Guthrie v. Transamerica Life Insurance Company
No. 3:21-cv-04688-WHO, Alameda County Superior Court.
This case was filed in Alameda County Superior Court, under California’s Unfair Competition Law (UCL), seeking equitable restitution on behalf of Californians who purchased TLIC’s Trendsetter LB individual term life insurance policies and paid for life insurance riders that were allegedly provided at “no cost.”
Transamerica removed the case to federal court based on CAFA subject matter jurisdiction. Joe Kravec and Wyatt Lison moved to remand, relying on the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Sonner v. Premier Nutrition Corp., 971 F.3d 834 (2020).
Plaintiffs’ attorneys argued that federal court lacked equitable jurisdiction over the UCL claim and requested remand to state court under long-standing Supreme Court precedent, including Cates v. Allen, 149 U.S. 451 (1893).
Judge Orrick remanded the case to state court, commenting, “no matter how long ago decided, [Cates] is as binding as any Supreme Court precedent.”
The class action is now proceeding in Alameda County Superior Court following that Court’s denial of Transamerica’s demurrer to the Complaint.
Comer v. Gerdau Ameristeel US Inc.
2017 WL 5256871 (M.D. Fla. Nov. 13, 2017)
William Payne, Joel Hurt, and Ruairi McDonnell successfully represented a group of retired members of the United Steelworkers from a mill in Sand Springs, Oklahoma in a hard-fought class action challenging Gerdau’s reduction of retiree healthcare benefits.
After defeating a motion to dismiss and engaging in extensive discovery, including 23 depositions in six states, we obtained a settlement that provided lifetime Health Reimbursement Arrangement contributions to more than 400 class members. In the order granting final approval of the settlement, the court observed that FDPK had obtained an “excellent result,” and displayed “skill rarely demonstrated by the typical class action litigator in this district.”
Benton, et al. v. CVS Pharmacy, Inc.
No. 22-cv-01640-RS (N.D. CA. May 31, 2022)
This lawsuit was filed by Wyatt Lison in the Superior Court of Alameda County to enjoin CVS Pharmacy from selling unapproved homeopathic drug products in violation of California’s Sherman Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Law (“Sherman Law”) and California’s Unfair Competition Law (“UCL”).
After CVS removed the action to federal court, Plaintiffs’ counsel successfully argued that the action had to be remanded to state court based on the lack of federal subject matter jurisdiction in this May 31, 2022 Order.
Amos v. PPG Industries, Inc.
No. 2:05-cv-70 (S.D.Ohio)
William Payne, Ellen Doyle, Pamina Ewing, Joel Hurt and Ruairi McDonnell successfully represented thousands of union workers who retired from 13 different PPG facilities in an action challenging PPG’s reduction of retiree healthcare benefits.
The case was factually and legally complex and took 14 years to litigate—with the retirees successfully appealing an initial ruling in favor of the company, and then engaging in extensive discovery including the depositions of 39 witnesses, obtaining certification of two classes of retirees, and achieving a settlement of $7.65 million and future healthcare benefits for the retirees.
In her order recommending approval of the settlement, Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Preston Deavers recognized that the retirees were represented by “skilled attorneys with extensive experience” who “achieved a substantial benefit for the class.”
Zeisel v. Diamond Foods, Inc.
Case No. 10-01192 JSW, 2011 WL 2221113 (N.D.Cal.)
Joe Kravec and Wyatt Lison represented Plaintiff Zeisel in this food mislabeling class action, which started in response to a February 2010 letter from the FDA. The letter warned Diamond Foods that there was not sufficient evidence to link eating walnuts with heart health, and that the company violated food labeling rules by marketing walnuts as if they were intended to treat a medical condition.
In response to plaintiff’s motion for class certification, the court entered an Order on June 7, 2011, granting plaintiff’s motion and certifying a nationwide class. The case was litigated to the brink of trial and resulted in a $2.8 million class settlement.
Spears v. First American eAppraiseIT
2014 WL 4647679 and 2015 WL 1906126 (N.D. Cal.)
Joe Kravec was co-lead counsel for mortgage borrowers in a class action against eAppraiseIT involving its scheme with Washington Mutual to inflate the value of appraisals to justify over-valued, sub-prime home loans. This practice was identified by a bi-partisan committee report of the U.S. Senate as one of the causes of the 2008 sub-prime crisis.
The New York Attorney General and the FDIC also filed enforcement actions against eAppraiseIT , recovering millions of dollars in fines and penalties, but the borrowers received nothing.
This class action, vigorously litigated by Joe Kravec and Wyatt Lison, sought compensation for buyers, and was litigated for seven years before settling right before trial, recovering nearly $10 million for the class.
Cottillion v. United Refining Co.
781 F.3d 47 (3d Cir. 2015), aff’g, 2013 WL 1419705 (W.D. Pa. April 8, 2013)
Tybe Brett, Ellen Doyle, and Joel Hurt successfully represented a class of pension plan participants challenging the reduction of their early retirement benefits.
The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the participants and awarded them unreduced pension benefits. The Third Circuit affirmed the district court decision, issuing a Precedential Opinion holding that United Refining improperly reduced benefits in violation of ERISA’s anti-cutback rule.
UAW v. General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., and Chrysler, LLC
No. 2:07-cv-14074 (E.D. Mich.) No. 2:07-cv-14845 (E.D. Mich.) No. 2:07-cv-14310 (E.C. Mich.)
Bill Payne, Pamina Ewing, and Joel Hurt played significant roles in these three class actions. The firm served as class counsel for 800,000 retired UAW members. A trust worth $60 billion (2010 estimated present value) was established to provide lifetime benefits to class members.
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals complimented Bill Payne, stating that the retirees would be “hard pressed to find someone with greater experience in handling class actions . . . and claims of the type asserted in the action or an attorney with more knowledge of the applicable law.” UAW v. General Motors Corp., 497 F.3d 615, 626 (6th Cir. 2007).
LIFE INSURANCE SALES PRACTICES LITIGATION
Joe Kravec was co-lead counsel for policyholders in a series of deceptive life insurance sales practice class actions involving replacement, vanishing premium, and other sales schemes by various life insurers. These were the largest deceptive sales schemes in life insurance industry history.
These misleading practices spurred market conduct investigations, enforcement actions and hundreds of millions of dollars in fines by insurance regulators.
They also garnered several significant court rulings, such as: In re Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Policyholders Litigation, 1999 WL 33957871 (W.D. Pa., Dec. 28, 1999); Varacallo v. Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, 26 F.R.D. 207 (D. N.J. 2005) and 752 A.2d 807 (N.J. App. Div. 2000); Gaidon v. Guardian Life Insurance Company of America and Russo v. Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, 96 N.Y.2d 201 (2001); and Cope v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, 696 N.E. 2d 1001 (Ohio 1998).
Ultimately, billions of dollars in benefits were recovered for millions of policyholders, including some $2.4 billion in benefits in the MetLife and MassMutual class actions alone.
Kenty v. Bank One
650 N.E. 2d 863 (Ohio 1995)
In the mid-1990s, Ellen Doyle and Joe Kravec represented classes of borrowers with forced placed auto insurance. (If a borrower fails to maintain insurance on the vehicle, the lender places insurance and then charges the borrower. This insurance covers far less and costs more, and often includes kickbacks and improper charges the borrower is asked to pay.)
These class action lawsuits recovered millions of dollars for borrowers victimized by these practices. Also see George v. BancOhio National Corporation, Civil Action No. C2-92-314 (S.D. Ohio); Regina G. Bates v. National City Bank, Case No. 279634 (Cuyahoga Co., OH).
Wahl v. American Security Insurance Company
2010 WL 1881126 (N.D. Cal.)
Joe Kravec and Jim Pietz were co-lead counsel representing approximately 550,000 California homeowners against American Security Insurance Company (ASIC) for placing duplicative hazard insurance coverage and charging homeowners for unnecessary coverage.
The Court certified the class (referred to by ASIC’s lawyers as the largest litigation class ever certified for insurance policyholders). The case settled in 2011, with class-wide relief valued at $86 million, including prospective relief in the form of reduced premiums.
Zeno v. Ford Motor Company
238 F.R.D. 173 (W.D. Pa 2006) and 480 F.Supp. 2d 825 (W.D. Pa. 2007)
Joe Kravec was co-lead counsel in a series of state-wide class actions against Ford Motor Company for charging for upgraded radiators and not providing them. This case was hard-fought, with Plaintiff prevailing in class certification and summary judgment rulings.
The class actions ultimately settled, recovering millions of dollars of overcharges for truck purchasers.
AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion
563 U.S. 333 (2011)
The U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion in this case, reversing the Ninth Circuit and creating a new standard heavily favoring the enforceability of forced arbitration and class action waiver clauses in consumer agreements.
Joe Kravec argued the appeal before the Ninth Circuit, Kaltwasser v. Cingular Wireless LLC, 543 F.Supp.2d 1124 (N.D. Ca. 2008), aff’d 2009 WL 3157688 (9th Cir., Oct. 1, 2009), which was joined with Concepcion for oral argument. Joe Kravec filed an amicus curie brief in support of Concepcion before the Supreme Court.
This Supreme Court decision has effectively prevented millions of consumers from pursuing their rights and enabled massive corporate fraud.
In re Regions Morgan Keegan ERISA Litigation
No. 2:08-cv-02192 (W.D. Tenn.)
Ellen Doyle and Pamina Ewing were appointed interim co-lead counsel in this case. The lawsuit alleged that fiduciaries of the Regions Financial 401(k) Plan and AmSouth Bancorporation 401(k) Plan violated ERISA by imprudently investing in Regions stock while the company was concealing Regions Financial’s large exposure to highly risky Collateralized Debt Obligations, subprime mortgages, and other poor-quality securities.
ERISA litigation involves highly-specialized and complex areas of law. In late 2014, following years of labor-intensive complex litigation, the case settled for $22.5 million for all settlement subclasses.
Fair Credit Reporting Act Cases
Reardon v. ClosetMaid, 08-1730 (W.D. Pa.); Campos v. ChoicePoint, 237 F.R.D. 478 (N.D. Ga.); Gillespie v. Equifax, 2008 WL 4614327 (N.D. Ill. October 15, 2008)
As a consumer rights attorney, Jim Pietz seeks to extend the reach and protection of credit report law to promote the accuracy of credit reports and employment background checks. Jim was appointed to represent consumers in the above cases brought under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
The issues in these cases involved violations in procuring consumer reports for employment purposes; failing to disclose insurance claim, criminal background, and tenant screening information in a single consumer report when the consumer requested; and failing to disclose the date of first delinquency on consumers’ credit reports.
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Cases
Vincent v. Wolpoff & Abramson, No. 08-423 (W.D.Pa. 2008; September 9, 2008 Order) and McNulty v. Edwin Abramhansen & Assoc., No. 08-422 (W.D.Pa.)
Jim Pietz litigated these class actions on behalf of classes of consumers claiming that charges for attorneys’ fees were improperly added to amounts owed, in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.*
*The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act provides remedies for consumers who were subject to harassment, false statements, and other unfair practices by debt collectors.