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Suit against major bottled water brand will go forward

Plaintiffs claim Poland Spring is simply groundwater

A federal court judge in Connecticut has ruled that a class action lawsuit against Nestle Waters can proceed.

The ruling comes nearly a year after the court dismissed a nearly identical lawsuit, which claimed Nestle’s Poland Spring bottled water is merely groundwater, not spring water as the company claims. The suit, filed by a dozen plaintiffs who reside in eight different states, accuses Nestle of misleading consumers with deceptive claims.

“Nothing in the court’s recent decision undermines our confidence in our overall legal position,” a spokesman for Nestle Waters told Fox News. “We will continue to defend our Poland Spring Brand vigorously against this meritless lawsuit.”

The company says an independent investigation by a law firm confirmed that Poland Spring water meets all the Food and Drug Administration’s definitions of “spring water.” In the wake of the court’s latest ruling the company is doubling down on its position that its product is “100 percent natural spring water.”

Previous suit was dismissed

Nestle thought it had put this matter to rest last May. At that time the same federal judge in Connecticut, where the company is based, dismissed a similar suit filed by 11 plaintiffs.

The court dismissed the complaint after reviewing the results of an independent investigation into whether Poland Spring meets the requirements of the federal spring water standard.

At that time the company released a statement from former U.S. Senator George Mitchell (D-Me.), chairman emeritus of the law firm of DLA Piper, saying Poland Spring brand water sources “satisfy the requirements of the federal spring water identity standard, and as a result, the use of the term ‘spring water’ on Poland Spring labels is both accurate and appropriate.”

Both cases hinge on regulations covering water products, which are specific. The standards include:

  • The water flows naturally to the surface of the earth    

  • The water is collected only at the spring or through a borehole tapping the underground formation feeding the spring

  • A natural force causes the water to flow to the surface through a natural orifice

  • The location of the spring is identified    

  • Water collected with the use of an external force shall be from the same underground stratum as the spring, as shown by a measurable hydraulic connection using a hydrogeologically valid method between the borehole and the natural spring, and shall have all the physical properties, before treatment, and be of the same composition and quality, as the water that flows naturally to the surface of the earth.

The plaintiffs in the latest lawsuit claim the company’s marketing is deceptive, alleging that Poland Spring water comes from “phony man-made wells."

A federal court judge in Connecticut has ruled that a class action lawsuit against Nestle Waters can proceed.

The ruling comes nearly a year after the court dismissed a nearly identical lawsuit, which claimed Nestle’s Poland Spring bottled water is merely groundwater, not spring water as the company claims. The suit, filed by a dozen plaintiffs who reside in eight different states, accuses Nestle of misleading consumers with deceptive claims.

“Nothing in the court’s recen...

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    Facebook facing charges of housing discrimination in ad practices

    HUD has accused the company of violating the Fair Housing Act

    The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on Thursday announced that it’s charging Facebook with “discrimination” in its advertising practices for housing.

    In a complaint, HUD accused the company of violating the Fair Housing Act by "encouraging, enabling and causing" discrimination by excluding certain users from viewing housing ads on the platform.

    The group charges that Facebook willfully allowed advertisers to exclude people from seeing housing ads based on their neighborhood, interests, religion, race, and color, including whether they were “classified as parents, non-American-born, non-Christian, interested in accessibility, interested in Hispanic culture, or a wide variety of other interests that closely align with the Fair Housing Act’s protected classes.”

    “The Charge concludes that by grouping users who have similar attributes and behaviors (unrelated to housing) and presuming a shared interest or disinterest in housing-related advertisements, Facebook’s mechanisms function just like an advertiser who intentionally targets or excludes users based on their protected class,” HUD said in a statement.

    Accused of audience-targeting

    Last March, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) and three of its member groups sued Facebook over the same issue. The suit alleged that Facebook allowed landlords and real estate brokers to exclude certain groups from viewing advertisements for housing, despite being warned that targeting housing ads in this manner may violate fair housing laws.

    In a statement, Facebook said it was “surprised” by HUD’s decision. A company spokesperson noted that Facebook has been “working with them to address their concerns and have taken significant steps to prevent ads discrimination.”

    “Last year we eliminated thousands of targeting options that could potentially be misused, and just last week we reached historic agreements with the National Fair Housing Alliance, ACLU, and others,” the spokesperson said.

    HUD is seeking unspecified damages for any person who was harmed by Facebook’s advertising policies, as well as “the maximum civil penalty” against the company for each violation of housing laws.

    “Facebook is discriminating against people based upon who they are and where they live,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson said in a statement. “Using a computer to limit a person’s housing choices can be just as discriminatory as slamming a door in someone’s face.”

    The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on Thursday announced that it’s charging Facebook with “discrimination” in its advertising pract...
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    Johnson & Johnson subpoenaed by federal agencies over baby powder litigation​

    The pharmaceutical company has been asked to provide documents related to the safety of its baby product line

    Johnson & Johnson disclosed in its annual report on Wednesday that it received subpoenas from two federal agencies related to litigation involving its baby powder line.

    The Securities and Exchange Commission and Department of Justice have requested that the pharmaceutical giant produce documents that shed light on the safety of its baby powder products.

    The inquiries came in response to a Reuters report from December about product liability lawsuits against the company.

    Internal documents obtained by Reuters revealed that Johnson & Johnson had been aware since the 1970s that its talc and powder products occasionally tested positive for traces of asbestos -- a known carcinogen and lung irritant with no safe level of exposure. However, the company didn’t tell regulators or the public.

    J&J said the subpoenas “are related to news reports that included inaccurate statements and also withheld crucial information.”

    The company has denied the allegations presented in the Reuters report and argued that “decades of independent tests by regulators and the world’s leading labs prove Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder is safe and asbestos-free, and does not cause cancer.”

    Johnson & Johnson has been sued numerous times by consumers who claim they got cancer after using the company’s products. The company said it intends to "cooperate fully” with the latest federal inquiries about the safety of its talcum powder products and that it will "continue to defend J&J in the talc-related litigation.”

    Johnson & Johnson disclosed in its annual report on Wednesday that it received subpoenas from two federal agencies related to litigation involving its baby...
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    Woman sues Cabela’s for a crossbow lesson that ended with weapon recoiling into her eye

    A Texas woman claims she was not given proper instructions before shooting a crossbow for the first time

    A Texas woman’s first attempt to shoot a crossbow went horribly wrong, according to a lawsuit she filed against the retail chain Cabela’s, where she had her botched lesson.

    Tonya Kuykendall says in her lawsuit that she visited Cabela’s, the hunting and fishing store owned by Bass Pro Shops, in 2016 and asked to test out a crossbow equipped with a scope.

    The employee at the Waco, TX location where she visited, identified in the suit only as “Austin,” took her to the store’s shooting range. Kuykendall says she told him that it would be her first lesson.

    “In the range, as Ms. Kuykendall shot the bow for the first time, the bow recoiled and the equipped scope hit her left eye, causing her to scream in pain,” says the lawsuit, filed in the 74th State District Court in Texas and obtained by the Waco Tribune-Herald newspaper.  

    The suit alleges that Austin ignored Kuykendall as she screamed in pain.

    “In response to Ms. Kuykendall’s screams, ‘Austin’ began to laugh and asked if Ms. Kuykendall would like to shoot the bow again,” it says.

    “Virtually no recoil”

    Kuykendall says the injury required serious medical attention. She received a black eye, she alleges, and later needed to visit the emergency room to undergo a brain MRI and neurological exams. In addition to the eye injury, she says she also sustained nausea, headaches, and blurry vision, all symptoms of a concussion.

    The lawsuit says that Cabela's employees did not provide proper training and failed to render medical aid after the accident. Store managers told the Tribune-Herald that they could not comment and deferred the paper to corporate headquarters.

    The Bass Pro media line has not yet returned messages left by ConsumerAffairs.

    Crossbows are often portrayed as the safer alternative to hunting with rifles. Recoil, or when a weapon is forced backward after firing off at a target, can potentially injure the shooter if they are not properly trained. But recoil is typically thought of something that only happens with certain firearms, not crossbows.

    An owners manual put out by Cabela’s for one crossbow product claims that hunters should use the scope without worrying at all about any recoil.

    “For optimum accuracy, follow through your shot by aiming and watching the arrow hit your target through your scope,” the owner’s manual says. “There is virtually no recoil in a crossbow, so relax and hold the crossbow comfortably.”

    A Texas woman’s first attempt to shoot a crossbow went horribly wrong, according to a lawsuit she filed against the retail chain Cabela’s, where she had he...
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    Verizon blames employee error for firefighters' data interruption during California fires

    During California’s biggest wildfire on record, a fire department vehicle’s service was compromised

    When a fire department vehicle’s wireless service was interrupted in the midst of California’s biggest wildfire, the wireless provider -- Verizon -- pointed its fingers at a customer service error.

    In a court filing this week, the Santa Clara Fire Department said one of its crews had its service significantly affected as it was fighting a wildfire at the Mendocino Complex.

    “County Fire has experienced throttling by its ISP, Verizon,” Santa Clara County Fire Chief Anthony Bowden wrote in the filing. “This throttling has had a significant impact on our ability to provide emergency services. Verizon imposed these limitations despite being informed that throttling was actively impeding County Fire’s ability to provide crisis-response and essential emergency services.”

    Recent issues with Verizon

    The fire department paid for an unlimited plan with Verizon but allegedly experienced a great deal of throttling until the plan was upgraded.

    “The internet has become an essential tool in providing fire and emergency response, particularly for events like large fires which require the rapid deployment and organization of thousands of personnel and hundreds of fire engines, aircraft, and bulldozers,” Bowden wrote.

    Bowden noted that Verizon’s throttling affected “OES 5262” -- a control and command that aids in tracking and deploying resources for firefighters wherever the need is greatest around the state and country.

    “In the midst of our response to the Mendocino Complex Fire, County Fire discovered the data connection for OES 5262 was being throttled by Verizon, and data rates had been reduced to 1/200, or less, than the previous speeds,” Bowden wrote. “These reduced speeds severely interfered with OES 5262’s ability to function effectively.”

    After communicating with Verizon about the throttling, Bowden said the wireless provider’s representatives said the issue wouldn’t be resolved until the fire department switched to a new plan -- at double the cost.

    Verizon released a statement earlier this week, admitting to being at fault for throttling the services. It labeled the issue as a miscommunication.

    “Like all customers, fire departments choose service plans that are best for them. This customer purchased a government contract plan for a high-speed wireless data allotment set at a monthly cost. Under this plan, users get an unlimited amount of data but speeds are reduced when they exceed their allotment until the next billing cycle. Regardless of the plan emergency responders choose, we have a practice to remove data speed restrictions when contacted in emergency situations,” Verizon said.

    “We have done that many times, including for emergency personnel responding to these tragic fires. In this situation, we should have lifted the speed restriction when our customer reached out to us. This was a customer support mistake. We are reviewing the situation and we will fix any issues going forward.”

    Net neutrality

    Earlier this week, 22 state attorneys general filed a brief asking the appeals court to reinstate the net neutrality laws that were founded under the Obama administration. Bowden’s declaration was submitted as an addendum to the brief that was filed with the states, the District of Columbia, Santa Clara County, Santa Clara County Central Fire Protection District, and the California Public Utilities Commission.

    There was much speculation that Verizon’s service interference was a product of net neutrality regulations, as opposed to what they are calling a customer service error. The beginnings of Verizon’s service throttling was documented in fire department emails on June 29 -- just weeks after the repeal of net neutrality.

    All major carriers implemented some form of network throttling -- even when net neutrality laws were in place -- when customers went over their data threshold on unlimited plans. While such instances were limited to times of network congestion, the Santa Clara Fire Department reported throttling at all times once going over their allotted 25GB a month.

    When a fire department vehicle’s wireless service was interrupted in the midst of California’s biggest wildfire, the wireless provider -- Verizon -- pointe...
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    Tesla sues former employee, claiming sabotage

    But the ex-employee says he was simply a whistleblower

    Tesla is suing a former employee it claims hacked company systems and revealed confidential information to outside sources. But the ex-employee, Martin Tripp, says he was simply a whistleblower who was alarmed at how CEO Elon Musk was running the company.

    Tesla has been beset by problems in recent months, and on Monday Musk sent an email to employees that appeared to pin some of the blame on an unnamed employee that the executive accused of sabotage. On Wednesday, Tesla filed suit against Tripp without saying whether he was the unnamed employee mentioned in the email.

    The suit accuses Tripp of writing software to hack into the company's system, transferring reams of data to “outside entities.” Among the information taken from the company, the suit alleges there were "dozens of confidential photographs and a video of Tesla's manufacturing systems."

    The suit further claims that the ex-employee wrote computer code that would send Tesla data to people outside the company, in violation of Tesla policy. Tripp is also accused of making false statements about Tesla to the media – in particular, statements about the condition of batteries in some Tesla Model 3s.

    Tripp denies

    In an interview with the Washington Post, Tripp denied that he tampered with Tesla computer systems but confirmed that he gave information to a reporter for Business Insider because he was seeing “some really scary things” going on at Tesla.

    Tripp said he told reporters that he saw “dangerously punctured batteries” being installed in Model 3s. Tesla has denied that charge.

    The Business Insider article using Tripp as a source cast the company in an unflattering light, claiming it was using “an insane amount” of raw materials to make the Model 3, and still couldn't get it right.

    The article claimed internal company documents it received showed that as much as 40 percent of the raw materials going into batteries and driving units had to be discarded or reworked before going to the company's assembly plant.

    At the time, Tesla told the publication that a higher-than-normal scrap rate is to be expected in early stages of the production process. Tesla has struggled to meet production goals for the Model 3, a car it introduced in 2017, requiring customers to place a $1,000 deposit with their order.

    Revenge?

    Tesla's suit against Tripp claims a revenge motivation. It said the former employee became a problem early in his tenure with the company.

    “Within a few months of Tripp joining Tesla, his managers identified Tripp as having problems with job performance and at times being disruptive and combative with his colleagues,” the suit alleges.

    As a result, Tesla says Tripp was reassigned to a new role last month, after which he expressed anger at the company's action.

    Tesla is suing a former employee it claims hacked company systems and revealed confidential information to outside sources. But the ex-employee, Martin Tri...
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    Claim that Roundup caused man's cancer goes to trial in California

    The dying plaintiff is suing Monsanto, the company that makes it

    A trial is getting underway in California today in which a consumer who used Monsanto's weedkiller Roundup claims the product caused his cancer.

    Forty-six year-old Dewayne Johnson is the first of hundreds of plaintiffs against the chemical giant to have his case heard in court. Johnson worked as a school groundskeeper and, during the course of his job, says he regularly used Roundup to keep grass and weeds under control.

    Johnson's case was bumped to the top of the heap after his attorney informed the court that his client was near death. Under California law, dying patients have the right to an expedited court hearing.

    The issue in the case is whether Roundup causes cancer, and if so, whether Monsanto adequately warned consumers. Monsanto has vigorously argued that its product does not cause cancer.

    World Health Organization has doubts

    The World Health Organization (WHO) isn't so sure. Three years ago it found that the main ingredient in Roundup, an herbicide called glyphosate, is "probably carcinogenic to humans."

    A year ago the state of California officially classified glyphosate as a chemical known to cause cancer under the state's Proposition 65. That law requires Roundup sold in California to carrying a warning label to that effect.

    Monsanto sought to block the move, calling it "unwarranted on the basis of science and the law," but a court dismissed the company's challenge.

    Environmentalists have put Roundup under the microscope since the WHO finding in 2015. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) argued the state of California should have set much lower exposure limits than those that were finally adopted.

    Shorter pregnancies

    Earlier this year, a peer-reviewed study found that women in agriculture-intensive areas of Indiana tended to have shorter pregnancies if they had been regularly exposed to glyphosate, which is used in agriculture as well as to control weeds in suburban lawns.

    “Glyphosate is the most heavily used herbicide worldwide but the extent of exposure in human pregnancy remains unknown,” researchers from Indiana University wrote in the journal Environmental Health.

    For its part, Monsanto argues that its product has undergone rigorous testing and is the subject of more than 800 studies that have established its safety.

    "We have empathy for anyone suffering from cancer, but the scientific evidence clearly shows that glyphosate was not the cause," said Scott Partridge, Monsanto's vice president of strategy, in a statement to the media. "We look forward to presenting this evidence to the court."

    A trial is getting underway in California today in which a consumer who used Monsanto's weedkiller Roundup claims the product caused his cancer.Forty-s...
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    Panera Bread to face jury trial for franchise that added peanut butter to allergic child’s sandwich

    A judge has determined that the family’s lawsuit can move forward

    Panera Bread’s grilled cheese sandwiches don’t come with peanut butter, but as a precaution, Elissa Russo says she advised a Massachusetts store that her daughter has a severe peanut allergy -- twice. She was ordering the meal online and had left warnings about her daughter’s allergy throughout the “comments” sections in the delivery portal.  

    After the food arrived, Russo’s six-year-old took one bite into her grilled cheese and said it tasted funny. Her parents opened the sandwich and saw about two tablespoons of peanut butter inside. The girl was hospitalized and suffered post-traumatic stress from her near-death experience, her family said in 2016.

    Now, the lawsuit that the Russos originally filed two years ago is set to head to a jury after a Massachusetts judge on Thursday rejected Panera Bread’s arguments that it should not be responsible for what happens at its franchise locations.

    “A jury could find that a national chain was negligent based on how a franchise served a child with a food allergy,” the family's attorney told the Boston Globe on Friday.

    Confused by order

    The girl's father John Russo had said that the franchise manager initially blamed a confused worker with a language barrier for the mix-up, but Russo was unconvinced, noting that the word for “allergy” in both Spanish and Portuguese is the markedly similar “alergia.”

    However, at a deposition last year, the worker who was reportedly responsible for making the sandwich said, through a Spanish translator, that she was “really confused” by the online order.

    She admitted to putting peanut butter in the sandwich but portrayed it as a genuine mistake.

    The Russo family is suing both the Panera Bread corporate chain and the owner of the franchise, PR Franchise Group, for negligence, assault and battery, and intentional or reckless infliction of emotional distress.

    “This ought to be a warning bell to restaurants that it could be considered civil assault and battery to serve an allergen to someone who has a severe allergy,” the family’s attorney added to the Globe.

    Fatal allergic reactions

    Lawsuits accusing restaurants of poisoning patrons with food allergies typically don’t get very far if the judge presiding over the case buys the food industry's arguments that restaurant patrons are responsible for their own health.

    But in several lawsuits in recent years, people suing restaurants have successfully convinced juries that they or their loved ones had taken extra steps to warn restaurant workers about their allergies, only to get burned anyway.

    In Canada, a hunter said he was assured by his waitress that the cheesecake he wanted did not contain any nuts. His resulting allergic reaction cost the waitress and the local Travelodge $25,000 after a jury determined that the waitress hadn’t bothered to check an ingredients list in the kitchen indicating that the cheesecake contained walnuts.

    And in the United Kingdom, a 38-year-old bar manager was found dead in his home, near a food container that had “no peanuts” written on it. The restaurant he ordered take-out from had switched from using almond powder to a cheaper, peanut-based nut mix in its Tikka Masala and did not tell consumers. Restaurant owner Mohammed Zaman was charged with manslaughter and sentenced to six years in prison in 2016 for the patron’s death.

    Research has shown that food allergies are on the rise in children. Anecdotally, some parents of children with severe allergies have described facing snarky comments or worse from people who apparently don’t believe that their children’s allergies are real.

    One study in the journal Pediatrics found that “bullying is common in food-allergic children.”

    Panera Bread’s grilled cheese sandwiches don’t come with peanut butter, but as a precaution, Elissa Russo says she advised a Massachusetts store that her d...
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    CEO of Bumble Bee Foods indicted on price-fixing charge

    The Justice Department claims the executive conspired with other tuna companies to set prices

    Federal prosecutors have secured an indictment against Christopher Lischewski, the CEO of Bumble Bee Foods, on one count of price fixing.

    The indictment, returned by a grand jury in San Francisco, claims that Lischewski conspired with others in the industry, from November 2010 to December 2013, to set prices for canned tuna.

    Through his lawyer, Lischewski said he is innocent.

    "When the facts are known and the truth emerges, Mr. Lischewski will be found not guilty, and that vindication will rightfully restore his good name," attorney John Keker said in a statement to the media.

    Lengthy investigation

    Prosecutors began investigating possible price collusion in the canned tuna industry during the Obama administration, focusing on three companies – Bumble Bee, StarKist, and Chicken of the Sea. Former StarKist executive Stephen Hodge entered a guilty plea to a price-fixing charge in 2017.

    In a separate action, retail giant Walmart filed a civil suit last year claiming that the industry illegally set canned tuna prices over a five-year period.

    “The Antitrust Division is committed to prosecuting senior executives who unjustly profit at the expense of their customers,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “American consumers deserve free enterprise, not fixed prices, so the Department will not tolerate crimes like the one charged in today’s indictment.”

    Defrauding consumers

    FBI Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett said the indictment shows that corporate executives will be held accountable for actions that occur on their watch, especially when they “defraud American families.”

    According to the National Fisheries Institute, U.S. consumers eat about 1 billion pounds of canned and pouched tuna a year. Only coffee and sugar exceed canned tuna in sales per foot of shelf space in grocery stores. In 2007, Americans ate 2.7 pounds of canned tuna per capita.

    The one-count felony indictment claims that Lischewski, through meetings and other forms of communication, carried out a conspiracy by agreeing to fix the prices of packaged seafood.

    The Justice Department says Bumble Bee Foods has already pleaded guilty and been sentenced to pay a criminal fine of at least $25 million as a result of the investigation.

    Federal prosecutors have secured an indictment against Christopher Lischewski, the CEO of Bumble Bee Foods, on one count of price fixing.The indictment...
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    Fair housing group sues government over discrimination enforcement

    The complaint alleges HUD lacked authorization to suspend tougher housing discrimination rules

    A watchdog against discrimination in housing is suing the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) after the agency suspended an Obama administration housing protection.

    In its complaint, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) claims the Trump administration did not have the authority to suspend a federal requirement for state and local governments to show they were cracking down on housing discrimination in order to continue receiving money from HUD.

    In January, HUD Secretary Ben Carson announced a five-year delay in implementing the “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” rule, put in place by the Obama administration in 2015. Carson admitted to not being a fan of the rule, calling it “social engineering.”

    Reason for the 2015 rule

    The complaint alleges that HUD had never actively enforced a requirement, contained in the 50 year-old Fair Housing Act, requiring HUD to administer its programs in ways that support the aims of the Fair Housing Act, which was to end discrimination in housing.

    “Although this Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) requirement was of great importance to Congress in enacting the Act, for decades, HUD inadequately enforced it,” the group said in its suit.

    “The agency has permitted more than 1,200 grantees—mostly local and state government entities—to collectively accept billions of dollars in federal housing funds annually without requiring them to take meaningful steps to address racial segregation and other fair housing problems that have long plagued their communities.”

    NHFA says that was the rationale behind the Obama administration's 2015 rule, which was meant to force state and local governments to take meaningful steps to address housing segregation within their jurisdictions. By suspending the rule, the group says HUD is going back to a way of operating that has, in many ways, ignored the aims of the Fair Housing Act.

    Why the rule was suspended

    A HUD spokesman declined to comment specifically on the suit, but he referred reporters to the agency's January statement which explained that the rule was being suspended because it wasn't working very well.

    As it observed the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act last month, NHFA issued its 2018 Fair Housing Trends Report, noting that it had processed more than a half million housing discrimination complaints since 1996. It said there were more than 28,000 housing discrimination complaints in 2017 alone.

    “The biggest obstacle to fair housing rights is the federal government’s failure to enforce the law vigorously,” the report concluded.

    A watchdog against discrimination in housing is suing the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) after the agency suspended an Obama administrat...
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    Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay millions in talcum powder lawsuit

    A man claims he developed cancer because of asbestos in talc-based products

    Johnson & Johnson has been sued thousands of times over the past few years over its marketing of talcum powder. Many women have claimed the company knew of a link between ovarian cancer and talc use for decades.

    Asbestos-related lawsuits are the most recent challenge for the pharmaceutical giant. The latest lawsuit to hit the company was filed by a man, Stephen Lanzo, who alleged that he developed mesothelioma after inhaling dust that was generated through his regular use of Johnson & Johnson talc powder products since his birth in 1972 to approximately 2003.

    On Thursday, a New Jersey state court jury ordered Johnson & Johnson and Imerys SA to pay at least $37 million in damages in the case. The jury awarded Lanzo $30 million and his wife $7 million after finding Johnson & Johnson responsible for 70 percent of the damages and Imerys (the company’s talc supplier) responsible for 30 percent.

    J&J denies claims

    The second phase of the trial is set to begin next week. On Tuesday, the jurors will decide whether to award punitive damages. Johnson & Johnson said it was disappointed by the jury’s most recent decision.

    “While we are disappointed with this decision, the jury has further deliberations to conduct in this trial and we will reserve additional comment until the case is fully completed,” Carol Goodrich, a spokeswoman for Johnson & Johnson, said in a statement.

    Johnson & Johnson maintains that its products are not carcinogenic and have never contained traces of asbestos fibers.

    “Since the 1970s, talc used in consumer products has been required to be asbestos-free, so JOHNSON’S talc products do not contain asbestos, a substance classified as cancer-causing. JOHNSON’S Baby Powder products contain only U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP) grade talc, which meets the highest quality, purity and compliance standards,” a statement on the company’s website reads.

    More than 6,600 talcum powder lawsuits have been filed against the company by female plaintiffs who were diagnosed with ovarian cancer following years of genital talc use. The New Jersey verdict is the first trial loss for J&J in a lawsuit over claims that talc products contain cancer-causing asbestos, Reuters reported.

    Johnson & Johnson has been sued thousands of times over the past few years over its marketing of talcum powder. Many women have claimed the company knew of...
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    Target reaches settlement in employment discrimination suit

    The retailer will pay $3.7 million and upgrade its hiring practices

    Target has reached a settlement with plaintiffs who sued the retailer, claiming racial and ethnic discrimination in its hiring practices.

    The company has agreed to pay $3.74 million and upgrade its hiring practices, although it did not admit to any wrongdoing.

    The lawsuit alleged that Target's practice of using criminal background checks served to exclude racial minorities from its workforce. The plaintiffs charged that Target had "imported the racial and ethnic disparities" present in the criminal justice system into its hiring process. The result, the suit charged, was job applicants were rejected for convictions unrelated to the work they sought.

    “Target’s background check policy was out of step with best practices and harmful to many qualified applicants who deserved a fair shot at a good job,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. “Criminal background information can be a legitimate tool for screening job applicants, but only when appropriately linked to relevant questions such as how long ago the offense occurred and whether it was a non-violent or misdemeanor offense.”

    Ifill said the Target process was overly broad, unfairly limiting opportunities for minority applicants due to widespread discrimination at every stage in the criminal justice system.

    "We commend Target for agreeing to this settlement, which will help create economic opportunities for deserving Americans,” Ifill said.

    In a statement to the media, a Target spokeswoman said the company no longer asks applicants to list a criminal history but still conducts criminal background checks late in the hiring process.

    Plaintiffs sought jobs as stockers

    The plaintiffs are black and charged Target didn't hire them for jobs as stockers after the company discovered prior convictions. The Fortune Society, an organization that assists former prisoners reenter society, was also a plaintiff in the suit.

    The suit was filed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from discriminating based on race, gender, and other characteristics.

    Under the settlement, which awaits a judge's approval, Target applicants who can show they were denied employment after a criminal background check may share $1.2 million of the settlement, or receive another chance at a job.

    Non-profit groups that help people with criminal backgrounds reenter the workforce will receive about $600,000.

    Target has reached a settlement with plaintiffs who sued the retailer, claiming racial and ethnic discrimination in its hiring practices.The company ha...
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