Legal Roundup: Facebook’s Biometrics, ‘Prescription’ Pet Food Pitfalls and More

A look at recent court decisions and how their rulings have an impact on risk management and the insurance industry.
By: | August 27, 2019

Lawsuit Against Facebook’s Use of Biometrics Allowed to Proceed

The case: Ever been tagged in a Facebook post? Of course you have.

In many cases, the person posting the image of you didn’t have to manually tag you, Facebook scanned the image of your face and took an educated guess on who you might be.

That use of biometric data has raised concerns with a group of Illinois users who brought suit against the social network in 2015. They claim Facebook violated their state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act, according to Fast Company.

Scorecard: The case got a major jolt last week when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted 3-0 to reject Facebook’s request to avoid a class-action suit.

“Under Illinois’s biometric privacy law, each user affected by Facebook’s unlawful collection could be entitled to damages of $1,000 for each negligent violation and $5,000 for each intentional or reckless violation,” according to Fast Company.

Takeaway: Class-action status means many more can join the case, opening up Facebook to potentially billions in potential damages.

Endo, Allergan Agree to Combined $15 Million in Settlements Over Opioid Crisis

The case: In the wake of the opioid crisis that’s led to more than 400,000 opioid deaths from 1999 to 2017, counties have sued drugmakers for their alleged responsibility in fueling the epidemic.

Two such cases arose out of Cuyahoga and Summit counties in Ohio, which sued Endo International and Allergan — and there are thousands of cases coming soon afterwards.

Scoreboard: The two drugmakers agreed to pay a total of $15 million to avoid going to trial.


Reuters explains: “Endo announced it had reached an agreement-in-principle to pay Cuyahoga and Summit counties $10 million and provide them up to $1 million worth of two of its drug products free of charge. Allergan has tentatively agreed to pay $5 million to resolve claims involving its branded opioids.”

Takeaway: The cases appear to be a test for further litigation coming in the future.

“Other companies still set to face trial on Oct. 21 include drugmakers Purdue Pharma LP, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. and Johnson & Johnson, and drug distributors McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health Inc. and AmerisourceBergen Corp.,” Reuters reported.

The publication also reported that “more than 2,300 lawsuits by state and local governments are pending nationally, accusing drug manufacturers of deceptively marketing opioids in ways that downplayed their risks and drug distributors of failing to detect and halt suspicious orders.”

“Prescription” Pet Food Lawsuit Gets New Life

The case: Holly Vanzant and Dana Land have filed a lawsuit against Hill’s Pet Nutrition, claiming their “Prescription Diet” brand of cat food was not materially different than the brand’s regular cat food. Vanzant and Land used the prescription brand to help with their cats’ health problems, according to Courthouse News Service.

Scorecard: The class-action was dismissed by a federal judge but reinstated by the Seventh Circuit which ruled “that the FDA did not authorize the company’s ‘prescription’ label on high-priced pet food found to be no different than regular pet food,” according to Courthouse News Service.

It goes on to say “the panel also found that the pet owners’ complaint states their fraud claim with sufficient specificity to satisfy federal pleading requirements, and revived their unjust enrichment claim as well.”

Takeaway: People will sniff out marketing tactics they think are deceptive.

St. Louis Settles With Family of 7-Year-Old Girl Injured by 200-Pound Door Left Off Hinges

The case: The family of a 7-year-old girl sued the City of St. Louis after a 200-pound racquetball door slammed on the child and caused injuries.

The child was in a medically-induced coma for a month after the accident. “In sworn testimony, former Parks Commissioner Daniel Skillman recalled getting a message from a resident near Tilles Park in the North Hampton neighborhood about a week before the girl was hit by the door,” according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“The door apparently fell while she was playing unsupervised with other children. The caller was worried that the door could hurt someone.”

Scorecard: There are no winners in a case like this but the family and city agreed to a $385,000 settlement.

Takeaway: Parks and recreation budgets are tight but authorities need to respond quickly to safety hazards. &

Jared Shelly is a journalist based in Philadelphia. He can be reached at [email protected].

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