Tag Archive for 'lawsuit'

Wells Fargo Bank Commits Fraud Against Its Customers

Wells Fargo Bank is facing a lawsuit from the city of Los Angeles, which alleges that the bank participated in unfair business practices by persuading its employees to engage “in unfair, unlawful, and fraudulent conduct.” According to the lawsuit, Wells Fargo workers were under a great deal of pressure to meet sales goals, and thus, were in the habit of opening accounts for their current customers without first obtaining their permission.

The city of Los Angeles refers to Wells Fargo as a “fee-generating machine” because of its efforts to compel its employees to meet unrealistic sales goals. According to the city, “Wells Fargo places unrelenting pressure on its bankers to open several accounts for each customer. “ “Wells Fargo’s bankers are thus naturally and predictably forced to use alternative means to meet quotas.”

As a result of the workers’ actions, customers were subjected to more fees and a diminished ability to obtain credit anyplace else. For example, their credit reports were affected, thereby having an adverse impact on their capacity to obtain a car loan or mortgage. Customers also felt compelled to get identity theft protection because Wells Fargo accounts were being opened in their names without the customers’ consent. wells-fargo-robbery

The city is therefore attempting to secure a court order from the Los Angeles Superior Court that would mandate that the bank act in compliance with the law. It is also seeking to have Wells Fargo penalized with a fine of $2,500 per violation in accordance with California’s unfair competition statute and restitution.

In addition, the city alleges in its lawsuit that Wells Fargo workers were dishonest with customers when they told them that they had to open more accounts in order to get a checking account. Moreover, workers incorrectly informed customers that there were no fees associated with the accounts, and pressured customers into buying extra products, such as life insurance.

Furthermore, the city claims that Wells Fargo was in violation of state and federal law when it misappropriated customers’ private information, and neglected to inform customers that their private information had been misused. In response, representatives from Wells Fargo said that they have disciplined a few employees who have misappropriated customers’ personal information in order to open accounts without their permission.

Ken Wallman, a business owner, was one customer whose private information was misused by Wells Fargo workers. Wallman told Los Angeles Times in an interview that he opened a checking account with Wells Fargo, but eventually he had a dozen additional accounts because the bank opened additional accounts without first obtaining his approval. When Wallman tried to close the accounts, Wells Fargo refused and, instead, charged him extra fees.

Unfair Competition Law

Under California’s Unfair Competition Law (UCL), there are five definitions of unfair competition outlined in §17200. They are as follows:

  1. An illegal business act or practice;
  2. A business act or practice that is unfair;
  3. A business act or practice that is fraudulent;
  4. Advertising that is unfair, deceptive, untrue, or misleading; or
  5. Any act forbidden by §§17500-17577.5.

Under §17203, the court can order injunctions to prevent the unfair competition as well as order other equitable defenses. Victims of unfair competition can obtain relief through the court, which can order that money or property be returned to them. In the event that an injunction is issued in accordance with §17200, those who intentionally engage in unfair competition could be penalized up to $6,000 per day. And when a lawsuit is filed by a government agency, such as the city of Los Angeles, civil penalties of up to $2,500 per violation are permitted.

Employer Who Provides Bucket as Toilet Faces $4M Lawsuit

Andrew Lane was using the restroom at work when he was killed by carbon monoxide poisoning. Mr. Lane’s crew was cleaning the gutter and pressure washing a home in Oregon when Lane was killed. His employer, Superior Home Maintenance, only provided a bucket for its employees’ restroom needs. So when 22 year old Lane went to use the bucket in the rear of the work truck, he was poisoned by the carbon monoxide emitted by an adjacent washer.

The tragic incident occurred on May 13, 2014, in the afternoon, after which Lane’s co-workers discovered his body in the rear of the truck. They had been working outside a home, and according to the attorney for the victim’s estate, they were instructed not to use the bathrooms inside the home. The lawsuit depicts the company’s toilet policy for workers as “demeaning, debasing, and dehumanizing.”

In its defense, Superior Home Maintenance claimed that the main cause of the worker’s death was use of methamphetamines, and not carbon monoxide poisoning. While the first autopsy revealed that the victim died from using methamphetamines, a second autopsy determined that carbon monoxide poisoning was the cause of death. Bucket system toilet

The results of the second autopsy were confirmed by a report from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that was issued in September 2014. According to the report, the pressure washer, which was secured to the floor of the cargo area inside the truck, filled the truck with toxic amounts of carbon monoxide in less than one minute.

Lane’s estate alleges that his employer was aware he suffered from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a digestive disorder that is marked by a sudden and frequent need to use the restroom. OSHA requires that on the majority of jobs, employees have reasonable access to toilet facilities. An investigation conducted by OSHA disclosed that on the day of the victim’s death, the closest public restroom was eight minutes away from the job site by car.

Just three years ago, in 2012, two workers received a jury award of $332,000 in a lawsuit against their employer, who failed to provide toilet facilities at their job site. Like Andrew Lane, the two men also used a bucket, and after filing a complaint with OSHA, an inspector from OSHA cited the company for neglecting to provide bathroom facilities. The men were terminated from their jobs that same month. As the jurors in that case stated, “having easy access to a toilet is a basic human right.”

Mr. Lane’s death could easily have been prevented if his employer had merely read and taken heed of the warnings outlined in the owner’s manual for the pressure washer. Among the warnings were the following:

  • “Exhaust contains poisonous carbon monoxide gas that can build up to dangerous levels in closed areas.”
  • “Never run the engine in a closed or even partially closed area where people may be present.”

Had his employer had any respect or concern for him and his co-workers, management would have provided them with adequate toilet facilities. It is unconscionable that so many workers feel that they have to endure inhumane and atrocious conditions in the workplace, and are overcome by feelings of helplessness and powerlessness. And all too often, they don’t complain for fear of losing their jobs, which may be their only source of income.

Amtrak Crash Leads to Multiple Lawsuits

Amtrak Crash Leads to Multiple Lawsuits

The Amtrak crash just outside of Philadelphia on May 12 killed eight passengers and injured 200 others. The incident is considered one of the worst train crashes in American history. Traveling more than twice the speed limit at 106 mph, the train derailed at 9:21 p.m.

So far, two crew members and four passengers have filed lawsuits against Amtrak. The four passengers filed a federal lawsuit, requesting Amtrak pay for medical bills and lost wages. One of the passengers has undergone several surgeries to halt her arm from being amputated. Another crew member described a brain injury that occurred due to the crash.

One of the crew members, Emilio Fonseca, was operating the train at the time of the crash. He filed a civil complaint against the company, arguing he suffered “serious and permanent personal injuries” and should receive compensation under the Federal Employer’s Liability Act.          Amtrak Accident

In order to avoid bankruptcy, in 1997 Congress set a $200 million limit to compensation Amtrak can be held liable for. The mental and physical injuries of passengers and crew members were significant, but the limit will lessen compensation that can be rewarded to each victim of the accident.

The Federal Employers Liability Act

The FELA is a federal law that is specific to railroad workers. The act was created in 1908 to protect railroad workers by compensating them for injuries sustained while on the job. Workers are rewarded compensation only if they can prove the railroad company was at least partly responsible for injuries suffered.

FELA is similar to workers compensation, but FELA is a fault based system. Workers must prove the injury was caused by negligence of a railroad employee, its agent or contractor, or from a faulty piece of equipment. Also in contrast to worker compensation plaintiffs, railroad workers may sue in a state or federal court for damages if proof of liability of the railroad company exists.

Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the Amtrack accident. Time will tell whether the train’s engineer, Brandon Bostian, a mechanical issue, or an outside source will be held responsible for the crash.

Oklahoma’s Fraternity Scandal and the First Amendment

A recent video of members of the University Of Oklahoma fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) chanting racial slurs has recently exploded on the media throughout the country. The chants were not only undisputedly racist, but especially violent in nature. Specifically they chanted “There will never be a ni**** SAE. You can hang him from a tree, but he can never sign with me.”

oklahoma racism scandalThe University of Oklahoma promptly expelled both students who appeared to be leading the chant in the video. Parker Rice, a 19 year old freshman coming right from Jesuit College Preparatory School was the leader of the chant. Another student, Levi Pettit, was also expelled. Both families have apologized profusely. However, Rice is the only involved student who personally apologized.

Were the Students Protected by the First Amendment?

As shocking as this story is, there are several First Amendment Rights that come into question. Were these boys exercising their First Amendment right to free speech? And if so, was the speech protected and therefore not subjected to any legal action, including expulsion from a public university?

A potential lawsuit has been threatened by SAE against the University of Oklahoma for expelling the students. SAE contends that the two students’ immediate expulsion “runs contrary to due process” and that the university has no right to censor speech, despite its hateful content. Other organizations have joined the bandwagon to “protect” the students’ First Amendment rights, including The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which is a civil liberties nonprofit. This organization has stated that, as a public university, the University of Oklahoma has no right to punish students solely because of offensive speech.

The Supreme Court has held that “advocacy of the use of force” is unprotected when it is “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action” and is “likely to incite or produce such action.” However, if it does not meet this test, the speech is protected under the First Amendment. For example, the Supreme Court struck down a criminal conviction of the white supremacy group, the Ku Klux Klan, for “advocating … violence … as a means of accomplishing political reform” because their statements at a rally did not express an immediate, or imminent intent to do violence. One could argue the same for the SAE incident which occurred on a bus full of only SAE kids who mostly shared the same views. Additionally, the factors which would be taken into consideration by a court, when deciding whether the speech was intended to incite violence, are that the video was only seconds long and privately recorded. The ruling essentially does not criminalize “mere advocacy.”

Hate speech is actually protected by the Constitution despite being offensive. If the speech is chanted in a private space, as in this incident, amongst people of similar views, it is protected. However, if directed toward African Americans, then if it was extreme enough to incite violence or imminent lawless action, then there would be no constitutional protection. However, the view of courts that have considered campus speech codes and other campus speech restrictions to be subject to first amendment protections. This is also true for fraternity speech, racist or not.

Unfortunately, the critics of the expulsion are legally correct. The students did have a right to free speech in the context in which they expressed it and, although there is an exception for “inciting violence” according to the legal standard, it likely would not apply to this busload of ignorant, drunk, privileged, white college students. Therefore, the public university likely did not have the legal right to expel them. It cannot punish the fraternity members solely for the content of their expression. With that said, both students would have be wise to leave on their own.

Will Racism Ever Stop Plaguing America?

America likes to think as a whole that we are past racism because overt acts such as these are abhorred by the majority. However, this story clearly shows that racism is still present in our society.

I have noticed that in the last few days the Oklahoma story has digressed from the racist video portrayal to the story of the poor frat boys whose lives are ruined. The media will always frame things the way they choose, which is often influenced by the pressure of institutions. But the community’s voice should always remain on point. In this case, it should be emphasized that the student’s actions were clearly wrong and highly offensive, regardless of whether or not First Amendment protections apply.

Could Rolling Stone Magazine Be Found Liable for the False Rape Story?

If Sued, Will Rolling Stone Be Found Liable for the False Rape Story?

In November 2014, Rolling Stone magazine published an article titled, “A Rape on Campus,” describing the brutal gang rape of a freshman named Jackie at a Phi Kappa Psi party at the University of Virginia. As a result of the story, Greek activities on the UVA campus were suspended. Multiple protests of Greek life were held on the UVA campus criticizing the initiation and pledging process of its fraternities.

Rolling SInvestigations into the case have found that the Rolling Stone story was, in fact, not truthful. Rolling Stone has since issued an apology for the story, stating that their trust in Jackie was “misplaced.”

In recent months, many have raised the question whether Phi Kappa Psi or any other fraternity with a UVA chapter could sue Rolling Stone for defamation based on the false story.

What’s Required for a Libel Lawsuit against Rolling Stone?

In order to be found liable, it must be proven that Rolling Stone had actual malice. In other words, it must be established that Rolling Stone knew that the story was materially false. Also, it must be found that the story damaged the fraternity chapter and its members.

Damages include material damages such as being displaced for the period that their fraternity house was closed resulting in hotel costs. Fraternity members could also claim damages in less tangible ways such as emotional distress.

As a result of the story, there were multiple protests throughout the campus. Protests were aimed at a “fight against this victim blaming, slut-shaming culture we have that sexualizes women, yet shames them for being sexual,” as stated in the UVA student newspaper The Cavalier Daily. Fraternity members could argue that they were wrongfully demonized as a result of the article.

While the issue of sexual assaults at fraternity parties remain the subject of intense focus, UVA fraternity members could argue that the focus switched to them specifically, as they were named in the article. The University Phi Kappa Psi President said they will consider all options, though they have not come to a decision as to whether or not they will sue.

When it comes to whether the University of Virginia could possibly sue, the answer is clear. Government entities, such as the University of Virginia, cannot sue for defamation, regardless of whether it can be proven that Rolling Stone knew the article was false when it was published.