Class actions often arise from violations of federal, state, and local law, examples of which are summarized here (and in other content pages of this website).
Antitrust and Unfair Competition Laws:
As described more thoroughly on the Antitrust and Unfair Competition Page, antitrust laws outlaw “every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations” and “monopolization, attempted monopolization, or conspiracy or combination to monopolize.” Examples of collusion, monopolistic, and other anticompetitive activity that violate antitrust and unfair competition laws are price-fixing, supply fixing, bid rigging, customer allocations and market division, group boycotts, tying, information sharing, standard-setting and purported best practices, using intellectual property rights to foreclose competition, price discrimination and predatory pricing, and resale-price maintenance.
As described more thoroughly on the Securities Page, securities, anti-manipulation, and investor-protection laws outlaw misrepresentations, omissions, manipulation, insider trading, or other types of alleged wrongdoing in connection with securities or other types of investments that investors make. Investors must receive financial and other material information concerning securities being offered for public sale, and deceit, misrepresentations, and other types of fraud in the sale of securities must be prohibited. Examples of activities that violate securities, anti-manipulation, and investor-protection laws are fraudulent misrepresentations or omissions, false or misleading proxy solicitations, false or misleading tender offers, insider trading, spoofing, manipulative trading, breaches of fiduciary duties, churning, unsuitable investments, unauthorized trading, and failure to supervise.
Disabled individuals, whether having physical, developmental, mental, or other types of disabilities, have been historically mistreated and discriminated against. Through familiarity with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. § 12101), Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 (42 U.S.C. §§ 4151-4157), Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (20 U.S.C. § 1400), Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 U.S.C. § 701), New York State Human Rights Law (New York Executive Law § 290, et seq.), and the New York City Human Rights Law (Title 8 of the Administrative Code of the City of New York), Nematzadeh PLLC has extensive experience advocating on behalf of those with disabilities, aiming to right the wrongs of systematic barriers and discrimination. These lawsuits aim to correct the unlawful, misguided cost-benefit analysis of the offending defendants by advocating for them to modify their discriminatory practices and account for accessibility of goods and services. The laws could provide for attorneys’ fees and litigation costs shifting: should you prevail, the defendants will pay your attorneys’ fees and litigation costs.
Generally, no individual can be discriminated against or blocked from access on the basis of a disability in the full and equal enjoyment of goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations. Under federal and state laws, a disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that limits an individual’s ability to perform daily life activities. This includes walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, sitting, standing, lifting, performing manual tasks, learning, breathing, or taking care of oneself.
Major bodily functions are also a part of the list of major life activities. These include the proper function of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions. Disability rights laws protect individuals who currently have a disability, as well as those with a history of impairment. For example, this means that an employer cannot discriminate against an employee because of his or her previous disability (for example, cancer that is in remission). Moreover, it is unlawful to discriminate against someone who is perceived to be disabled, whether or not the person is actually disabled.
An example of advocacy areas where class actions are particularly well suited to vindicate change is the representation of blind or vision-impaired persons who are unable to access websites equally with sighted persons. Class actions can compel many companies or other types of website hosts to remediate their websites, in order for blind or vision-impaired persons to be able to properly utilize the websites with the assistance of screen-reader software, among other tools. Many clients can also receive statutory damages for their injuries under federal and state laws. The laws could provide for attorneys’ fees and litigation costs shifting: should you prevail, the defendants will pay your attorneys’ fees and litigation costs. Such changes even help companies or other types of website hosts in the long term by enabling their products or services to be better marketed and available to those with disabilities.
Federal and state laws are also designed to protect disabled individuals from discrimination in or access barriers to a number of settings, including, without limitation, the workplace and programs. For example, in the workplace, a qualified worker or job applicant who has the necessary education, skills, and experience and is capable of performing the essential duties of the job, with or without accommodation, are protected. In short, the law prohibits employers from considering a person’s disability when making employment decisions, including hiring, firing, paying, promoting, training, assigning jobs, changing benefits, or any other condition of employment. Employers are generally required to make reasonable accommodations for disabled workers or candidates to allow them to perform their duties, unless the accommodation would cause the employer an undue hardship (for example, whether it would be too costly, extensive, or disruptive).
A reasonable accommodation is any change to a position, work environment, physical space, or digital space that allows a disabled individual to perform essential functions. Examples of reasonable accommodations are listed below.
- Job restructuring or reassignment: For example, modifying a job to make it more consistent day-to-day to provide an employee with a cognitive disability with a structured routine or reassigning an employee to a vacant position if she or he can no longer perform the essential functions of her or his current job.
- Providing necessary equipment, readers, or interpreters: For example, modifying a computer to enhance images on the screen, allowing an employee who is vision impaired to accurately enter or read information, providing a reader or interpreter for a worker who is blind or hearing impaired, or writing down feedback, rather than offering it verbally, for an employee who communicates more effectively through written materials.
- Making a space accessible: For example, adding a wheelchair ramp to make the physical space more accessible.
- Adjusting an interview, hiring, or recruiting process.
- Providing time off for medical treatment or recovery.
- Providing medical leave.
- Allowing telecommuting.
The Firm’s zealous advocacy has been demonstrated further through pro bono work that has achieved staggering results for those with disabilities. For example, for his work in representing plaintiffs in Toney-Dick, et al. v. Doar, et al. (S.D.N.Y.), Justin was awarded a 2013 Pro Bono Publico award from The Legal Aid Society. Justin also helped forge the relationship between Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP and The Partnership for Children’s Rights and the AHRC, in order for attorneys to perform pro bono work on behalf of developmentally disabled children and their families.
In the exploding digital age, a growing area of class actions on behalf of plaintiffs concerns violations of data privacy. In the modern economy where sensitive financial, medical, and other personal information is routinely stored electronically by corporations large and small, protecting personal information is vitally important.
Technology is an indispensable part of our daily lives, and we rely on a variety of devices to keep us connected and informed. At the same time, these devices—and the companies that manufacture them—are continually capturing data about us, including identifying information, online activities, shopping habits, and other preferences. This personal information is a valuable commodity, allowing companies to develop a better understanding of us as consumers. As we become more dependent on technology, we are increasingly susceptible to companies that use illegal practices to access our data for their own commercial gain.
All too frequently, companies fail to protect consumers’ personal information, leading to privacy breaches with devastating consequences. Common breaches involve the theft of Social Security numbers, banking information, credit card numbers, medical information, or other sensitive information that can be used to commit identity theft. Liability can trigger from unauthorized use of an individual’s identifying information, selling or otherwise using the identifying information in ways that violate agreements and policies, or maintaining inadequate systems to protect identifying information from hacking or other types of unauthorized access or use.
The number of U.S. data breaches has multiplied in recent years; businesses’ and private consumers’ rights to protect their data and hold companies accountable for unauthorized disclosures is more important than ever. Class action claims can be brought under federal law, common law, and state laws—for example, under the California Consumer Privacy Act (California Civil Code § 1798.100) and the California Medical Information Act (California Civil Code § 56, et seq.).
The privacy of biometrics is also protected under the law, especially under state laws, such as the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act of 2008 (740 ILCS 14). Biometrics is the measurement and statistical analysis of an individual’s physical and behavioral characteristics. Examples of physiological characteristics are DNA, facial, ear, hand, and retina features, fingerprints, odor, voice prints, and vein patterns. And examples of behavioral characteristics are gait, gestures, typing rhythm, and voice. The technology associated with biometrics and behavioral characteristics is often used to verify personal identity. But the use of this extremely private information raises concerns about data privacy and cybersecurity. The collection, disclosure, retention, use, and profit from such data in violation of laws creates a private right of action for victims. For example, the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act provides statutory damages of up to $1,000 for each negligent violation and up to $5,000 for each intentional or reckless violation.
Identity thieves use stolen personal information to commit a variety of frauds, including, without limitation, taking out loans in another person’s name, opening financial accounts in another person’s name, incurring fraudulent credit card charges, filing a fraudulent tax return using the victim’s information, obtaining medical services using the victim’s information, using the victim’s identity to obtain government benefits, obtaining a driver’s license or identification card in the victim’s name but with another person’s picture, or giving false information to police during an arrest.
By law, companies subjected to a data breach typically must notify affected individuals about the breach. Notice is often sent by mail or e-mail. If you receive notice that your personal information was compromised in a data breach, and you are interested in pursuing a class action, please contact us to evaluate your case.
Deceptive or Unfair Business Practices and Consumer Fraud:
These laws are designed to guard free markets, promote honest competition, and protect market participants, especially consumers. Examples of actions that trigger liability are false or deceptive advertising or marketing, failure to substantiate product claims, labeling violations, misbranding, or unsafe products.
When a business or corporation engages in unfair and deceptive practices, provides defective or dangerous products to consumers, or takes part in fraudulent conduct, it takes an experienced class action attorney to level the playing field and protect those who have been harmed. These wrongs range from false advertising, bait and switch schemes, charging for products and services that were not provided, undisclosed or hidden fees, misrepresentations about pricing, quantity, quality, ingredients, component parts, features, warranties, or deceptive food labeling, and more.
An example of a federal law concerning false advertising is The Lanham Act of 1946 (15 U.S.C. § 1051) (“Lanham Act”), which provides for litigation on behalf of businesses and competitors. To prevail on a false-advertising claim under the Lanham Act, a claimant must satisfy the following elements: (i) a false or misleading statement of fact; (ii) that is used in a commercial advertisement or promotion; (iii) that deceives or is likely to deceive in a material way; (iv) in interstate commerce; and (v) has caused or is likely to cause competitive or commercial injury. We have experience in representing plaintiffs and defendants in actions under the Lanham Act or other federal or state laws concerning false advertising or unfair competition.
Businesses and consumers of goods and services are defrauded every day by companies that engage in false advertising, deceptive sales practices, deceptive marketing schemes, hidden or unwarranted fees, and other deceptive and unfair practices. We have extensive experience in bringing class actions on behalf of businesses and consumers to recover damages from such unscrupulous practices.
Defective or Dangerous Product Liability:
When a class of individuals is harmed by dangerous, defective, or faulty products, the manufacturer—and others throughout the supply chain—can be held liable through a lawsuit, whether it be a class action, mass action, multi-district litigation, individual action, or arbitration, based on the following theories, without limitation:
- Strict liability: The product is inherently or unreasonably dangerous or defective, regardless of the degree of care taken.
- Consumer-protection violations: The product violated federal or state consumer-protection laws (for example, false advertising or other unfair or deceptive practices).
- Breach of express or implied warranty: The product did not perform in accordance with the manufacturer’s express or implied warranties of use, quality, components, or craftsmanship.
- Negligence: The defendant failed to exercise due care (for example, by using low-quality materials, failing to provide adequate instructions, or failing to warn consumers about product dangers).
Many class actions, mass actions, multi-district litigation, or individual actions or arbitrations stem from dangerous pharmaceutical products or medical devices. These can include the following instances:
- Individuals who take prescription drugs that include no warning about severe side effects;
- Individuals suffering harm when a pharmaceutical company purposely omits warnings on drug labels;
- Implant or device patients suffering from them breaking or malfunctioning inside their bodies or from poisoning resulting from the implant or device;
- Implants or devices failing to perform to the patient’s expectation or need; or
- Implants or devices having known issues, and the manufacturer inadequately warns healthcare professionals or patients about the issues.
Other contexts where defective products lead to class actions are when homeowners, vehicle owners, and other consumers have been harmed by failing products. For example: a construction project can result in deficient plumbing, siding, windows, or roofing; an automobile malfunction can affect airbags, brakes, engines, exhaust or emissions, safety systems, sunroofs, or transmissions; and appliance defects can be found in refrigerators, dishwashers, or HVAC units. It is probable that hundreds, thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of others have experienced the same problem.
Environmental and Toxic Tort Claims:
Victims of exposure to toxic or potentially toxic substances, such as purportedly safe substances that may have been released into the environment at toxic levels or have been improperly labelled, have potential claims for liability. Examples of exposure to toxic or potentially toxic substances include the following, without limitation:
- Contaminated water;
- Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also known as “forever chemicals,” which are alleged to be toxic, man-made chemicals that are being discovered in drinking water across the country;
- Pesticide and herbicide aerial drift;
- Chemical waste spills or seepage; or
- Landfill, dumpsite, power plant, industrial odor, gas, ash, or dust drift.
These claims can be litigated in several forums, including, without limitation, class actions, mass actions, multi-district litigation, individual actions, and arbitrations.
Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (29 U.S.C. § 203):
Employers in New York and around the country must adhere to federal, state, and local employment laws regarding discrimination and harassment, wage and hour standards, and safety rules, including, without limitation, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.
Discrimination based on the following factors, without limitation, are generally unlawful: age, disability, gender, pregnancy or family responsibilities, race or national origin, or sexual orientation.
Many federal laws, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (2 U.S.C. § 1311), prohibit discrimination toward an employee or potential employee based on sex, race, color, national origin, or creed. Many other federal laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq.) supplement Title VII’s protections to include protections for the disabled, pregnant, elderly, and others. Our firm has experience prosecuting and defending a wide range of employment-related disputes, including those involving retaliation and wrongful termination.
Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (47 U.S.C. § 227):
Federal law, including, without limitation, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, generally outlaws unsolicited marketing through telemarketing calls to mobile and home phones, computer robo-dialing, text messaging, or faxes, unless the unsolicited marketing is from a sender with an established business relationship with the recipient. A claimant can recover for actual monetary loss or receive $500 in damages for each violation, which a court can treble (multiply by three) to $1,500 for each violation per each unsolicited call, text, or fax.
Credit Reporting and Debt Collection:
The Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1970 (15 U.S.C. § 1681) (“FCA”), Fair Debt Collection Practices Act of 1978 (15 U.S.C. 1692, et seq.), Fair Credit Billing Act of 1974 (15 U.S.C. § 1601, et seq.), Fair Credit Billing Act of 1974 (15 U.S.C. § 1601, et seq.), and the Truth in Lending Act of 1968 (15 U.S.C. Ch. 41 § 1601) all govern the rights associated with credit reporting, lending, and collection of debts. In particular, the FCA is a federal law that governs credit reports, background checks, and other reports containing information about individuals and the sale of such data. The laws aim to ensure accurate credit reporting and background checks and use of these checks and information for legal purposes. “Consumer reporting agencies,” which are a range of background check or credit reporting agencies, are required to use reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy in their reports. The sale of these reports are restricted to people or entities that have a legally acceptable reason for receiving the reports. Consumer reporting agencies must reinvestigate any disputed information free of charge. Individuals can file lawsuits or class actions and seek actual damages, punitive damages, statutory damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs.
Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act of 1970:
The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act of 1970 (18 U.S.C. §§ 1961–1968) (“RICO”) is a federal law designed to combat organized crime and even allows victims to file civil litigation, which can be litigated through class actions, mass actions, multi-district litigation, individual actions, or arbitrations. In essence, the elements of a RICO claim are that the defendant engaged in two or more instances of racketeering activity and the defendant invested in, maintained an interest in, or participated in a criminal enterprise affecting interstate or foreign commerce. Racketeering activity may include bribery, counterfeiting, drug trafficking, embezzlement, gambling, kidnapping, money laundering, murder, slavery, and a host of other unsavory business practices.