Red Bull does not actually give you wings. Some of Subway’s famous footlongs do not measure exactly twelve inches. Chobani Greek yogurt is made in the United States, not Greece. None of these statements are shocking, but each of them has recently been the subject of well-publicized lawsuits filed on behalf of consumers. Continue reading
According to the New York Times, Josh Finkelman is the “Erin Brockovich of Super Bowl tickets.” After paying well over face value for tickets to Super Bowl XLVIII, which was held at Met Life Stadium in 2014, he sued the National Football League under New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act, arguing he should have been able to attend the game without buying expensive tickets on the secondary market.
Three years and multiple dismissals later, this case is still dragging on. Unfortunately, this is just one example of the many abusive lawsuits New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act (CFA) has encouraged.
Rather than incentivizing legal shakedowns, our consumer protection laws should be doing what their name suggests – protecting consumers. It’s time for our Legislature to enact some common sense reforms that keep consumer protections in place, but don’t encourage legal abuse for profit. The ball is in the red zone, it is time to make a play.
Why? Because numerous state laws explicitly encourage litigation when other means of dispute resolution would be quicker and more cost effective; poorly drafted statutes invite endless lawsuits over their interpretation; and antiquated policies limit the ability of our state to improve its legal climate.
Things have gotten so far off track, New Jersey has been named one of the nation’s worst “judicial hellholes.” At this point, there is nowhere to go but up, and the time is right to make changes, both legislatively and via judicial action.
The American Tort Reform Association has released its annual “Judicial Hellholes” report, and New Jersey is near the top of its list. ATRA notes that our state’s consumer protection laws are far from mainstream, and our court system is becoming hostile to arbitration agreements, in direct contravention of federal law.
“It’s disappointing, but not surprising that ATRA has identified us as a ‘Hellhole,’” said Marcus Rayner, the president of the New Jersey Civil Justice Institute. “Our courts have issued some opinions that are really out of the mainstream in a few key areas – namely consumer protection and arbitration – and people in the business community, now even at the national level, are taking note.”
“The arbitration-related decisions the report highlights are really concerning. The New Jersey Supreme Court has weakened the right to arbitrate in New Jersey, in direct violation of federal law, despite the fact that arbitration is faster, cheaper, and just as fair as going to court. This is especially true when you consider the alternative to arbitration is often class action litigation, where the biggest beneficiary is the attorney bringing the case,” said Rayner.
“When it comes to consumer protection, we’ve been saying for years that New Jersey needs to enact some common sense reforms to bring our law more into the mainstream. Our main consumer protection laws, the Consumer Fraud Act (CFA) and the Truth-in-Consumer Contract, Warranty and Notice Act (TCCWNA), aren’t giving consumers appreciably better customer experiences, but they are inspiring lots of litigation. For example, CFA litigation increased 447% from 2000 to 2009, but there’s no evidence there was more actual fraud to fight during that period,” said Rayner.
“We need to take concrete steps to right our course and improve our state’s legal climate before it’s too late. We have a list of 11 legal issues New Jersey should tackle if it wants to improve its reputation and economic outlook,” concluded Rayner.
This year’s nominees are:
Amusement Park Ride Makes Kid Dizzy
Amusement park rides are supposed to make you dizzy, right? Not according to the parents of a child who lost his balance and hit his head after getting off the Bugs Bunny Camp Carousel. They are suing Six Flags Great Adventure for $75,000 for their son’s alleged injuries. The real kicker is the child’s dizzy spell happened four years ago, but the lawsuit was just filed this year.
Void Where Prohibited
Scores of companies were dragged into New Jersey court this year by plaintiffs suing over the phrase “void where prohibited” being included in the terms and conditions of a company’s website. These companies could have to pay millions of dollars in damages despite the fact that there is no evidence that any of the consumers involved in any of these cases has been actually harmed. Because these suits are being brought as class actions, most of the money paid out will probably end up in the pockets of the attorneys bringing the suits.
Law Firm Sues Potential Client
The New Jersey law firm Jaffe & Asher LLP is upset it was not hired to represent Wells Fargo in pending litigation despite redecorating its offices, so it decided to sue the financial institution. This suit was technically not filed in New Jersey, but we’re not going to hold that against it.
100 Self-Serving Suits
Apparently New Jersey attorney Harold Hoffman has never heard the old adage “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.” Just a few years after a court chastised him bringing a Consumer Fraud Act suit against a company selling a penis enhancement product without actually trying the product, he was back in the news again. First for suing the popular Jewish dating website JDate for emailing him, and more recently for abusing the court system with procedural trickery. The court called him “a serial pro se class action litigant,” which is a bit of an understatement considering he has filed over 100 lawsuits on his own behalf under the guise of consumer protection. Hoffman’s double role in the suits he files raises some serious questions about his motives. Are the suits he files truly in the interest of New Jersey consumers? Or is he filing them simply to shake settlement dollars from deep pockets?
Gas Can Explodes When Used As Fire Starter
Walmart is being sued because a gas can it sold blew up when someone tried to start a fire with it.
Crazy Lawsuits are a Symptom of a Broken System
“I can’t deny it’s amusing to look back at all the crazy lawsuits that popped up in the New Jersey courts this year, but is important to remember that this is really not a laughing matter. These lawsuits exist because our legal system is fundamentally flawed,” said NJCJI president Marcus Rayner.
“Many of the worst lawsuits are filed because New Jersey law incentivizes them. When the law encourages a disregard for personal responsibility, or allows uninjured parties and their attorneys to collect a windfall, people are going to take advantage of it.”
“We want to highlight the results this sort of a system produces by awarding the title ‘Most Ludicrous Lawsuit’ to a deserving recipient. But we also want to work to improve our system so that these sorts of lawsuits become a thing of the past. Legal reform is a non-partisan, low-cost way to improve our state’s legal environment, and thus, our economy.”
Want to help us advance common sense legal reform in New Jersey? Fill out the “Quick Contact” box at the bottom of this page, and we will be in touch with information on how you can help fight lawsuit abuse.
License plates dub New Jersey the “Garden State,” and while this densely populated state is known for growing eggplant, blueberries, and cranberries, it is also known for growing litigation. New Jersey is fertile land for plaintiffs’ lawyers, who use the state’s consumer protection laws and the court system’s easy access for out-of-state plaintiffs to bring frivolous lawsuits and score big payouts.
“Lawsuits against the food industry gain notoriety because they are viewed by the public as a shocking or humorous. But as the number of these suits grows, the novelty wears off. People begin to view these sorts of lawsuits as legitimate, and the prediction that food is the next tobacco (aka: the next big payday for trial attorneys) begins to sound less farfetched.” writes NJCJI President Marcus Rayner in an op-ed in the South Jersey Times.
I don’t know if you have noticed, but it seems like every fast food company out there is offering a new meal deal for $4 or $5. There is, however, one company that is noticeably missing from the advertising fray – Subway. We hate to be the ones to inform you if you hadn’t already heard, but the $5 Footlong is dead. Lawsuits have killed it. Continue reading
A selection of the need-to-know civil justice news for the week of March 12-18.