Archive for April, 2010

Walmart’s Class Action Lawsuit Latest

WalMart is in the middle of a class action dispute over alleged gender bias in pay and promotions.

 

Title: Dukes vs. Wal-Mart Stores

WalMart is getting sued by a female employee for sexual discrimination via Title VII of the Civil Rights Act 1964.  She claims she was denied a promotion after years of excellent employment and evaluations.  The suit now represents all female employees working from 1998 on.

This case which was filed in 2000 is still pending and the amount is estimated to be $11 billion.


What is a Class Action Law Suit?

Class action law suits are certainly more in the news today than they ever were. There’s always been a lot of public interest in class action, because the nature of the suit does have a kind of sensational nature at its core. But perhaps more importantly, the reason they’re interesting these days is because they serve as a kind of pie in the sky hope for a lot of people. The idea that anyone could have been wronged by a large corporation and entitled to a sizable cash settlement is a dream that’s almost as common as winning the lottery, and it might be as unlikely, too. What exactly is a class action suit, then?

A class action suit is where a large number of people have been wronged by a corporation or business, usually, or some kind of body that is difficult for most ordinary people to contend with. The character of the wrong is usually based in some kind of physical harm. The most commonly referenced class action, for purposes of an example, involves the many suits filed against the asbestos companies, and asbestos mines. In those cases, working people were exposed to a very dangerous chemical over a prolonged period. The risks of exposure to asbestos could lead to sickness and even cancers. The nature of the risks were not unknown to the companies, either, so that when the class actions went to trial, there was very little they could do to deny that they had put their employees at risk.

From this example, then, we can see that a class action is something that’s on a fairly large scale, where the threat to health is very grave. Groups of people will usually file these together, because the defendant in these is never an individual, but a body of people who have been harmed. This also offers a kind of safety in numbers, where it might be possible to have more people come forward when they have a more reasonable suspicion that some good would come out of it, rather than further injustice. Class action suits appeal to the sympathy we all have for the underdog, and they play into all the elements of that classic myth.

What is the Difference Between a Class Action Lawsuit and a MDL?

A Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) is a procedure utilized in the federal court system to transfer to one federal judge all pending civil cases of a similar type filed throughout the United States. A Class Action Lawsuit is a lawsuit where a large group of people collectively bring a claim to court and where a class of defendants are sued. The difference is that a class action lawsuit can be transferred to a MDL where a Judicial Panel was created by legislation in 1968 in response to the complexity among the courts to coordinate almost 2,000 related cases that were pending in a total of 36 districts around the country that alleged a nationwide antitrust conspiracy among electrical equipment manufacturers.

The Judicial Panel on MDL, which consists of seven judges presided over by a chairman, was needed to coordinate the difficult cases filed in multiple districts. The duties of each Judicial Panel member is the same with respect of deciding cases. However, the chairman of the panel has additional responsibilities because the chairman is responsible for the oversight of the panel’s office, the staff of 20 employees, and the budget. Plus, the chairman will handle any necessary contact’s with the transferee districts.

The decision whether cases should be transferred is made by the panel of seven federal judges, these judges are appointed by the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. The Judicial Panel on MDL meet, on a periodic basis, to review requests that cases be consolidated for pretrial matters pursuant to the law passed by Congress. Even though the panel meets in various cities throughout the U.S., the Clerk of the Panel is permanently stationed in Washington D.C. The judge who has all the federal cases assigned is known as the ‘transferee judge.’ The judges, who are throughout the U.S., send cases to the MDL judge and are known as the ‘transferor judges’ or the ‘transferor courts.’

What Constitutes Class Action in Union Grievance?

Class actions are rather interesting for students of law, and anyone else that might be interested in the legal system in general. They point out general inequities and wrong-doing on a large scale, and some of the most exciting lawsuits revolve around class action. There is something of the underdog myth at work here, where the average worker goes up against the big corporation and sometimes wins. This underdog myth can become even more marked when it comes to play in the field of unions. So what, exactly, constitutes class action in a union grievance?

Class actions are distinguished from other general wrong-doings because of their scale. In a class action, a large group of people have had an injustice done to them, and they have decided to take it up with the wrong-doers in a legal forum. These cases appeal to the general population because there are usually real people involved, actively fighting a system that is usually known for ignoring the people. It’s a pretty classic tale, and the cinemas are filled with these kinds of stories. When there is a verdict on the side of those filing the class action, there is a sense that the verdict speaks for everyone. When it’s lost, there’s still a sense of justice being served, fighting the law and the law wins.

In unions generally, when an individual feels that there is a rule that has been broken, such as overtime without pay, they can file a grievance. Grievances have a very particular code in unions, and they go through a very specific process, and usually very quickly.

Oftentimes, when more than one individual feels wronged, the grievance process can take care of the problems quickly and efficiently. However, when there seems to be larger battle at hand, and something the union might see as a more difficult fight, and there are enough individuals who have suffered under the same discrepancy, they can take it the level of class action. When this happens, it becomes more serious, and there is a decision to put it at the level of us vs. them, rather than trying to settle it in a more inconspicuous way.

Medicaid Brand-Name Drugs When Prescribed Class Action Suit

There has been a settlement in a class-action lawsuit that will guarantee Medicaid beneficiaries to continue purchasing prescription drugs at a minimal cost when they become eligible for Medicare. The class action lawsuit, filed in 2007 by the Center of Medicare Advocacy and the National Senior Citizens Law Center in the United States District Court in San Francisco, on behalf of the 6.2 million Medicaid beneficiaries who alleged they were overcharged for drugs or even turned away from pharmacies due to processing delays of Medicare enrollment.

Medicare law states that people enrolled in both Medicaid and Medicare are to receive any assistance with purchasing prescription drugs and the beneficiaries who are eligible, will only have a co-pay as low as $1.05 to $3.10 for brand-name drugs. But, it was alleged that the beneficiaries were charged as much as $35 to $75 dollars. Evidence shows that their low-income status was not properly shared by government agencies, pharmacies and insurers.

The attorney for the plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit, claim that the delays have shortened since the Medicare prescription drug benefit took effect back in 2006. But, the average wait time currently is five to six weeks before tens of thousands of Medicaid beneficiaries who transfer to Medicare every month can begin receiving prescription drug benefits.

The settlement will make the Government change its computer system, which will allow states to submit names of new low-income Medicare beneficiaries more than once a month. Government officials will be required to process the submissions within one day. Insurers that deliver drug benefits, must also provide drugs at a minimal costs of all low-income Medicare beneficiaries who have qualified for additional assistance. Plus, if a beneficiary claims eligibility, but doesn’t have the proper documentation, or is soon to run out of medication, federal officials are required to immediately contact the state Medicaid agency to confirm their eligibility.

The settlement agreement is a great win for many of the United States most vulnerable citizens who face life-threatening delays in obtaining vital medications. Because of the class action lawsuit, it is now easier for the poorest beneficiaries to navigate Medicare Part D.

What was the Class Action that Challenged the Abortion Issue?

Class action lawsuits are more common and issue inclusive than what many people realize. Many major Supreme Court cases have their origins in class action law, and the abortion issue is just one of them. One of the largest and most socially impacting pieces of legislation to be written in this country began as a class action suit that challenged the abortion issue. One of the most fundamental class actions suits related to abortion dealt with legislation involved with the 1973 Roe vs Wade Supreme Court case. The origins of this situation would not only become a class action suit be go on to manifest one of the most important and continually protested progressive legal outcomes in this country.

This original situation was based on a woman in Texas, Norma McCorvey, who became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion. During the 1960s many states across the country had begun to legalize abortion, while others, such as Texas, kept it illegal except in the case where it would threaten the life of the mother. Many women who became pregnant in these states would travel to an abortion providing state to secure their services. However, in the case of McCorvey, she became pregnant, wished to terminate it and did not have the financial resources to go to a state that could provide the abortion. This was a common situation faced by many women in abortion-restricted states. McCorvey was referred to an attorney in Dallas and her case was combined with that of a married couple. This couple had declared that abortion interfered with their marital relations because the wife could not use birth control for medical reasons.

These two cases formed the base of the class action suit that would eventually reach the Supreme Court and become the landmark legislation that gives women across the country the uninhibited right to legal physical autonomy. Abortion has been an extremely heated and frequently controversial political and social issue in this country every since it was originally transferred into the mainstream medical system. In addition to the numerous ongoing legislation battles over the issue there have also been a large number of lawsuits and various health care and social service providers have been involved. There has also been multiple class action lawsuits established that relate to the abortion issue.

New Class Action Lawsuit Against Google

Google is now facing a separate class action lawsuit over their reproduction of books online. Photographers and illustrators today filed suit claiming Google displays copyrighted images without compensating the artists who created them.

The 2005 lawsuit filed by authors and publishers is expected to be settled soon. Visual artists were excluded from participating in that case.  The new lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in New York.  You can read more on CNN’s SciTechBlog.

What Happens to a Securities Class Action when the Defendant Company Files for Bankruptcy Protection

Class action lawsuits can be pretty involved cases, and some of them can take years to resolve. It gets even more complicated when there is more money involved, not necessarily because those cases are more important. Usually they bring in more heavy-hitters on the litigation teams, and this can escalate the legal arguments exponentially. For law students, these can be some of the most fascinating cases, and for others, they are simply bewildering. Looking at something like bankruptcy, and how that affects a securities class action, can lead to some interesting legal questions.

First, a securities class action is one where there is an accusation of some kind of gross misconduct on the part of an individual or corporation, where large amounts of money have been misused. Generally, there are investments involved, and money is used inappropriately. An example of this would be a company who uses their workers’ pensions for their own investment purposes, then lose the investments, and hence lose the pension that the workers have already earned. In these cases, the class action is begun to get this money back, because it is what is legally, and morally, the workers’ money to begin with.

That example works, but may not be the most interesting, because there is clearly a right and wrong side in the case. More often, the class action will reveal more ambiguities on both sides as the case goes on. There are, as one might imagine, many instances where the one being sued will declare bankruptcy, and file for bankruptcy protection. The law is clear on most of these matters, but very good lawyers can find ways of making it more complex and nuanced. Usually bankruptcy in these cases make any further action impossible, but there are many loopholes. One option, and a very good one, is to start making claims against individuals once the corporation has declared bankruptcy, and that begins another cycle of more legal proceedings.

What Will Happen to John O’Quinn Class Action Former Clients?

John O’Quinn is not around to defend himself, but if he was, he’d still be fighting for a settlement on behalf of his approximately 3,500 clients. After O’Quinn’s untimely death in an auto accident in October, his estate lawyers have agreed to pay $46.5 million to settle a case that Terry Scarborough has been pursuing for a decade for the silicon implant class-action lawsuit case to reimburse the women involved.

The issue in the litigation process is whether O’Quinn’s law firm had a right to deduct the standard fee amount from the clients’ settlements of their share of the expert studies and costs that benefited the underlying tort case dealing with the plaintiffs claim over breast implants. Scarborough has claimed that the deduction wasn’t permitted for reasons that these fees were not a provision in O’Quinns representation agreement, which an arbitration panel agreed, stating that O’Quinn was indeed in breach of his fiduciary duties.

O’Quinn appealed the arbitration, and requested a full briefing on the merits of the amount required by the security bond in the amount of $45 million dollars that was order and signed by Judge Gossett. Just before O’Quinn’s death, the Texas Supreme Court upheld Gossetts ruling. Also, after O’Quinns death, Gerald Treece, his estate lawyer, proclaimed that after studying and analyzing of the law that the case would likely have ended in a loss for O’Quinn’s’ Law Firm and it would be best to settle now rather than watching the interest required by the security bond to continue to grow. Treece finally said that the settlement was the right thing to do and that is was time all the women in the breast-implant lawsuit get whatever is due to them. As of today, with the original security bond amount of $45 million dollars, plus the interest earned up to the settlement date, the O’Quinn’s’ estate will pay out $49 million dollars.

What Happens at a Class Action Fairness Hearing?

In class action lawsuits, there are many stages that each case has to go through until the settlement has been reached. It’s a very reasonable question, then, concerning what actually happens at the fairness hearing. By the time it does reach that stage, most of the nitty-gritty has already been resolved and decided. It would have been determined that there has been a wrong committed against a group of people, and usually it’s a large company or corporation that is at fault.

As with any of the stages, if you are involved, then you do have certain rights, and there are some limitations to these rights. So it’s a wise idea to understand the process so you know ahead of time what to expect when the time for the fairness hearing is at hand.

Before the hearing, a memorandum of understanding has been signed, and there is usually a preliminary settlement that all the parties agree to. The fairness hearing is that stage when the court decides that the settlement is agreed upon as reasonable and fair. Perhaps more importantly, this is also where the attorneys’ fees are on the table. Any member of the class action suit has the right to contest the amount of the settlement and the fees at the hearing.

Members of the suit are not always contacted individually before the fairness hearing. In fact, most of the communication at this point is issues through a press release. This means that you would need to follow the suit closely, especially if you have significant concerns about the settlement fees. The reason that not every member is contacted individually is because, for one thing, it would be very time-consuming, especially in the larger cases when there is a large number of people involved in the class action. Secondly, if every member of the suit were given an open opportunity to speak in court, it could tie things up considerably, and that wouldn’t benefit everyone.

The usual procedure for these is to give the clients the opportunity to air concerns in written form. This means that you do not need to be present at the hearing itself for your voice to be heard. If you do wish to attend, however, it is usually at your own expense.

 

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