Class Action Lawsuits

Driverless cars have a “driver” says NHTSA

Uber's driverless cars are doing real world testing already.

Uber’s driverless cars are doing real world testing already.

In my hometown of Pittsburgh, Uber is working with my alma mater, Carnegie Mellon, to test its driverless cars. A little over a year ago, Uber’s Advanced Technologies Center opened in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University. Since then, Uber has been revving up its autonomous car testing team. Now, you can find its Self Driving Vehicle (SDV, a.k.a fully autonomous vehicles, i.e. driverless cars) out on the roads of the Steel City to test its real world capabilities.

While driverless cars seems like a solution for Uber, legal issues remain. Sure – SDVs may omit all of the driver-related legal issues that continues to haunt Uber. Bur new and not fully resolved issues emerge. For one, NHTSA has considers the “driver” of SDVs to be the system itself. Thus, in response to Google’s own inquiry (a different project than Uber’s) NHTSA indicated that for Google’s SDVs, the system is deemed the “driver”. This leads us back to the question of who or what is the driver of an SDV.

How might this get parsed for insurance coverage? Good question. The insurance industry will get back to us on that.

According to a McKinsey & Company report suggested how they might do so:

Car insurers have always provided consumer coverage in the event of accidents caused by human error. With driverless vehicles, auto insurers might shift the core of their business model, focusing mainly on insuring car manufacturers from liabilities from technical failure of their AVs, as opposed to protecting private customers from risks associated with human error in accidents. This change could transform the insurance industry from its current focus on millions of private consumers to one that involves a few OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] and infrastructure operators, similar to insurance for cruise lines and shipping companies.

In all probability, liability arising from a car crash with a driverless system will trace back to the manufacturer. This concern may discourage a lot of potential manufacturers from leading the race to develop the best autonomous systems. But, Google, Uber and GM–among other companies–are certainly investing a lot of time and money into developing SDVs.

Remember, too, that Google’s self-driving cars have already gotten into a few minor accidents. As we all know, technology is not perfect. And when technology fails, the SDV manufacturers will be the ones burdened with huge liabilities. Time for them to start getting more insurance, while perhaps not so much for individual consumers.

Consumer protection class action certified against iIllegal debt collection

CACH LLC

CACH LLC, along with SquareTwo Financial, and Suttell & Hammer are defendants in a class action that was just certified today, The consumer protection lawsuit attempts to recover on behalf of victims of Defendants’ unfair debt collection practices.

Today, King County Superior Court Judge Samuel Chung granted Plaintiffs’ Motion for Class Certification against Defendants Cach, LLC, SquareTwo Financial Corp., and Suttell & Hammer, P.S. The case pursues recovery for Washington state consumers who were the victims of illegal debt collection. Defendants admit that they did not ever have a debt collector’s license, yet they solicited claims for collection and attempted to collect claims owed to another party. This was in violation of Washington’s Consumer Protection Act (RCW 19.86.010 – .920), RCW 19.16.120, RCW 19.16.250, RCW 19.16.260.

Were you the victim of the T-Mobile/Experian Data Breach?

At least 330K WA state residents were affected by the TMobile/Experian data breach. We'd like to talk to you, if you believe that you were affected by this breach.

At least 330K WA state residents were affected by the TMobile/Experian data breach. We’d like to talk to you, if you believe that you were affected by this breach.

Today, according to WA State AG Bob Ferguson, about 330,000 Washington residents are among the 15 million people affected by the cyberattack on T-Mobile US data at credit-services company Experian. If you are a Washington  State resident and victim of the T-Mobile/Experian data breach, please contact Catherine@Stritmatter.com.  We are currently investigating a class action lawsuit against Experian.

WA AG Ferguson urges T-Mobile customers “…to take immediate steps to determine whether you have been a victim of ID theft, and to protect your information going forward,” he said in a statement offering advice to affected consumers.

According to T-Mobile and the credit-reporting company Experian, the breach compromised data that was used by T-Mobile to run credit checks of individuals who applied for T-Mobile services from Sept. 1, 2013, through Sept. 16, 2015. Unauthorized access was gained to Experian’s servers, exposing data including name, address, birthdate, Social Security number, other ID numbers (such as driver’s license, military ID, or passport numbers), and additional information used in T-Mobile’s credit assessment. An estimated 15 million consumers nationwide may have had their data compromised. Experian plans to notify affected consumers.

The Attorney General’s Office offers affected consumers the following advice to guard against identity theft.

  • Monitor your credit reports. You are entitled to one free credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and Trans Union). You can request one free report from a different bureau every four months to monitor throughout the year.
  • Consider placing a “fraud alert” with each of the three credit bureaus. An alert does not block potential new credit, but places a comment on your history. Creditors should contact you prior to opening a new account.
  • Consider placing a “security freeze” with each of the three credit bureaus to prohibit the release of any information from your reports. A security freeze can help prevent identity theft since most businesses will not open credit accounts without checking a consumer’s credit history first. This increases the likelihood that if an ID thief tries to open a new account under your name, they will be denied.
  • Beware of unsolicited calls or emails offering credit monitoring or identity theft services.  Consumers should never provide their Social Security number, credit card numbers or other personal information in response to unsolicited emails or calls.

If you find unexplained activity on your credit reports, or if you believe you are the victim of identity theft, check these resources for information on steps you can take to protect yourself.

 

ID Theft guardian LifeLock fails to make good per FTC

Lifelock

EARLIER THIS YEAR, news of massive data breaches of Premera and Anthem felt like a one-two punch to many of us focused on protecting consumers. I got a lot of questions from clients and other attorneys, including “What can I do to protect my identity?” and “Should I sign up for any of those ID theft guards like LifeLock?” My responses to these questions are not simple. We can learn to guard against ID theft by remaining vigilant about our credit reports, credit card statements, bank statements, and the like. Sure, if one wants to delegate this responsibility to a third-party, then be prepared for disappointment.

The story of LifeLock’s last several years is a great example of why it’s not wise to leave the security of our ID to a turn-key operator. Some are astounded to find that the company claiming to provide ID theft guard solutions to consumers and businesses have failed in some key respects according to the FTC.

Customers of ID theft-protection firm Lifelock who expected the company to monitor their identities after their data was stolen in a breach were in for a surprise. It turns out Lifelock failed to properly secure their data. Ugh.

According to a complaint filed in court in late July 2015 by the Federal Trade Commission, Lifelock has failed to adhere to a 2010 order and settlement that required the company to establish and maintain a comprehensive security program to protect sensitive personal data users entrust to the company as part of its identity-theft protection service.

Wow. What a strange twist of irony: After all, Lifelock touts its self as the solution to companies that experience data breaches and urges them to offer a complimentary Lifelock subscription to people whose data has been compromised in a breach. To properly monitor victims’ credit accounts to protect them against ID theft, Lifelock requires a wealth of sensitive data, including names and addresses, birth dates, Social Security numbers, and bank card information.

Protecting that data should be a primary concern to Lifelock, particularly in light of the fact that many of its customers have already been victims of a breach. But the FTC found in 2010 that the company had failed to provide “reasonable and appropriate security to prevent unauthorized access to personal information stored on its corporate network,” either in transit through its network, stored in a database, or transmitted over the internet.

Lifelock had been ordered to remedy that situation, but according to the complaint filed today, it has failed to do so. The complaint is currently sealed, but the previous finding from 2010 provides insight into the company’s security failures.

Lifelock’s CEO was himself a victim of data breach at least 13 times, btw. Call it karma.

NOTE: If you were/are an Amerigroup/Anthem insured in the State of Washington and received notice of a data breach, we want to talk to you. Please contact me via email at Catherine@Stritmatter.com. Participating in a class action lawsuit against a company who neglected to safeguard your personal information will not affect your ability to qualify for “free” id protection services offered by Anthem.

Amazing night with Public Justice warriors

Brad accepts appointment as President of Public Justice, country's largest public interest firm.

Brad accepts appointment as President of Public Justice, country’s largest public interest firm.

What a night at this evening’s 2015 Public Justice Gala in Montreal, Canada. More to come in future posts. However, I wanted to share with you the amazing moments between the new President of Public Justice, Brad J. Moore, and SKW partner Keith L. Kessler. The room was filled with dedicated advocates, who have fought tirelessly for consumer rights.  I could go on and on right now, but it’s late. So, I will just put up a couple of wonderful photos.

The first photo (see top of this post) is of Brad Moore and Esther Berezhovsky (outgoing PJ president) on stage.

The next one is of Brad and Keith. Can you see the joy and pride in Keith’s eyes? What a proud father and tremendous mentor…

Brad w Keith

 

Brad’s mother, former State Senate House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler, did me the honor of sitting next to me and sharing a little about Brad before he started practicing law. I am truly proud to be a part of such a remarkable firm. We will continue to champion the rights of consumers everywhere.

 

Remember to Research Any Recalls Before Buying that Jet Ski!

Take the recalls seriously, before you decide to buy that Jet Ski (pictured: 2015 Sea Doo Spark 2up/Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag.com)

Take the recalls seriously, before you decide to buy that Jet Ski (pictured: 2015 Sea Doo Spark 2up/Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag.com)

This summer is looking like it’s going to be a hot and dry one in the Pacific Northwest. Boating and aquatic sports enthusiasts are planning their trips already. Many of you might have plans to buy a jet ski to add to your list of summer toys. However, as our clients have learned the hard way, it’s important to take some extra time to research the jet ski that you’re eyeing. Recalls involving dangerous problems with specific makes and models of jet skis are often under the radar as these don’t make the headlines. News reporters are more focused on the massive recalls, such as the history-making Takata airbag recall.

But remember that these recalls involving popular lust-worthy jet skis, such as the 2015 Sea Doo Spark 2up  can and have caused serious injuries. Sadly, we have seen this up close.

Contact us at counsel@stritmatter.com or at 206.448.1777 if you believe that your jet ski injury is the result of a recall that your dealer failed to inform you about.

Tax Fraud Alert to WA State Medicaid and Other WA Consumers insured with Anthem

Anthem data breach has resulted in successful attempts at tax fraud and other id theft

Anthem data breach has resulted in successful attempts at tax fraud and other id theft

We are actively investigating a class action on behalf of all Washington State consumers who have received notification about their information affected as the result of the Anthem’s 2014 data breach. SKW Seattle Data Breach/Class Action attorneys were provided with information that links Washington residents who were Anthem insureds directly with instances of tax fraud and other attempts of identity theft.

As NY Times recently reported, over 200,000 attempts to view the past returns using stolen information were made from February of this year to mid-May. What’s scarier: about half of the attempts were successful. According to a data security expert and consultant who is a source close to the SKW law firm, there is a direct connection with the Anthem data breach and fraudulent tax returns in Washington state. More to come in future posts.

If you were a Washington state resident insured with Anthem or Apple Health (Washington State Medicaid provider) and have experienced identity theft, please contact Catherine@Stritmatter.com.

Takata airbag recall makes history

The latest number is ~34 million vehicles that are now included in the Takata airbag recall. This means 1 out of every 5 cars likely has a dangerous airbag or some other defective part (see below). Our Seattle auto product liability lawyers have handled many product liability cases–including with defective airbags. With this latest recall, the landscape of auto product recalls shifts dramatically. While the GM faulty ignition switch recall made history earlier this year at roughly 2.6 million recalls issued, the Takata recall reaches across company lines and includes 11 different auto makers. While the number of stories relating to the defective airbags is not large (under 10, compared to the 100+ deaths for the GM recall), any one who rides in a car or truck should not rest easy.

Apparently, many of you were alarmed enough today. There were droves (no pun intended) of concerned car owners who tried to visit NHTSA website for information, but the site has crashed a number of times today. Remember that the database is still not entirely updated on the NHTSA site, as it will take a few days. When you are ready to check it out, remember to jot down your VIN number.

If you or a family member was injured or killed due to a defective airbag, please contact us at Counsel@Stritmatter.com or 206.448.1777.  Seattle law firm, Stritmatter Kessler Whelan, is investigating cases involving defective Takata airbags.

See below for a large chunk of the car makers and models that are included in the recall:

Toyota: 778,177 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2002 – 2004 Lexus SC
2003 – 2004 Toyota Corolla
2003 – 2004 Toyota Corolla Matrix
2002 – 2004 Toyota Sequoia
2003 – 2004 Toyota Tundra
2003 – 2004 Pontiac Vibe

Honda: 2,803,214 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2001 – 2007 Honda Accord (4 cyl)
2001 – 2002 Honda Accord (6 cyl)
2001 – 2005 Honda Civic
2002 – 2006 Honda CR-V
2003 – 2011 Honda Element
2002 – 2004 Honda Odyssey
2003 – 2007 Honda Pilot
2006 – Honda Ridgeline
2003 – 2006 Acura MDX
2002 – 2003 Acura TL/CL

Nissan: 437,712 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2001 – 2003 Nissan Maxima
2001 – 2003 Nissan Pathfinder
2002 – 2003 Nissan Sentra
2001 – 2003 Infiniti I30/I35
2002 – 2003 Infiniti QX4
2003 – Infiniti FX

Mazda: 18,050 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2003 – 2004 Mazda6
2004 – Mazda RX-8

BMW: 573,935 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2000 – 2005 3 Series Sedan
2000 – 2006 3 Series Coupe
2000 – 2005 3 Series Sports Wagon
2000 – 2006 3 Series Convertible
2001 – 2006 M3 Coupe
2001 – 2006 M3 Convertible

General Motors: 133,221 total number potentially affected vehicles
2002 – 2003 Buick LeSabre
2002 – 2003 Buick Rendezvous
2002 – 2003 Cadillac DeVille
2002 – 2003 Chevrolet Trailblazer
2002 – 2003 Chevrolet Impala
2002 – 2003 Chevrolet Monte Carlo
2002 – 2003 Chevrolet Venture
2002 – 2003 GMC Envoy
2002 – 2003 GMC Envoy XL
2002 – 2003 Oldsmobile Aurora
2002 – 2003 Oldsmobile Bravada
2002 – 2003 Oldsmobile Silhouette
2002 – 2003 Pontiac Bonneville
2002 – 2003 Pontiac Montana

NOTE: Video clip of interview is from PBS.org.

Trek Bicycles has recalled almost 1 million bikes for safety issues,

Trek Bicycles is recalling nearly 1 million bikes in the US and almost 100,000 in Canada for a safety issue that resulted in one rider becoming paralyzed.

The Trek bike recall involves a “quick release” lever on the front wheel. The quick release lever is a problem in that it can interfere with the disk brakes, which would cause the wheel to stop turning or to separate from the bike frame, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Trek said it is aware of three incidents where the problem caused riders to be injured, including one that resulted in quadriplegia. The others involved facial and wrist injuries.

The Trek bikes are from model years 2000 to 2015 and were sold nationwide beginning in 1999. The bikes, made in Taiwan and China, were sold at prices between $480 to $1,650. Trek, a Wisconsin-based bike company, has offered to replace the quick release lever free of charge. It is also offering a $20 coupon good for bike accessories made by Bontrager.

“We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this has caused you,” Trek says in a notice announcing the recall. “We value you as a customer and want you to safely enjoy cycling on your Trek bicycle.”

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