What the Judges Have Said:
“The Court is well familiar with the Carlson Lynch firm given their appearances here in court. The Court is also familiar directly with the abilities of Mr. Carlson and Mr. Lynch as in my days of private practice, I think I litigated against both of them. I know from their representation of individuals here in this Court, as well as classes here in this Court, the firm provides exemplary service, very solid work product throughout the life of this case, as in all of their cases.” –Hon. Nora Barry Fischer, White v. 1 Person at a Time, LLC, (W.D. Pa. June 14, 2018).
“Class counsel have abundant experience as lead counsel in consumer class action litigation. Indeed, class counsel have frequently appeared before this Court. Other courts have routinely recognized class counsels’ adequacy . . . . This Court readily agrees with these other courts, and finds that Bruce Carlson and Gary Lynch are more than adequate counsel, and indeed are capable and diligent class action attorneys.” –Hon. Robert Horgos, In re Wireless Phone Equipment Replacement Insurance Litigation, (Allegheny Cty. Comm. Pl. 2004).
“The Court finds that plaintiffs’ counsel, Bruce Carlson and Gary Lynch, are experienced class counsel and that they have met all of the requirements of Rule 23(g)(1)(B) and (C). Consistent with the underlying purpose of Fed. R. Civ. P. 23, plaintiffs’ counsel have achieved, with utmost efficiency, a quality result for the entire class and are commended for the diligence and effective advocacy they have displayed on behalf of their clients.” –Hon. Francis Caiazza, Gualano v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc., (W.D. Pa. 2005).
Representative Current Cases:
Egan v. Live Nation (W.D. Pa. 17-cv-00445)
John Egan, who is dependent upon a wheelchair for mobility, is a member of his favorite band’s fan club. He knew that the band had scheduled a performance in Pittsburgh, his hometown. Through the band’s Facebook page, he obtained the numerical code which had to be used to purchase pre-sale tickets online from Live Nation/Ticketmaster. When Mr. Egan attempted to use that code to purchase tickets for accessible seats through the Ticketmaster website during the pre-sale, he was informed that no accessible seats were available. When Mr. Egan called the Ticketmaster help line, he was told that no accessible seats were sold during pre-sales and was instructed to call the concert venue directly (in addition to owning Ticketmaster, Live Nation also owns the concert venue at issue). He called the venue and they told him that they could not help him and directed him to call Live Nation/Ticketmaster. Mr. Egan complained that Defendant’s conduct was discriminatory and illegal. The customer service representative at the venue responded by saying that that “was not her problem.” Defendant’s actions made Mr. Egan feel like a second class citizen. Mr. Egan became sufficiently frustrated that he stopped trying to purchase tickets for the show through Live Nation/Ticketmaster.
Mr. Egan was upset enough by his experience that he contacted Bruce Carlson to explore the possibility of taking legal action against Live Nation/Ticketmaster. Mr. Carlson and Carlson Lynch investigated Mr. Egan’s complaints and learned that Ticketmaster has a long history of discriminatory conduct related to accessible seating issues, including a failure to make accessible seats available during pre-sales (in fact Ticketmaster entered into a consent decree with the United States Department of Justice regarding this issue in the mid-1990s). Mr. Carlson and Carlson Lynch thus agreed to represent Mr. Egan in a putative class action alleging that Live Nation/Ticketmaster discriminates against individuals with disabilities by not making tickets for accessible seating available during event pre-sales, in direct violation of applicable rules and regulations under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Live Nation filed a motion to stay discovery in the case pending the Third Circuit’s decision on the appeal of the arbitration issue. Mr. Egan opposed the motion to stay, asserting that the appeal is frivolous. On July 24, 2018, the Court issued an opinion and order denying Live Nation’s motion to stay discovery, agreeing with Mr. Egan’s position that the Live Nation appeal is frivolous.
Bruce Carlson and the Carlson Lynch team will now aggressively pursue discovery to explore the extent of Live Nation’s discriminatory conduct. They will ultimately seek an injunction requiring Live Nation/Ticketmaster to finally eliminate its discriminatory practices and to implement and maintain a policy that provides equal access to disabled consumers who attempt to use its services.
Accessible Hotel Transportation Cases
Bruce Carlson and Carlson Lynch represent disabled individuals in a group of more than twenty putative class cases that are currently pending in four different federal district courts. These cases challenge the accessibility of hotel shuttles, primarily on behalf of individuals who have mobility disabilities. As of late July 2018 seven of these cases have settled on an individual basis and two cases have settled on a class basis. Regardless of whether the settlements have been individual or class, the Plaintiffs all seek some variation on the same relief: an agreement to come into full compliance with the transportation services rules and regulations of the ADA across the defendants’ entire network of hotel properties, with robust post-agreement monitoring directed by Carlson Lynch to ensure that the requirements of the settlements are actually implemented.
These cases are illustrative of Mr. Carlson’s strategy of attempting to leverage industry-wide litigation to trigger broad compliance with the civil rights laws in a context that is as impactful as possible for the disabled community. The existence of inaccessible transportation services 25 years after the passage of the ADA creates daily, real life challenges for individuals with mobility impairments and other disabilities. Through this litigation, Mr. Carlson, the lawyers and staff at Carlson Lynch, and most significantly the disabled advocates who have become Plaintiffs in these cases hope to take significant steps to eliminate some of these unnecessary, and illegal, burdens.
Adkins v. Steward Health Care System, LLC (W.D. Pa. 18-cv-841)
Boston-based Steward Health Care System is the largest for-profit hospital operator in the United States. Plaintiff Samantha Adkins is a long-time patient at Steward-owned Sharon Regional Medical Center, which is her neighborhood hospital. Ms. Adkins is dependent upon a wheelchair for mobility. As a result of pervasive physical barriers at Sharon Regional, Ms. Adkins has long struggled to access basic health care services with her own medical care providers.
Ms. Adkins consulted with Bruce Carlson about the access challenges that she had experienced at Sharon Regional. Carlson Lynch investigators reviewed conditions at Sharon Regional and other Steward-owned facilities. After confirming that both the Sharon Regional facility and other health care facilities owned and/or operated by Steward had significant access issues, Mr. Carlson and Carlson Lynch filed a putative class action on Ms. Adkins behalf against Steward Health Care System. This case is newly filed and Steward has yet to respond to Ms. Adkins’ Complaint.
Mr. Carlson believes that massive consolidation in the health care services industry has contributed to the creation of large conglomerates that have a very spotty record, at best, when it comes to complying with federal and state laws mandating that health care services remain accessible to individuals with disabilities. Mr. Carlson and the lawyers and staff at Carlson Lynch are committed to representing disabled health care consumers in cases like this one to ensure that large providers of health care services comply with federal and state accessibility laws.
In re Community Bank of Northern Virginia Second Mortgage Loan Litigation/In re Rescap Bankruptcy Litigation (W.D.Pa./S.D.N.Y. Bankrptcy.)
For most people, taking out a mortgage loan is one of the largest, if not the largest, financial transactions in which they will ever participate. For that reason, federal law is calculated to ensure transparency in the mortgage process to facilitate the operation of a free market for mortgage settlement services. Theoretically, this will permit mortgage borrowers to compare the services and prices offered by competing settlement service providers.
However, as the famous investor Warren Buffett once lamented, “there will always be plenty of businesses which steer past the lines on the road, regardless of how profitable they might become by just steering straight down the middle.” That quip was made by Mr. Buffett when one of the very large businesses that he acquired ran afoul of federal law. The observation proved to be particularly prescient in the years leading to the US mortgage crisis in the mid-2000s.
During this time frame Bruce Carlson was contacted by a significant number of people around the country who had taken out second mortgage loans from a small community bank in Northern Virginia. Mr. Carlson was initially perplexed regarding how it was that a small, historically local, bank was engaged in such a huge volume of mortgage lending that was national in scope. He discovered that almost all of these loans were immediately sold to the same company on the secondary mortgage market after loan closing. He also learned that the settlement fees charged in connection with the loans were exponentially higher than the fees that were charged by any other lender similarly situated in the market place and the fees included charges for settlement services that were unnecessary in connection with a second mortgage loan. Working with his investigators, Mr. Carlson ultimately discovered what he believed to be a blatantly illegal practice in connection with the loans. That is, while the federally mandated HUD-1 settlement statements that were issued to borrowers in connection with the loans stated that all of the settlement fees charged to consumers were being paid to the Northern Virginia lender, the lender’s SEC filings indicated that in fact the majority of the fees were being paid to an undisclosed entity that was not providing any settlement services in connection with the loans and therefore was not eligible to receive any part of the settlement fees. Against this backdrop, Bruce Carlson filed a putative class action on behalf of the borrowers asserting violations of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (“RESPA”). Multiple related cases were eventually filed and all of the cases were ultimately consolidated in federal court in the Western District of Pennsylvania.
Mr. Carlson was appointed co-lead class counsel. These related matters have now been pending for over 15 years. Issues related to the initial case have been litigated before the United States Court of Appeals on three separate occasions, with Bruce Carlson arguing on behalf of plaintiffs in each of the three appeals. On July 31, 2013, the District Court (Schwab, J.) granted Plaintiffs’ motion for class certification in its entirety, including the certification of a RICO class (that decision was affirmed by the Third Circuit in a fifty page precedential opinion). In the winter of 2017 Mr. Carlson, Carlson Lynch co-founder Gary Lynch, and a team of Carlson Lynch lawyers and staff represented Plaintiffs in a thirteen day arbitration trial in the federal courthouse in Pittsburgh. The panel of arbitrators consisted of a former judge from the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania and two former litigation department heads at AmLaw 100 law firms. At the trial’s conclusion, the arbitration panel awarded $24 million dollars to the certified class of mortgage borrowers.
In addition to the proceedings in the Western District of Pennsylvania, Carlson Lynch pursued claims against one of the original defendants in a bankruptcy proceeding in the Southern District of New York. In that case, which the judge characterized as being the most complex bankruptcy that he had ever handled, Carlson Lynch represented one of only eight stakeholders on the unsecured creditors committee. In the fall of 2013, the bankruptcy court approved a class settlement on behalf of mortgage borrowers represented by Carlson Lynch in an allowed claim amount of $300 million dollars. Approximately $35 million of that settlement has been distributed to the class to date with a second distribution likely to occur in the late summer of 2018. As part of the settlement, the debtor (Rescap) assigned its insurance rights to plaintiffs to cover the difference between the amount distributed to the class through the bankruptcy and the $300 million allowed claim amount. The assignment of insurance rights has triggered additional litigation in the bankruptcy court over the terms of the insurance policies, and cross-motions for summary judgment are currently pending in the coverage action.
This case is illustrative of the type of consumer case that Bruce Carlson and Carlson Lynch have historically undertaken, as well as their willingness to commit whatever resources are necessary in pursuit of justice on behalf of their clients.
Webster et al. v. LLR, Inc. d/b/a LuLaRoe (W.D. Pa. 17-cv-225)
Bruce Carlson is class counsel in this putative class action challenging the unlawful collection of sales taxes by fashion merchandiser LuLaRoe in connection with clothing purchases by its customers in certain states, including Pennsylvania. Plaintiffs seek certification of 11 separate state sub-classes. Carlson Lynch represents named plaintiffs from each of those 11 states. The potential statutory damages sought by plaintiffs in this case exceed $200 million dollars.
Gennock v. General Nutrition Center (Allegheny Cty. Comm. Pl. GD-17-012532)
Bruce Carlson is class counsel in this putative class action asserting that nutritional supplement manufacturer GNC falsely marketed its L-Glutamine supplement products by misrepresenting that the products can accelerate post-workout muscle repair, when all of the credible scientific studies indicate that the products at issue have no efficacy in this regard. GNC is headquartered in Pittsburgh and Plaintiff seeks certification of a Pennsylvania class.
This case is illustrative of the type of false advertising cases that Bruce Carlson and Carlson Lynch typically handle. Ms. Gennock is a nurse and physical fitness buff who has routinely used various nutritional supplements to bolster her work out performance. She works hard and she works out hard. What she does not want to do is pay a premium price for a supplement product that cannot deliver the promised results.
Weiss v. Rite Aid Corporation, (Allegheny Cty. Comm. Pl. GD-18-006290)
Bruce Carlson is class counsel in this putative class action asserting that Rite Aid marketed certain skin care products as being “natural,” and therefore charged a premium price for the product, when the products in fact include multiple synthetic active ingredients.
Rite Aid is headquartered in Pennsylvania and Plaintiff seeks certification of a Pennsylvania class.
It has become a common marketing practice for consumer goods manufacturers to advertise their products as being “natural” to justify charging a premium price. If the product at issue is not, in fact, “natural,” there is no basis for the price premium and consumers are being scammed. This is another example of the types of false advertising cases handled by Bruce Carlson and Carlson Lynch.
Representative Prior Cases
ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Accessibility Litigation
For the last decade, Bruce Carlson has been counsel for plaintiffs in a substantial number of civil rights cases on behalf of disabled individuals to enforce federal and state accessibility laws. For example, in 2011 Carlson began to represent blind and visually impaired individuals who were seeking improved access to ATMs, Point of Sale devices, automated retail kiosks and websites.
During that same time frame, Carlson has represented individuals with limited mobility seeking to eliminate architectural barriers found in parking lots, paths of entry and business interiors. These cases have been prosecuted in federal courts throughout the country. Carlson has overcome motions to dismiss in over 25 cases without a single loss. Classes have been certified routinely in these cases. A substantial number of these cases have been settled, and in all of those cases the defendants have agreed to equitable relief calculated to guarantee the accessibility that has been required by the ADA for more than 25 years.
Through this litigation, Carlson Lynch, on behalf of its dedicated clients, has markedly increased accessibility for the disabled community across myriad industries and businesses.
Pitts v. NovaStar Home Loans, Inc., (S.D.Ga.)
Bruce Carlson was co-lead counsel for plaintiffs in this consumer fraud class action on behalf of subprime mortgage borrowers. The Southern District of Georgia was the MDL court for this litigation. The court denied Defendant’s motions to dismiss and Defendant’s motion for summary judgment. A Maryland state court granted Plaintiffs’ motion for class certification in a related case where Bruce Carlson was also co-lead counsel. After extensive discovery including depositions of several of Defendant’s top executives, including its CEO and CFO, the parties ultimately arrived at a class-wide cash settlement for $17.3 million. That money was distributed to the class several months before defendant filed for bankruptcy protection.
Kniess v. Heritage Valley Health Systems, Inc. (Allegheny Cty. C.P.)
Bruce Carlson was counsel for the class in this wage and hour class action alleging that defendant hospital system misclassified its nurse practitioners and physicians’ assistants as being exempt from eligibility for overtime. The case settled on a class basis with class members receiving the majority of back pay alleged by plaintiffs.
Beginning in late 2010, Bruce Carlson began filing class actions on behalf of consumers in more than 15 federal courts under the Electronic Funds Transfer Act (“EFTA”). These cases alleged that various ATM operators (primarily financial institutions) violated mandatory ATM fee disclosure requirements, and therefore were not permitted to impose transaction fees on ATM users at their machines. Motions to dismiss were granted in two of these cases based upon EFTA’s statutory safe harbor provisions, and Mr. Carlson appealed the dismissal to the Third Circuit on behalf of Plaintiffs. The Third Circuit panel agreed with Plaintiffs’ position and reversed the orders granting the motions to dismiss, and both of those cases were remanded for further proceedings, eventually settling on a class basis. Class settlements were negotiated by Mr. Carlson on behalf of Plaintiffs in more than 25 of these cases.
Bruce Carlson and Carlson Lynch have handled many cases similar to these. Consumer laws are calculated to create transparency and fairness in the marketplace for goods and services. When a business violates those laws it is not only taking advantage of consumers, it is also gaining an unfair competitive advantage against those businesses in its industry that follow the rules.
With offices in Pittsburgh, San Diego and Philadelphia, Carlson Lynch is well positioned to continue handling cases that seek to protect individual civil rights and ensure that consumers have a fair marketplace for goods and services.