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7 posts from September 2011

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Reasons to "Rep Your ZIP"

Have you ever been asked “Can I have your ZIP code?” by a perky cashier?

It’s not something I have an issue with- after all, they’re just numbers that I happen to share with 25,000 other people. 

Kerry Feder, a Verona, NJ resident, doesn’t see it that way.  She was asked by a store employee for her ZIP code when making a purchase at Williams-Sonoma in Upper Montclair earlier this year.  Instead of simply declining, Feder decided to file suit under New Jersey’s Truth in Consumer Contract, Warranty, and Notice Act (TCCWNA).

Fortunately, Feder v. Williams-Sonoma Stores Inc. was thrown out by a federal judge in Newark earlier this week.  Judge William Walls found that Williams-Sonoma’s practice does not violate CCWNA because the “Can I have your ZIP code” request is not made under the provision of a written contract. 

Unfortunately, however, a Morris County judge reached the opposite conclusion just a few weeks ago in a case against Harmon Stores.  The New Jersey Law Journal reports that Superior Court Judge Stephan Hansbury rejected the notion that a ZIP code is “too broad an identifier to be the subject of a privacy violation.”  (The same attorneys, by the way, represented the plaintiffs in both TCCWNA suits). 

The reason why there is a sudden rush to try class action TCCWNA cases in New Jersey (even though this practice has been around for so long it’s rather routine) is likely due to a California Supreme Court ruling against Williams-Sonoma in February, which found that collecting ZIP codes violates their state’s consumer statutes.  A plethora of similar cases have since been filed across California, and it seems that New Jersey is poised to be the second state in which the trial attorneys want to test the waters. 

The courts’ conflicting rulings suggest that New Jersey might be in for more TCCWNA class action suits.  Trial attorneys may see the dollar signs at the end of the road, but remember who pays the bill: consumers, who pay stores’ legal overhead in the form of higher prices; job-seekers, whose opportunities part-time and seasonal employment may be extinguished; and taxpayers, who are forced to subsidize these cases as they make their way through the court system. 

So, you can stand up and be counted, and give your ZIP code if asked – (and if it means better advertising and coupons for me, I’m for it) – or you can decline.  The choice should be yours – not the trial bar’s to make for you. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

New Jersey Trade Secrets Act Advances

Admittedly, when I think of “trade secrets,” I tend to think of multiples of, well, Trade Secret

But in New Jersey, the “trade secrets” referred to an important piece of legislation, S-2456, which unanimously passed the Senate Commerce Committee on Monday. 

Trade secrets aren’t the same as patents.  For instance, you might patent a life-saving drug, but the New Jersey Trade Secrets Act might refer to the process behind its manufacture.

Under A-921/S-2456, a company or organization would be able to sue for damages or losses that result from someone taking proprietary information (a recipe, chemical formula, invention, intellectual property, etc.) and trying to profit from it by selling it or manufacturing it.  If I take a secret recipe for a food item, sell it and make money from it, I would have to pay royalties to the company or person from whom I stole it.   

A-921 passed the full Assembly in late 2010.  Its Senate counterpart, however, was amended before being voted out of Committee, so the Assembly will need to vote on the amended version before it heads to the Governor’s desk.   

New Jersey is, of course, among a minority of states which have not passed the Trade Secrets Act.  More information about the Act can be found in the New Jersey Law Journal and on the Legislature’s homepage

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Photos from NJLRA's Fall Membership Luncheon

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Assemblyman Joseph Cryan (center), with David Kott of McCarter & English (left), and Marcus Rayner

 

 

 

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Marcus Rayner (far left), and AnnMarie McDonald (far right), with Scott Ross of the New Jersey Petroleum Council and Michael Egenton of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce

 

 

 

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(From left) Michael McDonald and Joe Anson of Bayer Healthcare with Marcus Rayner

 

 

 

 

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Paul Madrazo of Glaxo Smith Kline and MaryAlice Barrett of Roche with Eileen Kean (center)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Assemblyman Cryan: “Everybody wins if we curb frivolous lawsuits."

One thing is clear: NJ's hospitality industry could be severely impacted by Voss v.  Tranquilino.

Here are some highlights from Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Cryan’s (D-Union) keynote address at NJLRA’s annual Fall Membership Luncheon:

"As much as we try to help new businesses establish, hire people and flourish, we need to devote the same sort of efforts to making sure existing businesses and industries flourish. We all know that tort reform goes a long way to removing the obstacles that exist and actually prevent businesses and industries from growing.

"We've got to be able to give businesses and physicians and those who are impacted by what we [legislators] do some stability and some certainty in the marketplace. And hopefully together we can do that."

Cryan told the audience about his personal experience with lawsuit abuse in Middlesex County. His family-operated establishment was the third and largest of three establishments visited by an intoxicated patron. The patron, who was refused service by Cryan's establishment, fled as an employee attempted to call him cab and caused a fatal automobile accident. Cryan's establishment - the only establishment to refuse him service - ended up paying out half a million dollars in claims.

"I look at this recent Voss decision, for example, and the Supreme Court is going to potentially take down the whole hospitality industry... Have we kind of lost our way a little bit in terms of who's responsible for what?

The case refers to the New Jersey Supreme Court's decision in Voss v. Tranquilino earlier this year, which permitted an Ocean County motorcyclist to sue the establishment which served him for bodily injuries he sustained while driving under the influence.

"Tort reform isn't a Republican or Democrat issue - it's an economic issue," said Marcus Rayner, NJLRA’s executive director.

"That's why it's important to urge the legislature to support measures like A-3333/S-2855, which would help protect honest businesses from frivolous litigation," Rayner said.

Monday, September 12, 2011

NJLRA's Annual Fall Membership meeting tomorrow

Cryan
Assembly Majority Leader Joe Cryan (D-Union) will be the keynote speaker.  Over 60 people have registered.

We’ll post event comments and photos as soon as we can.   

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Van Drew introduces Senate version of legislation to reverse Voss v. Tranquilino

Thumb Late last month, Senator Jeff Van Drew (D-Cape May) introduced S-3028.  Like its companion bill, A-4228, this legislation would reverse the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision in Voss  v. Tranquilino, which allowed a motorcyclist to sue the bar for injuries he sustained while driving drunk.  

The text isn’t available on the Legislature’s website as of today, but an earlier report in the Asbury Park Press outlines some of its parameters.

Friday, September 02, 2011

After Irene

NJLRA hopes that everyone is safe, powered, and dry following Hurricane Irene.  Kudos to all of those who helped others last weekend and during the ensuing floods. 

As we look toward Labor Day weekend, here are some outrageous lawsuits to help lighten the mood.  And, as always, beware of hot dogs:

Where's the beef? Hot dog battle goes to court

Northfield, Ill.-based Kraft Foods and Downers Grove, Ill.-based Sara Lee have been embroiled in the litigation since 2009 over advertising claims that consumers prefer Kraft’s Oscar Mayer Jumbo Beef Hot Dogs over Sara Lee’s Ball Park and that Oscar Mayer is "100 percent pure beef."

Kids lose bad mother lawsuit. Can't take mom to court over bad birthday cards.

For starters: she didn't send her son college care packages, or buy her daughter the homecoming dress she wanted. And their birthday cards? No cash or checks, just Hallmark sentiments.

Protester sues Capitol worker who popped balloon

The altercation allegedly happened July 25 during a daily sing-along, which was an ongoing protest of the state law curtailing collective bargaining rights for public workers.