Articles Posted in Consumer Law

Juan Suarez used Goof Off, an extremely flammable product made by the defendant W.M. Barr & Co., to remove paint from a basement floor. While he was removing the paint, a fire erupted in the basement and severely burned him. Suarez and his wife sued W.M. Barr claiming it chose not warn and for failing by producing a defective product design under Illinois law. After the U.S. District Court granted summary judgment in favor of Barr, the Suarezes appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago.

The appeals panel concluded that the district judge appropriately rejected the Suarezes’ failure-to-warn claim. The warning label on the Goof Off can adequately identified the product’s principal hazards, as well as the precautionary measures to be taken while using the product.

However, the appeals panel reversed and remanded the district court’s rejection of the Suarezes’ design defect claims under both strict liability and negligence. The Suarezes have adequately shown that the fire may have been caused by static sparks created when Juan agitated Goof Off with a brush, as the warning label instructed.

Continue reading

Alena Hammer owned and resided in a house located in Villa Park, Ill. Her mortgage was serviced by AmTrust Bank until AmTrust failed and was taken over by the FDIC in November 2009. The mortgage did not include an escrow account, and Hammer paid her real estate taxes and property insurance separately.

Hammer, 65, entered into a loan modification agreement with the FDIC as receiver for AmTrust in June 2010. She had been laid off from her job the year before. Hammer’s mortgage loan was then transferred to the defendant Residential Credit Solutions (RCS) in August 2010. RCS began rejecting the plaintiff’s monthly mortgage payments in September 2010 and refused to acknowledge the existence of the loan modification agreement.

RCS then pursued two separate foreclosure actions against Hammer despite the fact that she was still up to date on her monthly payments as required under the loan modification agreement.

Continue reading

In order to obtain class certification under Federal Rule 23(b)(3), the plaintiffs must be able to show that their damages arose from actions attributable to the defendants who create legal liability. Plaintiffs must show at the class certification stage that they can prove, through common evidence, that all proposed class members were injured by the defendant’s alleged wrongful conduct (or if there are a few who were not, it will be possible to easily identify and exclude those individuals).

In the Comcast antitrust case, the federal court had initially granted certification in Comcast to decide whether the Daubert standard applied to class certification. The federal court ended up decertifying the antitrust class based on two flaws in the damages model offered by the plaintiffs’ expert. First, the court found the model failed to show that damages could be determined on a common basis across the class. Second, the court found that the damages model did not track the plaintiffs’ theory of liability because it included three theories of antitrust injuries the plaintiffs were no longer pursuing and did not categorize the alleged harm from each.

The Comcast case, which was handed down in 2013, is no longer an easy shield for defendants in class certification matters. Comcast does not stand for just antitrust cases. The case decision however, does require plaintiffs to produce a workable damages model that excludes plaintiffs who were not injured.

Continue reading

In the model years 2009 and 2010, Toyota’s Corolla has been targeted as a dangerous vehicle because of the electric power steering (ETS) system. In fact, two Toyota Corolla owners, one in New York and one in Pennsylvania, filed suit. The Corolla owners have alleged that the steering system’s defect caused their cars to drift out of control. The lawsuits claim that the steering system defect is a serious safety problem and that Toyota was aware of the problem but did nothing to fix it.

It was alleged in the lawsuit that the defect in the electric power steering system caused a driver to spin out of control on a highway, cross the center line into oncoming traffic before crashing into an embankment. The plaintiffs have alleged that the defect in the electric power steering system is significant and widespread, and they seek to have a class certified by the court.

Toyota, on the other hand, has argued that the court should not allow class certification nationwide because the vehicle shares no common problem. Toyota said the defect in the steering system affects only a small number of Corolla owners. Toyota also said it has reviewed the reports of steering problems and has found that the individual complaints may relate to the way steering feels to them or tire conditions on the particular vehicle.

Continue reading

Six United States senators have asked the Federal Highway Administration to investigate the safety of roadside guardrails. This request was made on March 4, 2015, and it is the latest of a series of inquiries made regarding the guardrails manufactured by Trinity Industries Inc.

The questions about the guardrail system manufactured by Trinity began in October 2014 after a jury found that Trinity had defrauded the United States government by choosing not to report changes to the guardrail system. This act of failing to report changes to the guardrail system was over a period of seven years.

There have been as many as eight deaths reported to be linked to the defective guardrail system. No spokesperson for Trinity would comment on any specific lawsuit.

Continue reading

The Illinois appellate court has reinstated a product-liability lawsuit against a distributor in which there was a default judgment against the manufacturer of the product. In this case, the manufacturer was not subject to jurisdiction, and the plaintiff wasn’t able to satisfy the judgment. Nevertheless, the court ruled that the plaintiff may reinstate the lawsuit against the distributor.

In 2009, Jeff Chraca was unpacking a shipment of golf cart batteries. Chraca was employed by Chicago Battery Co. Chraca was lifting and carrying the batteries with the aid of a black strap that came with the shipment of batteries. The strap broke suddenly and Chraca wrenched one of his shoulders and his neck.

Chraca filed a worker’s compensation claim in 2011 and then filed a strict tort product-liability action against U.S. Battery — the company that sent the batteries and the strap to Chraca’s employer. However, U.S. Battery did not manufacture the strap; instead, it merely sent it along with the battery shipment.

Continue reading

A federal jury has entered an $11 million verdict for victims of the design defect of the 1996 Toyota Camry.

The jurors indicated that Toyota was 60% at fault for the 2006 crash that left two people dead and two seriously injured. They also found that another defendant, Koua Fong Lee, who had insisted that he tried to stop his car before it slammed into another vehicle, was 40% at fault for the crash. Lee and his family members, the family of a girl who died and two others who were seriously injured, sued Toyota Motor Corp. in the United States District Court in Minneapolis, Minn.

The lawsuit alleged this crash was caused by the acceleration defect in Lee’s Toyota. Toyota maintained that there was no design defect and that Lee was negligent and the sole cause of the crash.

Continue reading

Larry Fabian was hired in 2001 by Cantor Fitzgerald to be a broker at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. In 2007, he was transferred to BGC, which was a spinoff company of Cantor Fitzgerald.

In 2008, Fabian was named as a partner of “Founding Partner No. 69.” According to Fabian, he earned 100,393 “founding partner units” which could later be converted into common stock of the company.

On March 27, 2009, Fabian quit working for BGC to work for another securities firm. Shortly after leaving BGC, Fabian initiated arbitration before the Chicago Mercantile Exchange where he received $121,758 in commissions that he was owed from Cantor Fitzgerald. This did not include any reimbursement for his “founding partner units.”

Continue reading

The Illinois Appellate Court has reversed a summary judgment order that was entered by a Cook County judge in favor of Safeway Insurance Co. In this case, Jeffrey and Stephanie Hadary were injured in a car crash when Carlos Velez was driving a car he rented from Hertz Corp. The Hadarys claimed that they had suffered injuries that amounted to damages in excess of $40,000, which was the insurance limits of Velez’s insurance carrier, American Access Casualty Co., which had limits of $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident. The Hadarys reportedly declined to buy the “liability insurance supplement” when they rented the car from Hertz.

Under Illinois’ financial responsibility law, Hertz was bound to provide a bond, an insurance policy or certificate of self-insurance that promised to pay judgments against its customers and anyone driving a Hertz vehicle with a customer’s consent. Section 9-105 of the Illinois Vehicle Code required Hertz to provide this liability coverage with limits of (a) $50,000 for injury to one person or damage to property and (b) $100,000 for injuries to two or more persons.

After American Access paid its $40,000 policy limits to Hadarys, who paid $57 as a premium for underinsured motorist coverage from Safeway Insurance Co. with limits of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per occurrence, they alleged that Velez was an underinsured motorist.

Continue reading

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago has affirmed a decision of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois dismissing a lawsuit against a Wal-Mart store for injuries suffered by Kristen Zuppardi. She went to the Wal-Mart store in Champaign, Ill., with her brother and her son on June 15, 2010. When she entered the store, Ms. Zuppardi took a shopping cart from the front of the store and then walked down one of the main aisles of the store. Ms. Zuppardi was on her way to the back of the store to purchase milk. As she was walking down the aisle she slipped and fell in a puddle of water on the store’s concrete floors. She filed a complaint against Wal-Mart in state court in June 2012. The case was removed to the Federal District Court by Wal-Mart for diversity of citizenship jurisdiction.

One of the Wal-Mart store’s assistant managers, George Steward, stated that he did not witness the fall, but that he knew that because the fall occurred in close proximity to the store’s back doors, Wal-Mart personnel would have promptly dealt with the puddle even if the plaintiff had not fallen.

Wal-Mart was unable to locate the customer’s incident file of this occurrence and was accordingly incapable of producing any documents related to the investigation other than five photographs depicting the location of the fall and a report submitted to Wal-Mart’s casualty claims administrator. There was no video footage available.

Continue reading