October ushered in a case that might, on one hand, provoke a sigh of relief for manufacturers, distributors and retailers concerned about the upward trend in multimillion dollar civil penalties from the CPSC or, on the other hand, raise some eyebrows of concern about the extent of a court’s authority to prospectively impose auditing, compliance and training measures. See United States v. Spectrum Brands, Inc., No. 15-CV-371-WMC, 2017 WL 4339677 (W.D. Wis. Sept. 29, 2017). Continue Reading Recall Roundup: October
Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have devastated portions of Texas, Louisiana and Florida. For retail insureds in particular, the losses due to property damage and business interruption will be staggering. In an article published September 12, 2017, in South Florida’s Daily Business Review, Hunton Insurance lawyers Walter Andrews and Andrea DeField explain why it is critical that policyholders act fast to maximize insurance recovery for their hurricane-related losses. They also provide a checklist to guide policyholders through the claim process and to ensure maximum recovery for any property damage and business interruption losses. As Andrews and DeField explain, business interruption and related coverage endorsements may cover loss resulting from (1) an inability to open for business; (2) reduction in business income when the business remains open but cannot operate at full capacity; (3) civil authority orders barring access to an insured business; and (4) service and utility outages effecting business interruptions — an important coverage in light of Florida’s ongoing power outages.
Earlier this month, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) dropped its defense of an Obama-era regulation that sought to increase the salary level for overtime-exempt employees from $23,660 per year to $47,476 per year. The regulation had been set to take effect in November 2016, but a last-minute preliminary injunction issued by a federal district court in Texas stayed the implementation of the regulation.
In the preliminary injunction ruling, the district court ruled that the new $47,476 salary threshold exceeded the scope of the DOL’s authority because such a high salary level had the effect of making an employee’s salary—and not their primary duty—the determinative factor in the exemption inquiry. Importantly, the district court’s preliminary injunction ruling went well beyond the appropriateness of the particular salary level at issue in the new regulation, and instead expressed the broader view that the DOL lacked the authority to impose any salary level requirement (regardless of the level of salary chosen) because the relevant provision of the FLSA focused on an employee’s duties, not their salary. Continue Reading DOL Drops Appellate Defense of Overtime Rule
An insured seeking coverage for credit card fees assessed against its third-party payment processor following a data breach recently filed an appeal in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Spec’s, a liquor store chain with over 160 locations throughout Texas, suffered two major data breaches of its credit card payment system, resulting in the loss of customer information and credit card numbers. Spec’s accepts Visa and MasterCard payments from its customers through a third-party processor, First Data. As a result of the breach, First Data incurred liability assessments from MasterCard and Visa totaling $9.6 million. A merchant agreement required Spec’s to indemnify First Data for any assessments First Data incurred as a result of a breach of Spec’s system. First Data demanded indemnification from Spec’s for the fees. Without any adjudication of First Data’s claims and without Spec’s consent, First Data allegedly wrongfully withheld $4.2 million in credit card payments owed to Spec’s. Consequently, Spec’s sued First Data in Tennessee federal court to recover the $4.2 million.
Coastal areas in Texas have already begun evacuating as Hurricane Harvey heads for the Gulf Coast. Weather experts anticipate that the windstorm will reach Category 3 or Category 4 status by the time it makes landfall on the Texas coast late Friday night or early Saturday morning, making it the first Category 3+ storm to make landfall in the United States since Hurricane Wilma hit South Florida in October 2005. Continue Reading Preparing for Hurricane Harvey: Insurance May Help Weather the Storm
On April 18, 2017, the state of Washington passed House Bill 1493 (“HB 1493”), which sets forth requirements for businesses who collect and use biometric identifiers for commercial purposes. Under HB 1493, a biometric identifier includes a fingerprint, voiceprint, retina, iris or other unique biological pattern or characteristic used to identify a specific individual. Commercial use includes “a purpose in furtherance of the sale or disclosure to a third party for the purpose of marketing of goods or services when such goods or services are unrelated to the initial transaction in which a person first gains possession of an individual’s biometric identifier.” This bill comes after several other states have passed similar legislation regulating the commercial use of biometric identifiers, including the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (740 ILCS 14) (“BIPA”) and the Texas Statute on the Capture or Use of Biometric Identifier (Tex. Bus. & Com. Code Ann. §503.001). Continue Reading Washington State Passes New Legislation on Collection and Use of Biometric Identifiers
The American Tort Reform Association recently released the 2016–2017 edition of its “Judicial Hellholes” report. This annual report identifies venues it deems least favorable for civil defendants based on recent decisions and verdicts, as well as state laws and policies. Continue Reading ATRA Releases Annual “Judicial Hellholes” Report
This past week, several consumer and regulatory actions made headlines:
D.C. Federal Judge Vacates Part of FDA Tobacco Guidance
A D.C. federal judge vacated a portion of FDA guidance relating to the labeling of tobacco products. The key issue before the court was whether changing a tobacco product’s label to a distinct new label creates a new tobacco product subject to FDA approval. The court also considered the question of whether changing a product’s quantity resulted in the creation of a new tobacco product subject to the FDA’s “substantial equivalence review process.” The court found that while a change in the existing product’s label did not create a new tobacco product, a change in a product’s quantity did. Continue Reading Consumer Protection in Retail: Weekly Roundup
If you live in an urban environment, you have likely seen food trucks on city streets, in parking lots or at any number of local events. The mobile food industry has grown significantly over the last few years and, with that growth, vendors and their brick-and-mortar competition have been faced with a changing regulatory landscape. Continue Reading Legal Battles Over Rights of Food Trucks
This week, the following consumer protection actions made headlines:
Mortgage Scammer Under Water After FTC Settlement
On May 9, 2016, the FTC announced that it is returning $1.87 million to 1,630 consumers who lost money in the Expense Management America telemarketing scheme that never provided debt or mortgage relief services after absconding with homeowners’ up-front fees. The repayment to consumers is a capstone on a three and a half year joint effort with the DOJ, FBI and HUD to crack down on mortgage scammers taking advantage of distressed homeowners. Related efforts, underway since 2008, resulted in a new FTC rule providing increased protection to homeowners by prohibiting any collection of fees until the homeowner has an acceptable written offer from their lender. In prosecuting Expense Management America, the FTC worked closely with various enforcement agencies in Canada to track down and prosecute the scammers. Continue Reading Consumer Protection in Retail: Weekly Roundup