Last month, Beasley Allen filed a class action lawsuit in federal court against Intel Corporation because an alleged design defect, known as Meltdown, in Intel’s central processing units (CPUs) exposed users’ personal information to hackers. Regardless of the operating system (OS) or whether the device is a desktop or laptop, the problem is apparently present in “effectively every” Intel CPU released since 1995, according to PC World.
This Intel case is a classic Consumer Fraud Class Action. Specifically, the case seeks to hold Intel accountable for misleading consumers and profiting from its deception. Plaintiffs also seek to recover the loss of economic value, or financial benefit they lost due to the defective design Intel appears to have intentionally placed on the market with knowledge of the defect.
Despite knowing the flawed design would require a “patch” to fix the security issues, Intel allegedly deceptively marketed its processors as some of the fastest available on the market. It has since admitted that it introduced the design defect, sacrificing user security for faster processors. As a result, users either must replace their computer or install software patches, which can slow their devices by as much as 30 percent.
What is a Class Action?
A class action lawsuit involves joining a large number of people together in consolidated litigation against a company or other entity whose actions resulted in financial harm to the consumer. The American Bar Association explains that “people whose claims might be too insignificant to litigate alone can band together.” The former head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Richard Cordray, agreed.
In a New York Times column, Cordray explained that “the typical group lawsuit seeks to recover small amounts for many people. Almost nobody spends time or money fighting a small fee on their own.”
These types of actions create a crucial mechanism in the U.S. civil justice system that allows consumers to effectively demand bad corporate actors change the way they operate. From updating and refining corporate policies and procedures to improving products, and even helping shape public policy, class action lawsuit plaintiffs have secured outcomes that typically benefit consumers in general.
One of the most high-profile contemporary class action lawsuits was Brown v. The Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, BrownvBoard.org explains. The landmark civil rights case started out as five separate cases that were heard by the U.S. Supreme Court concerning the issue of segregation in public schools, according to the educational website, USCourts.gov.
The plaintiffs argued that while African American schools appeared equal, at least with regard to facilities and teacher salaries, they did not provide some of the textbooks nor offer some programs that were available in whites-only schools. The case was responsible for striking down the public policy that allowed “separate but equal” education facilities based on race – effectively desegregating public schools in the U.S.
Similarly, another prominent, more recent class action lawsuit involving General Motors (GM) led to significant policy changes, too. Class members sought to hold GM responsible for the economic losses suffered by GM automobile owners because of a known defect in some of the vehicles’ ignition switches. The defect allowed the key to move from the “run” position to the “off” position, cutting power and disabling the vehicle’s power steering, power brakes and airbags.
While investigating GM’s defective ignition switch, Beasley Allen lawyers and other lawyers representing the plaintiffs discovered that the auto manufacturer covered up the ignition switch problems for more than a decade. Combined, the defect and the company’s ensuing deception led to hundreds of accidents and injuries. The company admitted to 124 deaths linked to the defect and eventually recalled close to 3 million affected vehicles.
Additionally, it also revealed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) failed to adequately interpret critical information it possessed regarding the defective ignition switches, as Beasley Allen has reported. Public outcry over the agency’s failure led to an internal review, which resulted in an overhaul of the processes it uses to identify safety defects and analyze crash data.
Justice for All
Beasley Allen has been on the forefront of consumer class actions leading the charge in such cases as Toyota’s Sudden Unintended Acceleration Consumer Class, the VW emissions scandal class, the Fiat-Chrysler emissions scandal; the Target, Home Depot and Equifax data breach cases; and numerous Life and Health Insurance consumer class action cases against Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Banner Life, USFL and others. When regulation fails to protect consumers, the judicial system is there to pick up the slack with class action lawsuits.
Class action lawsuits provide other benefits, as well. The costs of litigation are lower than if plaintiffs pursue an individual claim because class members share the costs for similar services including discovery and expert witnesses. These types of actions often enjoy well-respected final decisions because they survive multiple stages of litigation and appeal. Further, they provide more judicial efficiency and consistent judgments, including rewards for harms suffered by plaintiffs.
American Bar Association
New York Times
The United States Courts