BP ARCO class action: A straight-up win for consumers

On Friday, January 31, 2014, the jury returned its verdict in favor of BP Oregon ARCO and am-pm minimarket gas purchasers. The jury found that BP recklessly violated the Oregon Unlawful Trade Practices Act. The 2.9 million class members are each entitled to make claims for $200. Media reports are here (OregonLive), here (KOIN-6), and here (KATU-2 pretrial)

Yes, that is a $580 million result. It is fair to say we are pleased. And proud.

We’re getting a lot of questions. I’ll try to answer some here.

So what’s next?

We are due back in court on March 7 to discuss the next round of proceedings. In the near future, we’ll start a claim form process. It’s really important that you file a claim form once the claim process opens. We do not know yet when that will happen, but we’ll note a number of resources for you here.

How do I stay informed?

We’ll continue to post updates here on this blog. We also add updates on our Facebook page. If you’re a user, like us there, and you’ll get updates and links back to the longer updates here.

You should also register with the official information page to receive official update information.

Do I need to take any action to protect my rights?

If you meet the class definition, you do not. We don’t know what requirements the court will set to prove claims. If you have access to receipts or bank records showing a gas debit card purchase with a transaction fee at Oregon ARCO or am-pm stations, it would be wise to save those documents. It may help you prove your claim.

When will consumers see their money?

Good question. BP has announced its intention to appeal. While the claim process could start as early as March (or maybe later), an appeal could string this out for years. That is why registration is important.


A few parting thoughts

We are deeply appreciative of the service provided by the jurors who served for three weeks in the trial in front of Hon. Jerome LaBarre. The entire case shows that a small group of determined consumers can take on a corporate giant like BP and have a fair trial in Oregon.

Further updates?

Well sure. When we know more, we’ll post it.

David Sugerman

Robert Neuberger and the hard farewell

Yesterday, Portland started cold and rainy. The rain lifted by mid morning, and we were graced with sun breaks and a crisp December day. And on that day, we said farewell to our friend, my office mate and colleague,  Robert Neuberger.

Robert and I started sharing office space a couple of years ago. I’ve known him and looked up to him since I was a young lawyer. He cut a large swath through the Oregon legal community. We’ve handled a number of cases together over the years. We’ve laughed and fought, but always we had each other’s back. And that is a rare, precious thing.

Robert lost his fight with cancer on Saturday. We all knew it was coming–he’s been sick for four years. Even as his time drew near, Robert maintained a positive, loving attitude and enjoyed finding humor in the tough circumstances.

When Robert first received the cancer diagnosis, he shrugged his shoulders and chose to dwell on the upside. “You know,” he said, “It could have been a piano falling out of a fourth floor window. Or a TriMet bus. In a crosswalk.”

It’s been a sad time for the family and many friends Robert left behind. We smiled and laughed through the tears yesterday and resolved to keep his memory alive. But I would be lying if I did not admit to a case of the blues. It’s a big rip out of the fabric of many lives.

Robert’s family plans a public memorial service. If you knew Robert and want details on the public memorial, feel free to contact me privately.

I don’t much believe in the idea of an afterlife, but I’m always quick to hedge my bets. So, Robert, if you’re somehow seeing this, you can chide me later or bust my chops for failing to find more laughs. I know how you hate my excuses, but see, a dear friend just died, and I’m damned short on humor. I suppose I should apologize. Or not.

David

BP Class Action Update: Class Notice

Finally. Class notice has started in our class action against BP. The case involves illegal debit card charges levied on Oregon gas purchasers. We’re suing under the Unlawful Trade Practices Act because BP violates the Oregon rules governing gasoline price advertising.

Here is a link to the class action notice website.

Trial is set to begin January 14, 2014. If we win, members of the class may be eligible to claim up to $200 for these illegal transactions. More detail as it becomes available. For those in the class, please visit the website. You might want to register there so that the administrator can contact you if that becomes important.

Want more information about the case? Go here and here.

Feel free to call us or email if you think you might be part of the class or if you have stories to share. I am lead counsel for the class.

 

David Sugerman

Timbers vs. Sounders; Sugerman vs. Sitcov: A win

My dear friend and Seattle-based colleague, Steve Sitcov, is a great guy. But as with all great and heroic types, he suffers a fatal flaw. And his fatal flaw is that he is a diehard fan of the Seattle Sounders Football Club. (I am putting a link only to show that I can be fair and evenhanded. The Sounders deserve no link love.)

I, on the other hand, am a totally committed fan of the greatest soccer team in the Northwest, if not all of North America, the Portland Timbers.  As the whole world knows–and by “whole world,” I mean fan-boys and -girls who live and breathe MLS soccer–our teams meet in the playoffs in the first round.

I’m not sure who exactly started the trash talking, but bets were laid this morning. Bets for the good, I might add.

Here is the deal. If (when, really) the Timbers win, Steve must donate $100 to the charity of my choosing. I chose Street Roots here in Portland because I am a total fan of how they go about publishing news and working on the issues of homelessness and poverty. Should the Sounders somehow manage to vanquish the much-loved Timbers, Steve has designated National Multiple Sclerosis Society to take my $100.

No doubt Steve and I will razz each other mercilessly over the course of the next 10 days, as our teams square off in their home-and-home, two-game series.  Regardless of the outcome, I will always love Steve even with his whole misguided Sounders thing.

David Sugerman

BP class action certified for ARCO station debit card fees

In our long running consumer case, Scharfstein v. BP West Coast Products, Judge LaBarre ruled late last week that the case may go forward as a class action. Judge LaBarre appointed David Sugerman and Tim Quenelle to serve as class counsel. Notice to the class is expected to go out in early November, and trial is set for January 14, 2014.

In the case, consumers claim that BP violated the Oregon Unlawful Trade Practices Act by improperly selling and advertising gas at ARCO stations and am-pm minimarkets. The gas stations advertise their prices without condition, but when consumers pay with debit cards, they are charged a fee–now $.35–on top of the gas purchase price. The consumers claim that the failures to disclose the charges and the addition of the charges on top of the total gas purchase violate Oregon law.

The class seeks $200 per consumer.

There is far to go on this case. If you have experience with these charges and would like to share your story with us, could you drop me a line or call us (503.228.6474)?

-David

Update: Class members’ brief filed in consumer fraud case against Career Ed Corp and Western Culinary Institute

On our long-running consumer fraud class action against Career Education Corp and Western Culinary Institute/Le Cordon Bleu Portland, I am pleased to report that we filed our answering brief in the Oregon Court of Appeals today. It’s a monster, and if the WordPress Gods are with me, it appears in PDF here: Brief – Answering FINAL

My dear friend and colleague, Maureen Leonard, joined our team to handle the briefing. The brief is her work, and it is a thing of beauty.

About the brief:

For consumers and class members-This is a technical brief on rules about procedure, appeals, and arbitration that might cause you to snooze. The gist is that Career Education Corp. was content to use the court system to enforce its rights and then when things were going bad, CEC sought to delay by filing another motion to compel arbitration.

For attorneys-The posture is such that this is something of a one-off brief and case. Still, if you want to see an appellate master at work, read Maureen’s work.

So next up is CEC/WCI/LCB-Portland reply brief. And then it is on to oral argument in front of a three-judge panel. We’ll keep you posted, of course.

David Sugerman

Sallie Mae collections against Western Culinary Institute/Le Cordon Bleu Portland students?

In our ongoing case against Career Education Corp. and Western Culinary Institute/ Le Cordon Bleu Portland, we’re continuing our work on the appeal. Background here.

There is an interesting development that may or may not be related. We’re hearing occasional reports that Sallie Mae may be upping its collection activities.

Sallie Mae recently sued a family from the Southern California culinary school in court. We also know that Sallie Mae has been contacting WCI/Le Cordon Bleu Portland students about outstanding balances.

The team is on the lookout for cases in which Sallie Mae has filed a collection lawsuits in court against Western Culinary/Le Cordon Bleu-Portland graduates.  If Sallie Mae starts to sue Oregon culinary students in Oregon court, we want to hear about it. It could have major impact on our case and help many, many graduates of Western Culinary/Le Cordon Bleu Portland.

So this is a bit of a reach out to WCI/Le Cordon Bleu-Portland graduates: If you are sued in a collections case by Sallie Mae, please call or contact us immediately. While it would certainly be a frightening prospect if Sallie Mae sues, it may provide us with significant opportunities.

If you are sued, it is very important that you act act quickly upon receipt of the papers. Usually we have 30 days from the date you are served within which to file an appearance. So that would make quick action important.

Because of the importance of this issue, feel free to circulate this to other graduates of Western Culinary Institute/Le Cordon Bleu Portland who are facing collections from Sallie Mae.

Meanwhile, we continue our work on the case against CEC. They may have slowed down the process, but we remain confident that they will face their day of reckoning.

David Sugerman

 

Food Poisoning: Townsend Farms

Very pleased to be working with Bill Marler, aka @bmarler, of Seattle’s Marler Clark LLC on a food poisoning Hepatitis A contamination case against Townsend Farms to be filed here in Oregon. I’ve long been a fan of Bill’s work. When I told my family I would be jumping this weekend, my teenage daughter described my excitement as a “man crush.” (Yikes!-that sounds kinda creepy.)

The case involves Hepatitis A contaminated fruit products sold through Costco stores. Townsend Farms manufactured the product. CDC recall information is here.

We will be filing a class action State court here in Oregon. Bill’s firm and the the Food Safety News blog are the best source of information on this litigation, though we will from time-to-time provide updates here as well.

Feel free to contact me if you have questions.

David Sugerman

 

Case update: Consumer fraud case against BP headed to trial

Yesterday, Judge LaBarre ruled from the bench on the parties’ motions for summary judgment in our pending consumer fraud against BP. He denied all motions. The case is going to trial.

Background on the case is here, here, and here. It arises out of BP gas sales at ARCO and am-pm mini-markets.

BP charges debit card customers a $.35 debit card fee but does not disclose the charge on its street signs, on its price signs or on its pumps.

Consumers argue that BP’s undisclosed debit card charge violates Oregon rules on gasoline sales.  The consumer fraud claim arises under the Oregon Unlawful Trade Practices Act, ORS 646.608(1)(u).

The Court deferred hearing the class certification motion until August 30, but that motion is fully briefed and ready to go. The Court took up the summary judgment motions. BP argued that it was entitled to summary judgment for a number of reasons, including that it wasn’t required to tell consumers that debit card users would be charged a fee on gas purchases.

A three-hour oral argument put both parties’ positions to the test.

Judge LaBarre announced his decision from the bench, ordered BP to obtain electronic data, and set a schedule for the remainder of the case, including a trial that starts January 13, 2014.

Good progress, to be sure. But far to go.

David Sugerman