When the Feds Invade Portland

It started with an idea among a group of Portland lawyers. We took oaths to support the Constitution. And that means supporting Black lives and supporting the rights of protesters.

Portland protesters put their bodies on the line to stand for Black Lives Matter. Donald Trump and Chad Wolf chose to send in federal agents who gassed, shot, and beat Portland protesters. Lines have been crossed. We will not sit quietly while peaceful protesters are gassed, beaten, and shot.

We filed a class action complaint today in federal court in Portland. The case is Clark v. Wolf. I am serving as lead counsel and look forward to doing my part to stand up for Black lives, to stand against the darkness, and to protect the rule of law.

Here is a copy of the complaint: Complaint Dkt 1 

 

David

Another payment: Scharfstein v. BP West Coast

It’s been a long road. And now we’re coming to the end. Next week, final checks will start going out in the settlement Scharfstein v. BP West Coast Products, LLC. This is the final round of payments from a settlement that was completed last year. The case arose out of overcharges at the pump at Oregon ARCO stations. We’ve been fighting for many years. It’s great to be done.

Here is the official court-approved settlement website. Great write ups on the case are here and here.  The second round of checks are for just over $94. If you received a check last year, you’ll get another at the same address. Please be on the lookout, and please cash it!

We’re really excited that this payment is coming when people are needing it most. Times are tough–we know this will help a lot of folks. There is nothing better in what we do.

Thanks for your patience. Please note that if you have questions, you can reach me via email david@sugermanlawoffice.com

-David

Dean Innovations and Toxic Soil Amendments

Along with Portland attorney Nadia Dahab, we’ve filed a consumer fraud class action case against Dean Innovations arising from the widely reported toxic contamination of soil amendment products sold to Portland area gardeners. I’ve attached a copy of the complaint. It has been filed and served.  Complaint – FIled.

In a nutshell, we’re pursuing claims under the Oregon Unlawful Trade Practices Act. We’re demanding that Deans make it right. They need to refund purchase prices for all sales of the tainted products and cover remediation costs, including removal, hauling, and disposal of tainted soils. There are other claims that will be presented, as well.

I expect this will be another long case. But we’re committed to doing what is necessary because those of us who garden should never have to worry if the garden supply seller is delivering a load of the healthful, beneficial product that they promised or a load of poison.

David

Update BP/ARCO Debit Card Overcharge Case: More Good News

Last week, the Oregon Supreme Court declined to review the case. That means that our complete victories in the trial court and in the Oregon Court of Appeals stand. This is great news.

So the case is over, right?

Not necessarily. BP may ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case. They have approximately three months to file a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case. They must file a petition for a writ of certiorari in the Supreme Court if they want to continue the fight.

The U.S. Supreme Court reviews very few cases like this one. The odds are that the U.S. Supreme Court will decline the petition, if BP chooses to file it. If BP chooses not to file the petition, they must pay the judgment. If they file the petition, payment is not due until the U.S. Supreme Court denies the petition or–if it grants the petition–until the U.S. Supreme Court fully affirms the Oregon courts’ rulings.

So whether it’s over is up to BP. Have they had enough? Who knows!

The one thing is that delay is very costly. Under our state court rules, interest runs at 9 percent per year.

As most people know this is a very big judgment–over $400 million. It’s that big because BP ripped off 13,000 people per day in Oregon, and a total of over 2 million consumers were illegally charged debit card fees.

When a judgment is more than $400 million, interest runs at over $100,000 per day.  That’s everyday.  So it’s really expensive for BP to continue the fight.

As always, thanks for your patience. We’re winning, and that is always awesome. And we will see this through to the end.

-David Sugerman

Update: Big Win against BP and ARCO

Great news in our long running consumer fraud class action against BP. We scored a big win in the Oregon Court of Appeals. The court affirmed the trial court and the verdict in all respects. That’s to say we won big. BP has announced that they will ask the Oregon Supreme Court to review the case. The Oregon Supreme Court does not have to take the appeal. My guess is that we’ll know by the end of the year whether the Oregon Supreme Court is going to review the case.

Meanwhile, we soldier on. If you need solace about the delay, here is something that will brighten your day. Our judgment is over $400 million. It earns interest at $100,000 per day. So if the delay gets you down, just know that BP is paying a ton of cash for taking the long way.

We’ll let you know more when have more news to report. Meantime, keep the faith.

-David

PS Here is the opinion for those interested in such things:  COA opinion 053118 

Western Culinary Inst./Le Cordon Bleu Portland–Settlement Approved

I’m pleased to report that settlement of our longest running class action received final approval. The case, Surrett v. Western Culinary was filed in March of 2008. (No that’s not a typo.) Under the settlement. people who made claims will receive refunds of 44 percent. In addition, any debts owed directly to the school have been written off. And the defendants have to pay fees and costs, so the full refund amount goes to the former student.

We’re pleased with the settlement and happy to report that the court approved it in full.

The judgment was entered today (one of the last big hurdles), and we now know that payments will be mailed out on August 10, 2018.

We’re still moving forward with individual arbitrations for those former class members who have to go to arbitration first. We expect to file hundreds of arbitration cases. We will see those through to the end, no matter how long it takes.

Thanks for your patience-

David

Settlement: Le Cordon Bleu/Western Culinary and Career Education Corp.

It only took 10 years. Late yesterday, we agreed to settle our consumer fraud class action against Western Culinary Institute, Le Cordon Bleu-Portland, and Career Education Corp.

Under the settlement, class members will get refunds of 44 percent of the amounts that they paid for tuition, books, and fees. The 44 percent is reduced for class members who owe money directly to the school. (That reduction does NOT apply to student loans; it’s only if you owed money directly to the school.) The settlement must be approved by the court, so it is not a done deal, and we still have far to go.

There are some other features to the settlement. About $1 million in debts owed by students back to the school will be wiped clean. The defendants will pay attorney fees on top of the refund amounts. The Court will decide how much in attorney fees we will receive.

There is one other feature that is kind of a big deal. In the world of student loans, a borrower can defend against a collection action by raising the fraud of the school. Under the settlement, class members can still litigate the fraud of the school as a defense to loans. Also, they can use the information that we gathered over the last 10 years to help defend against collection actions. It is possible that former students could have their loan balances wiped away.

The student loan wipe-away is something that class members will have to undertake on their own–Sallie Mae and Navient were not parties to this case. Class members who want to pursue that option will need to hire their own student-loan defense lawyers. If you’re in Oregon, Washington, or Idaho, we can provide a reference.

So if you’ve read this far, you probably want to know how much and when. If all goes well, payment would be sometime this summer. But it could be delayed. As far as how much, it’s simply math. If you paid $40,000 toward an associates degree–many paid more–and you don’t owe money back to the school, your 44 percent refund would pay back $17,600.

To get the money, you will need to file a claim. Claim forms should be going out in March. Once the claim period starts, you will have 90 days to file your claim. If you don’t file it by then, you lose your right to make a claim, and Career Education Corp. gets to keep the money. We don’t want that to happen! So we’ll be working with you to make sure that you get your claim filed.

Also, this settlement doesn’t apply to those who have to go to arbitration. If you’re in the arbitration group, we can continue to help you, but you have to help us help you. We are pursuing refunds for the arbitration group and will do whatever is necessary to achieve a recovery. If you’re a member of the arbitration group and haven’t done so, please sign up through our portal. There are deadlines for filing for arbitration. If you don’t take action, your rights will be lost.

So that’s the story. We’re pleased with our progress and this development. And of course, we will continue forward.

-David

VW “Clean” Diesel Fraud: A new approach

The many, many federal class action cases against Volkswagen have been consolidated in Northern California, and it looks like consumers are in for a slow slog. My co-counsel, Tim Quenelle, and I put our heads together and have developed a new strategy option.

We believe that we can efficiently handle individual cases for people who bought or leased the vehicles in Oregon. We are now accepting select individual cases for Oregon consumers.

Our goal is to move these cases quickly. The beauty is that if we win VW must pay our fees, so we are able to offer affordable representation to consumers who have been wronged here.

Let us know if you have more information. You can call me at 503.228.6474 or email me at david@davidsugerman.com or 503.228.6474.

VW Clean Diesel Fraud and the “Goodwill” Package

I spent most of last week at the National Consumer Rights Litigation Conference in San Antonio. Among the many benefits is the chance to visit with colleagues who are the best consumer-side advocates in the country. I caught up with my colleague, Elizabeth Cabarser, one of the most talented consumer lawyers I know, and we had a chance to visit about the VW customer goodwill package. Elizabeth pointed out this order StipOrdReGoodwillProgram USDC MI from the U.S. District Court in Michigan, in which Volkswagen stipulated that participation in the program would not impact claims in the fraud case against it.

This is an important development for those who are concerned about the fine-print in the loyalty cards. Elizabeth and her team in Michigan have done a great job in getting this order entered. It’s stronger because Volkswagen stipulated to the order. That means that the issue is completed, and there is no effective means of appealing. This is a good development.

Let’s not lose sight of a few things. These benefits are mixed, and they are tiny. There is still a problem that it looks to me like VW is trying to establish a direct link with customers. Also, it’s possible that part of this is being done so that VW lawyers can point to all the good things they did, in order to argue that VW should not be punished for their misconduct.

That said, for those consumers who wish to take advantage of these benefits, the order provides protection.

David

VW Customer Care Diesel Fraud: Hello South Dakota

Volkswagen announced its customer care program for consumers cheated by the clean diesel fraud. The program gives consumers who register a $500 Visa gift card, a $500 dealer coupon, and three years of free roadside assistance.

The last two benefits are nothing more than slick marketing, designed to drive sales. The first–that Visa card–comes with some wicked fine print.

You have to root around in the shiny website to find the cardholder agreement, and then you have to page through that to get to this gem:

“10. WAIVER OF RIGHT TO TRIAL BY JURY
YOU AND WE ACKNOWLEDGE THAT THE RIGHT TO TRIAL BY
JURY IS A CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT BUT MAY BE WAIVED IN CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES. TO THE EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW, YOU AND WE KNOWINGLY AND VOLUNTARILY WAIVE ANY RIGHT TO TRIAL BY JURY IN THE EVENT OF LITIGATION ARISING OUT OF OR RELATED TO THIS AGREEMENT. THIS JURY TRIAL WAIVER SHALL NOT AFFECT OR BE INTERPRETED AS MODIFYING IN ANY FASHION THE DISPUTE CLAUSE SET FORTH IN THE FOLLOWING SECTION, IF APPLICABLE, WHICH CONTAINS ITS OWN SEPARATE JURY TRIAL WAIVER.

IN THE EVENT OF ANY DISPUTE OR CLAIM RELATING IN ANY WAY TO THIS AGREEMENT, CUSTOMER AGREES THAT SUCH DISPUTE SHALL BE RESOLVED BY BINDING ARBITRATION WITH THE AMERICAN ARBITRATION ASSOCIATION, UTILIZING THE RULES OF PROCEDURE OF SUCH ARBITRATION SERVICE, FURTHER, ANY SUCH ARBITRATION SHALL TAKE PLACE IN SIOUX FALLS, SOUTH DAKOTA AND THE LAWS OF THE STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA SHALL APPLY. THE DECISION OF AN ARBITRATOR WILL BE FINAL….”

Show of hands: So who wants to go to Sioux Falls to have their case decided by a professional, corporate arbitrator?

It is unclear whether VW is trying to capture the Diesel Fraud claims in this arbitration clause, but the language is broad enough to raise serious questions.

And of course, VW is trying to buy consumers’ loyalty for $1,000. Seems kind of cheap, given the scope of this multi-billion dollar fraud.

At bottom, this is risky business.

-David