Recently in Consumer Protection Category

December 15, 2010

Boston Jury Hits Tobacco Company For Giving Cigarettes to Children

1214675_cigarette.jpgAccording to a Boston.com report, a Boston jury awarded a woman's estate $50 million and her son $21 million in damages yesterday in a products liability lawsuit against the makers of Newport cigarettes. The plaintiff showed that back in the 1950s and 1960s, The tobacco company had given free cigarettes to children as young as nine years old in a Boston housing project. Most of the children were African-American, and studies show that 75% of African-American smokers today prefer menthol brands like Newport. the plaintiffs argued that the company engaged in a free givaway marketing strategy to get African-American children hooked on smoking Newports.

Marie Evans died of lung cancer at the age of 54 in 2002. She recalled, in testimony that was videotaped before she died and played to the jury during the trial, how she was given free Newports from a white truck that looked like an ice cream truck when she was nine years old. She traded the cigarettes at first, but started smoking them when she was 13. She said she tried to quit several times, but could not, and smoked until she died.

The $71 million award was for compensatory damages alone, and the jury now will take up whether to award punitive damages. The plaintiffs also have a claim under the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act, which the judge will decide, and which could lead to the doubling or trebling of the damage award.

The tobacco company will ask the trial judge to set aside the verdict, and will file an appeal, and big awards against tobacco companies are often overturned on technicalities. But there is no doubt that cigarette manufacturers have been forced to change their ways because products liability lawyers have gone after them. Lawsuits caused Congress and the Surgeon General to act, and lawsuits have made life safer for the children growing up today.

At KJC Law Firm, we are proud to be part of that movement to use the law to make the world more safe.

Continue reading "Boston Jury Hits Tobacco Company For Giving Cigarettes to Children" »

August 5, 2010

Fisher-Price Recalls Toy Due to Choking Hazard

10313a.jpgThe U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission announced today that Fisher-Price has initiated a voluntary recall of its Little People Play 'n Go Campsite, a seven-piece plastic play toy which includes a figure called "Sonya Lee." Only Sonya Lee figures that bend at the waist and bear the product number R6935 are part of the recall.

Although no injuries have yet been reported, there have been a number of reports that the Sonya Lee figure in the play set can break at the waist and expose small parts that are a choking hazard. The public is advised to stop using the Sonya Lee figure immediately.

You can get more information on the recall at Mattel Consumer Relations Answer Center.

Continue reading "Fisher-Price Recalls Toy Due to Choking Hazard" »

July 29, 2010

Top Ten Complaints by Consumers

1276336_heres_your_change_1.jpgA list of the top ten consumer complaints for 2009 was just released a few days ago by the Consumer Federation of America, the National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators, and the North American Consumer Protection Investigators. The three major consumer groups jointly conducted a survey of several state, county, and city consumer agencies from a number of states across America, including several from Massachusetts, like the Cambridge Consumers' Council, the Cape Cod Consumer Assistance Council, and the MASS PIRG Consumer Action Center. The report, entitled 2009 Consumer Complaint Survey Report, was released on July 27, 2010.

Here's a summary of what they found (it's really the top 11, because #9 was a tie):

1. Auto: deceptive advertising or misrepresentation in selling or leasing cars, defective vehicles, or inadequate repairs.

2. Credit/Debt: problems with credit card companies, mortgage brokers, bill collectors, or debt relief agencies; predatory lending.

3. Home Improvement/Construction: not doing the contracted job properly, or not doing it at all.

4. Utilities: problems with electric or gas companies or cable, satellite, phone, or internet providers.

5. Retail Sales: deceptive advertising, defective merchandise, or problems with coupons, gift certificates, or rebates.

6. Services: poor performance, misrepresentation, or not being properly licensed.

7. Internet Sales: misrepresentation of products or prices, or nondelivery of merchandise.

8. Household Goods: misrepresentation of products or prices, nondelivery of merchandise, or inadequate repairs

9. (tie) Landlord/Tenant: improper eviction, violations of health or safety codes, refusal to repair, or disputes over rent or deposits.
9. (tie) Home Solicitations: misrepresentation of products or prices, or nondelivery of merchandise in TV or telephone, mail, or door-to-door solicitation; not honoring do-not-call list.

10. Health Products/Services: poor performance, misrepresentation, or not being properly licensed.

All of these reported ways to cheat consumers have one thing in common: they are easy to carry out because they rely on the consumer having no good way to fight them. Most ordinary people don't have the money to hire a lawyer, and the stakes are too small compared to a lawyer's fees. Here in Massachusetts, though, we have a powerful weapon against people and businesses that defraud consumers: the Consumer Protection Act. That law provides that consumers who are damaged by unfair or deceptive practices are entitled not only to get their damages back, but sometimes double or even triple their damages to punish the wrongdoer, as well as having all the costs of the suit and their attorney's fees paid by the defendant. Often just a "Demand Letter" under this statute from a good consumer attorney leads to payment of the damages and attorneys fees without even filing suit.

The Consumer Complaint Survey Report lists six pages of tips about "How Consumers Can Protect Themselves," which is worth reading. It can help you avoid losing your money in the first place. But if it is too late, and you are the victim of a deceptive or unfair consumer practice, the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act can give you the power to fight back, and a good lawyer is not that hard to find.

Continue reading "Top Ten Complaints by Consumers" »