The Strength and Breadth of Baron & Budd’s Class Actions

Class actions are often misunderstood. At the first thought of a class action, many people think only of a complicated notice in the mail.

But we invite you to widen your perspective.

Class action lawsuits are one of the most important ways people have to protect themselves from corporate wrongdoing. Instead of one person taking on a billion dollar company, class actions allow groups of people to fight back with a collective voice. It’s the best way for individuals to battle powerful companies and their abundant legal resources because class actions provide enough “mass” for individuals to have a strong voice, too, which helps to level the playing field. Even more, without class actions, corporate fraud can continue – especially when it involves only a small amount of money per individual.

Take, for example, a company that swindles individuals out of $1 dollar each. No one person can afford to fight back. But if five million people are swindled out of $1 dollar each, it’s an opportunity to file a class action. In this case the goal isn’t necessarily to get the one dollar back; the goal is to make the company pay the $5 million it gained through fraudulent behavior and to change its deceptive practices.

Class actions are like voting.

One vote might not make a difference, but when hundreds of people get together, there is a real ability to affect change.

A class action lawsuit begins when an attorney files a case on behalf of his or her client against a company that is suspected of committing allegedly fraudulent acts. The “acts” can involve financial or physical harm. At first the lawsuit only involves a handful of clients, referred to as lead plaintiffs, but gradually hundreds or even millions more who were harmed can come forward to join the class action. When large numbers join the lawsuit, it encourages wrongdoers to change bad behavior because, if successful, the lawsuit affects the company’s bottom line in a bigger way.

Baron & Budd is a leader in class actions that cover a broad array of ways that big companies have tried to make more money at the expense of their customers or, in some cases, employees.

Class Actions Involving Financial Institutions

Bank Overdraft Fees

Baron & Budd was part of the leadership in a class action lawsuit against the nation’s largest banks, alleging that they were reordering their customers’ debit card charges in order to maximize overdraft fees. The resulting settlements were significant both in terms of financial recovery and changed corporate behavior. Strict new rules are in place now – rules that prohibit reordering and put tight restrictions on “courtesy” overdraft services that had been costing consumers millions each year. The results of the bank overdraft class action that Baron & Budd was specifically involved in are as follows:

    • $410 million settlement with Bank of America
    • $14.5 million settlement with Comerica
    • $110 million settlement with JP Morgan Chase

      Force-Placed Insurance

      Baron & Budd is representing homeowners in a class action lawsuit against banks and lenders who forced the homeowners/ borrowers into paying for inflated insurance policies, often without the borrowers’ knowledge or consent.

      Our lawsuit against the banks and mortgage companies has even revealed that many of the very expensive insurance policies that have been “forced” onto borrowers were purchased from bank-owned insurance companies. Some of the insurance policies were even back-dated. The practice of force – placed insurance has cost homeowners millions in inflated insurance payments.

      Libor Index Adjustable Rate Mortgage

      The class action filed by Baron & Budd alleges manipulating of the immensely important Libor index by banking insiders. This egregious manipulation has a big domino effect. As a result of the Libor manipulation, literally millions of people with home mortgages likely paid more interest than they should have.

      Loan Servicing Fraud

      This class action centers around inappropriate or inflated fees for “property preservation” services, including “drive-by” inspections and Broker’s Price Opinions (BPOs) that were ordered when it was alleged that borrowers were late on payments. Banks order these services from third parties and charge borrowers a “marked-up” fee, which is specifically against the terms of most loan agreements that only allow banks to pass on the actual cost of a third party service with no mark-up.

      In addition to the inappropriate mark-ups, the banks allegedly attempted to hide the charges from borrowers by using vague language on loan statements to describe the charges.

      The class action is now pending against Wells Fargo, Citibank and JPMorgan Chase.

      Class Actions Involving Automakers

      Chrysler Nerve Center Defect

      The Totally Integrated Power Model (TIPM) is a key part of an automobile’s electronic nerve center. When it does not work properly, serious problems may occur. Problems reported include everything from total vehicle shutdown to unintended and out-of-control acceleration, airbag non-deployment or fires.

      Baron & Budd is representing Chrysler automobile owners who have experienced TIPM issues and are facing steep expenses to repair the defects – expenses we believe should be covered by Chrysler.

      Takata Airbag Recall

      Baron & Budd, along with co-counsel Labaton Sucharow LLP and Podhurst Orseck P.A., filed the nation’s first lawsuit regarding the recall of Takata-brand air bags. The class action aims to get monetary compensation for owners of vehicles with the recalled airbags.

      In addition to filing the complaint, Baron & Budd also asked the Court for expedited discovery to determine whether there is a need for additional or more complete recalls in order to protect the public’s safety.

      BMW Mini Cooper Transmission

      Within the first year of its American launch, complaints began to flood into BMW about the Mini’s faulty transmission. Due to the vehicle’s issues, owners were frequently forced to replace their Mini’s transmission, the cost of which was sometimes greater than the cost of the vehicle. To help consumers affected by these issues, Baron & Budd attorneys stepped up and filed a class action lawsuit against BMW.

      As a result of this case, a major national settlement, valued at more than $10 million, was reached, allowing Mini Cooper owners to receive up to a few thousand dollars each. The lawsuit also calls attention to continuing issues of deceptive advertising and how these issues harm consumers.

      Nissan Timing Chain

      Baron & Budd represents plaintiffs who own Nissan vehicles with timing chain defects. The class action lawsuit alleges that the timing chains are prone to premature failure, well before a car owner would reasonably expect any such failure. The class action’s objective is to get monetary compensation for class members.

      Class Actions Involving Employee Pay

      FLSA (Overtime Violations)

      American workers are protected by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), enacted in 1938. This is a federal law governing all matters related to fair pay, including maximum work hours, overtime, minimum wages, equal pay and child labor standards. The FLSA was enacted decades ago to protect employees from oppressive conditions, but even today some employers try to get away with disregarding this law. As a result, Baron & Budd attorneys have stepped up and filed the following class actions, which are still ongoing:

      • Sunbelt Rentals Overtime Lawsuit
      • Mechanic Group Overtime Lawsuit
      • Supermedia Inc., Overtime Lawsuit
      • Jack in the Box Overtime Lawsuit

      WARN Act Violations

      The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN), enacted in 1989, is a federal law that requires many large employers to give affected employees a minimum of 60 days’ notice when there is a mass layoff or closing.

      Baron & Budd is currently representing many oilfield workers who were recently laid off without sufficient notice according to the WARN act.

      The class actions, filed by Baron & Budd against several of the large oil companies, are an important way for workers to have a voice and demand that they be treated fairly.

      Class Actions Involving Consumer Products

      Lumber Liquidators

      Lumber Liquidators is a publicly traded company that sells a number of Chinese-made laminate flooring items in addition to real wood flooring. The stores’ laminate flooring was marketed as safe to consumers under California’s strict CARB Compliance regulations. Unfortunately, independent testing, as described in a 60 Minutes investigation, revealed that Lumber Liquidators’ labeling may be false and that the laminate might contain excessive levels of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.

      The Department of Health and Human Services names formaldehyde a human carcinogen based upon both human and animal inhalation studies. Other health issues related to formaldehyde include nasal and eye irritation, neurological effects, decreased body weight, gastrointestinal ulcers and potential liver and kidney damage as well as a greater risk of asthma and allergies.

      Baron & Budd is investigating the laminate flooring products sold by Lumber Liquidators.

      Brazilian Blowout Solution

      Baron & Budd brought its considerable resources to bear in litigation involving Brazilian Blowout, a popular hair straightening solution that was falsely advertised as being free of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.

      In December 2013, a settlement was reached. This settlement funded claims by consumers and hair stylists for partial reimbursement of their expenses for purchasing the Brazilian Blowout solution as well as reimbursement of medical expenses for short-term, transient injuries. A significant additional “win” is that members of the class action will retain the right to sue for any permanent injuries, including cancer.

      Alexia Foods

      The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning to Alexia Foods, a manufacturer of gourmet frozen foods, in 2011 about its “All Natural” claims. Baron & Budd challenged Alexia’s labeling, alleging that many of their products actually contain synthetic chemicals. The resulting settlement required ConAgra to pay $3.2 million and to stop using the phrase “All Natural” on its packaging.

      AVON Anti-Aging Products

      Baron & Budd brought a class action lawsuit addressing marketing of AVON’s Anew line of products, Anew Clinical Advanced Wrinkle Corrector, Anew Reversalist Night Renewal Cream, Anew Reversalist Renewal Serum and Anew Clinical Thermafirm Face Lifting Cream products.  The lawsuit filed by Baron & Budd was the first lawsuit filed against AVON regarding the deceptive advertising of these products.

      Ensure Muscle Health with Revigor

      Baron & Budd brought a class action against Abbott Laboratories, Inc. d/b/a Abbott Nutrition, creators of the “Ensure Muscle Health” and “Ensure Clinical Strength” drinks, concerning the allegedly deceptive and misleading practices with respect to the labeling of these products.

      A Nationally Recognized Leader

      Baron & Budd was selected to the National Law Journal’s “Plaintiffs’ Hot List” in 2002-2006, 2008 and 2011-2012 (published by American Lawyer Media).
      The Legal 500 has selected Baron & Budd as a top law firm from 2007-2013 (Legalease, Ltd.).
      Baron & Budd shareholder Russell Budd has been selected to The Best Lawyers in America 2014. Shareholder Scott Summy has been selected 2006-2014.