Tag Archive for 'class action lawsuit'

R.J. Reynolds May Be Found Liable for Smoker’s Death

A former smoker’s widow named Joyce Hardin filed a lawsuit in Miami against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. She alleges that the company’s statements and omissions regarding the addictiveness of cigarettes as well as their harmful effects caused her late husband to become ill. She is requesting more than $20 million in compensatory damages.

In 1996, her husband, named Thomas Hardin, was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). According to plaintiff’s attorney Allan B. Kaiser, Hardin was raised in rural Alabama, and started smoking at the age of nine. Kaiser alleges that the company conspired with other cigarette makers to hide facts about how addictive and detrimental cigarettes can be over the course of several years.88642-full

Hardin did not know how addictive cigarettes could be when Hardin was younger because the tobacco company and its conspirators hid the facts from people like Hardin. Although tobacco awareness and education is well known today, the jury should not use today’s standards to evaluate cases like Hardin’s. The risks of smoking were not as well advertised in the 1950’s, when Hardin first began smoking. Young Hardin could only rely on statements made by the tobacco industry, which failed to issue any warnings about the risks of smoking. Thus, without any knowledge of the dangers of smoking, Hardin became addicted, and his addiction led to his illness, and eventually to his death.

Preventing Future Hardins

There were thousands of cases, such as this one, arising from the 1994 Engle class action lawsuit against tobacco companies. The Florida Supreme Court permitted up to 700,000 individuals to use a jury’s findings about addictive tobacco to file their own lawsuit. The jury found that smoking causes certain diseases, and that the perils of smoking were concealed by tobacco companies.

In order to win a judgment, Hardin’s estate must persuade the jury that Hardin suffered from an addiction to nicotine that was caused by his cigarette smoking. The Hardin estate must also convince the jury that Hardin’s smoking of R.J. Reynold’s cigarettes caused his COPD and emphysema that ultimately resulted in his demise. In the event that the jury arrives at these conclusions, the jury is then required to decide the percentage of fault that is attributable to each party for Hardin’s disease, and perform a calculation of compensatory damages for his widow.

I think that the jury should render an award as close as possible to the requested amount of $20.2 million to compensate Joyce Hardin for her pain and suffering, and her loss of companionship. The jury should take into consideration Hardin’s early stages of COPD, the severe illness that he suffered for six-and-a-half years, and his projected lifespan of 12 years that was reduced.

I also believe that the jury should render a verdict that includes punitive damages. By adding punitive damages, other tobacco companies will be dissuaded from engaging in the same type of deception about the dangers of smoking that was committed by R.J. Reynolds.

Startups Face Legal Action for Treating Contractors Like W2 Employees

Lawsuits against companies for a lack of distinction between contractors and employees are rampant. Startups especially are currently under fire for treating 1099 contractors like W2 employees, but without the benefits.

employee or independent contractorCompanies (especially startups) prefer to hire contractors in order to save money. This distinction also releases companies from any legal liability for workers. For example, an Uber driver hit a passenger in the face with a hammer last year, but Uber refuted liability because the driver is technically a contractor.

Hiring 1099 contractors may help a company save money, but the practice is highly unfavorable to workers.

1099 Contractor vs. W2 Employees

The biggest difference between 1099 and W2 workers is W2 workers are told what to wear, how to look, or where to go. 1099 workers have full control over their work and their contract. 1099 workers can’t hold a contract for longer than six months, and they can break the contract at any time.

Some companies consider their 1099 contractors entrepreneurs. Workers who drive the mega buses full of Silicon Valley employees work under a third-party company, and therefore receive no benefits or wages. Companies under this mantra will also refuse overtime pay and compensation for gas.

Companies like Uber will even go as far as to declare their contractors “customers.” They consider drivers “independent business owners,” who use Uber’s app to make money, while Uber takes a cut.

In contrast, W2 employees receive job stability, salaries, benefits, overtime, and compensation if the job requires driving long distances. Most importantly, companies with W2 employees are legally responsible for their actions.

Misclassification Lawsuits

Startup companies Uber, Lyft, Handy, Homejoy, and Instacart have all been sued by workers claiming they treat them as employees, but are compensated as 1099 contractors. The workers claim the companies control their working lives as if they are W2 employees and so the workers demand the same type of compensation.

Attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan takes on companies like these with class action lawsuits. In the past, she went after strip clubs for classifying their dancers as contractors. They receive no wages, benefits, and are forced to hand over a portion of tips to bouncers. Dancers in the strip club King Arthur even charged them $35 per shift and took 30 percent of the money made from private dances.

This type of lawsuit is a misclassification suit: a contractor does the job as an employee, but does not receive the same benefits a W2 employee would.

If given the option between a 1099 or a W2 contract when entering a job, 1099 may seem more favorable. Sure you’ll receive a bigger paycheck, but you will owe higher taxes. In addition, technically being an employee means benefits, salary, and often a pension. You are also protected under nondiscrimination laws, unlike 1099 contractors.