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Rideshare companies are becoming a way of life, especially for those who live in big cities. According to a Pew Research Center survey, 36% of adults say they have used a ride-hailing service such as Uber or Lyft. For people who travel often, it’s an easy and convenient option. Gone are the days of renting a car or hailing a taxi. Unfortunately, with every advancement in technology, there are always issues that arise. While any car accident can be traumatic, those involving rideshare companies are particularly complicated. Uber lawsuits and Lyft lawsuits are difficult to navigate because you’re dealing with the driver, as well as the ride-share company and multiple insurance companies with individual interests.

At Huber Thomas & Marcelle, we have the necessary experience to help you navigate the complexities of rideshare accidents and issues. We can walk with you through the process, fighting for you every step of the way. The following profiles of Uber lawsuits show just how complex and varied these cases can be.

$20 million settlement reached for Uber TCPA violation

In August of 2015, a woman named Maria Vergara filed a proposed class action lawsuit against Uber. The suit claimed that Uber sent her continuous, unwanted texts over the course of several weeks. According to Vergara, they were urging her to complete the app’s sign-up process. Other named parties included Jonathan Grindell, Jennifer Reilly, James Lathrop, Sandeep Pal, and Justin Bartolet.

So why was this an issue? The Telephone Consumer Protection Act, also known as “TCPA,” forbids companies from sending automated text messages to individuals without consent. In 2018, Uber settled the lawsuit for $20 million. If an individual received one or more text messages from Uber between December 31, 2010 and August 17, 2017, they were potentially eligible for a payment from this class-action Uber lawsuit.

The $20 million settlement had three separate settlement classes:

  • Class A: Everyone Uber texted about its Refer-a-Friend program
  • Class B: Potential drivers who partially completed the company’s application and continued to receive unwanted texts from Uber, even after they asked the company to stop
  • Class C: Everyone who did not provide their information to Uber, but received unwanted texts

As of August 2018, all checks were sent to eligible Settlement Class Members who filed a valid claim. However, in addition to paying $20 million in settlement money, Uber also agreed to make several changes.

First, the company discontinued its Refer-a-Friend automated text messages. They also made changes to the opt-out system to automatically unsubscribe recipients who reply with certain opt-out words. Furthermore, Uber improved their sign-up technology to reduce the likelihood of texting or calling wrong phone numbers in the future.

Updates to the case

Even with changes put into place, Uber continues to face ongoing allegations of TCPA violations. One of these suits came up just months after the $20 million settlement. In April 2018, a lawsuit filed in Florida challenged Uber’s alleged practice of sending template text messages to former drivers. According to the plaintiff, these text messages urge former drivers to come back to Uber and continue working.

Further, in late 2019, the District Court for the Southern District of California ordered another Uber TCPA case to arbitration. The plaintiff was a user of Uber’s ride-sharing service. However, the plaintiff began receiving unwanted calls regarding Uber’s other application, “Uber Eats.” This particular app enables users to order food from local restaurants and have it delivered to them. The problem was that the plaintiff did not own or operate a restaurant and had no interest in the calls. Furthermore, the plaintiff contacted Uber at least three times in an effort to stop the calls but was unsuccessful.

Were you affected?

The original TCPA Uber lawsuit is now closed and all Settlement Class Members who filed a claim have been paid. However, Huber Thomas & Marcelle can assist if you’ve been affected by similar matters.

No one wants to be on the receiving end of endless solicitation. Due to the costly nature of TCPA violations, most businesses use verification codes and advanced systems to ensure the accuracy of information on file. Unfortunately, others continue to ignore their responsibility to uphold the guidelines set forth in the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

If you’re receiving continuous calls and/or text messages you didn’t sign up for, our team of lawyers can help. We work hard to obtain fair settlements for our clients.

Other rideshare and Uber lawsuits

Beyond issues of unwanted communication, there are additional lawsuits playing out against Uber and other rideshare companies. As the popularity of this mode of transportation grows, both passengers and drivers encounter issues that lead to litigation.

Here is a look at some of the other Uber lawsuits and rideshare lawsuits making their way through the court system.

Wage issues

Perhaps the Uber issue most frequently reported in the media deals with wages.

For example, in November 2019, drivers in New York City filed a lawsuit against Uber for millions in lost wages. The suit claims Uber deducted money from the paychecks of 96,000 drivers for both the state’s sales taxes and a surcharge meant to apply to rides between states. According to the drivers, their contract requires them to be paid the full fare minus Uber’s service fee. In addition, the lawsuit alleges that Uber required passengers to pay a higher fare than what was being reported to drivers. In turn, the company would pocket the difference.

Prior to this, New York City approved minimum wage protections for rideshare drivers. The new law requires Uber to pay them $17 an hour for their work. Other cities, including Seattle and Los Angeles, are also considering the implementation of minimum wage requirements for rideshare drivers.

Employment classification

Beyond the issue of fair wages is the challenges over employment classification. Uber, Lyft, and other similar rideshare apps classify their workers as independent contractors. If true, this means that they do not have to provide health insurance, overtime pay, and other benefits that are required for employees.

O’Connor v. Uber has made waves in the court system since 2013 about this issue. This initial case was nearly over in 2016 when Uber agreed to pay $100 million in a class action lawsuit. The catch? Uber would be able to continue classifying drivers as independent contractors. A federal judge argued the amount was insufficient, and since then, things have shifted. The Supreme Court issued a ruling that supports employers forcing workers to use arbitration, as opposed to class action lawsuits. From there, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reduced the size of the class that will participate in the settlement.

In California, Uber recently joined forces with Lyft and other food delivery apps to fight legislation that forces them to classify drivers as employees. Assembly Bill 5 states that a worker is considered an employee unless they are free from the employer’s control, their work is outside the usual course of the company’s business, and they work as part of an independent job or business. As a result, Uber is rolling out changes to the app to prove that drivers truly are in control. They can view all of the details about a ride in order to decide if it is worth the time and rate. However, discussions will still continue about this contentious issue.

Sexual assault allegations

Both Lyft and Uber have also been at the center of lawsuits involving sexual assault. In Washington, DC, a woman is suing Uber for $10 million after being sexually assaulted by her driver. According to court documents, she confided in a social worker who contacted the police. After collecting DNA evidence that linked the driver to the assault, he pleaded guilty to one count of sexual abuse and is currently in jail.

Last year, 20 people filed a similar lawsuit against Lyft. They each claim they were raped or sexually assaulted by their drivers. The plaintiffs and their lawyers sued not only to seek damages, but also to demand that Lyft install cameras in all of their cars. In a statement, Lyft said they've launched more than 15 new safety features to combat these types of situations. However, lawyers say eight of the cases took place after these changes were put into place.

Uber accidents

Finally, with easier access to a ride, you would think the prevalence of car accidents would go down. After all, rideshare services present an affordable and convenient way to avoid distracted and impaired driving. However, some statistics show that rideshare programs lead to more miles on the road, which could mean more Uber accidents.

University of Chicago researchers found that new rideshare services in a city were associated with an increase of approximately 3% in the number of motor vehicle fatalities and fatal accidents (involving both passengers and pedestrians). As it turns out, the convenience may actually result in higher risk.

While any car accident is frightening, and potentially life-changing, rideshare accidents can be tough to navigate. Uber does carry insurance, but it still generally places the blame on drivers. That means your driver is typically responsible for any accident that occurs, not the rideshare company.

In March of 2018, a Philadelphia woman was injured after her Uber driver ran a red light. She suffered a fracture to her spine, along with a concussion and traumatic brain injury. Uber argues that by approving their “terms and conditions” when you sign up, you agree to resolve legal disputes only through binding arbitration. In short, this forces you to waive your rights to sue. However, a Philadelphia judge ruled that Uber can’t prove someone has actually read through the terms and conditions. Today, the woman continues to fight for a jury trial.

Unfortunately, data surrounding the prevalence of rideshare accidents is difficult to come by. While Uber does release safety reports, they typically leave out accidents that are non-fatal. According to representatives from the company, these numbers are simply too difficult to track.

Get help after a Lyft or Uber accident

Put simply, issues with these rideshare companies are complicated, contentious, and difficult to manage. If you’re dealing with the aftermath of a Lyft or Uber accident, we can help. At Huber Thomas & Marcelle, we work to obtain the fairest settlement for our clients and have dedicated experience with rideshare issues.

Whether you have mounting medical bills or have lost the ability to work, we understand the effect a car accident can have on your life. This is the case if you're a passenger, rideshare driver, or someone else on the road when the accident occurred.

Regardless of your involvement in this type of crash, you need an attorney with experience in these types of cases. Rideshare companies are giants in the transportation industry. You should never face them alone. Our experienced team at Huber Thomas & Marcelle can walk you through the process of getting the compensation you deserve. We have helped bring numerous cases to trial, with millions awarded to our clients.

For any potential rideshare or Uber lawsuit, you need the best legal team on your side. Call Huber Thomas & Marcelle for a free and confidential consultation about your case.

 

Originally posted August 17, 2017.

J&J Loses $417 Million in California’s First Talc Verdict Case

Johnson & Johnson was ordered by a Los Angeles jury to pay $417 million to a 62-year-old woman who blamed her ovarian cancer on the company’s talc, in the first California trial over the product.

The jury found the parent company and its consumer-products unit liable Monday for failing to warn a woman over the alleged risk of the baby powder. The verdict includes $347 million in punitive damages. J&J, which faces 5,500 claims in U.S. courts, has lost four previous jury verdicts in St. Louis for a total of $300 million.

The trial in Los Angeles was the first before a state jury outside Missouri, where the company lost four out of five trials over the past 2 years and got hit with verdicts as high as $110 million. J&J is appealing the verdicts and in June succeeded in halting a trial in St. Louis after the U.S. Supreme Court made it more difficult for out-of-state plaintiffs to join lawsuits in state courts that are deemed favorable to their claims.

The company will appeal, said spokeswoman Carol Goodrich. “We are guided by the science, which supports the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder,’’ she said. “We are preparing for additional trials in the U.S. and we will continue to defend the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder.”

J&J, the world’s largest health-care company, is accused of ignoring studies linking its baby powder and Shower to Shower talc products to ovarian cancer and failing to warn customers about the risk.

Mark Robinson, a lawyer for plaintiff Eva Echeverria, said outside the courtroom that J&J should start warning women immediately about the risks of its talcum powder.

“J&J needs to see they not only have verdicts against them in St. Louis, they now also have them in Los Angeles,” Robinson said. “There’s a problem all over the country with women using talcum powder on daily basis for 10, 20, 30, 40 years.”

Echeverria started using J&J’s talc powder products when she was 11. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007.

New Brunswick, New Jersey-based J&J has said the plaintiffs’ allegations aren’t supported by scientific evidence, pointing to a New Jersey state court decision last year tossing out two cases set for trial. That judge found evidence linking talc to ovarian cancer was inadequate.

The $417 million verdict Monday is the third-largest jury award in the U.S. so far in 2017, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The largest, for $500 million, was awarded to ZeniMax Media Inc. over its claim that the virtual reality headset maker acquired by Facebook Inc. used stolen code.

The case is Echeverria v. Johnson & Johnson, BC628228, Los Angeles County Superior Court.

This article originally appeared on Bloomberg on August 21, 2017.

A federal jury has cleared Bayer AG and Johnson & Johnson of liability in the third case to go to trial out of thousands of lawsuits claiming the drugmakers' blood thinner Xarelto led to severe internal bleeding.

The verdict in U.S. District Court in Jackson, Mississippi, is a blow to thousands of patients with similar allegations against the drugmaker. The jury returned the verdict after just four hours of deliberation.

The companies also won the previous two trials on claims of risks from Xarelto.

In the latest case, plaintiff Dora Mingo claimed she suffered acute gastrointestinal bleeding after she was treated with Xarelto for a month in 2015 to prevent blood clotting following an operation.

 She accused the drugmakers, who jointly developed the blood thinner, of having failed to warn about the bleeding risks and said her injuries could have been prevented had they provided adequate information.

Mingo's case is among an estimated 18,600 lawsuits in federal and state courts related to Xarelto. The first three cases were chosen to be tried as so-called bellwethers to help both sides assess similar claims, define legal strategies, damages ranges and settlement options.

Both Johnson & Johnson and Bayer said they would continue to defend against claims related to Xarelto.

"We will continue to defend against the allegations made in this litigation," J&J's Janssen Pharmaceuticals unit said in a statement.

Bayer in a statement, said, "Bayer stands behind the safety and efficacy of Xarelto and will continue to vigorously defend it."

Andy Birchfield, one of Mingo's lawyers, in a statement said health complications suffered by thousands of patients could have been avoided if physicians were properly instructed about the risks.

"We will continue fighting for the thousands of innocent victims injured or killed by this drug," Birchfield said.

Xarelto is Bayer's best-selling drug and in 2016 contributed 2.9 billion euros ($3.41 billion) in revenues to the German group's pharmaceutical business.

J&J in 2016 reported $2.2 billion in revenues from Xarelto.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Xarelto in 2011. The drug is prescribed for people with a common heart rhythm disorder known as atrial fibrillation and to treat and reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolisms.

Original story by Tina Bellon of Reuters.

Jacqueline Fox passed away in the fall, but her voice recently came alive in a St. Louis courtroom.

In an audio deposition, the Birmingham, Ala., native who died at age 62 recounted 35 years of using Johnson & Johnson products containing talcum powder, including the manufacturing giant’s trademark baby powder and its Shower to Shower body powder. Fox had used them for feminine hygiene, and she believed they were what ultimately killed her.

More than three years ago, she was diagnosed with an ovarian cancer that proved fatal. Fox was among more than 1,200 women from across the country who were suing Johnson & Johnson for failing to warn consumers of the dangers associated with talc, the mineral used in baby powder.

On Monday, her case became the first in which monetary compensation was awarded.

A Missouri jury has ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay Fox’s family $72 million in actual and punitive damages. One of Fox’s lead attorneys, Jim Onder, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that $31 million will go to the Missouri Crime Victims’ Compensation Fund.

The suit’s other defendant, talc producer Imerys Talc America, has not been faulted.

“We have no higher responsibility than the health and safety of consumers and we are disappointed with the outcome of the trial,” Johnson & Johnson said in a statement Tuesday. “We sympathize with the plaintiff’s family but firmly believe the safety the cosmetic talc is supported by decades of scientific evidence.”

Johnson & Johnson is expected to appeal the verdict. The award — which is made up of $10 million in compensatory damages and $62 million in punitive damages — will probably be lessened in appellate courts, Stanford University law professor Nora Freeman Engstrom told the Associated Press.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, one male juror and nine female jurors voted in Fox’s favor; two men voted against her.

One juror, 50-year-old Jerome Kendrick, told the Post-Dispatch that he was swayed by internal company memos presented at trial.

“They tried to cover up and influence the boards that regulate cosmetics,” he said, adding “They could have at least put a warning label on the box but they didn’t. They did nothing.”

One memo from a company medical consultant likened ignoring the risks associated with “hygenic” talc use and ovarian cancer to denying the link between smoking cigarettes and cancer — in other words, “denying the obvious in the face of all evidence to the contrary,” the Associated Press reported.

Another document noted that sales were declining as more people became aware of the health risks, and included strategies for making blacks and Hispanics the highest users of talcum powder, Onder said, as the Post-Dispatch reported.

Fox was African American.

The New Jersey-based company faces many more lawsuits related to talcum products it has made household names.

Marvin Salter, Fox’s son, told the AP that using Johnson & Johnson “became second nature, like brushing your teeth.”

But a routine act eventually became insidious, Fox’s attorneys argued.

A pathologist found that Fox’s ovaries were inflamed from talc, which then turned into cancer.

While studies have associated regular talc use with ovarian cancer for decades, the American Cancer Society notes that there is no definitive research on whether asbestos-free talc — the kind widely used in consumer products — causes ovarian cancer:

Findings have been mixed, with some studies reporting a slightly increased risk and some reporting no increase. Many case-control studies have found a small increase in risk. But these types of studies can be biased because they often rely on a person’s memory of talc use many years earlier.

Story by Yanan Wang of the Washington Post.