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Pennsylvania Consumer Rights Blog

What practice areas does legal malpractice occur in most often?

What activities are high-risk for legal malpractice? Are there certain practice areas where malpractice claims are more common? An insurance broker called Ames & Gough recently performed an annual survey of professional liability insurers to find out.

The biggest risk factor for malpractice claims is inadequate safeguards against conflicts of interest. Actual and perceived conflicts of interest have been the first or second leading cause of legal malpractice claims each year the survey has been performed.

Some Equifax data breach victims winning in small claims court

In March of 2017, the Department of Homeland Security alerted Equifax to a critical software vulnerability in its online consumer dispute portal. Unfortunately, a combination of human error at Equifax and the company's ineffective scanning software apparently conspired to leave the unpatched hole open. That site was vulnerable to a data breach, and hackers managed to obtain personal financial details about nearly half the U.S. population.

Worse yet, Equifax was slow to report the breach to consumers and, once it did, it mistakenly directed them to a fake website that further compromised their data. The breach had cost Equifax nearly $243 million as of the first quarter of 2018.

Woman hit by lawyer's flung pasta wins over $102,000

Today's post is not technically about legal malpractice but it could still be instructive for lawyers and their clients. A Connecticut woman sued an attorney for $85,000 after she was hit by pasta an attorney had flung during an argument with another man. The pasta, covered in a spicy sauce, struck the woman in the face and eyes, causing her to trip, fall and seriously injure herself.

According to the ABA Journal, the woman was eating in a Connecticut restaurant, as was a 65-year-old real estate lawyer who practices in New Jersey and Maryland. That lawyer allegedly "picked up a bowl or dish full of pasta with fra diavolo sauce and threw it" at his dinner companion, with whom he was arguing.

Another shakeup at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Mick Mulvaney, interim director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has essentially dismantled an important part of the agency: its Consumer Advisory Board. The Board was set up to help the CFPB work with consumer groups in an effort to identify situations where consumers are being treated unfairly by banks and lenders.

In a letter to members of the board, the CFPB said it plans to "reconstitute" the board into one or more new, smaller consumer advisory groups. This, the agency said, is to facilitate streamlined, productive discussions about policy priorities and needs.

What constitutes debt collector harassment?

Millions of people around the United States receive calls from debt collectors on a regular basis. For many people, it becomes such a way of life they do not even realize when the phone calls turn into legitimate harassment. You should be aware that you have rights as a debtor

Some forms of harassment are easy to spot, such as the caller using threatening or obscene language. Other tactics may seem normal to you, but in actuality, they are in direct violation of federal laws all debt collectors must follow. Here are examples of harassment to stay on the lookout for. Do not hesitate to consider legal action if a debt collector commits any of these acts. 

Beware of used vehicles -- they could be flood-damaged

Think you're getting a great deal on that used car? The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) has issued a fraud warning on vehicles that were uninsured during Hurricanes Harvey, Maria and Irma.

It's illegal to sell a flooded-out car without a salvage title, but some fraudsters have taken advantage of their own lack of insurance to avoid getting one.

Lawsuit: Canada Dry ginger ale allegedly contains no real ginger

A federal judge recently ruled that the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, Inc., and Dr. Pepper/Seven Up, Inc., must face a potential class-action lawsuit. The claim? The company owns Canada Dry, who allegedly misled consumers by stating that its ginger ale is made from real ginger. The plaintiffs are suing for false advertising, misrepresentation, fraud, breach of warranty and unjust enrichment.

Yes. This is the brand with the ad where a ginger harvester pulls on a plant only to find it is attached by the root to a bottle of ginger ale. A voiceover reads the tagline, "Real ginger. Real taste." On the product is printed the claim, "Made from real ginger." Another ad beckons, "Find your way to relaxation with the crisp soothing taste of real ginger and bubbles. Canada Dry, the root of relaxation."

Bill would reverse federal guidance on discriminatory car lending

When you buy a car, there is typically no set price. The final price and terms be negotiated with the dealer, often with little information on the part of the consumer. As a result, it can be easy for unscrupulous dealers to take advantage of people -- and studies have shown that the people being taken advantage of are African-Americans and Hispanics.

In 2013, after the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) confirmed that trend, the agency issued policy guidance to dealerships stating that car loans are governed by the Equal Credit Opportunity Act.

BigLaw attorney disbarred for collecting outside client fees

Can an attorney be disbarred for handling outside cases when employed by a law firm? It depends on what their employment contract with the law firm says, according to the Washington Supreme Court and that state bar's Office of Disciplinary Counsel. And, if that employment contract prohibits the lawyer from handling outside cases, accepting fees for those cases constitutes theft.

An attorney who worked at the international law firms Dorsey & Whitney, LLP, and Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., has been disbarred for performing legal work for outside clients and keeping the fees instead of handing them over to her employers. According to the Washington Supreme Court, doing so constituted theft. She denies the allegations and considers the issue a contract dispute which should not have gotten her disbarred.

CFPB may issue record fine against Wells Fargo over sales abuses

In the first penalty issued under the Trump administration, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is seeking a record penalty against Wells Fargo & Co. The fine, which could exceed hundreds of millions of dollars, is in regard to abuses in Wells Fargo's auto insurance and mortgage lending areas.

Working with Wells' main regulator, the Office of the Comptroller of Currency, the CFPB plans to sanction the banking giant for forcing some customers to buy unneeded auto insurance called "force-place" insurance -- and collected commissions on it.

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