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TransUnion Subsidiary’s Tenant Report Errors FCRA Class Action

When an erroneous item is included in your credit report, shouldn’t you be able to find out about it and have it corrected, directly and efficiently? The complaint for this class action brings suit against TransUnion, LLC, alleging that it dodges requests meant to illuminate incorrect entries in the files of its subsidiary, TransUnion Rental Screening Solutions, Inc. (TURSS) while that subsidiary offers no other contact for corrections but TransUnion.

Plaintiff Michael Reid Lewis and his wife applied to rent an apartment in Pine Mountain Club, California, in June 2019. Lewis paid to put in application that required a background check. On June 14, their application was rejected. The e-mail informing them said this was “based in whole, or in part, on the information in your Screening Report provided by TransUnion, the Credit Reporting Agency.”

The problematic information indicated that Lewis had a criminal record. The complaint alleges, “In fact, the convictions TURSS reported belonged to individual(s) with a similar name to [Lewis], but none of the reported convictions belonged to [Lewis].”

The e-mail said that disputes could be mailed to TURSS at an address the complaint alleges has a TransUnion office, but not a TURSS office. Another address given for disputes was the e-mail address TURSSDispute@transunion.com.

The report procured on Lewis was called a SmartMove report. The website for this is supposedly www.mysmartmove.com, but the complaint claims that this website “is replete with large banners containing [TransUnion’s] branding, with the only reference to TURSS in tiny text at the very bottom of the page…”

Lewis then requested a copy of his full file from TransUnion. In response, TransUnion sent an eight-page disclosure. However, the TURSS report was only noted as an “Account Review Inquir[y]” without any of the substance of what TURSS had reported to the landlord or any of the underlying records.

The complaint alleges that this violates the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA): [Transunion] consistently fails to comply with its obligation … to disclose consumers’ full files.” This “makes it difficult for individuals trying to clear their names, such as [Lewis], because consumers often do not know what specific entity they need to direct their request to, and are unable to receive a copy of their TURSS file if [TransUnion] fails to provide it.”

The complaint claims that at the time of Lewis’s request, TransUnion was already involved in a similar lawsuit, “a case making similar allegations against [TransUnion], with respect to eviction records…”

The FCRA Disclosure Class is all persons living in the US and its territories who, between April 6, 2016 and the resolution of this case, asked TransUnion for a copy of their consumer file and TransUnion provided a response that did not include a report from or data held by TURSS, even though such a report or data existed. A similar CCRAA Class has been defined for violations of California’s Consumer Credit Reporting Agencies Act.

Essential Everyday Ground Coffee Number of Cups Illinois Class Action

This class action brings suit against SuperValu, Inc. and United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI) for their Essential Everyday ground coffee products. The containers are labeled to indicate that the contents will make a certain number of cups of coffee, but complaint alleges that they deceive customers because they actually make far less than that number.

The class for this action is all consumers in Illinois who bought one of more of the ground coffee products in Illinois during the statute of limitations period.

SuperValu makes and packages more than 250,000 food products, including the coffee products at issue. Its ground coffee products are sold under the Essential Everyday brand as well as others. UNFI is a wholesaler that distributes bulk products to places such as supermarket chains. It acquired SuperValu in 2018.

This class action concerns Essential Everyday ground coffee products distributed in cannisters, in various sizes and types, such as Classic Roast, French Roast, Supreme Blend, 100% Columbian, and Breakfast Blend. On each cannister is a prominent notation of the number of cups the contents of the cannister purportedly makes.

For example, the 24.2 oz. Essential Everyday Supreme Blend has a notation on its label saying that it “Makes Up to 210 6 Fl Oz Cups.” The promised number of cups varies with the size of the container, up to 270 cups. The complaint alleges, “Those representations, and all similar representations, on the Class Products about the number of cups that can be made are false.”

Two methods are offered on the container as to how to make the coffee. One says, for a six-ounce cup of coffee, to use a tablespoon of ground coffee. The other says, for ten cups, to use half a measuring cup. “However,” the complaint says, “those instructions will not product the number of six-fluid[-]ounce cups of coffee represented on the package.”

It’s a matter of math, as the complaint explains it: A tablespoon of ground coffee weighs 5 grams. Using a tablespoon per six-ounce cup, the 24.2-ounce/686 gram cannister can make only 137.2 cups, “73 fewer than the 210 advertised prominently on the Class Products.” The complaint contains a chart showing each of the products and the number of cups it will actually make by weight. All fall far short of the promises on the cannister.

The complaint contrasts this with other products that do not contain representations of the number of cups that can be made. It also notes that a competing Dunkin Original Blend product comes in a 30-ounce cannister that promises 100 six-ounce cups of coffee but contains enough product that the directions on the package can make 113 cups.

Parent’s Choice Baby Foods Contain Heavy Metals Class Action

When the House of Representatives Subcommittee was investigating heavy metals in baby foods, Walmart’s Parent’s Choice was one of the makers that refused to cooperate with the investigation. The complaint for this class action alleges that Walmart “chose to omit or conceal” that its Parent’s Choice baby foods “contained, or were at risk of containing, levels of heavy toxic metals, and therefore deceptively misled” those who bought those baby foods, trusting that they were natural and safe for babies.

The Nationwide Class for this action is all persons in the US who bought Walmart’s Parent’s Choice baby food products, for household or business use, during the applicable statutes of limitations, and who have not received a refund or credit for their purchases. Subclasses have been proposed for Florida, Indiana, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, and Arkansas.

A list of the products at issue is in the complaint, linked below, on pages 8 and 9.

Walmart, according to the complaint, advertises its Parent’s Choice baby food products as being, “among other things, organic, non-GMO, free from artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives, and ‘great for you. Walmart’s representations about its baby food products indicate and lead consumers to believe that they are safe for consumption by infants and young children.’” But are these representations true?

The baby food investigation was carried out by the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, Committee on Oversight and Reform, which intended to look at baby foods by the major commercial baby food makers in the US. As part of the investigation, the Subcommittee asked seven major baby food makers, including Parent’s Choice, to supply documentation and test results. Parent’s Choice refused to cooperate.

The investigation ended with a report, published on February 4, 2021, noting that it had found that many baby foods by popular makers are “tainted with significant levels of toxic heavy metals, including arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury.”

The complaint claims, “The Subcommittee found [Parent’s Choice’s] lack of transparency greatly concerning, fearing that they might be obscuring the presence of higher levels of toxic heavy metals in their baby food products than their competitors’ products.”

Previous to this investigation, an alliance of nonprofit organizations, scientists, and doctors called Healthy Babies Bright Futures had tested a number of baby foods for heavy metals. Their report, published in October 2019, showed that several of the Walmart products had unsafe levels of heavy metals.

The complaint alleges that Walmart knew that the presence of things like toxic heavy metals in its baby foods mattered to customers. It claims that Walmart’s own representations about its baby foods are proof that it knew that this kind of thing mattered. The counts it lists against Walmart include breaches of express and implied warranty, fraud by omission, intentional and negligent misrepresentation, quasi contract, and violations of state consumer protection laws, among other things.

Beech-Nut Baby Foods Contain Heavy Metals Class Action

Beech-Nut Nutrition Company makes baby foods that it markets as being “100% Natural” and good for babies. However, the complaint for this class action allege that Beech-Nut baby foods actually contain significant amounts of heavy metals that may harm infants and children. The allegations are based on two reports, including one from a Congressional subcommittee.

The class for this action is all citizens of the US who, within the relevant statute of limitations, bought Beech-Nut baby food, for personal use and not for resale. A list of the baby foods at issue can be found on page 5 of the complaint (linked below).

In its marketing, Beech-Nut states that it makes natural and organic baby foods “that are free from artificial preservatives, colors and flavors.” It claims to conduct “over 20 rigorous tests on our purees, testing for up to 255 pesticides and heavy metals (like lead, cadmium, arsenic and other nasty stuff). Just like you would, we send the produce back if it’s not good enough.”

“Yet,” the complaint says, “nowhere in the labeling, advertising, statements, warranties, and/or packaging does [Beech-Nut] disclose that the Baby Food include and/or have a high risk of containing heavy metals or other ingredients that do not conform to the labels, packaging, advertising, and statements.”

It claims that in fact the baby foods contain “significant levels of arsenic, mercury, lead, cadmium, and/or perchlorate—all known to pose health risks to humans and particularly to infants.”

The complaint points to a recent report from a Congressional Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy. This one asked for documents from the largest baby food makers in the US and found that many baby foods contain toxic heavy metals, including significant amounts of arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) say that these heavy metals are “dangerous to human health, particularly to babies and children, who are most vulnerable to their neurotoxic effects.”

The complaint quotes the report in saying, “The four heavy metals ‘can harm a baby’s developing brain and nervous system’ and cause negative impacts such as ‘the permanent loss of intellectual capacity and behavioral problems like attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).” It alleges, “Even in trace amounts found in food, these heavy metals can alter the developing brain and erode a child’s IQ.”

The complaint details levels permitted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and FDA for these substances and finds higher levels permitted by Beech-Nut. For example, the FDA limit for arsenic in bottled water is 10 ppb, and the FDA is considering putting a limit on arsenic in rice cereals for infants at 100 ppb. However, the complaint quotes the Congressional report as saying that Beech-Nut set a limit of 3,000 ppb inorganic arsenic for some ingredients, used ingredients “with as much as 913.4 ppb arsenic” and “routinely used ingredients that exceeded 300 ppb total arsenic[.]”

Samsung Galaxy S20 Phone Shattering Glass Class Action

One of the most prominent features of the Samsung Galaxy S20, S20 Ultra, and S20 FE phones is the camera, which offers multiple lenses. This class action brings suit against Samsung Electronics America, Inc., alleging that the camera module’s glass can shatter under normal use, rendering the camera unusable.

The Nationwide Class for this action is all persons or entities in the US who bought or leased one of the shattered products. State subclasses have also been proposed for New York, Ohio, South Carolina, Virginia, and Washington.

The complaint claims that Samsung achieved its 20% share of the global smartphone market “in great part by recognizing that a smartphone’s functionality as a camera is critically important to consumers.” The S20 and S20 FE have a back-camera module with three lenses, and the S20 Ultra has four. Samsung markets them as “The Complete Pro-Grade Camera Solution.”

But there’s a problem: The complaint alleges that “the S20’s back camera module’s glass can shatter suddenly …. under normal use, with no external force applied…”

The phone was released on March 6, 2020. The complaint quotes a posting just four days later, on March 10, as saying, “I had an unfortunate accident with my phone yesterday. I managed to crack and damage my camera lens. It wasn’t dropped. Something I had in my pocket cracked the lens.” More postings followed from others, complaining of the same thing.

The shattering creates a “bullet hole” shaped break in the glass. According to the complaint, “As of the date of this Complaint, there have been over 660 comments on just one of Samsung’s community website posts on this topic.”

The complaint claims that the phone is “unreasonably fragile in design” and cites the use of a type of glass called “Gorilla Glass” as part of the problem.

According to the complaint, Samsung has refused responsibility, claiming the broken glass is the customers’ fault. It has been “refusing to repair or refund the devices, and/or charging an exorbitant amount of money for consumers to send back a defective device. Consumers have even reported that Samsung has told them that by reporting the issue, they have ‘voided the warranty.’”

Recently, the complaint says, the company has finally admitted that there is a problem and that it may be caused by “pressure buildup underneath the glass.” Although it admits the breakage is not the customers’ fault, the complaint says, “Samsung has not recalled the phone and continues to deny warranty claims.”

Complicating the matter is Samsung’s arbitration agreement. No terms and conditions are included inside the phone box or in its Quick Start Guide; instead, the bottom of the box states, “Device purchase subject to additional Samsung terms and conditions” later adding the words, “including Arbitration Agreement.”

The complaint alleges that “there is no enforceable agreement between the parties, as the supposed arbitration agreement is inconspicuous, ineffective, unenforceable, and unconscionable.”

Kerry Breach of Fiduciary Duties to 401(k) Plan Class Action

The first sentence of the Introduction to this class action is, “The essential remedial purpose of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (‘ERISA’) is ‘to protect the beneficiaries of private pension plans.’” The plan here is the Kerry, Inc. Savings Plan, an employee retirement plan. The complaint brings suit against Kerry, Inc., its Board of Directors, and its Benefits Committee, for breaches of their fiduciary duties to the plan, alleging they have not adequately evaluated fees and expenses for the plan nor properly monitored the chosen investments.

The class for this action is all participants and beneficiaries of the Kerry Savings Plan, between April 27, 2015 and the date of judgment in this case.

Kerry is described in the complaint as a “taste and nutrition” company that “procure[s] from-nature ingredients and appl[ies] food science and culinary skills to create nutritious products.” Its retirement plan is a 401(k) defined-contribution plan.

The complaint refers to an earlier case to assert that plan expenses and fees can significantly reduce the values of accounts in two ways: The account holder loses the immediate amounts, and also loses the increase those amounts would’ve generated by growing over time.

The complaint asserts that the company, its Board of Directors, and its Benefits Committee are all fiduciaries of the plan and are therefore owe it certain duties. They have breached these duties, the complaint says, in at least three ways.

High retirement plan service (RPS) fees: The complaint alleges that the Kerry defendants have authorized the plan to pay “unreasonably high” RPS fees, such as the participant account maintenance fees. These service providers do recordkeeping and other administrative tasks. Larger plans have efficiency of scale that means they can negotiate for lower prices. The complaint claims that the fiduciaries should have obtained lower prices for RPS services.

High managed account service fees: These are fees for investment services, where the provider purportedly “customizes” participants’ portfolios in some way, such as by risk tolerance. But the complaint alleges that in practice very little customization is done, so that participants receive little value for the fees. Fees are generally a percentage of the account balance.

Higher-cost fund options: The complaint alleges that the Kerry defendants kept higher-cost fund options in the plan, even though similar or identical options have been available at lower cost. Different share classes were available, for example, the complaint says, that would’ve offered greater benefits versus fees.

Hamilton Beach Credit Card “Scraping” Data Breach Class Action

Hamilton Beach Brands, Inc. makes home and kitchen appliances that it sells through retail stores and also through its website. This class action concerns data breach it experienced between December 2020 and February 2021, which the complaint alleges occurred because the company did not adequately protect its customers’ personally identifying information (PII).

The Nationwide Class for this action is all individuals whose PII was compromised in the data breach announced by Hamilton Beach on April 9, 2021.

In its Privacy Policy, Hamilton Beach claims its website is secure: The company “believe[s] that privacy is important and we are committed to maintaining the trust of our customers and our online guests.” It claims to “use reasonable security measures,” which “may include encryption, security certificates, access controls, information security technologies, policies, procedures and other information security measures…”

Hamilton Beach notified customers of the data breach beginning on April 9, 2021. The actual data breach ran from December 18, 2020 to February 4, 2021.

The complaint alleges, “Hackers not only ‘scraped’ many of Hamilton Beach’s customers’ names from [Hamilton Beach’s] website by infecting the ecommerce platform with malware, hackers also stole customers’ payment card numbers, CVV security codes, credit card expiration dates, addresses, telephone numbers and e[-]mail addresses…”

The PII was compromised, the complaint claims, “due to [Hamilton Beach’s] negligent and/or careless acts and omissions and the failure to protect customers’ data.”

The complaint cites three particular failures on Hamilton Beach’s part:

  • Failure to “adequately protect its users’ PII,”
  • Failure to “warn users of its inadequate information security practices, and”
  • Failure to effectively monitor [Hamilton Beach’s] websites and ecommerce platforms for security vulnerabilities and incidents.”

Hamilton Beach’s conduct, the complaint claims, “amounts to negligence and violates federal and state statutes.”

The complaint cites an FBI warning issued in 2019, before Hamilton Beach was hacked, Oregon FBI Tech Tuesday: Building a Digital Defense Against E-Skimming. That publication gave information on “e-skimming techniques” and measures that businesses could take to protect themselves.

The complaint alleges that Hamilton Beach did not take these measures, as its data breach was accomplished at least in part by scraping or skimming information. It says, “Web scraping or skimming data breaches are commonly made possible through a vulnerability in a website or its backend content management system.”

The plaintiff in this case, Carrie Coval-Burt, had five unauthorized purchases made on her credit card during the February and March directly after the data breach.

According to the complaint, Hamilton Beach had a data breach in 2011 as well

Air Evac LifeTeam Excessive Charges Imposed Multi-State Class Action

At issue in this class action are charges for air transport in case of medical emergencies. The complaint alleges that Air Evac EMS, Inc., which does business as Air Evac LifeTeam, overcharges patients for transportation, noting that those needing emergency air transport are generally in no condition to make decisions or negotiate rates.

The multi-state class for this action is all persons billed by Air Evac, or who paid a bill from Air Evac, for air medical transport that Air Evac carried out from a location in [a particular state]. The states for involved for the plaintiffs in this case include Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas.

The sixteen plaintiffs in this case, the complaint alleges, “were transported by [Air Evac] in an emergent situation where there was no contractual relationship and no agreement with respect to the transports.”

The complaint points out that “first responders or medical personnel generally determine whether a patient needs emergency helicopter transport. The transportation is arranged and patients are transported, without their knowledge or express or informed consent, or under the duress of life-threatening or other serious medical conditions that require immediate treatment at a hospital.”

But there’s another reason negotiation and consent are impossible: Air Evac, the complaint says, does not reveal its pricing. Only afterwards does Air Evac send a bill with a mileage charge and a “helicopter rotor base charge,” demanding payment for an amount that the complaint claims “vastly exceeds both the cost to provide the transport and the fair market value of the transport.”

The complaint quotes an officer of a different air transport company as saying that if “everybody paid their fair share, you know what the charge for this service would be? $12,000.”

Instead, the amount billed, the complaint says, is “four times that amount and more.”

However, since patients did not enter into a contract, the complaint says, their contractual obligations can only be based on state law. But the complaint says this is not permitted under the federal Airline Deregulation Act (ADA).

After the transportation has taken place, Air Evac has patients “sign assignment of benefits or authorization to bill forms (‘AOB’) prepared by” Air Evac, the complaint says. The forms “seek to bind [patients] to pay whatever [Air Evac] charges, regardless of the reasonableness of the charged amounts.”

The third-party payors then pay only a “reasonable amount” for the transport service, and Air Evac “balance bills” the patient for the remainder of the amount. The complaint notes alleges that the Air Evac “charges are so exorbitant that almost no third-party payor pays them in full, frequently leaving a staggering amount to be balance billed.” After that, it says, “most patients cannot pay them.” It notes that the company’s “actual collection rates for the receivables are very low (less than 5%)” leaving the patients at the mercy of bill collectors.

AmeriFirst Data Breach Exposure of Customer PII Class Action

As a provider of mortgage loans, AmeriFirst Financial, Inc. collects and stores a great deal of sensitive, private information on customers. The complaint for this class action alleges that AmeriFirst “is among those companies that have failed to meet their obligation to protect the sensitive personal identifying information (PII) entrusted to them by their customers.”

The class for this action is all persons living in the US who are customers of AmeriFirst or its affiliates, parents, or subsidiaries whose PII was exposed in the data breach that occurred between December 2 and 10, 2020.

The complaint quotes from the Notice of Data Breach sent out by AmeriFirst: “On or about April 12, 2021, [AmeriFirst] ascertained that our electronic data storage of certain customers’ loan file information was compromised, which resulted in the exposure of your personal information. It appears that the exposure began on or about December 2, 2020, and ended on or about December 10, 2020.”

The information exposed or stolen includes, among other things names, Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, and passport numbers. AmeriFirst’s filing with the Maine attorney general counted the number of people affected as 103,607.

The complaint notes that stolen PII is often sold to criminals on the “dark web,” which the complaint calls “a heavily encrypted part of the Internet that is not accessible via traditional search engines.” It says, “Law enforcement has difficulty policing the ‘dark web’ due to this encryption, which allows users and criminals to conceal identities and online activity.”

A large market exists for stolen information, because the fraud that can be perpetrated can be so valuable. When actual identity theft happens, it can be difficult to detect and even more difficult to remedy.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) publishes Protecting Personal Information: A Guide for Business, which offers guidelines for businesses for data security. The complaint alleges that AmeriFirst did not follow these guidelines or other FTC recommendations for data security.

The complaint claims that the FTC has brought enforcement actions for failure to adequately protect data, “treating the failure to employ reasonable and appropriate measures to protect against unauthorized access to confidential consumer data as an unfair act or practice prohibited by Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act…”

“By allowing an unknown third part to access AmeriFirst’s data storage system and expse customers’ PII,” the complaint alleges, “AmeriFirst failed to employ reasonable and appropriate measures to protect against unauthorized access to confidential customer data, and as a result, allowed an unknown third party to access its data storage and expose customers’ PII.”

The complaint further faults AmeriFirst for its delay in reporting the data breach.

Carefirst BlueChoice Coverage for IVF Embryo Thawing Maryland Class Action

If Carefirst BlueChoice, Inc. insurance policies in Maryland must cover in-vitro fertilizations (IVF), what aspects of this procedure must they pay for? The complaint for this class action alleges that Carefirst is refusing to cover embryo thawing, which the complaint calls “an essential component of most IVF cycles.”

The class is all individuals in Maryland who, between April 27, 2017 and April 27, 2021, were refused coverage for embryo thawing but not other IVF expenses under a Carefirst health insurance policy in Maryland that covers “pregnancy-related benefits.”

Plaintiffs Matthew and Jamie Skipper live in Maryland. They are among the 3.4 million parties in Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Northern Virginia to whom Carefirst provides health insurance.

The complaint quotes the Maryland insurance code, which says that health insurance companies “that provide[] pregnancy-related benefits may not exclude benefits for all outpatient expenses arising from in vitro fertilization procedures performed on a policyholder or subscriber or on the dependent spouse of a policyholder or subscriber.”

Specifically, the policy covers “[a]ssisted reproductive technologies” which include IVF, the complaint says, “where less costly methods have failed.”

The complaint refers to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as saying that nearly three-quarters of 2018’s more than 100,000 embryo transfer cycles involved frozen embryo transfers.

Since 2010, the Skippers had been undergoing treatment for female infertility. They first tried several times to do intrauterine insemination, then moved on to egg retrieval. These were paid for at first by another insurer, and later by the couple themselves. Each of these, the complaint alleges, cost either the insurer or the Skippers $10,000.

In each retrieval cycle, the complaint says, multiple eggs were collected and multiple embryos were created. The Skippers tried to transfer one in what the complaint says was its “fresh” state, but that failed. The other embryos were frozen. One transfer of a frozen embryo succeeded in 2015.

According to the complaint, in September 2018, the Skippers “secured prior authorization from Carefirst to proceed with a transfer cycle for one of the remaining frozen embryos.” Carefirst was therefore not asked to pay for the egg retrievals or for creating the embryos, because that had already been done. Had they had to do that, the complaint alleges, the costs to Carefirst would have been even higher.

The complaint claims that thawing is a necessary step in the process, because embryos cannot be transferred without thawing. However, Carefirst denied coverage for the process. The Skippers appealed the denial, but Carefirst still refused. In November 2021, the Skippers filed a complaint with the Maryland Insurance Administration.