Pizza Hut Unwanted Advertising Texts FTSA Florida Class Action

A federal law, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, tries to protect consumers from unwanted telemarketing calls. This case brings suit instead under a state law, the Florida Telephone Solicitation Act (FTSA), for unwanted junk text messages sent to consumers to advertise the products of Pizza Hut, LLC.

The class for this action is all persons in Florida who (1) were sent a telephone sales call regarding Pizza Hut’s goods or services (2) using the same equipment or type of equipment used to call the plaintiff in this case.

In this case, plaintiff Javae Patton received a series of text messages from Pizza Hut.

The messages each included a URL and an advertising message from Pizza Hut:

  • “Pizza Hut: Last call to order The Edge. Run (don’t walk) to get it. … Reply STOP to unsubscribe.”
  • “Pizza Hut: Over a POUND of meat & cheese for just $12.99. Get a large Meat Lover’s today. … Reply STOP to unsubscribe.”
  • “Pizza Hut: There are six meats on every slice of our large Meat Lover’s—just $12.99. … Reply STOP to unsubscribe.”
  • “Pizza Hut: Check dinner (and tomorrow’s breakfast) off the to-do list with the Big Dinner Box. … Reply STOP to unsubscribe.”

A company violates the FTSA when it “make[s] or knowingly allow[s] a telephonic sales call to be made if such call involves an automated system for the selection or dialing of telephone numbers or the playing of a recorded message when a connection is completed to a number called without the prior express written consent of the called party.”

As shown by the content of the messages, the purpose of the text message calls was to solicit the sale of its pizzas. Patton says he never gave his written consent to receive such calls.

A sales telephone call involves a “call, text message, or voicemail transmission to a consumer” that solicits sales of goods or services, offers extensions of credit to buy such goods or services, or aims to obtain information to be used for those things.

The law also defines “prior express written consent,” which is an agreement in writing that includes (1) the signature of the called party, (2) clearly authorizes the types of calls at issue under this law, (3) includes the telephone number to which such calls are authorized, and (4) carries a clear and conspicuous disclosure disclosing certain information, including that the person is not required to enter into the agreement as a condition of buying any property, goods, or services.

Penny Publications Discloses Subscriber Info Michigan PPPA Class Action

The complaint for this class action brings suit against Penny Publications, LLC for disclosing private reading information about consumers. The disclosure brought an avalanche of unwanted junk mail to the consumers. The lawsuit is brought under Michigan’s Preservation of Personal Privacy Act (PPPA) that forbids disclosing consumers’ reading materials other than to the consumers themselves.

The class for this action is all Michigan residents who, at any point during the relevant pre-July 30, 2016 time period, had their Private Reading Information disclosed to third parties by Penny without their consent. (An amendment to the PPPA went into effect on July 31, 2016.)

The complaint quotes Section 2 of the PPPA as saying, “[A] person, or an employee or agent of the person, engaged in the business of selling at retail, renting, or lending books or other written materials … shall not disclose to any person, other than the customers, a record or information concerning the purchase … of those materials by a customer that indicates the identity of the customer.”

Penny Publications is a publisher of books and magazines, such as Crossword, Dell Collector’s Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Analog Science Fiction and Fact, Family Variety Puzzles & Games, Sudoku, Word Search and Word Seeks magazines.

The complaint alleges, “To supplement its revenues, Penny rents, exchanges, or otherwise discloses its customers’ information—including their full names, titles of publications subscribed to, and home addresses … as well as myriad other categories of individualized data and demographic information such as gender—to data aggregators, data appenders, data cooperatives, and other third parties without written consent of its customers.”

As an example, the complaint alleges Penny has disclosed this information to NextMark, Inc., a list broker, which then “offers to provide renters access to the mailing list titled ‘Dell Magazines/Penny Press Masterfile Mailing List,’ which contains the Private Reading Information of 459,882 of Penny’s active U.S. subscribers at a base price of ‘$100.00/M’” that is, $100 per thousand or ten cents each.

The complaint shows a screen shot of the webpage offering this information. It offers “selects” for such things as gender, renewals, and “SCF/State/Zip.”

The complaint alleges that selling this information “is not only unlawful, but also dangerous because it allows for the targeting of particularly members of society.” For example, the complaint says, any person could buy a customer list for all women in Detroit, Michigan who subscribe to a particular magazine.

Because it rents or exchanges the information, the complaint claims, it can make money from disclosing the information again and again. The sale of such information also has “a cascading nature,” the complaint claims, as the information is passed on to other parties.

The plaintiff in this case is Bonnie Bennett, who subscribes to Word Seeks magazine. Because of Penny’s disclosures, Bennett has received what the complaint calls “a barrage of unwanted junk mail.”

Morningstar Farms “Veggie” Products Mostly Grains and Oil Class Action

Morningstar Farms, a brand of the Kellogg Sales Company, makes products that are labeled as being “veggie” products, including Veggie Burgers, Veggie Dogs, Veggie Chik’n, Veggie Meal Starters, Veggitizers, and Veggie Breakfast. The complaint for this class action alleges this “veggie” representation is misleading, because, it says, “the predominant non-water ingredient in all of the Veggie Products is not vegetables—or even vegetable-based—but instead, grain or oil.”

The class for this action is all persons who, at any time between September 17, 2017 and the time the class is notified in this case, bought any of the Veggie products in California, for personal or household use and not for resale. Pages 2 and 3 of the complaint list numerous products in the above Veggie lines that are at issue in this case.

Consumers these days are opting to buy less meat or fewer meat products. To take advantage of this desire, food manufacturers have come out with a variety of products that substitute other ingredients, such as beans, tofu, grains, and vegetables.

The makers of these meat-alternative foods typically announce the primary ingredient to help consumers decide among various options. The complaint claims, “Consumers understand ingredient call-outs in product names for meat-alternatives to comprise the product’s primary ingredient; for example, consumers understand a product marketed as a ‘bean-burger’ to be made primarily from beans, and a ‘tofurkey’ dog to be made primarily from tofu.”

It alleges that consumers expect that products marketed as “veggie” expect that the primary ingredients are vegetables, and not legumes, grains, tofu, oil, or other substances.

The complaint shows images of some of the products, claiming, “The packaging of each of the Veggie Products prominently claims the product is ‘Veggie,’ in a colorful banner across the front of the package…” However, the complaint alleges, excluding water, these “veggie” products contain, predominantly, grains or oils.

For example, the first three ingredients on the ingredient panel of the Veggie Dogs are water, wheat gluten, [and] corn syrup solids[.]” Vegetables seem to enter it only in the “Contains 2% or less of” section, with “hydrolyzed vegetable protein.”

The complaint states, “Because the predominant ingredient in each of the Veggie Products is grain or oil, Kellogg’s representation that the Veggie Products are ‘Veggie’ is false or at least highly misleading to the reasonable consumer.”

According to the complaint, this violates both federal and California food labeling law, which consider a food misbranded if its “label is false or misleading in any particular.” It also suggests that, under a different part of the labeling law, the food name should include not just “Veggie” but the words “Grain” and/or “Oil.” Finally, the complaint alleges that the products should indicate the percentage of the ingredients that is made up of vegetables.

Student Loan Financial Assistance Fraudulent Loan Assistance Class Action

People tend to repay their student loan debt over long periods of time, and some find it a struggle. This class action brings suit against Student Loan Financial Assistance (SLFA) and its highest-ranking officer, Jerry Yirenkyi. The complaint alleges that SLFA and Yirenkyi “misrepresent the cost and features of federal loan repayment programs in order to extract fees from struggling borrowers.”

Two classes have been defined for this action:

  • The Nationwide Class is all persons in the US who, within the applicable statute of limitations period, used SLFA’s student debt relief assistance services.
  • The Nationwide EFTA Subclass is all persons in the US whose debit card or bank account was charged fees by the defendants in this case during the applicable statute of limitations period.

The complaint alleges that SLFA makes misleading statements, suggesting it works for or is affiliated with the Department of Education (ED), the government, or the customers’ loan servicers.

According to the complaint, they “purport to provide debt relief services to consumers with student loan debt, falsely claiming that they can save consumers substantial funds by getting the consumers into loan repayment plans that will substantially reduce the customers’ monthly payment and/or completely eliminate their debt.”

They ask for an up-front fee of around $1,000 to consolidate the customers’ loans and put them in a repayment program, the complaint says. It asserts, “These fees are not applied to the loan and in many instances the free service of consolidating a loan through the ED does not transpire.”

In fact, people can ask for student loan repayment programs, and even forgiveness programs, through the ED or their servicers at no cost. They can get into income-driven repayment (IDR) programs without the help of any other party and without paying any fees at all. The IDR programs calculate payments based on income and family size.

The ED’s IDR programs require that income and family size be recertified every year, and the monthly payment will fluctuate based on these things. Because of this, none of them guarantee a fixed, reduced payment for more than a year. So, the complaint alleges, SLFA’s claim that they can get customers permanently reduced monthly payments is false.

The complaint claims SLFA takes customers’ payment information and begins taking installment payments before enrolling customers in a program. SLFA also charges a monthly fee. The complaint alleges, “Defendants falsely represent that this amount will be the consumer’s new, reduced monthly loan payment.” However, the complaint says, SLFA keeps these fees and does not apply them to the student loans.

According to the complaint, it takes months before the customers realize that none of their payments to SLFA have gone to their loans.

Causes of action include negligent misrepresentation, false advertising, theft, and violation of the Electronic Funds Transfer Act (EFTA), among other things.

Fleet Group Queens Hotel Project and EB-5 Program Investors Class Action

The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program allows investors in US businesses to apply for permanent residence in the US for themselves and their immediate families under certain conditions. This class action is brought by a group of investors aspiring to qualify for that program who claim they were duped into investing in a fraudulent project for the construction of a luxury hotel complex in Queens, in New York City.

The class for this action is all persons and entities who invested in the partnership for the project and who were damaged thereby.

The EB-5 program permits investors, along with their spouses and unmarried children under 21, to obtain a Green Card for permanent residence in the US if they (1) invest the required amount in a commercial enterprise in the US (2) which leads to the creation or preservation of ten permanent full-time jobs for qualified US workers.

The plaintiffs in this case invested $500,000 plus an additional $50,000 in administrative fees in a project to be constructed in Corona, Queens. The defendants are Fleet New York Metropolitan Regional Center, LLC (the general partner), EEGH II, LP (the partnership), La Guardia performance Center, LLC (the developer), and Richard Xia, an individual who controlled all the other defendants.

The offering documents included the project’s Limited Partnership Agreements, Private Placement Memorandum, and the Comprehensive Plans. But they set forth a project that could not or would not be completed on schedule and that has not resulted in the necessary conditions for the investors to apply for Green Cards under the EB-5 program. The problems included a number of areas in which the offering documents overpromised:

Scope: The project was supposed to include a hotel, convention center, performing arts center, retail store and restaurant areas, and a parking garage. “However,” the complaint alleges, “as Department of Buildings filings have revealed, no such convention center, performing arts center, or retail center was ever part of the plan.”

Size: The offering documents outlined a plan for a building of nearly 1.2 million square feet. But buildings in the area have a maximum Floor Area Ratio (FAR) based on zoning ordinances. The FAR for the indicated area was nowhere near that high and possibly as low as 150,000 square feet.

Timeline: The offering documents showed a forty-four-month schedule, but not even the foundation has been completed.

Job Creation: The documents anticipated as many as 3,025 jobs would be created. Only 110 were needed to qualify the investors for the EB-5 program, but even that smaller number has not yet been achieved.

The claims include common law fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, and aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duty.

CITIC Capital RICO Conspiracy GNC Shareholders’ Class Action

This class action is brought by minority shareholders in GNC Holdings, Inc. The complaint alleges that “a number of state-owned Chinese corporations and individuals, GNC’s Board of Directors and senior management, certain [of] GNC’s secured lenders and financial advisor” who have conspired “to enrich themselves at the expense” of other shareholders through dishonest actions that include “racketeering activities, conspiracy, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, and conversion.”

The class for this action is all minority shareholders of GNC who owned Class A common stock between February 13, 2018 and June 23, 2020. Excluded from the class are the defendants in this action.

CITIC Capital Holdings Ltd. (formerly the China International Trust Investment Corporation) heads the scheme, the complaint says. It controls Harbin Pharmaceutical Group Holding Co. Ltd. and Harbin Pharmaceutical Group Co. Ltd. (called in the complaint Hayao Holding and Hayao, the first being the primary shareholder of GNC). The other defendants include Evercore, Inc., which advised GNC on debt restructuring and bankruptcy, a list of individuals, and John Doe individuals and companies.

GNC, a worldwide health and wellness company listed on the NYSE, made its bankruptcy filing on June 23, 2020. Its Board, the complaint says, owns “near-zero GNC stock”, which has lost nearly all of its value. In 2013, it took on almost $1 billion in high-interest debt to buy back shares. The complaint alleges, “The interest payment has depleted the profit from the business operations.

According to the complaint, “Every year the Board has approved [an] exorbitant compensation package to the directors and the senior management that is vastly detached from GNC’s business performance. … In the meantime, Defendant GMC Management have enjoyed lavish perks, e.g., private jet, while letting the corporate cost run rampant.

Under this management, the complaint says, the complaint “has a long history of regulatory actions and lawsuits against it and its predecessors,” including a group of class actions against it for fake discount sales.

The complaint claims “GNC has extorted the franchisee store owners to purchase exclusively through its wholesale platform at a price higher than retail” and threatened to revoke their franchise licenses “unless they stopped selling non-GNC products” and “entered into lease[s] directly with the landlord [] against the prior agreement.”

The complaint also alleges “numerous incidents” where GNC “stopped paying contractor[s] and vendors and threatened to revoke the agreements.”

Although a number of potential buyers have been interested in the company, with offers of around $4 billion, the complaint says, “GNC Board and Management’s response was GNC is not for sale.”

The complaint, linked below, contains further details of the complex alleged scheme. Counts include violations of the federal and New Jersey Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Acts.

Banana Republic “100% Supima Cotton” T-Shirts Not Supima Class Action

This class action centers on Authentic Supima V-Neck T-Shirts made by Banana Republic, LLC that are supposedly made from “100% Supima Cotton.” The complaint alleges that testing was performed on one such t-shirt, and that the length of the fibers indicate that the t-shirt is made from a significantly lower proportion of Supima cotton.

Two classes have been defined for this action:

  • The Illinois Class is all persons in Illinois who bought the product during the applicable statutes of limitations.
  • The Consumer Fraud Multi-State Class is all persons in Iowa and Arkansas who bought the product during the applicable statutes of limitations.

The word “Supima” is derived from a combination of the words “superior” and “Pima.” It is a trademark used to advertise textile items made from 100% American Pima cotton. Supima cotton comes from Texas, Arizona, California, and New Mexico.

Pima cotton is an extra-long staple cotton that is highly desirable because its long fibers make it stronger, softer, and more durable than other kinds of cotton. Its fibers are between roughly 1.2 and 1.44 inches long.

The fact that Pima and Supima cotton is both more desirable and more expensive than ordinary kinds of cotton, the complaint says, “creates incentives for manufacturers to mix cotton byproducts and shorter fibers with higher value longer fibers, to gain additional profits at the expense of consumers.”

But there is a single-fiber test, the D5103, developed by ASTM, a global standards group, that the complaint claims “can determine the length and length distribution of fibers used [in] clothing.”

The complaint claims, “Laboratory analysis of the Product and/or substantially similar products was performed in accordance with the ASTM D5103 standard.” The results showed that “between most[] and all fibers were shorter than 1.200 inches … and shorter than 1.080 inches … below the range for Supima cotton.”

What if some of the fiber length was lost as a result of the manufacturing process? The complaint alleges, “Even where an adjustment is made to the fiber lengths by assuming a twenty-five (25_ percent reduction during the manufacturing, approximately seventy (70) percent of the fibers would fall under the Supima classification.”

According to the complaint, “[t]hese results support the strong inference that the cotton used in the Product is not 100% Supima cotton and contains a significant amount of less expensive shorter cotton fibers and/or cotton byproduct fibers.”

The federal Textile Fiber Products Identification Act requires that clothing accurately show its fiber composition. The complaint alleges that fiber composition is “basic information consumers rely on” when buying clothing.

The counts include negligent misrepresentation and fraud, among other things.

Subway, HP Collection of Biometrics of Restaurant Workers Illinois Class Action

Two companies—Doctor’s Associates, LLC (DAL) and HP, Inc.—are accused in this class action of violating the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA). The complaint alleges that they have been responsible for the collecting, storing, and using biometrics at Subway sandwich franchises without fulfilling the notice and consent or other requirements this law sets forth.

Two classes have been defined for this action:

  • The Subway Class is all individuals whose fingerprint reference template was stored on any Biometric System at a Subway restaurant in Illinois, on or after June 7, 2016.
  • The HP Class is all individuals whose fingerprint reference template was stored on any HP point-of-sale system in Illinois on or after June 7, 2016.

DAL is the American franchisor of Subway, which the complaint calls “the world’s largest quick-service restaurant chain.” One requirement for Subway franchises is that they use specific equipment at their locations. Franchisees must enroll in a program that offers hardware for its “Restaurant Technology as a Service” (RTaaS) for a point-of-service (POS) system.

That system is supplied by HP, which makes computers and other hardware, including POS systems. Franchisees pay monthly fees to HP. The software is SubwayPOS, licensed to the franchisee by DAL.

The system includes a biometric scanner that enables workers to use their fingerprints to do things such as unlock registers and clock in and out.

The plaintiff in this case, Mariel Ronquillo, worked for a Subway franchise in Chicago, Illinois. The Subway restaurant had HP POS system with the SubwayPOS software. The system captured Ronquillo’s fingerprint, the complaint says, and “create[d] a reference template, an algorithmic representation of the features of the fingerprint used to subsequently identify” her. She then was required to use that system for clocking in and out for her shifts and breaks.

The complaint lists a number of ways in which DAL and HP violated BIPA with the use of the system in Illinois:

  • They “did not explain the Biometric System to Subway workers.”
  • They “did not tell Subway’s workers how they used data collected through the Biometric System.”
  • They “did not tell Subway’s workers how long they kept the data collected through the Biometric System.”
  • “Subway’s workers did not consent to [DAL’s and HP’s] capture, collection, use, or retention of their fingerprints or the identifying data derived from them.”

BIPA has been in effect in Illinois since 2008. The complaint alleges that by the beginning of the class period in this case, it had been in the news for a while, with Facebook, Google, and Shutterfly all accused of BIPA violations.

Jeep Wrangler 4xe Hybrid Abrupt Shutdown While in Use Class Action

The Jeep Wrangler 4xe plug-in hybrid is made by FCA US. The complaint for this class action alleges it has flawed electronic or computer systems that cause it to shut down without warning while it is in motion. According to the complaint, FCA has not warned customers, recalled the vehicles, or taken other steps to protect drivers and passengers from danger.

The class for this action is all individuals in the US who bought or leased a Jeep Wrangler 4xe.

Aaron Kappler, the plaintiff in this case, leases a new 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe. On July 22, 2021, he was driving with his wife and two children on a highway, at high speed, when the display in the vehicle suddenly showed an error message about the electric hybrid system. It warned him to immediately pull over to the side and put the Jeep in Park.

The complaint alleges, “The Jeep’s entire system shut down, including its engine, air conditioning system, navigation screen, and all other systems.”

Kappler did get the vehicle to the side of the road and put it in Park, at which it turned off completely. A few minutes later, the screens came back up again and “indicated that the Jeep could be turned back on.” After that, the vehicle restarted.

Kappler then made an appointment with a Jeep dealership to look at the vehicle on August 2. No one warned him to stop driving the vehicle, nor had he received any other warnings or notices about it. Kappler restarted the vehicle and went on to his destination; he continued driving it thereafter.

On July 31, two days before his appointment with Jeep and still without receiving any warning about the vehicle, the problem occurred again. Kappler had to cross three lanes of highway traffic to pull over. From there, he had the vehicle towed to a Jeep dealership.

On August 11, the vehicle was still at the dealership and no one had looked at it. Kappler then had it towed to a different dealership.

The complaint, filed on September 16, 2021, alleges, “The Jeep has been out of service since July 31, 2021. FCA has not provided any material update or information concerning the condition of the Jeep and has not provided a loaner or temporary vehicle.”

The complaint quotes from postings describing similar problems with other such vehicles at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website.

The complaint alleges that FCA has not issued bulletins or warnings on the vehicles but has gone on promoting them, including by “having the President of the United States drive one during an electric vehicle event” and “bragg[ing] about the Class Vehicles being the bestselling hybrid electric vehicle of the second quarter of 2021.”

St. Joseph’s/Candler Health System Hacker Takeover Class Action

St. Joseph’s/Candler Health System, Inc. (SJ/C) provides medical care to people in a 4,000-square-mile area of Georgia and South Carolina. In December 2020, cybercriminals hacked into its systems and did not merely steal information; six months later, they rendered the entire system inoperable, even down to the telephones. The complaint for this class action alleges that the difficulties were brought about by SJ/C’s own failures.

According to the complaint, the hacking of SJ/C’s systems began on or about December 18, 2020, with the theft of the medical and personal information of around 1,400,000 people. The personal health information (PHI) and personally identifiable information (PII) included such things as names and addresses, Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, billing account and financial information, health insurance information, family, employment, and emergency contact information, medical record numbers, and medical and clinical treatment information.

But the problem didn’t end on that day. The complaint alleges, “For a full six months after these criminals first accessed SJ/C’s IT system, the hackers were able to move freely and undetected through the hospital system’s IT network.”

On June 17, 2021, the hackers took the entire IT system hostage. The complaint quotes from an article in the Savannah Morning News: “It was … a complete information technology (IT) meltdown. Everything, from electronic medical record[s] (EMR) used to document encounters to the lab, radiology and billing software, went down. Even the phones … stopped working.”

The hospital was forced to go back to more primitive methods of preserving and relaying information, “with paper charting, handwritten notes, and lab runners taking lab and x-ray results to the floors, the emergency room and the operating room.”

It took more than two weeks to get the computer systems operating again. The complaint claims that this all happened because of SJ/C’s “failure to adequately and regularly back up data and/or failure to create a reasonable data recovery plan, despite having been warned to do so by multiple federal agencies…” According to the complaint, “SJ/C was on clear notice that cyber criminals were planning precisely this type of attack on hospitals.

The complaint details reports from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CSIA), and the FBI, as well as reports and warnings from other sources about cyberattacks.

SJ/C then did not warn patients that their PII and PHI had been exposed until August 10, 2021, nearly two months after the data breach was discovered.

The class for this action is all persons whose PHI and PII was accessed by and disclosed to unauthorized persons in the data breach, including but not limited to all persons who received notice of the data breach, between December 18, 2020 and the present.