Slingbox Sued For Slinging Ads To Customers

If there’s anything this particular author hates, it’s advertisements. They are everywhere these days . . . from Taxi Cabs to Subway Turnstiles, you just can’t escape them. It’s gotten so crazy that we’ve even seen a local DUI defense law firm place ads on an “over 21″ wrist band needed to buy beer at a minor league hockey game. As annoying as the ads may be, it’s just part of modern life. Or is it? Some customers of Slingbox who have been bombarded with new adds aren’t taking it lying down and have filed a class action lawsuit against the Sling Media. If you don’t recall, Sling Media is the maker of the Slingbox, which takes customers’ home TV signal that comes from a cable box and “slings” it to a phone, tablet, or computer anywhere in the world. In a nutshell, it’s like being able to take your home TV and remote with you anywhere in the world. Slingbox is a slick device, but it comes with a hefty price tag north of $200.

According to the lawsuit, in March of this year, Slingbox devices started embedding advertising in media streamed to their mobile devices. So, now, Slingbox customers are forced to watch the embedded ads from Slingbox in addition to whatever ads are being shown through their cable provider. The plaintiffs allege that they never consented to this additional advertising. They claim that Sling Media failed to disclose that the use of the product would be contingent upon and subject to this advertising. According to the complaint, “Slingbox has perpetuated a massive ‘bait and switch’ upon thousands of unsuspecting consumers, each of whom spent as much as $300 or more for these products, but who now need to watch the defendant’s ads to use their devices as promised.”

Of course, the plaintiffs are seeking class action certification in California district court. They have alleged that the ads are misleading and violate business California consumer protection laws and constitute unfair competition or deceptive business practices. As you might expect, the Plaintiffs are not just seeking an injunction to stop the ads. They also seek restitution and disgorgement of all profits garnered from the allegedly unfair or misleading business practices. We’ll keep an eye on this one.

The Curious Case of the Renaissance Fair Juggler

According to a report out of the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, a lawsuit has been filed against the County of Los Angeles and Geoffrey Marsh, a juggler, alleging that a minor child was seriously injured when hit by an object tossed by the juggler at a renaissance festival.  The suit, filed by Felipe Arambula on behalf of himself and his minor child, alleges that the county failed to properly supervise activities at the fair, resulting in jugglers juggling around children with no safety measures.  Accordingly, the county’s conduct was allegedly “inherently dangerous and created a peculiar risk, nuisance and trap.”  Aside from the child’s alleged injuries, Arambula allegedly suffered stress from seeing his child struck by the wayward juggler. Here at Abnormal Use, there are only two things that we fear: Renaissance festivals.  And, jugglers.  Call us crazy, but there is just something about 15th Century cosplay and people rotating multiple objects in the air that gives us the creeps.  All fears aside, a lawsuit involving jugglers and a Renaissance festival  has us (cautiously) intrigued.

Even though we may have an unnatural fear of jugglers, we must admit that we have never thought about juggling as a negligent act. Reading between the lines from the report, it appears the plaintiffs’ theory of liability against the juggler is that he was negligent by juggling in close vicinity of children.  What is unknown is whether the juggler is a professional or just some random costumed fair attendee trying to immerse himself into the period.  One would think that a professional might not need the same spacing to juggle as an amateur.  On the other hand, is there a heightened standard of care for a professional juggler compared to that of the amateur juggler? What exactly is the reasonable and prudent juggler?  Juggling in and of itself is not really a specialized act.  Anyone with access to YouTube can learn to juggle on a basic level.  But, certainly there is a difference between juggling chain saws and juggling tennis balls.   Perhaps, the renaissance common law will offer some guidance.

Nonetheless, what is truly interesting about this lawsuit is the allegation that juggling is “inherently dangerous” and created a “trap.”  We despise jugglers much more than the average person, but we question how juggling is dangerous to anyone other than the juggler.  We recognize that an argument can be made that juggling must be inherently dangerous to others because the child was injured.  But, shouldn’t there be a duty on others to keep a proper distance from jugglers?  Calling the juggling a “trap” only makes sense if the juggler backed the child into a corner such that he had no chance to avoid falling objects.  If the theory is that the crowds were so large that people had no room to stay clear of the juggler, then we question how the juggler would have had the capacity to juggle in the first place.

We are curious to see how this lawsuit turns out.  We are even more curious to see if the defendants raise attendance at a renaissance fair as a comparative negligence defense.

New Rockstar Lawsuit: Consuming Massive Amounts of Caffeine (x4) Allegedly Leads To Heart Attack

News from the energy drink litigation carousel: Rockstar Beverage Corporation has now been sued in Los Angeles Superior Court after a man allegedly suffered a heart attack after consuming one of its beverages. According to a report from NBC, Plaintiff Oscar Maldonado claims to have consumed up to four Rockstar beverages in a 6-8 hour period and subsequently developed shortness of breath and chest pains. Over the next three weeks, his symptoms worsened. He was eventually told by doctors that he was having a heart attack. Thereafter, he was taken in for an undisclosed surgical operation. Now, Maldonado alleges Rockstar is to blame.

The specific allegations against Rockstar are nothing new in the increasingly popular energy drink litigation. The suit alleges that Rockstar drinks rely on large quantities of caffeine, a “substance well-known for imposing health effects upon consumers” and “known to play a role in triggering adverse cardiac episodes.” In addition, Rockstar contains taurine, an ingredient that allegedly has a similar effect on the heart muscles. Of course, Maldonado alleges that if Rockstar had properly warned him of the risks, he would have never consumed the Rockstar drinks.

We here at Abnormal Use have often been critical of these energy drink suits. This one is nothing new. At this point, we assume (perhaps wrongly) that everyone on the planet understands that most energy drinks provide that desired boost of energy through the use of massive amounts of caffeine and that caffeine is not-exactly known as being heart-friendly. In fact, Maldonado seemingly admits as much in his complaint  As such, we question whether any warning would have actually had any affect on Maldonado’s consumption.

Given the admittedly known risks of consuming large amounts of caffeine, we wonder how Maldonado works around the fact that he consumed not one, but four, Rockstar drinks in a 6-8 hour period.  We assume his defense will be that while he knew that consuming large amounts of caffeine was hazardous, he did not know that consuming large amounts of caffeine (x4) could be hazardous enough to result in a heart attack. Alas, Rockstar definitely should have warned him of that, right? Sigh.

KFC May Face Potential Lawsuit For Allegedly Selling Man A Fried Rat

If you have been paying attention to social media of late, you have no doubt heard about Devorise Dixon and his KFC rat.  If you are slightly braver, then you have seen the pictures, which can be found here.  And if you don’t have short term memory loss, then you are skeptical.

Recently, Mr. Dixon took to social media, posting the image of the rat and claiming, “I went to KFC bought a 3-piece chicken tender! As I bit into a piece of it I noticed that it was very hard/tough and rubbery! Which sent this deep chill throughout my body. I looked down at it and saw that it was a cooked rat!!! Made me feel sick! Never new chicken was shaped like rat’s and had tails! Bought this from KFC on Wilmington and 120th in the shopping center! WATCH WHAT YOU EAT PEOPLE ARE SICK OUT THERE!” [His typos, not ours.]

As all viral horror stories go, the story exploded.  According to Mr. Dixon, he received a fried rat in his chicken fingers order from a KFC in Watts, California.  Additionally, Mr. Dixon has claimed that KFC apologized to him and that the manager admitted he was served a rat.  Mr. Dixon believes “IT’S TIME FOR A LAWYER!!!”  He also encourages people to “BESAFE DON’T EAT FAST FOOD !!!” KFC took to Facebook and stated that it was investigating the matter and at this time had no evidence to support Mr. Dixon’s claim.  Additionally, KFC claims it is aggressively trying to reach Mr. Dixon.

Immediately, skeptics took to debunking Mr. Dixon’s claim, including this image, the poster of whic believes that the whole thing is bogus.  Regardless of whether or not his claims are bogus, Mr. Dixon has catapulted into Internet fame.  We will always remember Anna Ayala, who you will remember more famously for alleging that she found a severed finger in her Wendy’s chili. While we wait for this story to develop, check out this list of the 10 fast food lawsuits.

Fitbit Faces New Lawsuit Over 67 Minutes of Sleep

As America has become more engulfed in the fitness craze, numerous products aimed at helping consumers with their new found healthy lifestyles have hit the marketplace. One such product is the Fitbit activity tracker, a wearable device that measures data such as steps walked, calories burned, and quality of sleep. Sounds like the perfect product for the health conscious consumer, right? According to a new class action filed in the Northern District of California, not so much.

Florida man James Brickman, as putative class representative, has filed suit against Fitbit, Inc., alleging that activity tracker’s sleep-tracking function does not work as advertised.  According to his complaint, Fitbit manufactures a number of devices, several of which contain the sleep-tracker function for an additional $30 charge.  As allegedly stated on the product packaging, the function of the sleep-tracker is to track hours slept, times woken up, and the quality of sleep of the Fitbit wearer. However, Brickman alleges that scientific research has revealed that the Fitbit consistently overestimates the amount of sleep by 67 minutes per night. Brickman “expressly disclaim[s]” any recovery for physical injury arising from the alleged misrepresentations. Nonetheless, he claims that the misrepresentations implicate serious public health concerns caused by thinking you are sleeping 67 minutes longer than you actually are. Brickman has asserted claims under California’s Unfair Competition Law, False Advertising Law, and the Consumer Legal Remedies Act. In addition, he alleges a violation of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act as well as common law claims for breach of express and implied warranties, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and unjust enrichment.

Because we here at Abnormal Use have yet to buy into the fitness craze, we regretfully do not own a Fitbit device. If we did, we would expect it to work as advertised. Nonetheless, we do question how any alleged inaccuracies in the sleep-tracking function cause “serious public health concerns.”  We understand that a certain amount of sleep is a necessary component of a healthy lifestyle. However, the Fitbit’s alleged 67-minute misrepresentation as to the amount of sleep hardly seems like it would actually have an effect on one’s health. A person sleeps the amount a person sleeps regardless of how many minutes of sleep Fitbit represents to the person. We are not aware of any representations made by Fitbit that the product will actually make you sleep better or longer. The Fitbit just measures the amount of sleep (albeit allegedly incorrectly). Your sleep is your sleep. No Fitbit needed.

Call us old-fashioned, but is a sleep-tracker even necessary in the first place? People know how they feel when they wake up in the morning.  If you didn’t get enough sleep, you feel tired.  If you got enough sleep, you feel refreshed.  People don’t need a fitness tracker to tell them that.  Of course, they didn’t need to pay an extra $30 for it, either.

JC Penney “Phantom” Pricing Lawsuit

Get this: There is definitely a real class action lawsuit against JC Penney in federal court in California over purported “phantom discounts.”

The lawsuit accuses JC Penney of hiking retail prices on apparel and accessories to trick shoppers into believing they were receiving sizable discounts when the items were advertised as being on sale.  The long and short of it is that the when retailer would run a sale, they would allegedly markup the price of the item and then “discount” it back down to the same price it had been at for months. For example, the complaint alleges that for a sale they’d mark up a shirt that had been selling for $17.99 to $30 and then they’d sell it for 40 percent off . . . or $17.99. The class action lawsuit has been certified by the federal judge presiding over the case.

To be fair, JC Penney apparently tried to move to everyday low pricing in 2012.  Ironically,  executives billed the new pricing model as the end of “fake pricing.” Apparently the customers really wanted fake pricing because the everyday low pricing was a miserable failure and they quickly went back to a more traditional discounting model.  It does make you wonder, however, if any of these claims of phantom discounting claims occurred during the period that the retailer was switching between business models.

The Federal Trade Commission does actually have regulations governing this sort of thing.  16 C.F.R. 233.1 requires retailers to sell items at original prices for a “reasonable length of time” before discounting them.  Sort of makes you wonder how Jos. A. Bank continues its thing, but that’s a story for another day.

Failure to Warn While Sleeping? Apple Targeted Once Again In Adapter Lawsuit.

According to reports, Apple finds itself the subject of a another lawsuit regarding its power adapters. Unlike the previously settled class action lawsuit which alleged that the MagSafe adapters were defectively designed and caused unnecessary fraying of the power cords, the latest suit alleges that the adapters actually cause physical harm to others. In the latest suit filed in California, Heather Henderson allegedly suffered second and third-degree burns after coming in contact with the adapter. Such burns, Henderson believes, could have been prevented had Apple placed an appropriate warning on the MagSafe adapter.

This suit arises out of an incident that happened earlier this year. Henderson’s husband was using his Apple laptop when Henderson fell asleep with her arm on top of the adapter for approximately 40 minutes. She woke up groggy, felt “itchy,” and went to bed.  The next morning she felt pain and discovered a “one-inch boil” on her arm.  Henderson believes the boil has resulted in a permanent scar.

From what we can gather from the reports, the interesting thing about this suit is that it is couched as a failure to warn case rather than one alleging that the adapter is excessively hot.  Henderson told San Diego’s ABC affiliate that she knew the adapter could get warm, but she “didn’t know exposure to [her] bare skin would mean a second- to third-degree burn.”  Moreover, Morris stated the following regarding the adapters:

It’s a huge problem.  It’s called MagSafe, but it’s not safe at all.  People are reporting burns and fires, and Apple knows this.

Henderson and Morris allege that burns such as those suffered by Henderson could have been prevented had Apple placed a warning label on the adapter.

We here at Abnormal Use are curious as to why Henderson appears to be focusing on the lack of warning labels on the adapter.  After all, she came into contact with the adapter accidentally while sleeping.  It is not like a more effective warning label would have saved the day.  Had Henderson alleged that the adapter heated to a temperature in excess of the normal in-use temperature of MagSafe adapters or other power adapters in the industry, then she likely would have a better case.  Our guess is that there must not be sufficient evidence to establish that the temperature of the adapter was abnormal or else Henderson would have proceeded on that theory.  When accidents happen and there is no legitimate means of recovery, failure to warn becomes the default.

See here for a prior post of ours on power adapter litigation.

Thoughts On The Lawsuit By Josie Harris Against Floyd Mayweather

Pay-per-view king and boxing champ Floyd “Money” Mayweather, Jr. is certainly a polarizing figure. He is 48-0 in his professional career and largely considered the best pound for pound boxer in the world. He is one of the highest-paid athletes in the world, and his last two fights shattered previous pay-per-view records. As such, he seemingly has more money than he knows what to do with. He doesn’t wear a pair of boxers or shoes more than once, he color coats his luxury cars to match his mansions, travels with a Duffle bag full of money, and keeps over $123 million in a single bank account (though surely that number has grown considerably after the Pacquiao fight). In 2013, Tim Keown wrote an amazing article for ESPN on Mayweather titled “The Last Great American Prizefighter,” which provides a more exhaustive look at Mayweather’s life. However, Mayweather also has a significant and well-documented history of violence outside of the ring, including a 2010 incident of domestic battery against Josie Harris, his former girlfriend. In 2011, Mayweather pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery in order to avoid a felony battery charge and found himself sentenced to 90 days in jail. He was released in August of 2012, and the matter thereupon ended. That is, until April 2015, when during an interview with Katie Couric, he claimed that he never kicked, stomped, or beat Josie Harris, but that he did restrain a woman that was on drugs.

It seems that Ms. Harris does not agree with his characterization of events. According to CNN, on May 5, 2015, Ms. Harris filed a civil suit in California state court against Mayweather claiming defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. In her pleadings, Ms. Harris alleges Mayweather entered her home and began punching and kicking her as she slept on the couch. She also denies that she abused drugs and that it was not his purported attempts to restrain her that caused her injuries but rather the beating he inflicted. Apparently, she seeks $20 million dollars in the lawsuit. At this point, it may just be best for someone with Mayweather’s track record to put his money to good use and pay Ms. Harris.

Blue Moon: The Not-So-Craft Beer

We here at Abnormal Use are lovers of craft beer.  In fact, several years ago, we brought our love of craft beer to the blawgosphere and interviewed Adam Avery, President and Brewmaster of the Avery Brewing Company.  As Avery mentioned in the interview, craft beer punches so much flavor when compared to the likes of Bud, Coors, and Miller beers which are “fairly flavorless and carbonated.”  While MillerCoors and AB InBev, the major offenders of mass-produced beer, may never admit it, they know the flavor disparity is legitimate.  Need proof?  MillerCoors maintains a “craft and import division” which attempts to capitalize on the craft beer craze with  the introduction of beers such as Blue Moon, its so-called “artfully crafted” Belgian-Style Wheat .  Unfortunately for MillerCoors, the guise is up as the craft-ness of these beers is coming under fire. According to reports, a potential class action complaint was filed in California last week against MillerCoors alleging that the company violated numerous laws by claiming that Blue Moon is a craft beer.  The plaintiffs allege that Blue Moon is brewed in MillerCoors’ Colorado and North Carolina breweries, which produce other MillerCoors’ beers like Coors, Milwaukee’s Best, Miller High Life, Icehouse, and Olde English. As an alleged attempt to deceive consumers, the MillerCoors name is nowhere to be found on the Blue Moon bottle.  Further, the plaintiffs take issue with Blue Moon’s trademark phrase “artfully crafted,” which they allege misleads consumers into thinking they are buying a craft beer.  The plaintiffs seek an injunction to stop Miller Coors from marketing Blue Moon as an independent craft beer operation and monetary damages. While there is no legal standard defining “craft beer,” the Brewer’s Association, a trade group concerned with the promotion of craft beer and homebrewing, sets forth the following qualifications for craft beer:

  • Fewer than 6 million barrels are produced annually;

  • A non-craft brewer can only own up to 25 percentof the craft brewer; and

  • The beer is to be made using only traditional or innovative brewing ingredients.

We here at Abnormal Use do not know exactly how Blue Moon fits into these qualifications (or, if the qualification will even stand up as a matter of law).  Nonetheless, we do find the Blue Moon-MillerCoors relationship suspicious.  Officially, Blue Moon is brewed by Blue Moon Brewing Company, an entity of Tenth and Blake Beer Company, the craft and import division of MillerCoors.  Whether MillerCoors owns more than 25 percent of Blue Moon Brewing, we do not know.  But, we do know that if Blue Moon is brewed in the same vicinity as the likes of Milwaukee’s Best, Icehouse, and Olde English, then it certainly doesn’t fit within our vision of a craft brew.

Regardless of how this lawsuit ends, we hope that beer drinkers continue to explore their options.  Don’t stop drinking Blue Moon because it is associated with MillerCoors.  Stop drinking Blue Moon because there are plenty of better options for a Belgian-Style Wheat beer.  In the alternative, if you find that Blue Moon is in fact “artfully crafted,” drink it in a brown paper bag just like its other MillerCoors cohorts.

Orange County DA Sues Unilever, Quickly Banks $750,000 Over Purported Deceptive Packaging

Recently, the consumer protection unit of the Orange County (CA) District Attorney’s Office filed suit against Unilever, parent company of AXE, accusing the company of fudging the packaging of its male grooming products.  According to a report out of The Orange County Register, prosecutors have accused the company of using “false bottoms, false sidewalls, false lids or false coverings” which “serve no legitimate purpose and mislead consumers as to the amount of product contained in the containers.”  The report is silent on whether prosecutors obtained the desired AXE effect when “testing” out the company’s body sprays.

Interestingly, prosecutors were quick to work out a tentative deal with Unilever, submitting a proposed settlement to the court on the day suit was filed.  Pending court approval, Unilever has agreed to cease using the “misleading” packaging and pay $750,000 in civil penalties to Orange County, plus $24,000 to cover the costs of the DA investigation.  In addition, Unilever will buy Sunday inserts with $3 coupons in several dozen California newspapers.  In other words, the County gets three quarters of a million dollars.  The “deceived” consumer gets the opportunity to buy another AXE product at a $3 discount.  So, it sounds like “everyone”, i.e. Orange County, comes out winners.

Aside from the financial windfall for Orange County, we here at Abnormal Use are curious as to the point of this lawsuit.  There is nothing contained in the report indicating that Unilever misled consumers as to the actually quantity of the product contained in the package.  Rather, this case only suggests that the product packaging was essentially larger than necessary and, thus, deceived consumers.  Apparently, the DA has never purchased a bag of potato chips.  Right or wrong, we are curious as to whether the AXE packaging deviated in any respect from common practice in the industry.  We are also curious as to the size differential, if any, between the packaging of AXE and a competitor’s product of the same stated quantity.  For AXE’s competitor’s sake, we hope those AXE packages were substantially larger.  If not, we know where the DA will be banking its payroll for the next quarter.