known as gynecomastia. Hundreds of these boys have filed Risperdal lawsuits against J&J, and so far, they have been very successful in obtaining relief.

In July, a Philadelphia jury awarded Andrew Yount a staggering $70 million, ruling not only that J&J had failed to warn Mr. Yount of the risks in taking Risperdal, but that the company had concealed or destroyed evidence related to the case. Mr. Yount, of Tennessee, started taking Risperdal when he was just five years old.

A Philadelphia jury found that J&J had concealed or destroyed evidence related to the Andrew Yount case.

Mr. Yount’s award was the latest in a string of wins for Risperdal plaintiffs. Nicholas Murray was awarded $1.75 million in November 2015, and Austin Pledger was awarded $2.5 million in February 2015.

Perhaps still smarting from all of those losses, earlier this month Johnson & Johnson reached an undisclosed settlement to end a Risperdal case filed by a man who started taking the drug at age seven to manage symptoms brought on by his Asperger’s syndrome. According to court documents, the plaintiff developed permanent gynecomastia.

That is one of dozens of Risperdal cases that J&J has opted to settle out of court.

In November 2013, Johnson & Johnson paid a $2.2 billion fine to settle a Justice Department investigation into its promotion and marketing of Risperdal. This was one of the largest such fines in American pharmaceutical history.

There are 1,500 Risperdal lawsuits still pending in U.S. courts.

Hip Replacement Cases Cost $4.15 Billion and Counting

The most expensive legal battle of all, though, keys on Johnson & Johnson’s defective hip implants. In 2013, J&J settled thousands of claims about its Depuy ASR implants for an estimated $4 billion.

That model is not the only one creating pains for patients and headaches for J&J, though. Johnson & Johnson’s Pinnacle hip implant has generated 8,400 lawsuits, the vast majority of which are currently pending in multi-district litigation (MDL).

A bellwether Pinnacle case recently made it to trial, where a jury awarded plaintiffs $500 million in damages.

One bellwether case, though, recently made it to trial, where a jury awarded five plaintiffs $500 million in damages. (A Texas judge later cut that award to $151 million.) Another bellwether Pinnacle trial went to court in September; there has been no word yet on a verdict. Legal experts feel that another loss for J&J could prompt the company to settle the remaining 8,400 suits.

If you or a loved one have suffered unforeseen physical or financial harm because of Johnson & Johnson hip implants, talc products, or its drug Risperdal, please contact us today to explore your options. Don’t wait; you could qualify for compensation.

10 Ways to Beat the Airline Industry’s Outrageous Prices

Airlines make a steep profit this time of the year, using tactics that are often questionable and sometimes even illegal. As planes become more uncomfortable and prices surge, some consumers are holding airlines accountable through class action lawsuits and savvy ticket purchasing practices.

It isn’t just your imagination that airplane travel has gotten extremely expensive. A class action lawsuit is pending for an alleged price-fixing scheme among the four major airlines (American Airlines, Delta, Southwest, and United Continental) dating back to 2009. Plaintiffs claim that the price-fixing conspiracy resulted in higher prices, fewer options, and ultimately a $21.7 billion combined profit in 2015.

In addition to being on the lookout for illegal practices, consumers can also beat airlines at their own game by understanding their pricing strategies. Here are a few ways to avoid falling victim to price surges this holiday season.

1. Use the “Stopover Trick”

Airlines operate using a “hub-and-spoke” system. Each airline has major “hub” cities (for example, Houston is a United hub and Atlanta is a Delta hub) that connect to its surrounding “spoke” cities. Flights to hub cities are often much more expensive than flying to a nearby city because of the number of flights through hub airports.

Before booking a direct flight to a major hub city, research the fares for nearby cities that will likely connect in your destination. For example, if you want to fly direct to Atlanta on Delta (the airline’s major hub city), booking a flight to Savannah, GA that connects in Atlanta could save you a lot of money. Ignore your connecting flight and enjoy a cheaper, direct flight to your original destination.

Note that you can’t check bags if you do this, and airlines frown upon it.

The “stopover trick,” “hidden city,” call it what you will, was popularized by Skiplagged.com founder Aktarer Zaman. United Airlines and Orbitz tried to sue him for lost revenue, claiming the site was “unfair competition,” but they eventually withdrew.

Zaman maintains that his site is strictly pro-consumer: “I’m just providing people with information and making them more informed,” he said in an article for CNN.

2. Search for Error Fares

Sometimes an airline or hotel posts the wrong price because of human error, inaccurate currency conversions, etc., allowing passengers in the know to save money on airfare. Sites like Secret Flying use custom code to detect these errors for the benefit of other travelers.

3. Book Your Flight During the “Prime Window”

The best time to book a flight is between 112 and 21 days before your departure date, according to research from CheapAir. If you really want the lowest price, on average you will find the lowest fares 54 days before you fly.

If you can, try to book on a Tuesday around 3 p.m. Airlines typically release their flight deals on Monday afternoon, sending them to sites like Travelocity and Expedia. By Tuesday afternoon, competitors have already adjusted their prices accordingly, increasing your chances to find the best rates.

4. Pick the Cheapest Travel Days and Times

Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays are the slowest days to travel, making them also the cheapest days to travel. For domestic flights, you can save up to 40% by simply flying out a day earlier or later.

Choose your departure time wisely as well. The cheapest fares are found between 5 and 7 a.m. and after 8 p.m. (Save money and sleep on the plane.)

5. Switch Flights on the Day of Your Departure

Yes, that flight at 6 a.m. will be cheaper, but it’s far less pleasant than flying at 10 a.m. If you are debating between departure times, try booking the cheaper one in advance and switching flights the day of. Same-day change fees are typically around $50, which is often cheaper than the initial price difference when booking.

Note that this only works if there are still seats on the second flight and if you switch your reservation before your scheduled departure.

6. Book Tickets Separately

If you are booking a flight for a group, pay for each ticket separately. Even if there are a few cheap seats left, by booking in a group you will be charged the higher price for each reservation. Booking one seat at a time allows you to save on at least some of the seats.

Also, research prices for return flights on other travel sites and airlines before making a round-trip reservation to ensure you are getting the best deals each way.

7. Know Your Passenger Rights

Cancelled flight? Lost luggage? You may be entitled to compensation.

The U.S. Department of Transportation requires airlines to compensate passengers for delayed and lost baggage, up to $3,300 for domestic flights and $1,500 for international, depending on the value of the contents and the length of the delay.

You can receive up to $650 for shorter travel delays, and up to $1,300 for longer delays.

If you are bumped from an overbooked flight or your flight is cancelled, you are entitled to compensation. You can receive up to $650 for shorter travel delays (arriving one to two hours later for domestic flights and one to four hours later for international flights), and up to $1,300 for longer delays.

Airlines may also downgrade passengers (from first class to business, for example). In these cases, most regulatory authorities will require that you are compensated for the difference in fares. Ask that you are compensated for the difference in fares when you booked, rather than the difference on the day you fly (that seat in coach will be much more expensive and result in a smaller refund).

Some airlines may offer to compensate passengers in the form of miles or vouchers. This is acceptable but know that you are also entitled to cash if you prefer.

Hold Them Accountable

8. Volunteer to be “Bumped Off” a Crowded Flight

Airlines estimate how many people will cancel or miss their flight. Sometimes they overestimate this number and there aren’t enough seats to accommodate passengers.

If your schedule permits it, volunteer to switch to a later flight. In return, you can receive perks like lounge access, upgrades, and cash. If there aren’t many volunteers, keep in mind the fees airlines are expected to pay for bumping unwilling customers and negotiate accordingly.

9. Sell Your Aisle Seat

If you are looking for a few bucks and don’t mind the middle seat, you can sell your aisle or window seat to another passenger. The app Seataroo lets passengers sell their prime airplane real estate to other travelers for a small fee.

10. Beware of Fake Travel Sites and Scams

It’s tempting to jump at the first deal you find, but make sure it is legitimate before you give away your credit card information. Fake travel sites are becoming more commonit’s estimated that as many as 15 million hotel reservations were made on imposter sites in 2014.

And just because you recognize the company name, doesn’t mean it’s safe. Imposter sites regularly pose as major airlines and hotels, scamming consumers through fake social media sweepstakes and online deals. Look out for fuzzy logos, odd URLs, etc. that may signal a scam.

Refer to the Federal Trade Commission’s tips for more guidance.

Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals Cost U.S. $340 Billion Annually

Chemicals used in everyday products cost the United States more than $340 billion per year in health care and lost earnings, according to a new study.

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals—found in consumer goods that include plastics, metal food cans, furniture, carpeting, toys, detergents, cosmetics, and pesticides—interfere with the body’s endocrine (hormone) system and contribute to developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune dysfunction.

Endocrine disruptors are linked to IQ points loss, autism, ADHD, diabetes, cancer, and more.

In the United States, the economic disease burden of endocrine-disrupting chemicals—which reflects direct treatment costs as well as indirect lost productivity costs—is estimated to be higher than in the European Union, where industrial chemicals are more tightly regulated. Endocrine disruptors cost the U.S. $340 billion per year (2.33% of GDP) and the European Union $217 billion per year (1.28% of GDP).

The greatest difference in U.S. vs. E.U. disease costs, say the study authors, comes from IQ points loss and intellectual disability due to polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE), a chemical blend used as a flame retardant on furniture. PBDE causes 43,000 annual cases of intellectual disability annually in the U.S., compared to 3,290 in the EU. Europe has restricted PBDEs since 2008.

Costs associated with organophosphates—chemical substances found in pesticides—are significantly lower in the United States ($42 billion) than in Europe ($121 billion). U.S. regulators are stricter about organophosphates than their European counterparts.

Other diseases linked to endocrine disruptors looked at in the study included autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, and endometriosis.

“These findings speak to the large health and economic benefits to regulating endocrine-disrupting chemicals,” senior study author Dr. Leonardo Trasande told Reuters.

Researchers based U.S. data on endocrine-disrupting hormones found in blood and urine samples of patients in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and compared it to the results of an earlier European study.

“Exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the USA: a population-based disease burden and cost analysis” is published in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology.

Differences in U.S., EU Policy Underlie Exposure Disparity

Chemical policy in the United States operates differently in the European Union and helps explains why more people in this country are exposed to chemicals like endocrine disruptors.

“Adults and children in the U.S. carry more industrial chemicals in their bodies than their European counterparts simply due to differences in chemical policies,” public health researcher Joseph Allen of Harvard told Reuters.

European Union chemical policy endorses the precautionary principle, a burden of proof that does not require a substance to be proven absolutely safe. Rather, when the precautionary principle is invoked, a company may be required to prove the absence of danger. This allows potentially hazardous chemicals to be restricted even without a complete scientific evaluation. Only substantial, credible evidence of human or environmental health risks is needed to trigger regulatory action.

U.S. law, which does not formally endorse the precautionary principle, sets a much higher bar for proving a substance is safe. In the U.S., evidence of actual harm must generally be produced before regulatory action is taken.

“Our chemical policy largely follows the approach of our legal system – ‘innocent until proven guilty,’” said Joseph Allen. “This is appropriate for criminal justice policy but has disastrous consequences for health when used for chemical policy.”

Endocrine Disruptors Can Wreak Havoc on Bodies

There’s room for debate about whether European and American chemical regulations are significantly different in their overall outcomes. For example, the measured effects of polybrominated diphenyl ethers and organophosphates in the E.U. and U.S. from the Lancet study show how regulators on each continent vary in their precautionary approaches to the same chemicals.

Americans are effectively acting as guinea pigs for the chemical industry.

But there’s no debating the fact that endocrine disruptors pose significant health risks. Since the precise nature of those risks are still being studied, Americans are effectively acting as guinea pigs for the chemical industry.

What is known about endocrine disruptors is cause enough for concern. They’ve been linked to cancers, reproductive problems, early puberty, birth defects, kidney and thyroid disease, nervous system dysfunction, and other serious problems.

The prevalence of these chemicals in our bodies underscores their omnipresence. BPA—a chemical used in plastics that can cause cancer, obesity, and heart disease—has been found in 93% of Americans. Atrazine, used on U.S. corn crops and pervasive in drinking water, has been shown to feminize male frogs and is linked to several cancers.

Avoiding these chemicals therefore requires major lifestyle changes, such as eating organic, avoiding plastic food containers, and filtering drinking water.

The Environmental Working Group offers a free download that details twelve of the most prevalent endocrine disruptors and how to avoid them.

Comcast’s Hidden Fees Could Be Illegal

A new class action lawsuit filed in the Northern District of California on October 15, 2016 alleges that Comcast’s notorious hidden fees constitute false advertising. Among the other charges in the 76-page complaint:

  • Comcast falsely advertised its cable TV service at flat monthly rates when it intended to charge more than promised via a Broadcast TV Fee and/or a Regional Sports Fee.
  • Comcast did not adequately disclose and describe these fees to plaintiffs.
  • Comcast’s representation of these fees on customers’ bills was deceptive.
  • Comcast breached its own contracts by charging these fees.
  • Comcast failed to give adequate notice to plaintiffs before increasing fee amounts.
  • Comcast misled and lied to customers about the nature and purpose of its fees.
  • Comcast breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing with customers.

Though Comcast requires all customers to agree to an arbitration clause (as part of their service agreements) that ostensibly forbids them from taking the cable giant to court, the complaint argues that this clause is “unconscionable, illusory, and unenforceable,” and that plaintiffs were not informed of the clause and/or did not agree to it.

Cable_Satisfaction_Ratings

In response, Comcast will likely point not only to the arbitration clause but to the fact that its “hidden” fees are usually noted in the fine print of advertisements and bills.

(That fine print helps explain why the cable industry is one of the most hated in America, along with airlines—though these aren’t the only ones whose actual prices dwarf their advertised ones.)

Comcast may have the law on its side, but it certainly won’t have public opinion in its corner—or the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

FCC Fines Comcast $2.3 Million for Shady Billing Practices

Just days before the class action was filed, the FCC hammered Comcast with a $2.3 million fine for charging customers for equipment and services they hadn’t requested or authorized. In many cases, customers had even rejected the service offers when speaking to Comcast reps.

 

The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau chief, Travis LeBlanc, said in a statement:

“It is basic that a cable bill should include charges only for services and equipment ordered by the customer—nothing more and nothing less. We expect all cable and phone companies to take responsibility for the accuracy of their bills and to ensure their customers have authorized any charges.”

The practice of “negative option billing”—charging customers for services or equipment they never asked for—is rampant in the cable industry, among others. Though Comcast acknowledged its bills could have been clearer and its customer service better, it denied any wrongdoing or even “problematic policy.”

In a statement, the company said the FCC simply found “isolated errors or customer confusion.”

WA Attorney General Sues Comcast for $100 Million

If the billing and customer service practices cited above are just isolated errors, they bear a striking resemblance to the ones outlined by Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

In August 2016 Mr. Ferguson filed a $100 million lawsuit against Comcast, alleging the company violated the state’s Consumer Protection Act (CPA). Among that complaint’s charges:

  • Comcast duped 500,000 consumers into paying $73 million in subscription fees for a supposedly comprehensive “protection plan” that actually does not cover the vast majority of wiring work done at consumers’ homes.
  • Comcast hit subscribers with fees for service visits related to malfunctioning Comcast equipment and networking errors. (Despite the company’s guarantee: “We won’t charge you for a service that results from a Comcast equipment or network problem.”)
  • Comcast authorized service technicians to charge for work that should be performed for free.
  • Comcast performed thousands of unauthorized credit checks on customers, negatively impacting their credit scores.

Comcast’s policy states that customers with good credit scores can waive the deposit fees. At least 6,000 times, though, customers opted to pay the deposit fee—only to have Comcast check their credit anyway.

“This case is a classic example of a big corporation deceiving its customers for financial gain.”

In his press release announcing the lawsuit, Mr. Ferguson stated, “This case is a classic example of a big corporation deceiving its customers for financial gain. I won’t allow Comcast to continue to put profits above customers—and the law.”

If you have been the victim of false advertising and/or deceptive billing practices, contact us to learn your rights. You may be entitled to compensation for financial losses and other damages.

The New Tobacco? 10 Ways Big Soda Got Us Hooked

A decades-long campaign involving classic advertising, targeting youth, fighting taxes, influencing research, and obscuring facts? Sounds like a story we’ve already seen played out when we lifted the veil on Big Tobacco. This, however, is Big Soda—whose main players include The Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo—and their tactics are all too familiar.

Today, we face an added sugar crisis. Sugar consumption has increased by 30% in the last 30 years. The average American adult consumes 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day, and American children consume 32 teaspoons—way above the World Health Organization’s six teaspoon recommendation. According to the latest Federal Government Dietary Guidelines, soft drinks currently represent 25% of Americans’ sugar intake, and sugar-sweetened beverages in general (including sports drinks and juice) represent 39% of our sugar consumption. Just one 12-oz can of coke has 9.5 teaspoons of sugar.

Why is soda so bad for us?

As the largest source of added sugars in the American diet, soda is a major contributing factor to a host of medical conditions. High amounts of sugar can lead to weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, teeth and bone damage.

The more soda a person drinks, the greater the chance that he or she is overweight. “People who drink this ‘liquid candy’ do not feel as full as if they had eaten the same calories from solid food and do not compensate by eating less,” said Harvard researchers.

“People who drink this ‘liquid candy’ do not feel as full as if they had eaten the same calories from solid food.”

“I know of no other category of food whose elimination can produce weight loss in such a short period of time,” said Dr. David Ludwig, director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital.”

Science also shows that excess sugar consumption can affect cognitive function. UCLA scientists discovered that if your diet doesn’t have a sufficient amount of Omega-3 fatty acids to balance a diet high in sugar, your ability to learn and remember information will suffer. In their study, two groups of rats were fed a sugared solution for six weeks. The rats that didn’t receive Omega-3 fatty acids to offset the high glucose amounts significantly underperformed in a maze.

There are also claims that sugar has similar effects on our brain that drugs like cocaine do. In fact, Coca-Cola was initially made with cocaine, so it isn’t that much of a stretch. Sugar activates the rewards system in our cerebral cortex and releases dopamine, producing a good feeling. Too much sugar and it can create an addiction, similar to drugs and alcohol.

If we know soft drinks are so bad for us, why are they still so popular? Here are ten ways that Big Soda got us to overlook damaging statistics and continue consuming sugary beverages.

1. They told us that physical inactivity was to blame for obesity

The soda industry successfully shifted the obesity conversation away from diet and on to exercise. They argue that the high obesity rates today are attributed to Americans becoming more sedentary and not moving as much as they used to. The solution, according to them, is exercise—not making changes to our diets.

To ingrain the misconception that exercise is the cure-all for obesity and diabetes, Coca-Cola proclaims on their website: “There is increasing concern about overweight and obesity worldwide, and while there are many factors involved, the fundamental cause in most cases is an imbalance between calories consumed and calories expended.”

This theory formed the basis for Coca-Cola’s short-lived and controversial Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN). GEBN proclaimed that the cause of obesity was a discrepancy between “energy in” (the amount of calories consumed) and “energy out” (calories burned in physical activity). The nonprofit disbanded at the end of 2015, less than two years from its formation, after it was revealed that Coca-Cola paid University of Colorado researchers $1 million to promote these ideas.

While it’s true that exercise is important in leading a healthy lifestyle, it doesn’t have a major impact on our waistlines. A year-long study conducted in 2007 followed sedentary, overweight adults as they started a regular exercise regimen. Without making any changes in diet, men had lost an average of 3.5 pounds by the end of the year, and women only 2.5 pounds. Similarly, Loyola University released a report in 2015 that argued that unless you are exercising well above the recommended daily activity levels, the only way to lose weight is by cutting calories.

Even fitness experts, who would normally love pro-exercise arguments, have told us that resting the weight of obesity on physical activity is unrealistic. Crossfit Founder Greg Glassman actively opposes Coca-Cola’s pro-exercise programs, saying that if people believed that exercise is the solution to obesity, then what he was promoting at Crossfit was akin to “medical malpractice.”

2. They funded pro-soda and pro-sugar research

Big Soda supports their pro-exercise argument by funding research studies to ensure that they have “science-backed” claims. Just last year, the Mayo Clinic published a Coca-Cola-funded report that claimed “the American diet is no longer a significant risk factor for disease for most individuals.”

Most importantly, Big Soda rests on a decades-long pro-sugar campaign. It was only this year that we learned from the University of California San Francisco that the sugar industry manipulated research on the causes of heart disease. After research emerged in the 1950s that connected sugar to heart disease, the Sugar Research Foundation sponsored a 1965 Harvard University literature review that downplayed sugar’s risk factors. Instead, researchers shifted the blame to fats, shaping public misperception of heart health for decades.

Researchers shifted the blame to fats, shaping public misperception of heart health for decades.

In addition, the sugar industry influenced dental health research, particularly in the 1970s. Sugar-funded research and campaigns focused attention on fluoride toothpaste and other measures to prevent tooth decay, rather than urging people to lower sugar consumption.

The current president of the Sugar Association has said that sugar doesn’t cause obesity—that it’s a “slippery slope” to connect the two. Current PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi has made similar remarks: “We have to approach this as a complex problem that requires a multifaceted solution, as opposed to a simple solution such as tax the company or make bans happen.”

FDA labelMisperception of sugar comes all the way from the top. The federal government didn’t provide recommendations on sugar consumption until this year. (Now they suggest sugar should be less than 10% of your daily calories.)

To make Americans more aware of the sugar they consume, the FDA unveiled new nutrition labels that will take effect in July 2018. The new labels break out added sugars and list the percentage of your daily recommended sugar intake.

Not surprisingly, the Sugar Association released a statement protesting the new guidelines: “We are concerned that the ruling sets a dangerous precedent that is not grounded in science, and could actually deter us from our shared goal of a healthier America.” They go on to argue that adding another category to the labels and fixating on one dietary aspect “may undermine consumer efforts to have healthier diets.” The American Beverage Association (ABA) also believes the new label is unnecessary, but because soda companies are already addressing sugar concerns.

Though the new labels are a move in the right direction, many health advocates argue that the FDA should stop measuring sugar in grams and instead use teaspoons, of which Americans have a better understanding. Tina Rosenberg writes in an op-ed for The New York Times, “In general, the industry has been able to make nutritional labels as feeble and confusing as possible. It’s hard to tell what’s a little and what’s a lot.”

3. They influenced health groups, researchers, and dietitians 

In addition to funding pro-soda and sugar research, Big Soda also pays health professionals outright to make statements supporting them. This is especially common when legislators propose soda taxes. Kyle Pfister, a public health advocator, discovered that dieticians were tweeting against the soda taxes, using hashtags like “#partner” and “#advisor” to allude to their connections with the soda industry (like the one below).

But their influence goes much deeper than just paying for endorsements here and there. A study from the American Journal of Preventive Medicine reported that Coca-Cola and PepsiCo financially supported nearly 100 health organizations between 2011 and 2015, including, ironically, the American Diabetes Association and the American Society for Nutrition.

Though they are one of the leading causes of obesity, soda companies are completely woven into the fabric of our health and wellness organizations.

Rhona Applebaum, Coca-Cola’s chief scientist and health officer stepped down in November 2015, after leaked emails between Applebaum and University of Colorado professor James O. Hill showed just how biased the Global Energy Balance Network’s health recommendations were.

Soda companies are completely woven into the fabric of our health and wellness organizations.

Applebaum allegedly told Hill that the GEBN researchers had to cooperate with the soda industry—”that is non-negotiable.” It was also leaked that Hill wrote to another Coke executive, stating: “I want to help your company avoid the image of being a problem in peoples’ [sic] lives and back to being a company that brings important and fun things to them.”

In June 2016, Dr. Barbara Bowman, director of CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, resigned after leaked emails showed she was collaborating with Coca-Cola executives. Emails revealed her offering executive Alex Malaspina help connecting with the World Health Organization (WHO), which had previously given Coca-Cola the cold shoulder.

In some cases, soda companies have hired public health officials who previously fought against them. PepsiCo hired Dr. Derek Yach, a public health advocate who worked for WHO and led their fight against tobacco, as director of PepsiCo’s global health policy. Yach argued that he wanted to make change from within. However, critics (like Soda Politics author Marion Nestle) argued that this move only lended more credibility to PepsiCo.

4. They created fake grassroots movements to fight soda taxes

To fight obesity, 33 states have passed some form of a soda tax. However, the tax amounts are generally small enough not to affect consumption levels. When communities have come together to propose higher soda taxes and restrictions, the industry has reacted with a force equal to Big Tobacco lobbying.

In New York City, Mayor Bloomberg witnessed this firsthand when he proposed the Soda Cap, prohibiting the sale of sugary beverages 16 ounces or larger. This measure ignited the soda-backed grassroots movement. New Yorkers saw anti-soda cap propaganda from what appeared to be community-based organizations (e.g., “New Yorkers against Soda Cap”), but who were in fact created and supported by the soda industry.

To fight San Francisco’s Prop E soda tax in 2014, Big Soda created The Coalition for an Affordable City, which deceptively sounded like a community group fighting against the high cost of living. They hired non-residents to hold signs during “No-on-E” protests, and even published the names of many companies who opposed the tax that were actually in favor of it.

San Francisco’s Prop E didn’t pass, but when taxes and amendments are approved they are immediately challenged in court by the American Beverage Association. After the New York soda cap was approved by the NYC Board of Health, it was defeated in the New York Supreme Court in June 2014.

Though hailed as a success story, Philadelphia is now battling the ABA over their Sweetened Beverage Tax. Revenue from the tax, which is the highest in America at 1.5 cents per ounce, goes towards pre-K programs, parks, and rec centers. The ABA argues that it’s double taxation and therefore unconstitutional. It is still unclear if the tax will take effect in 2017 as planned.

“They hired every lobbyist in America—some from the moon.”

Big Soda spent $10 million to fight the tax in Philadelphia alone, and it has spent $67 million nationwide to fight similar legislation. In an interview with The New York Times, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney tried to make light of the fierce battle with Big Soda, noting that “they hired every lobbyist in America—some from the moon.”

5. They pushed stevia-sweetened sodasthe new “healthy cigarette”

15924685866_3abcd9aa03_bCoca-Cola and Pepsi’s diet sodas have long been the industry’s answer to sugar critics. Though lower in sugar and calories than regular cola, the ingredients in these beverages don’t fit the healthy banner they sit under.

Coca-Cola Life and Pepsi True, which were both introduced in the U.S. in 2014, are packaged in green cans and marketed for their low-calorie natural sweetener, Stevia. Both companies have been criticized for their claims about how “natural” Stevia is, which they support with advertisements that feature plants and the color green.

Stevia sweetener, which is derived from the Stevia plant, doesn’t just fall off the plant like the ads suggest. It is significantly processed.

A class action lawsuit against stevia argued that, “A reasonable consumer would not consider food products containing unnaturally processed, synthetic substances… created via chemical processing to be ‘all-natural.’”

Furthermore, critics argue that the green, natural images Coca-Cola and PepsiCo project with these products lead consumers to believe (wrongly) that they are healthy. But Pepsi True contains 3.2 teaspoons of sugar in its small 7.5-ounce can, while Coca-Cola Life has a whopping six teaspoons of sugar for every 12-ounce can.

Queensland University of Technology’s Professor Amanda Lee said, “It reminds me of the stage we were up at 30 years ago when manufacturers were making healthy cigarettes. I’m worried, it’s trying to make a product that’s intrinsically unhealthy, healthy.”

(Click below for Part 2.)

A Timeline of Monsanto’s Roundup Controversy

Monsanto is no stranger to controversy. This is the company that brought us Agent Orange, an herbicide deployed during the Vietnam War that wound up traumatizing both the Vietnamese and our own troops. (Monsanto would later reach a $180 million settlement with Vietnam vets over diseases like leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Parkinson’s disease, and respiratory cancer.)

Hold Monsanto Accountable

In 1974, four years after the U.S. stopped using Agent Orange, Monsanto introduced Roundup (glyphosate)—another powerful herbicide that quickly became a mainstay on most American farms.

But like Agent Orange, Roundup would be linked to cancer. This herbicide, too, could wind up costing the company millions due to lawsuits.

1996

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Monsanto patents and releases Roundup-Ready seeds, which are genetically modified to withstand the ubiquitous Roundup herbicide. (These seeds/crops are known as GMCs: genetically modified crops.) This allows farmers to kill weeds (in the short term, at least) without also dooming their own crops.

Over the next 20 years, Roundup-Ready crops will come to dominate their respective markets, eventually reaching a 90% share.

Thanks to the Roundup-Ready patent and relevant legal protections—and Monsanto’s aggressive acquisitions of its competitors—some argue that Monsanto has a monopoly on the biotech industry. (Without question, it is the largest biotech company in the world.)

2009

The Oscar-nominated documentary Food, Inc. is released on June 12. The film shows Monsanto in a harsh light, portraying the company as mobilizing an army of attorneys to bully farmers into using their Roundup-Ready soybeans—and suing those who won’t cooperate.

Importantly, the film emphasizes that the Roundup-Ready seeds are “terminating” seeds. That means farmers can’t replant them; instead, they must go back to Monsanto to buy more seeds whenever they run out.

Food, Inc. inflicts so much damage on Monsanto’s reputation that the company creates several pages on its website just to respond to the charges lobbed in the film.

2013

Entropy—a peer-reviewed scientific journal based in Switzerland—publishes a study that concludes

glyphosate enhances the damaging effects of other food borne chemical residues and environmental toxins. Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body.

According to the study, one of the consequences of this negative impact is cancer.

Hold Monsanto Accountable

2015

In March, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, or IARC (part of the World Health Organization, or WHO) assesses the potential cancer-causing (carcinogenic) effects of glyphosate (Roundup). It determines that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

That fall, plaintiffs file the first of at least 25 lawsuits against Monsanto over Roundup’s allegedly cancer-causing effects. Many plaintiffs, like Yolanda Mendoza, just sprayed Roundup on their yard every week.

Ms. Mendoza, a mother of three, contracted Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2013. (After intensive chemotherapy, her cancer is currently in remission.)

“What everyone has in common is that they all used Roundup and they all have non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.”

Her attorney Robin L. Greenwald tells CBS News, “Some people are landscapers, some people are migrant farm workers, some people are farmers. What everyone has in common is that they all used Roundup and they all have non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.”

For the year, Monsanto rakes in $4.75 billion in herbicide sales.

2016

In April, the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOME) publishes a study that concludes that herbicides like glyphosate are “associated with a high risk of cutaneous melanoma” (skin cancer), “in particular among those exposed to occupational sun exposure.”

In September, pharmaceutical giant Bayer AG announces it will buy Monsanto for $66 billion, raising serious concerns about rising prices for farmers. (This is the second massive merger of the year after the Dow-DuPont deal.)

Later that month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finds trace amounts of Roundup in various oatmeals, cereals, and baby foods.

The next month, federal judges consolidate 21 Monsanto Roundup lawsuits into a multi-district litigation (MDL) in the Northern District of California.

TODAY

If you or a loved one contracted cancer after using Roundup, please contact us today to explore your legal options. Our firm is one of the most successful consumer protection firms in the country, with more than 300 attorneys and a support staff of 1,500. We have a history of standing up to bullies and have never represented a large corporation—that’s why our motto is “For the People.”

We may be able to help you get relief for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other expenses. Don’t wait; these lawsuits are time-sensitive, and you may be owed compensation.

5 FAQs About the New 9/11 Lawsuits

1. What is JASTA?

 The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, or JASTA, allows victims of terrorist acts committed on American soil to file lawsuits against foreign governments who helped carry out the attacks. It creates an exemption to the foreign sovereign immunity that typically protects countries in these kinds of incidents.

Senator John Cornyn (R – TX) introduced the bill in September 2015. A year later, President Obama vetoed the bill, citing national security and diplomatic concerns. But days later, he was overridden by Congress via a 97-to-1 vote in the Senate and a 348-to-77 vote in the House.

JASTA was enacted on September 28, 2016. People who suffered physical, financial, or property damage as a result of the 9/11 attacks can now seek relief from foreign governments that they feel played a role in the attacks.

Stephanie DeSimone—the wife of Navy Commander Patrick Dunn, who died at the Pentagon on September 11—filed a 9/11 lawsuit against Saudi Arabia shortly after JASTA’s passing.

2. Why did Obama try to veto JASTA?

The main reason Obama vetoed JASTA (only to be overridden by Congress) is because the law could open up the U.S. to litigation over its military actions abroad (drone strikes, civilian casualties, etc.). Even if the U.S. was not convicted of wrongdoing, Obama argued, the evidence it would have to supply in the discovery phase of trial could jeopardize national security.

In his statement to Congress, President Obama said, “Enacting [this legislation] into law… would neither protect Americans from terrorist attacks nor improve the effectiveness of our response to such attacks.”

Of course, the point of the law is not protection or retaliation but relief for victims of 9/11 and accountability for its perpetrators.

Hold Them Accountable

3. Did the Saudi government play a role in 9/11?

Maybe. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were Saudi citizens (the other four were from the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Lebanon).

Though the 9/11 Commission Report “found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization,” it also noted, “Saudi Arabia has long been considered the primary source of al Qaeda funding.” Al Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden, of course, claimed responsibility for orchestrating the 9/11 attacks.

Also of note: Saudi Arabia spent more than $3 million dollars to lobby against JASTA, which also raised some eyebrows. If they don’t bear any responsibility for the 9/11 attacks, why did they try so hard to kill the bill?

As Senator Charles Schumer (D – NY) put it, “If the Saudis did nothing wrong, they should not fear this legislation.”

4. Who qualifies for a 9/11 lawsuit?

Anyone who suffered physical, financial, or property damage from the 9/11 attacks is now eligible to seek redress from foreign governments like Saudi Arabia’s, assuming they can prove liability on the part of that government.

Importantly, eligible parties may have filed domestic 9/11-related lawsuits in the past. For example, a potential client may have been denied redress in an earlier case because he was working at the time of his or her injury and awarded worker’s compensation. Whether a past lawsuit was successful has no bearing on the new 9/11 lawsuits that will be filed against foreign governments.

Qualifying parties may include:

  • Business owners in Lower Manhattan/the Financial District
  • First responders (police, firefighters, etc.) on 9/11
  • Spouses and family members of 9/11 casualties
  • People working in the Pentagon or at Ground Zero on 9/11
  • Cleanup workers at the attack sites

5. What types of relief do people seek in a 9/11 lawsuit?

Depending on the circumstances of the case, plaintiffs may seek relief in a 9/11 lawsuit for the following:

  • Property damage
  • Loss of business/wages
  • Medical bills
  • Pain and suffering
  • Funeral expenses
  • Punitive damages
  • Attorney fees

Our attorneys have extensive experience with complex litigation. As one of the largest consumer protection firms in the country—with 300+ attorneys and a support staff of more than 1,500—we are one of the few with the resources to take on a foreign government like Saudi Arabia. To date, we have won $2 billion for 200,000 clients.

If you or a loved one suffered losses as a result of these horrific attacks, the Saudi government may be partially to blame, and you could be owed compensation. For a free, no-obligation case review, contact us today or call 888-522-5237.

Jury Hammers R.J. Reynolds with $6.4M Verdict for Family of Emphysema Victim

Last week, a jury in Florida found R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company partially to blame for the death of John Price, a 74-year-old man who died in 2010 from emphysema.

ClassAction.com attorneys filed the lawsuit on behalf of Mr. Price’s family. They claimed that R.J. Reynolds, which produces brands like Camel and Lucky Strike, was guilty of hiding the dangers of smoking throughout most of the 20th century, making the company liable for Mr. Price’s nicotine addiction and eventual death.

Fight Big Tobacco

Tobacco Industry Denied Health Risks for 25 Years

Reynolds_Building_WS_2Research published as early as the 1950s showed that cigarettes were a leading cause of lung disease. Starting in 1965, tobacco companies were required to print Surgeon General’s warnings on cigarette packs.

But despite this knowledge, the tobacco industry publicly denied that smoking cigarettes was a health risk up until the 1990s.

Throughout the 20th century, smoking was marketed as a leisurely activity by tobacco companies who glossed over the extremely addictive nature of its primary ingredient, nicotine. They went so far as to group the habit-forming effects of smoking with chocolate consumption or online shopping, though clearly neither of these vices has the same deadly effects as tobacco.

“The web of deceit was massive and well-funded and extraordinarily planned,” said Morgan & Morgan attorney Keith Mitnik.

John Price Was “Ideal Customer” for R.J. Reynolds

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) causes blockages of the airways, resulting in diseases like asthma, chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Eight out of 10 COPD-related deaths are caused by smoking.

Those who start smoking when their lungs are still developing—like Mr. Price—are even more at risk of developing COPD-related diseases later on.

Mr. Price’s death is a tragic example of how addicting nicotine can be. He started smoking as a teen and continued for more than 30 years, smoking an average of three packs a day before eventually succumbing to emphysema.

“John Price was not some rogue smoker… He is precisely what it was all about for [R.J. Reynolds].”

“John Price was not some rogue smoker,” said Mitnik in his closing remarks. “He is precisely what it was all about for [R.J. Reynolds]. Someone that would smoke all day long, because that’s where the money comes from.”

“They say, ‘We’re changed’… It’s new faces but the same problem. They still have an iron grip on nicotine addiction.”

Lawsuits Pile Up After Engle Decision

Florida has a long history of big wins against Big Tobacco. In 1994, a class action lawsuit (Engle v. Liggett Group Inc.) found tobacco companies guilty of hiding the dangerous side effects of smoking for most of the 20th century, resulting in a $145 billion verdict. Though the verdict was decertified in 2006, individuals can still use the jury’s findings in court if they demonstrate a link between nicotine addiction and a smoking-related disease.

Mr. Price’s case was just one of three Engle progeny lawsuits filed against R.J. Reynolds within a week.

Mr. Price’s case was just one of three Engle progeny lawsuits filed against R.J. Reynolds within a week. The company paid $3 million to the widow of Julius Smith, who died from emphysema. R.J. Reynolds was also hit with a $9.1 million verdict alongside Philip Morris for the death of Dennis Oshinsky, who passed away from lung cancer.

File A Lawsuit

Mr. Mitnik, who also obtained a $90.8 million verdict against R.J. Reynolds in 2010, has lost faith in the company’s capacity to change.

“They acknowledge it’s addictive,” he said. “But that’s it and then it’s all sugar-coated, downplayed. Anything but acknowledging openly that’s the problem.”

Florida Man Files Discrimination Suit Alleging Server Referred to Him with Slur

With the help of ClassAction.com attorneys, Frantz Leger of Florida has filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against Mi Colombia Bakery, Inc., parent company of the Los Perros chain of fast food restaurants. Mr. Leger, who is black, says he was handed a receipt at a Los Perros that referred to him with a racial slur. The restaurant denies discriminating against Mr. Leger and blames Autocorrect for the slur.

The complaint, filed in the Southern District Court of Florida, alleges that on July 2, 2015 Mr. Leger experienced racial discrimination at Los Perros’ Miami Beach location. The complaint includes an alleged copy of the receipt, which shows the slur next to both the table and order number.

The receipt given to Mr Leger

Read the Complaint

On March 18, 2016, Mr. Leger filed a racial discrimination charge with the Florida Commission on Human Relations (FCHR). Mi Colombia owner Juan Hoyos denied the charge and offered a rebuttal, but on September 19, the FCHR determined that reasonable cause existed that an unlawful practice occurred, and advised Mr. Leger that he could file a civil suit.

A little over a week later, Mr. Leger did just that. The attorney who filed the complaint, Michael Hanna, said, “It’s sad that in this day and age we still see the type of discrimination alleged in the Complaint.” Mr. Hanna adds:

“Unfortunately ignorance persists and there are still people out there that think that others should be treated differently just because of their race, religion, or sex. We will not stand for this type of injustice. Thankfully our laws make this type of conduct illegal.”

Complaint Says Discrimination Was Intentional

Among other charges, the complaint alleges the following:

  • That the racial discrimination was intentional.
  • That as a result of this discrimination, Los Perros denied Mr. Leger the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, and accommodations of its restaurant, and furthermore intended to discourage him from revisiting the restaurant because of his race.
  • That calling Mr. Leger a racial slur creates a hostile environment.
  • That the defendant did nothing to remedy its discrimination.

The complaint also says that Mr. Leger was “disgusted, humiliated, and appalled” by the incident, and notes that the threat of repeated injury exists, “causing Plaintiff and other black individuals to… continue to suffer irreparable injury in the denial of their civil rights.”

Mr. Leger was “disgusted, humiliated, and appalled” by the incident.

Mr. Leger seeks an injunction against the illegal discrimination, compensatory and punitive damages, attorney fees, and any other relief available under the applicable civil rights statutes.

A Case of Autocorrect Gone Wrong?

In his written response to the March 2016 FCHR discrimination charge, Mi Colombia owner Juan Hoyos argued the following:

  • The company never refused accommodation or service to Mr. Leger and therefore did not violate state law.
  • The server never vocally called Mr. Leger a racial slur.
  • The server did not call Mr. Leger a racial slur “on multiple occasions” because it was allegedly written on just one receipt.

Mr. Hoyos also said that after “exhaustive investigation,” there was only one logical explanation for what occurred on July 2: “the system autocorrected” Mr. Leger’s last name to the slur. 

Screen-Shot-2016-10-01-at-12.30.12-AM

Read The Restaurant’s Response

Server No Longer Works at Restaurant

According to Mr. Hoyos’ response, Mr. Leger called the restaurant the day after the incident to explain what had happened the night before. He also asked to speak to the server who had waited on him.

The server was “shocked,” according to Mr. Hoyos. A few days later, when she came in for her next shift, the server “quit because she didn’t feel good” about the call she had received from Mr. Leger.

The server “quit because she didn’t feel good” about the call she had received from Mr. Leger.

According to Mr. Hoyos, the restaurant performed a thorough review of Los Perros’ security footage and the transaction record and found no evidence of discrimination.

But the FCHR determined that there appeared to be enough evidence to justify a lawsuit, and now Mr. Leger and Mr. Hoyos will head to court.