Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Woman Sues Rite Aid for 12 Cents - Or More ?

Originally Published on forbes.com on August 4th,2011
Pamela Blass bought four items from Rite-Aid.  They each cost $0.99 for a total of $3.96.  They added $0.24 in sales tax.  She then gave them 2 one dollar coupons.  How she settled up the $2.20 balance is not stated in :
I suppose that it is not relevant.  This was an appeal of a decision by a lower court. Ms Blass was accusing Rite-Aid of engaging in unfair and deceptive trade practices.  That sounded pretty harsh to me.  I mean I’m more of a CVS guy, but I’ve gotten nothing against Rite-Aid.  The unfair and deceptive trade practice was that they charged her 12 cents extra sales tax.  The sales tax should have been figured on the amount of the sale net of the coupons.  Now this was an appeal and she was represented by counsel – for 12 cents.  What is going on here ?
I’ve been casting my net a little wider in looking for tax gems and have started delving into state decisions.  This is the first time I peeked in the Connecticut Court of Appeals and the most recent tax case, this one, was back in March.  I could see why they would need a break after something like this.  Now  a big case like this, I figured maybe some other bloggers had picked up on this.  Sure enough some had.  Here is an example.
There is something else I noticed, though.  In the case it was mentioned that it was not just her, but herself and similarly situated plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit.  Now I am cautious about mixing people up.  I did a post recently that could be viewed as unkind to Amway.  One of the commenters while defendingAmway confused me with a Peter Reilly that had been accused of murdering his mother.  Pamela Blass is a less common name so I think there is a good chance that this Pamela Blass is the one in the lawsuit – that is the Pamela Blass who is a legal assistant at the law firm of Stanger and Arnold LLP.  Among their specialities are:
Consumer Class Actions
  • Stanger & Arnold, LLP’s attorneys have successfully litigated a number of consumer class actions and have been appointed by the courts to serve as class counsel. Representative cases include excessive and undisclosed late fees, retail sales overcharges, and violations of state consumer protection laws
Ms. Blass was represented by someone named Peter Van Dyke.  There are quite a few of those, but I would not be shocked if it turned out that this Peter Van Dyke, an attorney with Stanger and Arnold LLP was the guy in this case.  Would this whole thing look a little different if Ms. Blass in the course of heremployment for a law firm that did consumer class action lawsuits went into Rite Aid expecting to get overcharged $0.12 in sales tax so that there could be a class certified and a team of I don’t know what could start combing through Rite Aid’s register tapes as part of discovery?

As it turns out Ms. Blass had not exhausted her administrative remedies.  Presumably Rite Aid had remitted her $0.12 to the state and she could have applied for a refund.  That is what the trial court determined and the appelate court upheld.  As I said maybe I’m as mixed up about the people as the Amway defender was about me, but I wouldn’t bet that way.

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