What are Consumer Protection Laws?

Consumer protection laws are federal and state statutes that regulate seller and lender practices concerning consumer goods. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are federal agencies that handle product safety standards and consumer complaints, respectively.

These laws typically go beyond the traditional legal remedies available for breach of warranty. These laws are found in nearly every state, but the details may vary.

  • Fair Debt Collection Act (FDCPA)
    • Limits what debt collectors can do when contacting or seeking you out to repay a debt.
    • Specifically prohibits such things as harassment.
    • Statutory damages and attorney’s fees can be awarded for debt collectors that do not comply.
  • Truth in Lending Act (TILA)
    • Covers a broad range of conduct, such as charging exorbitant interest rates on credit cards and other loans.
    • Covers hiding fees and penalties in the fine print of agreements.
  • False or Misleading Advertising and Pricing
    • This is covered under federal law, and most states have their own statutes that address such practices.
      • Many states tie-in warranty clauses.
    • Examples of false or misleading practices can include car salesmen using “bait and switch” tactics. Another example could be a seller selling you a broken product, whether intentionally or negligently.

A big problem that consumers face is the relatively small amount of economic damages that they suffer as a result of a company’s improper conduct.

A class action lawsuit helps to equalize or tip the balance of power. An individual whose rights have been violated can join together with others who have similar claims against the same defendant.

In ordinary lawsuits, a plaintiff can typically only recover his or her actual losses. However, many consumer protection laws allow consumers to seek additional penalties, which can drastically increase the damage award, sometimes even tripling the amount of actual damages.

If you think that your rights have been violated, contact a consumer rights lawyer that can answers your questions and get you the help that you need. Many lawyers offer free consultations, and there are statute of limitations to consider in some cases. Thus, it is in your best interest to contact a lawyer as soon as possible.

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Do Emails Comprise a Special Class of Privileged eDiscovery Documents?

A pertinent question is whether the attorney-client privilege and/or work product doctrine can attach to any email that is sent to counsel? This is one of the issues that the court looked at in John W. Lee, III, v. Chicago Youth Centers; and Harry Wells, No. 12 C 9245 (N.D. Ill. June 10, 2014).

The case at hand centered on an employment discrimination suit against Defendants. Plaintiff sought to compel Defendants to produce certain documents, including his personnel files, that were attached to emails exchanged between Defendants and their previous legal counsel.

Defendants claimed that the documents were immune from discovery under the attorney-client privilege, and alternatively, that the work-product doctrine applied to the documents.

The court stated that, “merely communicating with a lawyer or copying a lawyer on an otherwise non-privileged communication, will not transform the non-privileged communication or attachment into a privileged one. And that is so even if the otherwise non-privileged communication was at the behest of the lawyer.”

The court also mentioned that personnel files and certain email attachments that are not prepared by or at the behest of an attorney, let alone in the anticipation of litigation, cannot have the work-product doctrine applied to them.

ILS – Plaintiff eDiscovery Experts

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Is ESI Produced in the Usual Course of Business Required to Be Organized by Plaintiffs?

Balancing the burden and expense of reviewing documents is a scenario that plays out many times over in eDiscovery and discovery in general. The court addressed this issue in FDIC-R v. Walter B. Bowden, et al., Case No. CV413-245 (S.D. Ga. June 6, 2014).

The parties tried, but failed to agree on a Joint Protocol for Electronically Stored Information (ESI). Plaintiff had already spent $614,000 to can around 153.6 million pages that were to be tendered to the defense.

At this juncture, Plaintiff moved to implement its own ESI protocol that would “balance the burden and expense of discovery among the parties.” Defendants insisted that Plaintiff was liable for shouldering the burden and expense of reviewing the documents and determining their responsiveness.

The court determined that Plaintiff should meet and confer with Defendants to reach an agreement upon a set of reasonable search terms, but that Plaintiff was not required to help defendants in organizing any ESI that had been requested.

While Plaintiff is required to respond to Defendant’s discovery requests and inspect its own records in doing so, it is only required that Plaintiff produce documents that are responsive to Defendant’s request.

ILS – Plaintiff eDiscovery Experts

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Is eDiscovery Able to Facilitate Interrogatories and Disclosures?

In the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the court looked at whether eDiscovery facilitated interrogatories as they pertain to early fact disclosure. In re: Domestic Drywall Antitrust Litig., MDL No. 2437, 2014 WL 1909260 (E.D. Pa. may 12, 2014) (Baylson, J.).

Defendants moved to compel Plaintiffs to respond to two interrogatories that sought identification of the products, alleged conspirer, and the acts and omissions taken in furtherance of the conspiracy. Plaintiffs objected on the grounds that the interrogatories were premature, which meant that they should not have to answer with detailed factual evidence.

Judge Baylson ultimately disagreed with the prematurity of the interrogatories, citing: 1. How frequent exchange of information benefits fair discovery; 2. How information exchange facilitates the evaluation of the strengths and weakness of a case; and 3. How ESI tools enable parties to use search terms and other methods to quickly identify relevant information.

Judge Baylson further stated that, “Ignoring the capabilities which ESI allows the parties to search for and produce factual information in a case of this nature is like pretending businesses still communicate by smoke signals.”

 

ILS – Plaintiff eDiscovery Experts

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Is Video Surveillance a Form of ESI That Warrants Delayed Production?

In Sowell v. TARGET CORPORATION, No. 5:14-cv-93-RS-GRJ (N.D. Fla. May 28, 2014), the court was presented with the difficult question of if and when video surveillance should warrant delayed production.

Plaintiff was injured as a result of a slip and fall in a Target Store. Plaintiff in requested that Defendant produce a copy of the video that would show where Plaintiff fell or the area that Plaintiff fell in.

Defendant initially sought to protect the video as work product, but the court found that the video tapes were made in the ordinary course of business, and not protected work product. Defendant alternatively sought to request that the court delay production of the surveillance videos until after Plaintiff’s deposition was completed.

The court, considering conflicting views, refused to delay disclosure of the surveillance videos. The court iterated that the video was being used as substantive evidence, which supported it not being delayed, as opposed to it being used as conjunctive means of recollection.

 

ILS – Plaintiff eDiscovery Experts

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Depakote Lawsuit Settled For $9.5 Million

Depakote manufacturer Abbott Laboratories has agreed to a $9.5 million settlement with the state of Louisiana over allegations of Medicaid fraud.

According to the Washington Examiner, the state filed a lawsuit in 2011 against Abbott, saying it mis-branded the anti-epileptic medication and promoted the drug to control agitation and aggression in elderly dementia patients without approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Depacon, Depakote, Depakote CP, Depakote ER, Depakene and Stavzor are very powerful drugs that have been linked to health issues in children when taken by pregnant mothers. If you used Depakote during pregnancy, and your child developed a physical birth defect or has suffered from cognitive problems, contact the Depakote attorneys of ZKB Law.

Zoll, Kranz & Borgess, LLC – Defective Medical Drug and Device Lawyers

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Does Video Surveillance Fall into the Category of Discoverable ESI or Privileged Work-Product?

A complex question in the realm of eDiscovery looks towards whether video surveillance, as ESI, can be considered protected work product. The court took up the issue in Sowell v. TARGET CORPORATION, No. 5:14-cv-93-RS-GRJ (N.D. Fla. May 28, 2014).

Plaintiff alleged injuries resulting from a slip and fall in a Target Store. When Plaintiff submitted a routine discovery request seeking production of the video, Defendant sought to protect the video as work product.

There seems to be no consensus among courts as to whether surveillance videos are prepared in anticipation of litigation and therefore subject to protection as work product. However, in Schulte v. NCL (Bahamas) Ltd., No. 10-23265-CIV, 2011 WL 256542 (S.D. Fla. Jan. 25, 2011), the court concluded that surveillance video of a slip and fall accident aboard a cruise ship was not protected work product even though it was copied and preserved at the request of counsel for the cruise line.

The Court here concluded that the mere act of preserving a tape, as opposed to creating an original, is not sufficient to transform a document created in the ordinary course of business into work product that is protected from disclosure.

ILS – Plaintiff eDiscovery Experts

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Looking for Case Law on Native File Formatting?

Sekisui Am. Corp. v. Hart[1] (Hon. Shira A. Scheindlin stated metadata in native formatting has significant value as part of electronically stored information (ESI) in dicta.)

Aguilar v. Immigration & Customs Enforcement Div.[2] (The court noted load files complete with metadata is proper in eDiscovery.)

In Re Priceline.com Inc. Sec. Litig.[3] (Court ordered the production tendered in TIFF format with metadata included in a database that is searchable.)

S2 Automation LLC v. Micron Tech., Inc.[4] (Judge ordered production in native file format or in the format requested.)

Keaton v. Hannum[5] (Judge explained that email communications from Gmail are easily downloaded to Outlook to save as an .eml or .msg files for productions.)

EEOC v. SVT, LLC d/b/a Ultra Foods[6](Defendant disregarded the parties’ agreement for ESI production to include load files, the plaintiff computer forensics expert had to review the deficiencies with the defense to comply with the agreement on native files.)

ILS – Plaintiff eDiscovery Experts

[1] 945 F. Supp. 2d 494 (S.D.N.Y. 2013).
[2] 255 F.R.D. 350 (S.D.N.Y. 2008).
[3] 233 F.R.D. 88 (D. Conn. 2005).
[4] 11 Civ. 884(D.N.M. Aug. 9, 2012).
[5] 12 Civ. 641 (S.D. Ind. April 29, 2013).
[6] Cause No. 2:13-CV-245-RLM-PRC (N.D. Ind. April 10, 2014).

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Pro Tip: Don’t Write about Confidential Settlements on Facebook!

A teenage girl and her family got a big lesson regarding confidential settlements and Facebook overshare. The teen’s father was the former head of Gulliver Preparatory School and alleged age discrimination after he was released from his position. The parties eventually settled out of court, but included in the settlement was a confidentiality clause that no one was to discuss the settlement or the payout of $80,000. So how do we know about this settlement?

The daughter posted this classic on Facebook: “Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver. Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT.” It’s not hard to imagine what happened next, considering the daughter had 1,200 Facebook friends, many of whom had attended Gulliver with her. The post went viral and Gulliver’s attorneys were notified.

After a hearing, the court ordered the $80,000 returned. Although this is a sad outcome for the father, he broke the clear language of the settlement and his daughter did exactly what the confidentiality clause forbade.

ILS – Plaintiff Electronic Discovery Experts

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NFL Cheerleader Files Lawsuit Over Alleged Wage Violations

According to USA Today, a cheerleader who said the franchise is violating federal wage laws is suing the Cincinnati Bengals.

The lawsuit, filed on February 11, is attempting to gain class action status by covering all Ben-Gals cheer squad members dating back to 2011.

In her lawsuit, Alexa Brenneman, 24, said that squad members put in more than 300 hours a season attending mandatory practices and charity events and performing required volunteer work, but were paid a flat rate of $90 a game for cheering at 10 games during the 2013 season. These wages reportedly violate minimum wage laws.

If you have been wronged by your employer in a similar fashion and have any interest in speaking with an attorney about a potential class action lawsuit, please contact Gary S. Graifman, Esq. toll free at (800) 660-7843 to schedule a free initial consultation. You can also complete the form on this page to let our skilled attorneys review your case.

Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman, P.C. – Class Action Lawyers

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