Our firm champions the interests of consumers under a variety of state and federal consumer protection laws. Most frequently, these cases are brought as class actions, though under certain circumstances an individual action may be appropriate.
A typical class action is a case in which many affected consumers have a claim, but the monetary value of each claim is relatively small. When a consumer has a claim but the monetary damage he or she has suffered is not large, it may be difficult or impossible for the consumer to obtain legal protection of his or her rights or to bring a lawsuit to enforce those rights, because the cost of pursuing the claim is greater than the value of the claim itself.
Our firm has decades of experience representing wronged consumers, employees, and borrowers in state and federal court under statutes and laws that govern consumer protection, predatory lending, ERISA, truth in lending, fair debt collection, and many others. Some class action cases in which the law firm was lead counsel or actively involved co-counsel include the following:
- Anthony v. Koch Industries, No. 1:05CV00806 (M.D.N.C.) (class action claims arising under ERISA in regard to a retiree benefit plan – class settlement and fee motion were approved by orders filed September 7, 2007);
- George v. Duke Energy Retirement Cash Balance Plan, No. 8:06-CV-373 (D.S.C.) (class action claims arising under ERISA in regard to a pension plan – class action settlement approved by order filed May 16, 2011 – class settlement and fee approved);
- Merkner v. AK Steel, No. 1:09-CV-423-TSB (S.D. Ohio) (class action arising under ERISA in regard to employee welfare benefits – class settlement and fee approved);
- Lowther v. AK Steel, No. 1:11 cv 877 (S.D. Ohio) (class action arising under ERISA in regard to employee welfare benefits – class settlement and fee approved);
- Curtis v. Alcoa Inc., No. 3:06-CV-448 (E.D. Tenn.) (mass and class action claims arising under ERISA in regard to retirement medical benefits);
- Mills v. Hendrick Automotive, No. 04 CVS 2301 (Union County Superior Court) (class action against car dealer chain – class settlement and fee approved);
- Clark v. Alan Vester Auto Group, No. 06 CVS 141 (Vance County Superior Court) (class action against car dealer chain – class settlement and fee approved);
- Owens and Price v. Automobile Protection Corp. and Sonic Automotive, class arbitration before the American Arbitration Association, Consolidated Case No. 30 459 00642 05, and in state and federal court (unfair and deceptive finance and sales practices involving car dealer chain – class settlement and fee approved);
- Kucan v. Advance America, No. 04-CVS-2860 (New Hanover County Superior Court) (class action against payday lender – class settlement and fee approved);
- Hager v. Check into Cash, No. 04-CVS-2859 (New Hanover County Superior Court) (same – class settlement and fee approved);
- McQuillan v. Check n Go, No. 04-CVS-2858 (New Hanover County Superior Court) (same – class settlement and fee approved);
- Knox v. First Southern Cash Advance, No. 05-CVS-0445 (New Hanover County Superior Court) (action against payday lender);
- Torrence v. Nationwide Budget Finance, 05-CVS-0447 (New Hanover County Superior Court) (same);
- Murdock v. Rebate Cash Advance, No. 06-CVS-1865 (Iredell County Superior Court) and AAA class arbitration (class action/arbitration against payday lender – class settlement and fee petition approved);
- Inetianbor v. CashCall, 0:2013cv60066 (S.D. Fla.) (class action against lender – class settlement and motion for attorney fee approved);
- Johnson v. Duke Energy Retirement Cash Balance Plan, et al., No. 1:13-cv-00156-WO-JEP (M.D.N.C.) (ERISA putative class action);
- Lewis v. Allegheny Ludlum, 11-1619 (N.D. Ohio, transferred to W.D. Pa.) (putative class action for retiree medical benefits);
- Adams v. Alcoa Inc., 7:07-cv-01291 (N.D.N.Y) (putative class/mass action for unpaid overtime wages);
- Powell-Perry v. BB&T, 11th Cir. No.10-12374-AA (S.D. Florida and appeal to 11th Cir.) (putative class action for bank overdraft fees);
- Rowan County et al. v. Federal National Mortgage Association et al., Fourth Circuit case number 13-2255, District Court case no. 1:12-CV-00859-WO-LPA (M.D.N.C.) (putative class action for alleged real estate transfer taxes);
- In re Harris Teeter Merger Litigation, No. 13 CVS 12579 (NC Business Court) (shareholder claim regarding a corporate merger/acquisition; final approval of class settlement in 2014; attorney fee award approved);
- In re Pokertek Merger Litigation, 14-CVS-10579 (NC Business Court) (court-approved class settlement of shareholder claim regarding corporate merger/acquisition; class settlement and fee petition approved); and
- Brown v. Lowe's Companies, Inc., 5:13-cv-00079-RLV-DSC (W.D.N.C.) (class action under Fair Credit Reporting Act – class settlement and fee petition approved).
Wallace and Graham and other firms that have actively litigated this case have extensive experience in prosecuting complex class actions, including litigating mass torts and consumer class actions.
Most recently, our attorneys Mona Lisa Wallace and John Hughes have been nationally recognized for their work handling significant class action and consumer cases. In 2018, Mona Lisa and John were nominated, and won, the American Trial Lawyer of the Year Award for their outstanding work in the matter of Inetianbor v. Western Sky Financial:
- In Inetianbor v. Western Sky, Western Sky had defrauded tens of thousands of borrowers in Florida by charging excessive interest rates and evading justice by forcing borrowers into a Native American trial-law based arbitration system that they claimed was off-limits to American courts. Our firm was able to help client, Abe Inetianbor, have his day in court. Our legal team further won payment of fines and restitution to Florida agencies in excess of $14,000,000 for class members and the voiding of thousands of loans worth nearly $15,000,000. The defendants were permanently prohibited from future lending in Florida.
- In In re: Outer Banks Power Outage Litigation, many businesses were devastated by the nine-day power outage that plunged the Outer Banks into darkness last summer. The defendant, PCL Construction, had received a contract to replace the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge, the only point of road access connecting the Outer Banks islands to the rest of the state. On July 27, 2017 its workers accidentally drove a steel casing through underground power cables near the south end of the bridge, severing the cables and cutting the islands’ power at the height of the tourist season. Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency and mandatory evacuations were issued. Our law firm, Wallace & Graham, along with the firms of Whitfield Bryson & Mason and Zaytoun Law Firm served as lead counsel for the class, which consisted of more than 1,400 businesses and 4,100 residents and property owners. The settlement agreement earmarked $8.1 million for businesses that were affected by the power outage, with the rest reserved for residents, renters and vacationers.
Amount: $10.35 million | Date of settlement: May 2, 2018
Our firm is proud of the work we do to help and protect consumers and those that have been harmed and defrauded by individuals and corporations. If you have a consumer or class cause of action that you would like our firm to investigate, please do not hesitate to give us a call 800.849.5291 or email us.
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What is a class action?
For a class action to be brought, the law requires that all of the affected individuals have similar claims. For example, where the unfair and deceptive practices of a company affect a large number of consumers the same way, those practices might give rise to a class action.
Not every person in the “class” has to actually be listed in the lawsuit when it begins. The law allows class actions to be brought by one or more “class representatives” on behalf of the many other class members.
The plaintiffs in a class action are known as “named plaintiffs” or “class representatives,” and they file a lawsuit on behalf of a larger class of people.
Consumer class actions may be filed, where appropriate, to recover damages for people who have been harmed in similar ways by product manufacturers, predatory lenders, or other kinds of defendants.
- The number of victims must be so numerous that a class action makes more sense than having each person file an individual claim.
- There must be common issues regarding all of the victims in the class.
- The claims of the named plaintiffs (aka the “class representatives”) must be like the claims of other affected victims; their claims must be typical of those of other people.
- The class representatives must be able to fairly and properly represent the class. The representatives must pursue the interests of the class as a whole, not just their own interests.
If a class action proceeds and the court enters a final judgment or settlement, in that case, even persons who were not involved in the lawsuit (known as “absent class members”) may be bound by the judgment or settlement of the matter.
However, often, the absent class members are entitled to notice and an opportunity to opt out of the matter. If an affected individual receives a notice and decides to opt out, this means that he or she will not be bound by any judgment or settlement of the class action, and he or she may have the ability to bring his or her own claim for damages.