Category Archives: National Economy

Los Angeles files lawsuit versus US Bank over Nuisance Properties

On the heels of major mortgage lending settlements involving Wells Fargo ($175 million) and Bank of America/Countrywide ($335 million) , this week Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich filed a civil law enforcement action against the fifth largest commercial bank in the United States, US Bank, alleging that hundreds of foreclosed properties have fallen into serious disrepair and the alleged illegal eviction of hundreds of low-income tenants.  Click here to read a copy of the 103 page complaint.

The case was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court: People v. U.S. Bank NA et al, Superior Court of California, Los Angeles County, No. BC488436

The City Attorney’s complaint focuses on more than 170 properties as examples of US Bank’s illegal conduct. The complaint alleges violations of federal, state and municipal laws regulating housing conditions, nuisance properties and tenancies by US Bank. Specifically, the City alleges cause of action under the California Unfair Competition Law and the Los Angeles Municipal Code, which encompass a myriad of violations, including California Public Nuisance laws, the Los Angeles Vacant Building Ordinance and the Los Angeles Rent Stabilization Ordinance, among others.

The lawsuit seeks immediate injunctive relief, including a complete inventory, registration and inspection of foreclosed properties; compliance with all applicable state and municipal code requirements; and a stop to all illegal evictions.

The City Attorney is also seeking restitution to current and former tenants for amounts paid in excess of the actual value of their units and unpaid relocation fees; reimbursement to the City for costs of repair, abatement, inspection and investigation; and penalties.

BP the Exception? New Report Details Corporate Evasion of Environmental Laws

At the Huffington Post, Anthony Tarricone, president of the American Association for Justice, wrote, “Unfortunately, it is only through disaster or tragedy when people begin to understand why a strong civil justice system is so necessary.”

As “the devastation from BP’s oil rig disaster grows, today the American Association for Justice released a new report detailing how corporations have evaded environmental laws for decades, only to later be held accountable and responsible for clean-up through the civil justice system.”

Given “the history of corporate behavior in the wake of such disasters, it is clear trial attorneys and the civil justice system will play a vital role in holding BP accountable and helping to return the Gulf to the state it once was.”

Statement by President Obama on Oil Liability

In the wake of Republican Senator Jim Inhofe’s blocking of a Democratic proposal on Tuesday to boost the liability cap on oil spills from the current $75 million to $10 billion, President Barack Obama released this statement today on the issue of Oil Liability:

“I am disappointed that an effort to ensure that oil companies pay fully for disasters they cause has stalled in the United States Senate on a partisan basis. This maneuver threatens to leave taxpayers, rather than the oil companies, on the hook for future disasters like the BP oil spill. I urge the Senate Republicans to stop playing special interest politics and join in a bipartisan effort to protect taxpayers and demand accountability from the oil companies.”

Federal Government Still Investigating Toyota Recall

As a followup to our post on knowing the facts about the Toyota recall, the Associated Press is reporting that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood “sharply criticized” Toyota and accused the automaker of being “‘a little safety deaf’ to mounting evidence of problems.” LaHood also told the AP “that federal safety officials had to ‘wake them up’ to the seriousness of the safety issues that eventually led Toyota to recall millions of popular brands like Camry and Corolla. That included a visit to Toyota’s offices in Japan to convince them to take action.”

In addition, the Detroit News reports that a “senior” DOT official confirmed that “NHTSA is considering imposing civil penalties on Toyota for its conduct.” The News notes that under US law, “automakers can be fined $16.375 million per recall.” Meanwhile, “Toyota didn’t directly address LaHood’s criticisms in its own statement.”

Providence Attorney Stands Up to Debt Collectors

Kudos to Providence lawyer and public relations strategist John Longo for standing up for consumers against the illegal and unethical practices of debt collectors.  NBC-10 political analyst Jim Taricani reports the story:

Providence lawyer John Longo has filed dozens of lawsuits against collection companies. He said a debt collector can not threaten to call your supervisor.

“One of the more common things they do is threaten to call your boss or employer and disclose to them you owe a debt. That’s absolutely prohibited under federal law,“ he said.

The man who’s embarrassed about the credit card debt he can’t pay, said he was harassed and getting multiple calls each day.

“Three hours later, the same company called me again. I said, ‘I just got done talking to somebody who works at your company. I’m out of work and been out of work since 2007 and I don’t have the money to pay,‘“ he said. “I actually was put on high-blood pressure medicine because of the (harassment).“

Longo said once you tell a debt collector you don’t have the money, the collector is supposed to suspend calls for at least a couple of weeks.

Longo said you can put a stop to the nagging calls.

“A lot of good people are having a tough time paying their bills. Debt collectors are getting increasingly abusive and harassing to try to bully people into paying. They are not allowed to do that under federal law,“ Longo said.

Longo said debt collectors cannot:

– Call you at work or threaten to disclose your debt to your employer
– Call your friends and neighbors and disclose your debt
– Keep calling your home every day if you tell them you don’t have the money

Know the Facts about the Toyota Recall

Toyota has expanded the recall of several models of cars troubled by uncontrolled acceleration (see full list of recalls here).  The recall now includes 2.3 million vehicles including the popular Camry and Corolla models.

Bloomberg News reports that Toyota “faces lawsuits involving at least three deaths that allegedly link so-called sudden acceleration to other causes. Consumers also filed at least three class-action, or group, lawsuits, in November and another last week” in which they “blame the sudden acceleration on the vehicles’ electronic throttle-control system, known as the ETCS-Intelligent System.” Also, “plaintiffs’ lawyers claim that Toyota knew of the sudden acceleration problem for years before the November recall.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that attorneys across the country are hearing from Toyota owners regarding accidents, injuries, deaths or fears regarding their cars. Some are complaining of economic damages from a decline in their car’s resale value. Some experts say they expect Toyota to settle suits.

Meanwhile the USA Today reports that, “CTS, a global operation that supplies the pedals to Toyota (TM), isn’t even the top dog in the arcane world of accelerator pedal suppliers. It holds less than 20% of the global market for such assemblies.” But “all the Toyota vehicles in the pedal recall have CTS assemblies.”

Finally, the New York Times reports that Congress will begin investigating the Toyota recall and with the “involvement of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Toyota faces the most publicized investigation in the industry since problems with Firestone tires on Ford Explorers and other vehicles early last decade.”

If you are have had been injured as a result of a stuck accelerator pedal in a recalled Toyota vehicle, contact a lawyer today.

Pfizer agrees to $2.3 billion drug-marketing settlement

Yesterday, the United States government hit Pfizer, the world’s largest drugmaker, with a record $2.3 billion in fines for violating federal drug marketing rules.  Among other things, Pfizer was accused of promoting the pain medication Bextra [valdecoxib] for unapproved uses. The penalties came from admitting that the painkiller Bextra and 12 other drugs were promoted for what’s known as off-label use, which the FDA says put public health at risk in the process.

It was reported that Bextra became a top-seller, bringing in $1.2 billion a year, as sales reps assured doctors it could be used not just for arthritis, but for any acute pain. The main whistleblower, a former company sales rep, said in a statement, ‘at Pfizer, I was expected to increase profits at all costs, even when sales meant endangering lives. I couldn’t do that.'” Meanwhile, “in exchange for hearing company sales pitches, doctors were paid up to $1,500 to attend meetings, and were treated to conferences at lush resorts, given air fare, hotels, meals, even massages

“The Justice Department described Wednesday’s settlement as the largest in its history,” according to the Los Angeles Times. “The settlement reflects an emphasis by the Obama administration on holding US healthcare corporations accountable for their activities, especially in trying to market drugs to patients and doctors for uses that have not been approved, Justice Department officials and legal experts said.”