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North Carolina Supreme Court Decision Underscores Need For CFPB Action On Forced Arbitration

Public Justice responded to a request from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for input on a survey it wants to send consumers. A decision handed down a few weeks ago from the North Carolina Supreme Court in Torrence v. Nationwide Budget Finance, involving lenders using forced arbitration clauses to suppress valid legal claims by their customers. In the Torrence case, the court refused to do anything about a case in which people harmed by predatory and illegal loans lost all their legal rights because of a forced arbitration clause to which they had not really even agreed.

Read more HERE

Regulators Accuse T-Mobile of Bogus Billing

Federal regulators are urging consumers to go through their phone bills line by line after they accused T-Mobile US of wrongly charging customers for premium services, like horoscope texts and quirky ringtones, the customers never authorized.

The Federal Trade Commission announced Tuesday that it is suing T-Mobile in a federal court in Seattle with the goal of making sure every unfairly charged customer sees a full refund. The lawsuit, the first of its kind against a mobile provider, is the result of months of stalled negotiations with T-Mobile, which says it is already offering refunds.

Whole Foods Fined for Overcharging California Customers

After a year-long investigation, the attorneys general of Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Monica took the supermarket chain, Whole Foods to task for failing to deduct the weight of containers when charging for self-serve foods from the salad bar and hot bar, overstating the weight of products sold by the pound, and selling prepared deli foods by the piece rather than by the pound, as required by law.

The chain has been smacked with an $800,000 fine, and all 74 stores in the state are subject to a five-year court injunction. That includes $630,000 in civil penalties, $100,000 to a statewide consumer protection trust fund and $68,394 in investigation costs.

Under the terms of the agreement, Whole Foods must appoint two state coordinators to oversee pricing accuracy at all of its stores in California and designate an employee at each store to be responsible for ensuring correct pricing. The chain also must conduct random price-check audits at each store quarterly.

Cops Can No Longer Search Your Phone

Police didn't need a warrant to search your smartphone. They only needed to have probable cause to arrest you. If your phone was with you, all its contents was theirs for the browsing. The U.S. Supreme Court, in weighing a Southern California case, said that's no longer true: Search warrants are necessary except in exigent emergencies.

The American Civil Liberties Union praised the Supreme Court's decision. Steven R. Shapiro, national legal director of the group, said:

By recognizing that the digital revolution has transformed our expectations of privacy, today’s decision is itself revolutionary and will help to protect the privacy rights of all Americans. We have entered a new world but, as the court today recognized, our old values still apply and limit the government’s ability to rummage through the intimate details of our private lives.

Physicians with Substance Abuse Problems Continue to Work

Government studies indicate at least 100,000 doctors — or about one in 10 currently working — is addicted to drugs or alcohol. Some are performing surgeries while stoned, injuring and even killing unsuspecting patients, according to TODAY national investigative correspondent Jeff Rossen, who found numerous cases of doctors busted for substance abuse. 

Read more... HERE

Big-Business Influence: Madonnna, Jury Trials and Mandatory Arbitration

The “right” to a civil jury trial to decide a dispute in countless arenas has been eliminated. Instead, consumers and workers are confronted with contractual “mandatory” arbitration clauses which are in small print and which are not “bargained for” in the process of buying a product or accepting employment.

The influence of big business on our Supreme Court and elected officials over the years has resulted in a reality that civil “justice” is a joke, particularly for consumers and most employees. Our “right” to go to court has been virtually eliminated and in its place, the process of binding arbitration now resolves most consumer, employment, anti-trust, and civil rights disputes. Arbitration has virtually eliminated an aggrieved person’s right to go to court and seek justice.

Read more HERE 

California Counties Sue Drug Manufacturers Over Narcotics Marketing

Orange and Santa Clara counties filed suit Thursday against five of the world's largest drug manufacturers, accusing them of creating a population of addicts to reap blockbuster profits on narcotic painkillers.

Drugs such as Oxycontin and Percocet are commonly prescribed for severe pain. The Orange County District Attorney filed a lawsuit against several pharmaceutical companies, claiming the companies are intentionally misrepresenting to doctors and patients just how addictive these prescription painkillers can be.

Orange County Health Care Agency officials say there were 291 deaths in 2012 related to overdoses. That's almost 40 percent of all the accidental deaths in the county.

One of the companies,
Janssen Pharmaceuticals, issued a statement: "Janssen is committed to ethical business practices and responsible promotion, prescribing and use of all our medications. We're currently reviewing the complaint."

FDA Proposes Reclassification of Surgical Mesh for Transvaginal Pelvic Organ Prolapse

On May 1, 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced a proposed rule to reclassify surgical mesh for transvaginal pelvic organ prolapse (POP) repair from class II to class III. This proposed rule change acknowledges that there is insufficient evidence on the safety of mesh products for POP repair and would require any transvaginal mesh to undergo premarket approval to ensure the mesh's safety and effectiveness before it can be marketed and implanted in women. This classification change would remove mesh products for POP from the much maligned 510K process, which does not require premarket approval. In making this significant announcement, the FDA identified numerous risks with the use of transvaginal mesh for POP repair, including mesh exposure and extrusion, vaginal scarring, pelvic pain, shrinking and tightening of the mesh, incontinence and infections such as pelvic abscesses. Comments on the proposed rule changes are due by July 30, 2014. Needless to say, the mesh manufacturers and their lobbyists are certainly expected to fight this proposed change.

Arias Ozzello & Gignac LLP continue to represent clients who have been implanted with defective or recalled transvaginal mesh products. If you believe you may be suffering from adverse medical complications as a result of a defective or recalled transvaginal mesh product, fill out a contact form, or call Arias, Ozzello & Gignac LLP at (310) 670-1600 or e-mail Mike Arias.

Whole Foods Says Deceptive Labeling Class Action Lawsuit Falls Short

Whole Foods Market Inc. has asked a California federal judge to dismiss a proposed deceptive advertising class action lawsuit filed against the grocery store chain, alleging that they mislead customers by using the words “natural” and “evaporated cane juice” instead of sugar on their food labels for its 365 Everyday Value products.

U.S. District Judge Edward J. Davila in March agreed to dismiss an unjust enrichment claim in the Whole Foods class action lawsuit against but had allowed the lead plaintiff to amend the claim and try again.

Whole Foods, like many other food companies who are defendants in false advertising class action lawsuits pending in throughout the U.S. court system, is bringing its dismissal motion in the wake of a U.S. Food and Drug Administration notice that it is re-evaluating its previous draft guidance on the use of the term “evaporated cane juice” on food labels.

The Whole Foods Mislabeling Class Action Lawsuit is Pratt v. Whole Foods Market Inc., Case No. 5:12-cv-05652, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Boehringer Ingelheim Settles Pradaxa Lawsuits for $650 Million

Pharmaceutical maker Boehringer Ingelheim agreed to settle lawsuits over the blood thinner drug dabigatran (Pradaxa). Under the terms of the settlement, the German company will pay $650 million to settle 4,000 suits brought by patients and survivors who claim "Boehringer failed to properly warn them that the drug, which is used to prevent blood clots, caused serious and sometimes fatal bleeding that could not easily be reversed." The Institute for Safe Medication Practices implicates the drug in "more than 1,000 deaths." The company stands by its medication, saying in a statement "Time and again, the benefits and safety of Pradaxa have been confirmed." 

The FDA approved Pradaxa in 2010 for use in patients at risk of stroke due to atrial fibrillation or other irregular rhythms. FDA officials said they received reports of 542 deaths and 3,781 side-effect incidents tied to the drug in 2011. The settlement follows a $931,000 fine assessed against the company in December for failing to preserve documents related to the drug's development. Pradaxa generated revenue of $1.63 billion last year.

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