Each week, Crowell & Moring’s State Attorneys General team highlights significant actions that State AGs have taken. Here are this week’s updates.
- A multistate coalition of 23 attorneys general led by New York Attorney General James and California Attorney General Bonta filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in support of the Biden-Harris administration’s efforts to restore access to Title X federal funding for family planning services. The Biden-Harris administration is attempting to reverse a Trump-Pence administration rule that restricted Title X funding. The brief, filed in Ohio v. Becerra, opposes efforts of the plaintiff States attempting to halt implementation of the Biden-Harris administration rule.
- A multistate coalition of 6 attorneys general led by New York Attorney General James sent a letter to N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell stating they have “grave concerns” about the allegations of workplace harassment of women and minorities at the N.F.L. and warned that the attorneys general were willing to begin a broad investigation of the allegations if steps were not taken to address the issues. This letter is based on a February report by the New York Times in which more than 30 former employees described experiencing an unacceptable workplace culture at the N.F.L., the ongoing Congressional inquiry into workplace treatment of female employees at the Washington franchise and the discrimination lawsuit filed by Brian Flores.
- California Attorney General Bonta filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Epic Games v. Apple arguing in support of broad protections for fair competition under California’s Unfair Competition Law. The brief explains the importance of the Unfair Competition Law to antitrust enforcement in California because the law only depends on unfair practices and not on a concurrent antitrust violation.
- California Attorney General Bonta filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Moreno v. Vi-Jon arguing in defense of state laws protecting consumers from false and misleading advertising. Moreno v. Vi-Jon is a false advertising case alleging that the claims made on the front and back labels of hand sanitizer products were false and/or misleading. The Attorney General argued the district court erred in dismissing the case because economic injury from purchasing a deceptively advertised product establishes standing, deceptive advertising claims present questions of fact inappropriate for dismissal, disclaimers do not necessarily excuse misleading claims and the court failed to consider how reasonable consumers actually behave in the real-world when making purchasing decisions.
- California Attorney General Bonta announced that he sent warning letters to 91 law firms across the state that represent landlords in eviction cases because some firms, and their clients, may have violated the law by falsely declaring tenants have not notified them of a pending emergency rental assistance applications. The Attorney General followed the prior announcement by issuing a consumer alert reminding Californian tenants of their rights and protections under state law.
- California Attorney General Bonta announced a settlement with Smart & Final resolving allegations that the grocer engaged in price gouging of certain types of eggs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The settlement requires Smart & Final to pay $175,000 in penalties and permanently enjoins Smart & Final from future violations of the Unfair Competition Law. California Governor Newsom’s declared state of emergency on March 4, 2020 triggered California Penal Code 396, the state’s price gouging protection law.
District of Columbia
- District of Columbia Attorney General Racine filed a lawsuit against Grubhub for charging hidden fees, misleading District residents, using bait-and-switch advertising tactics and exploiting local restaurants to boost its own profits. The lawsuit seeks an end to Grubhub’s alleged deceptive marketing, truth about prices and fees, penalties for violating District law, and restitution for affected consumers.
- Missouri Attorney General Schmitt issued a civil investigative demand to Powerhome Solar, LLC, for information regarding its practices for sales and installation of solar panels. The investigation seeks information regarding the capabilities, installation, and financing of Powerhome Solar’s solar panel products due to alleged violations of state consumer protection laws.
- New Jersey Attorney General Platkin announced that the Division of Consumer Affairs imposed penalties against four pharmacies for alleged consumer protection violations in the sale of COVID-19 antigen tests. The Attorney General sent Notices of Violation to four pharmacies including Valley Pharmacy, Sayreville Pharmacy, Iselin Pharmacy and Wellcare Pharmacy.
- Pennsylvania Attorney General Shapiro announced Martino Motors was found to be in violation of an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance previously entered in 2014. Martino Motors and its owner have been permanently banned from selling cars in Pennsylvania.
- Vermont Attorney General Donovan announced a court ruling against Missouri-based Karabell Industries for making repeated illegal telemarketing calls and harassing state legislators. The consent judgment requires Karabell Industries to cease all business and telemarketing activity in Vermont and refrain from contacting anyone in Vermont about any marketing, sales, offers or otherwise.
- (Review for Conflicts – Janssen is the parent company of J&J) – West Virginia Attorney General Morrisey began trial against three opioid drug manufactures, Janssen, Teva and Allergan, on Monday, April 4th. The lawsuit alleges the drug manufacturers helped fuel the opioid epidemic in West Virginia by engaging in campaigns to deceive prescribers and misrepresent the risks of opioid painkillers. The lawsuit alleges these practices are violative of West Virginia’s Consumer Credit and Protection Act and seeks injunctive and equitable relief.
- Wisconsin Attorney General Kaul announced a civil enforcement action against New Jersey-based firm N.C.W.C., Inc. for violations of Wisconsin’s telemarketing laws by marketing extended vehicle service plans to automobile owners in Wisconsin.