Tag Archives: class-action

Former Uber driver in Milwaukee sues company

A former Uber driver in the Milwaukee area has sued the ride-hailing company in federal court, seeking overtime pay, tips and other expenses on behalf of all current and former Wisconsin drivers.

Lamont Lathan is asking the court to “properly classify” Uber drivers as employees, not as the independent contractors Uber says they are in the class action lawsuit, which could have broad impact in the state and beyond.

The suit claims seven causes of action against Uber:

• breach of contract.

• conversion.

• Fraud.

• Misrepresentation.

• Tortious interference with prospective business relations.

• Unfair competition.

• Unjust enrichment.

• Violations of Wisconsin minimum wage and labor law.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports at least two dozen other lawsuits around the nation have made the same argument.

Lathan’s attorney, Brian Mahany, estimates there could be 10,000 drivers affected. He said many Uber drivers in the state make less than minimum wage.

The Journal Sentinel said the plaintiff drove for Uber starting in January, about 15 hours a week. He made $30 to $60 a week, but weekly expenses were about $60.

Uber didn’t return the newspaper’s request for comment.

Uber is an U.S. multinational online transportation network company headquartered in San Francisco that develops, markets and operates the Uber mobile app, which allows consumers with smartphones to submit a trip request which is then routed to Uber drivers who use their own cars.

 

Class-action suit challenges US government’s no-fly list

For Yaseen Kadura, a U.S. citizen of Libyan descent, placement on the no-fly list caused problems far beyond the airport.

He was handcuffed and interrogated for hours when he tried to cross borders by land. He struggled to pick a medical school, unsure where he could travel. And when he tried to use Western Union, the transfers never went through. Even after he was removed from no-fly list, many of the problems persisted.

Earlier this month, a civil rights group filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court in Alexandria on behalf of Kadura and thousands of other Americans who have been placed on the terror watch list. The suit seeks unspecified monetary compensation.

Among the plaintiffs is a 4-year-old California boy, listed as Baby John Doe, who according to the lawsuit was placed on the list of known or suspected terrorists as a 7-month-old boy.

The FBI didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

The no-fly list has been the subject of numerous lawsuits, which have been successful to varying degrees. The litigation has forced the government to make modest changes in its administration of the list — those who challenge their placement on the list are now informed of their status and given general information about the reason. Prior to that, the government wouldn’t confirm whether an individual is on the list.

The lawsuits have dragged on for years, the no-fly list itself remains intact and the broader terrorist watch list continues to expand.

The class-action suit provides several advantages, according to Gadeir Abbas, one of the lawyers who filed it. It allows those who were wrongly placed on the list to receive compensation. It eliminates procedural difficulties that would occur when a plaintiff would challenge the list and the government would subsequently allow that individual to fly to avoid a potentially adverse ruling from a sympathetic judge. And it allows the suit to focus on some of the side effects of the watch list that are sometimes overlooked.

Kadura seems to have been placed on the watch list after traveling in 2011 to Libya, where he was working and helping journalists who were flocking to the country to cover civil unrest there.

Shortly after returning, his travel troubles began. In September 2012, he was handcuffed with guns at pointed him and detained at a border crossing after a brief trip to Canada. He said at one point, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent pressured him to become an informant.

“He said, ‘We know you’re not a bad guy. We want you to work with us,’” Kadura said. He told the agent he wanted a lawyer. The agent said that “if you stick with your lawyer it’s going to be difficult for you.”

Kadura appealed his placement on the no-fly list, and last year the government responded that it “reevaluated Mr. Kadura’s redress inquiry and is now providing a new determination. … At this time the U.S. government knows of no reason Mr. Kadura should be unable to fly.”

Still, Kadura experienced problems. In January, he tried to fly domestically, but it took hours on the phone with government officials and questioning from airport agents before he was allowed to board.

And he still can’t use Western Union, according to the lawsuit.

Other plaintiffs have had citizenship applications placed on hold, been detained at the border and had their phones tapped, according to the lawsuit.

“The government has engaged in a decade-long delusion that being placed on a watch list is not a big deal,” the attorney Abbas said. “The goal is for the watch-listing to affect every aspect of these people’s lives.”

The lawsuit alleges that placement on the watch list is motivated by religious profiling rather than any real security threat.

Many of the plaintiffs named in the lawsuit are residents of Dearborn, Michigan, which has a large Arab population and has been subjected to aggressive watch-listing tactics by federal agents, said Lena Masri, a CAIR attorney.

More than 1 million people are on the list of “known or suspected terrorists” administered by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, though most are not U.S. citizens.

Court rejects corporate bids to toss class action cases

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected two corporate challenges in class action cases, refusing to hear bids by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Wells Fargo to throw out large judgments against them.

Wal-Mart had sought to get rid of a $187 million class action judgment over the retailer’s treatment of workers in Pennsylvania. Wells Fargo Co wanted the justices to toss a $203 million judgment over allegations the bank had imposed excessive overdraft fees.

The court’s decisions on whether to hear the cases had been on hold pending its action in a separate class action case involving Tyson Foods Inc.

On March 22, the court in that case backed workers at a pork facility in Iowa who said they were entitled to overtime pay and damages because they were not paid for the time spent putting on and taking off protective equipment and walking to work stations.

Entering the court’s current term, which began in October, the justices had issued a series of rulings in recent years clamping down on class action litigation, a goal of big business.

But that trend has not continued. The court has heard three important class action cases this term. In January, it ruled against advertising firm Campbell-Ewald and in March ruled against Tyson Foods.

The justices have yet to issue a ruling in a case argued in November in which online people-search service Spokeo Inc sought to avoid a class action lawsuit for including incorrect information in its database.

In declining to hear Wal-Mart’s appeal, the court left intact a 2014 ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that largely upheld a lower court judgment awarding the $187 million to the plaintiffs.

The case affects about 187,000 Wal-Mart employees who worked in Pennsylvania between 1998 and 2006.

“We are disappointed the Supreme Court decided not to review our case. While we continue to believe these claims should not be bundled together in a class action lawsuit, we respect the court’s decision,” a Wal-Mart spokesman said.

The Pennsylvania court mostly upheld a 2007 lower court ruling in favor of the employees, who said the company failed to pay them for all hours worked and prevented them from taking full meal and rest breaks. The appeals court threw out a $37 million attorneys’ fee award and ordered the trial court to recalculate that portion of the judgment.

In the Wells Fargo case, the justices left in place a 2014 ruling by the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholding the class action judgment against the bank.

Flint residents file class action suit

A lawsuit stemming from lead-contaminated water in Flint was filed this week on behalf of the city’s residents against Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder as well as other current and former government officials and corporations.

The federal lawsuit — which is seeking class-action status — alleges that tens of thousands of residents have suffered physical and economic injuries and damages. It argues officials failed to take action over “dangerous levels of lead” in drinking water and “downplayed the severity of the contamination” in the financially struggling city.

Governor responds to Flint suit

Snyder’s spokesman Ari Adler said the administration doesn’t comment on pending litigation, but is “staying focused on solutions for the people of Flint.”

Numerous lawsuits have been filed on behalf of Flint residents since a public health emergency was declared last year. The latest lawsuit, which seeks a jury trial and unspecified damages, was filed on behalf of seven residents.

A second recall petition filed by a Flint activist and naming Snyder while referencing the water crisis was approved by the Board of State Canvassers, the Detroit Free Press reported.

An earlier Snyder recall petition by a Detroit pastor over the water crisis was approved last month.

Flint, with a population of about 100,000, had switched from Detroit’s water system to the Flint River as a way to save money until a new pipeline to Lake Huron was ready. But during those 18 months, the corrosive water leached lead from the city’s old plumbing because certain treatments weren’t added to the water.

Snyder, whose administration repeatedly downplayed the lead threat, now calls it a “disaster.”

A report by the state auditor general released Friday found that state environmental regulators made crucial errors as Flint began using the new drinking water source that would become contaminated with lead. It says staffers in the Department of Environmental Quality’s drinking water office failed to order the city to treat its water with anti-corrosion chemicals as it switched to the river in April 2014, but also said the rules they failed to heed may not be strong enough to protect the public.

The report came as crews in the city started to dig up old pipes connecting water mains to homes.

No level of lead in the human body is considered safe, especially in children. The river water also may have been a source of Legionnaires’ disease, which killed at least nine people in the region.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver announced Sunday that Union Labor Life Insurance Co. committed to bring $25 million in low-cost loans to help remove lead pipes and improve water quality. She said the loans will help her Fast Start initiative that’s designed to replace all lead service lines in the city.

 

Should Philip Morris pay for lung cancer screenings? Case goes to trial

A decade after a group of smokers from Massachusetts sued Philip Morris USA to try to force the cigarette maker to pay for lung cancer screenings, the case goes to a jury trial.

Smokers in the class-action lawsuit allege Philip Morris manufactured a defective cigarette knowing it could have made a safer product with fewer carcinogens.

They are not seeking money, but instead want to compel Philip Morris to pay for highly detailed, three-dimensional chest scans that can detect signs of early-stage lung cancer that may be too small to show up on traditional X-rays.

The closely watched case going to trial this week in federal court in Boston.

The jury will be asked to decide whether Philip Morris made Marlboro cigarettes that are unreasonably dangerous. If the jury finds in favor of the smokers, a second phase will be held to determine how a medical monitoring program will be administered.

No smokers are expected to testify during the first phase. Instead, it will be a trial of dueling experts.

The plaintiffs plan to call a former Philip Morris employee to testify that feasible alternative designs of Marlboros have existed for decades. They also plan to call a psychologist who will testify that given a choice between Marlboros or a safer cigarette, a non-addicted, informed person would choose the safer alternative.

Philip Morris is expected to call experts in cigarette design and marketing who are likely to testify that the company’s lower-tar and lower-nicotine cigarettes — on the market since the late 1970s — have failed to gain a significant market share among any group of smoker.

Richard Daynard, a law professor at Northeastern University and anti-smoking activist, said past lawsuits seeking to force tobacco companies to provide medical monitoring have failed. But Daynard said he believes the Massachusetts case has a stronger chance of succeeding because recent studies have found that the sophisticated screening can save lives.

“What’s happened is you have better technology which captures the tumors at a much earlier stage where there’s a very good chance that if you get them that the person … is probably not going to die from it,” Daynard said.

A Philip Morris spokesman declined to comment, and lawyers for the company did not respond to messages.

In court documents, the company denied that its cigarettes are defectively designed and argued that three-dimensional chest scans would not be effective or necessary for every person covered by the lawsuit.

The case covers Massachusetts smokers who, as of February 2013, were at least 50, had at least a 20 pack-year history of smoking Marlboros and have not been diagnosed with lung cancer. Pack-years are calculated by multiplying the average number of packs per day by the number of years a person has smoked.

The two sides agree that the chest scans are “reasonably and periodically necessary” for smokers 55 to 74 with at least a 30 pack-year history. They disagree on the rest of the smokers in the lawsuit.

Since the case was filed in 2006, insurers have begun to cover the screenings for certain smokers. Last year, Medicare announced it would pay for annual screenings for beneficiaries 55 to 77 with at least a 30 pack-year history.

U.S. District Judge Denise Casper rejected a request to exclude evidence about insurers agreeing to pay for three-dimensional chest scans, but said she’ll instruct jurors that they are not allowed to consider whether any of the smokers have insurance coverage for screening.

“The fact that insurance now covers it and it’s recognized for certain groups as being efficacious may have some evidentiary value in the case, but it does not change the fact that Philip Morris could be liable for the cost of the scans,” said Christopher Weld, an attorney for the smokers.

Class-action suit seeks lawyers for minors facing deportation

Three children who witnessed the killing of their father in El Salvador left the violence seeking refuge in the United States. They now face deportation hearings, and expect to go to court without a lawyer.

A 15-year-old boy abandoned and abused in Guatemala came alone to the United States. He too faces a deportation hearing without a lawyer.

As does a 17-year-old boy who fled gang violence and recruitment in Guatemala to live with his dad in Los Angeles.

These minors are among the plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit charging the federal government with failure to provide thousands of children with legal representation in deportation hearings.

The American Civil Liberties Union, American Immigration Council, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Public Counsel and K&L Gates LLP filed the lawsuit earlier this month, at the same time a surge of tens of thousands of minors coming to the southern border became a central issue in the U.S. capital and in midterm elections across the country.

The plaintiffs came to the United States from Mexico and Central America. Some were seeking refuge from the violence in their homelands and all of them are scheduled for deportation hearings this summer but lack legal representation.

“If we believe in due process for children in our country, then we cannot abandon them when they face deportation in our immigration courts,” said Ahilan Arulanantham, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project and the ACLU Foundation of Southern California. “The government pays for a trained prosecutor to advocate for the deportation of every child. It is patently unfair to force children to defend themselves alone.”

The Obama administration recently announced a limited program to provide legal assistance to some youth facing deportation hearings, but the attorneys in the case say the proposal does not come close to meeting the need.

“Each day, we are contacted by children in desperate need of lawyers to advocate for them in their deportation proceedings,” said Kristen Jackson, a senior staff attorney with Public Counsel, a nonprofit law firm that works with immigrant children.

She said pro bono efforts have been valiant, but they cannot meet the need.

The complaint charges the U.S. government with violating the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment Due Process Clause and the Immigration and Nationality Act’s provisions requiring a “full and fair hearing” before an immigration judge. 

It seeks to require the government to provide children with representation in their hearings.

“Requiring children to fight against deportation without a lawyer is incompatible with American values of due process and justice for all,” said Beth Werlin, deputy legal director for the American Immigration Council.

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U.S. appeals court hears challenge to Virginia’s gay marriage ban

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on May 13 heard oral arguments in what could be a landmark case for marriage equality and a debate on whether gay and lesbian couples have the right to marry under the U.S. Constitution.

In February, ruling in Bostic v. Schaefer, a federal judge said that Virginia’s prohibition against same-sex marriage is unconstitutional — a violation of the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the 14th Amendment. That ruling has reached the appeals court.

Due Process Clauses of the 14th Amendment. That ruling has reached the appeals court.

The gay couples involved in the case are represented by Theodore B. Olson and David Boies, who were the lead attorneys for the American Foundation for Equal Rights in the challenge to California’s Proposition 8. In that case, the anti-gay ban was overturned in federal court.

Olson said on May 13, “Today, the Fourth Circuit heard precisely why our plaintiffs and gay men and lesbians across the country are entitled to exercise their fundamental right to marry. Our plaintiffs have shared decades of love and commitment, and they desire nothing more than to have their home state recognize those relationships.

Boies, in a statement, added, “Our plaintiffs represent thousands of Virginians — and millions of Americans — who have been denied their fundamental right to marry the person whom they love. These discriminatory laws excluding loving gay and lesbian couples from marriage violate their personal freedom and cause them and their families serious harm.”

The case also involves attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Virginia, Lambda Legal and the law firm Jenner and Block. The attorneys represent a certified class of all same-sex couples in the state who originally had filed a class action suit seeking to overturn Virginia’s ban on gay marriage.

The suit was filed in August on behalf of Joanne Harris and Jessica Duff of Staunton, Virginia, and Christy Berghoff and Victoria Kidd of Winchester, Virginia.

“We’re hopeful that we’ll finally be able to pledge our love to each other like any other couple that’s ready to make that commitment,” said Harris. “Jessi and I are completely devoted to each other, and it’s important to us and to our son that our family is recognized in Virginia with all the dignity and protections that only come with marriage.”

The appeals court panel that heard the arguments consisted of Judge Henry F. Floyd, Judge Roger L. Gregory and Judge Paul V. Niemeyer.

The states in the court’s jurisdiction include Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

“All across the country courts are recognizing what a majority of Virginians already know — that it’s unfair to exclude same sex couples from marriage,” said James Esseks of the ACLU. “Today brings us one step closer to the day when all families are able to marry in their home states. Every family should know that they will be able to care for each other no matter what.”

Lambda files class action after BlueCross drops HIV-positive customers in Louisiana

Lambda Legal has filed a federal class action lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Louisiana against BlueCross BlueShield of Louisiana, which will no longer accept the federally-funded premium subsidies that enable low-income Louisianans living with HIV to purchase health insurance.

Two other insurers were included as defendants — Louisiana Health Cooperative and Vantage Health Plan.

In a request for an emergency injunction, Lambda is asking the court to force the insurers to accept premium payments from the customers and to provide health insurance until the lawsuit is heard.

Said Scott Schoettes, HIV project director for Lambda, “The situation is urgent. Refusing federal funds that provide life-saving care to people living with HIV could potentially affect thousands of low-income Louisiana residents.”

He added, This discriminatory policy keeps low-income people living with HIV off of BlueCross BlueShield’s insurance rolls, perpetuating the deliberate insurance industry practice of denying coverage to those living with HIV that the Affordable Care Act was designed to reverse. Continuous coverage is critical for people living with HIV.  The health care crisis these insurers have created must be stopped.”

Lambda’s clients in the lawsuit include John East, a part-time worker in the hospitality industry, and other low-income Louisianans living with HIV.

East is a 59-year-old New Orleans man insured by BCBS for nearly 30 years. he learned in mid-January that BCBS would no longer accept the federal Ryan White subsidies for which he qualifies.

Without those subsidies, East cannot afford his medical care and HIV medications.

East said, “I couldn’t believe it when I was told BCBS would no longer accept my Ryan White insurance subsidies. What am I supposed to do now? I’ve been with BCBS for 29 years. I paid my premiums that whole time, and now they are finding a way to dump me just because I’m living with HIV. I need these medications to stay healthy, so that I can continue to work and contribute to my community.”

Lambda Legal filed the suit after already filing complaints about the situation in Louisiana with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights. The national legal defense group is working with the New Orleans AIDS Task Force on the issue.

The Louisiana Ryan White Health Insurance Program is federally-funded and functions as the payer of last resort in the state, helping low-income individuals living with HIV purchase health insurance they could not otherwise afford, according to Lambda.

Virginians suing for marriage equality

Two same-sex couples are filing a federal class action suit today seeking the freedom to marry in Virginia.

The case is being handled by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Virginia and Lambda Legal. The nonprofits are partnering with the law firm Jenner and Block.

In addition to seeking the freedom to marry in the state, the lawsuit demands Virginia recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages.

The plaintiffs are Joanne Harris and Jessica Duff of Staunton, Va., and Christy Berghoff and Victoria Kidd of Winchester, Va.

“Virginia is home for us. Our families are here, our jobs are here, and our community is a great support for us, but it makes us sad that we cannot get married where we live,” Harris, a lifelong Virginian stated in a news release. “It hits me in the gut that two hours from our house same-sex couples in Maryland and D.C. can marry. I have a serious medical condition and we’ve had to spend lots of money to try to make sure that Jessi can make decisions for me if there were ever a crisis.”

Berghoff said, “I’m an Air Force veteran, and if Virginia would just respect our marriage from D.C., it would ensure that my spouse and family could access all the benefits I’ve earned. I’ve been with Victoria for almost a decade now, and it hurts to have our home state say we are not married when it recognizes marriages entered into by different-sex couples who may have only recently met.”

Harris, 37, and Duff, 33, have been together since 2006 and have a 4-year-old son, Jabari.

Berghoff and Kidd, both 34, have been together almost 10 years. They have an 8-month-old daughter, Lydia.

“More than half of the people of Virginia believe all Virginians should have the freedom to marry the person they love,” stated Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia. “Every day that same-sex couples in Virginia are denied the freedom to marry, the government sends a message that they are second class citizens and their families are not worthy of equal dignity and respect.”

The lawsuit will be filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia.

The plaintiffs allege that the commonwealth’s constitutional and statutory marriage bans send a message that lesbians, gay men and their children are viewed as second-class citizens who are undeserving of the legal sanction, respect, protections and support that heterosexuals and their families are able to enjoy through marriage.

“This is one America. It’s time for the freedom to marry to come to the South,” said Greg Nevins, supervising senior staff attorney in Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office based in Atlanta. “We do not want a country divided by unfairness and discrimination. Same-sex couples are in loving, committed relationships in every region of our nation and should be treated the same way, whether they live in Maine or Virginia.”

LAPD sued for using ‘decoys’ to arrest gay men

A class action lawsuit alleges the Los Angeles Police Department is violating the U.S. Constitution with its use of undercover decoys to arrest gay men for soliciting “nonmonetary intimate association with other men.”

The Courthouse News Service reported the filing of the federal suit on June 6.

Plaintiff Eric St. Mark Christie is seeking to represent a class of men “arrested for soliciting or engaging in lewd conduct by Los Angeles Police acting as decoys,” CNS reports.

Christie alleges that LAPD targets men “perceived to be interested in meeting, in public, men interested in nonmonetary intimate association with other men” and arrests them.

His complaint says the department’s “policy and custom” of using decoys in areas known for cruising violates constitutional guarantees of free speech, equal protection, and protection from search and seizure.


The complaint names as defendants the City of Los Angeles, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and four officers who arrested him in a park on May 6, 2011.


Christie says an undercover officer pretended to be interested in him, they had a short conversation and agreed to engage in consensual oral sex in a rest room stall. The undercover officer then signaled to three other officers to arrest him.

Christie, in the complaint, says he ran, initially afraid he was going to be mugged.

The “LAPD never arrest men by women decoy officers for nonmonetary sexual solicitations nor do they arrest women by male decoy officers for nonmonetary sexual solicitations,” the complaint states.


Criminal charges against Christie were dropped in April.

In his civil suit, he is seeking an injunction against the LAPD, damages for excessive force, discriminatory arrest, false arrest and conspiracy.

The LAPD is not commenting on the suit.

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