Articles Posted in Consumer Law

A jury awarded Waukegan-based Atturo Tire Corp. a $110 million verdict for damages related to deceptive trade practices and tortious interference by a multinational competitor.

After a five-day trial, a federal jury in the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago found Toyo Tire Corp. and Toyo USA Corp. liable for unfair competition, defamation, unjust enrichment, deceptive trade practices, and tortious interference with Atturo’s business.

The jury found Toyo told Atturo’s existing and prospective customers and manufacturing partners that Toyo owned a trade dress right in Kayo’s Open Country Mountain Tire and that Atturo infringed upon it with its Trail Blade M/T tire.

Continue reading

Clarisha Benson and Lorenzo Smith each purchased an opaque, seven-ounce box of Fannie May chocolates for $9.99 plus tax. Benson purchased Fannie May’s Mint Meltaways and Smith purchased Fannie May’s Pixies. Although the boxes accurately disclosed the weight of the chocolate within, and the number of pieces in each box, the boxes were emptier than either had expected.

The box of Mint Meltaways contained approximately 33% empty space and the box of Pixies contained approximately 38% empty space.

The plaintiffs eventually sued Fannie May on behalf of themselves and a putative class, alleging violations of Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act and asserted claims for unjust enrichment and breach of implied contract.

Continue reading

Theodore Joas underwent a total knee replacement at a Wisconsin hospital receiving a Zimmer NexGen Flex knee implant.  Within a few years, he began experiencing pain in his new knee.  X-rays confirmed that the implant had loosened and required a surgical repair.

He brought a series of claims against Zimmer Inc., the implant manufacturer.  His case was transferred to a multi-district litigation in the Northern District of Illinois where it was eventually treated as a bellwether case.

The court applied Wisconsin law and granted summary judgment in favor of Zimmer.

Continue reading

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