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Minami Tamaki Investigating Health Risks of Toxic Dog Food

Minami Tamaki Investigating Health Risks of Toxic Dog Food

Minami Tamaki LLP is investigating claims that pet food companies are manufacturing, advertising, and selling dog food that contains dangerous levels of heavy metals and toxins throughout the United States.

Several consumers have recently filed claims against Champion Petfoods, the makers of Acana and Orijen dog food, alleging that the company misrepresents and fails to fully disclose the presence of heavy metals and toxins known to pose health risks to humans and animals. These ingredients include arsenic, mercury, lead, cadmium, and/or Bisphenol A (“BPA”).

Consumers allege that Champion Petfoods has created a niche by selling dog food marketed as “biologically appropriate” and made of higher-quality ingredients. The complaints state that Champion Petfoods charges a premium for its products based on claims that they consist of fresh meat and vegetables.

Purchasers of Acana and Orijen are not alone in raising concerns about ingredients in popular brands of dog food recently. In August 2018, a New York pet owner alleged that the dog food brand Nutrish marketed as “natural” actually contained the chemical glyphosate, an herbicide used in weed-killer brands. Earlier this year, another New York dog owner filed a lawsuit alleging that the Kibbles ‘n Bits dog food she purchased for her dog contained pentobarbital, a controlled substance used to euthanize animals.  

Illnesses and even deaths linked to consumption of pet food are unfortunately not a new issue in the United States.  While some companies have sought to market themselves as an alternative to purchasing pet food that contains potentially harmful ingredients, recent allegations have raised questions about the validity of these health claims.

Conscientious pet owners are increasingly paying a premium for “fresh,” “natural” food for their pets.  These consumers expect to receive a premium product, and make their purchasing decisions to ensure that the food they provide to their beloved pets is safe to consume.  Companies that prey on consumers’ health concerns for their own profit may be in violation of state and/or federal law.

For more information, you may contact us online or call us at 415-788-9000 to set up a free consultation.

U.S. News ‘Best Law Firms’ 2019 Recognizes Minami Tamaki’s Immigration and Personal Injury Practices

U.S. News ‘Best Law Firms’ 2019 Recognizes Minami Tamaki’s Immigration and Personal Injury Practices

Minami Tamaki LLP has again received a Tier 1 ranking on the U.S. News/Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” list under the “Personal Injury Litigation – Plaintiffs” and “Immigration” categories for our metro area.

This is the fifth consecutive recognition by U.S. News/Best Lawyers of our Personal Injury practice and the fourth consecutive year of our Immigration and Nationality Law practice.

The U.S.News – Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” rankings are based on a rigorous evaluation process that includes the collection of client and lawyer evaluations, peer review from leading attorneys in their field, and review of additional information provided by law firms as part of the formal submission process.

To be eligible for a U.S.News – Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” ranking, a law firm must have at least one lawyer who is included in Best Lawyers in that particular practice area and metro.

Earlier this year, Partners Dale Minami, Minette A. Kwok, B. Mark Fong, and Senior Associate Olivia Serene Lee were selected by The Best Lawyers in America, which qualified the firm to be considered for the Best Law Firms list.

The attorneys in Minami Tamaki’s Personal Injury Practice Group fight for the rights of people who are injured or have suffered the loss of loved ones due to the carelessness of others. We use a team approach which brings all of the resources of our practice group to bear on our cases. This has allowed us to recover multi-million dollar settlements and large verdicts for our clients.

The Immigration and Nationality Law Practice Group of Minami Tamaki LLP offers expertise in a broad array of immigration services. We routinely assist employers and employees, nation-wide, in obtaining temporary and permanent employment-based visas. And, just as often, we help individual clients to secure family-based immigration status through marriage or other qualifying family relationships.

Olivia Serene Lee to Receive Minority Bar Coalition Unity Award on Behalf of AILA Northern California

Olivia Serene Lee to Receive Minority Bar Coalition Unity Award on Behalf of AILA Northern California

Olivia Serene Lee will receive a Unity Award from the Minority Bar Coalition in her role in championing diversity and inclusion for the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Northern California Chapter and for AILA National.  She is a leader and former chair of AILA NorCal and currently serves on AILA National’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

A Senior Associate in our Immigration and Nationality Law practice group, Olivia served as 2016-2017 Chair for AILA NorCal and previously as a member of the AILA NorCal Executive Board.  AILA is the national bar for immigration attorneys, and AILA NorCal is one of its larger chapters, with over 850 members.

This year’s Unity Awards reception will be held at 198 McAllister Street at U.C. Hastings Law School, on November 13, 2018, in the Louis B. Mayer room on the ground floor. The Minority Bar Coalition will honor Olivia and other members who have shown dedication to working in a unified manner to advance the cause of diversity in the legal profession.

The Minority Bar Coalition is a network of over 40 diverse bar associations dedicated to working in a unified manner to advance the cause of diversity in the legal profession. MBC does this by sharing best practices and resources in bar association programming and advocacy, finding issues of common cause, and building shared platforms.

During her tenure as chair of the Northern California Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), the chapter received the Platinum Chapter Award, the organization’s highest honor for chapters, in June 2017. Under Olivia’s leadership, AILA NorCal was at the forefront in proactively responding to the institutional assault against immigrants. When the Trump administration attempted to enact a travel ban on Muslims, AILA NorCal was one of the first groups to respond, providing services at airports, and offering assistance to those impacted.

Olivia has been actively involved in AILA NorCal since 2009, leading and organizing more than 30 Continuing Legal Education programs in all aspects of immigration law, including prosecutorial discretion, export control, PERM, waivers, asylum, and events with immigration judges, USCIS, CBP, DOL and asylum officers. She also served as faculty on local and national AILA CLE panels on topics such as O-1s and H-1Bs.

Employee No-Poach Agreements Face Legal Pressure

Employee No-Poach Agreements Face Legal Pressure

Minami Tamaki is investigating “no-poach” and wage-fixing agreements between companies in numerous large industries.

A no-poach agreement involves companies agreeing not to compete for each other’s employees, such as by not soliciting or hiring them. A wage-fixing agreement involves an agreement regarding employees’ salary or other terms of compensation. No-poach and wage-fixing agreements that are not reasonably necessary to any separate, legitimate business collaboration between companies (known as “naked” agreements) are unlawful.

No-poach agreements have come under increased scrutiny in recent years, as critics argue that they rob employees of labor market competition, and deprive them of job opportunities and the ability to negotiate better terms of employment. Consumers have recently filed class actions against companies such as Burger King alleging that no-poach agreements illegally prevent employees from being hired or solicited from other franchises of the same brand. Some U.S. policy experts contend that no-poach and wage-fixing agreements have contributed to the low rate of wage growth in recent years in an otherwise robust economy.

The federal government has publicized its intention to target illegal agreements among competitors. In October 2016, the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and the Federal Trade Commission issued policy guidance warning that naked no-poach and wage-fixing agreements among companies would be treated as criminal antitrust violations.

This guidance followed on the heels of the DOJ filing civil enforcement actions against technology companies that allegedly entered into no-poach agreements with competitors, including Adobe, Apple, Google, Intel, Intuit, and Pixar.

Since issuing its guidance in October 2016, the DOJ has continued to demonstrate its willingness to pursue no-poach agreements. In April 2018, the Antitrust Division filed a civil antitrust lawsuit against rail equipment suppliers Knorr-Bremse AG and Westinghouse Air Brake Technologies Corp., and with it simultaneously filed a proposed civil settlement. The Complaint alleged that these companies and a third company, Faiveley, reached naked no-poach agreements in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act.

In July 2018, Attorneys General from 11 states formed a coalition to investigate no-poach agreements in franchise contracts of fast food chains, including Arby’s, Burger King, Dunkin’ Donuts, Five Guys, Little Caesars, Panera Bread, Popeyes, Wendy’s. Fast food chains, including Arby’s, Auntie Anne’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Carl’s Jr., Cinnabon, Jimmy John’s, and McDonald’s, also agreed in July 2018 to cease restricting individuals seeking employment from other branches of the same chain for higher pay.

This practice is not limited to fast-food chains. Jiffy Lube, H&R Block, and Anytime Fitness are among the other companies that have been reported to have had no-poach agreements in their franchisee contracts.

All business should be aware of developments in the law regarding no-poach and wage-fixing agreements, and should review their contracts for any such provisions. Franchised business, many of which have historically utilized contracts with no-poach provisions, should be particularly vigilant. Businesses and employees affected by no-poach and/or wage fixing agreements should consult with an attorney even if such provisions have not been enforced in the past.

For more information on our investigation and the current state of the law with regarding no-poach agreements, you may contact us online or at 415-788-9000. We look forward to the opportunity to speak with you.

Minami Tamaki LLP Accepting Applications for 2019 Summer Clerk Program

Minami Tamaki LLP Accepting Applications for 2019 Summer Clerk Program

The Summer Clerk Program is a 10-week paid internship at Minami Tamaki’s San Francisco office.  Our Clerks work primarily on employment litigation, catastrophic injury claims, consumer and antitrust class actions, and business immigration filings. Summer Clerks also receive substantive assignments from the firm’s business transactional group.

Summer Clerks perform extensive legal research and writing, and receive hands-on experience in case evaluation and management, discovery practice, and trial preparation.  Summer Clerks also have the opportunity to contribute to the firm’s social justice work with numerous bar associations and community organizations.

The firm is seeking highly motivated and detail-oriented second year law students who are genuinely interested in plaintiff-side civil litigation and/or business immigration work.  Applicants must have outstanding academic credentials, strong legal research and writing skills, and excellent communication and interpersonal skills.  We value Summer Clerks who have a demonstrated interest in civil rights and community service.

Interested 2Ls should email cover letter, resume, and academic transcript to Application deadline is Noon Pacific Time on October 26, 2018.

Established in 1974, Minami Tamaki LLP takes pride in providing the highest quality legal representation with an emphasis on personalized service.  Minami Tamaki has a strong and historical commitment to social justice and community outreach.  The firm brings its deep background in civil rights work to its current practice in the areas of Consumer and Employment Rights, Personal Injury, Corporate and Nonprofit Counseling, Immigration and Nationality Law, and Entertainment.  The firm’s culture is collegial and collaborative, but tenacious in its representation of its diverse clientele.  The lawyers at Minami Tamaki combine outstanding lawyering skills with an ethical and progressive approach to solving the legal problems of its clients.

Minami Tamaki Investigating Facebook Security Breach

Minami Tamaki Investigating Facebook Security Breach

Minami Tamaki LLP is investigating reports that Facebook suffered a data breach that compromised user profiles.  Facebook announced on September 28, 2018, that the security issue affected almost 50 million user accounts.

According to a Facebook security update, attackers exploited a vulnerability in the site’s code that impacted the “View As” feature, which allows users to view their profile as if they were someone else. The vulnerability allowed the attackers to receive access tokens which were used to take over user accounts. Access tokens are digital keys that keep people logged in to Facebook so they don’t need to re-enter their password upon every use.

Users throughout the United States may be impacted by this data breach.  On September 28, Facebook reset access tokens for affected accounts and temporarily turned off the “View As” feature.  The company also reset an additional 40 million accounts that have been subject to a “View As” look-up as a precautionary measure.

Minami Tamaki attorneys have experience representing individuals who have been harmed by privacy breaches.  For more information about this data breach and your legal rights, you may contact us online or call us at 415-788-9000 to set up a free consultation.

Four Minami Tamaki Attorneys Recognized in 25th Edition of The Best Lawyers in America

Four Minami Tamaki Attorneys Recognized in 25th Edition of The Best Lawyers in America

Minami Tamaki LLP Partners Dale Minami, Minette Kwok, B. Mark Fong, and Senior Associate Olivia Serene Lee were recently selected by their peers for inclusion in the 25th Edition of The Best Lawyers in America.

Dale and Mark were selected for the list in the practice area of Personal Injury Litigation – Plaintiffs. It is the sixth year in a row that they received this honor.

Minette was selected for inclusion in the practice area of Immigration Law. It is Minette’s fifth consecutive time on The Best Lawyers in America list.

Olivia was also selected for inclusion in the practice area of Immigration Law. It’s Olivia’s second listing in The Best Lawyers in America.

Best Lawyers is a respected peer review publication in the legal profession. Recognition in Best Lawyers is widely regarded by both clients and legal professionals as a significant honor, conferred on a lawyer by his or her peers.

The Best Lawyers lists of outstanding attorneys are compiled by conducting exhaustive peer review surveys in which tens of thousands of leading lawyers confidentially evaluate their professional peers. If the votes for an attorney are positive enough for recognition in Best Lawyers, that attorney must maintain those votes in subsequent polls to remain in each edition.

Lawyers are not permitted to pay any fee to participate in or be recognized by Best Lawyers.

Minami Tamaki Investigating E-Cigarette Makers and Retailers for Allegedly Marketing to Minors

Minami Tamaki Investigating E-Cigarette Makers and Retailers for Allegedly Marketing to Minors

Minami Tamaki’s Consumer and Employee Rights Group is investigating claims that e-cigarette manufacturers and retailers are illegally marketing vaping products to minors.

On July 24, 2018, the Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced that her office had opened an investigation into e-cigarette maker Juul Labs Inc. (“Juul”) and online e-cigarette retailers that sell Juul and Juul-compatible products.

San Francisco-based Juul controls over two-third of the nearly $2 billion U.S. e-cigarette market, according to industry reports.  The company is raising $1.2 billion in funding at an estimated valuation of $15 billion.

Juul vaporizers deliver flavored nicotine, derived from tobacco, through interchangeable pods.  The nicotine pods are available in numerous flavors, such as mango, fruit medley, and crème brulee. Due to their sleek design, Juul devices resemble a USB flash drive and can easily be concealed by underage users.  Users can personalize Juul devices with wraps or “skins,” and decorate them with an array of designs, colors, and images.

Juul has faced increased scrutiny as its products have gained popularity and high schools around the country have reported a rapid increase in their use.  According to a 2016 report by the U.S. Surgeon General, e-cigarette use has increased 900 percent among U.S. high school students from 2011 to 2015.  In June 2018, the city of San Francisco passed an initiative banning flavored tobacco, including Juul pods.

The Massachusetts Attorney General’s investigation will look into whether Juul and online retailers have violated consumer protection statutes and e-cigarette regulations by failing to prevent minors from purchasing their products.  Attorney General Healey stating that “juuling and vaping have become an epidemic in our schools with products that seem targeted to get young people hooked on nicotine.”

E-cigarettes have been marketed as helpful in assisting individuals to cut down on smoking.  However, health and anti-tobacco critics argue that their popularity is leading more young individuals to become hooked on nicotine, rather than reducing the purchase of traditional cigarettes.

Individuals interested in receiving more information about Minami Tamaki’s investigation may contact us through our online form. We look forward to speaking with you.

Minami Tamaki Protecting the Elderly against Undue Influence

Minami Tamaki Protecting the Elderly against Undue Influence

Minami Tamaki’s Consumer and Employee Rights Group represent clients in trust and estate litigation matters, including cases involving financial elder abuse.  Fueled by the aging baby boomer generation, dramatic growth in the elderly population is expected over the next decade.  The increasing size of the elderly population, and the wealth that this population controls, has led to increased concerns of elder abuse.

Elder abuse extends beyond physical abuse and neglect, and often takes the form of financial abuse.  One of the most frequent causes of financial elder abuse is the use of undue influence.

Definition of Undue Influence

A testamentary instrument can be invalidated if it was the product of undue influence.  When an elderly, ill individual makes significant changes to his or her estate plan, questions of whether the changes were the result of “undue influence” may arise.

Under California law, undue influence is defined as excessive persuasion that causes another person to act or refrain from acting by overcoming that person’s free will and results in inequity.  California Welfare and Institutions Code § 15610.70.  “Undue influence is pressure brought to bear directly on the testamentary act, sufficient to overcome the testator’s free will, amounting in effect to coercion destroying the testator’s free agency.” Rice v. Clark, 28 Cal.4th 89, 96 (2002).  In California undue influence may be proven by circumstantial evidence.  Lintz v. Lintz, 222 Cal.App.4th 1346, 1354-1355 (2014).

Elements Necessary to Prove Undue Influence

Undue influence is proved by establishing (1) the wrongdoer was in a confidential relationship with the decedent, (2) the wrongdoer actively participated in procuring the Trust or Will, and (3) the wrongdoer unduly benefitted from the new document.

Confidential Relationship

There must be a confidential relationship between the party making the will and the person alleged to have exerted undue influence. Estate of Goetz, 253 Cal.App.2d 107, 115-116 (1967).

According to Estate of Rugani, 108 Cal.App.2d 624, 630 (1952), a confidential relationship exists whenever trust and confidence are placed by one person in the integrity and fidelity of another.

Active Participation

There must be activity on the part of the beneficiary in procurement of the will. Estate of Goetz, 253 Cal.App.2d at 115-116.

Active participation cannot be inferred when a beneficiary simply accompanies the testator to the attorney’s office. There must be evidence that the testator went there at the beneficiary’s instigation or request, or evidence that the testator was not acting in accord with his or her own desire. Estate of Lingenfelter, 38 Cal.2d 571, 586 (1952).

Undue Profit

There must be undue profit to the beneficiary. Estate of Goetz, 253 Cal.App.2d at 115-116.

Undue profit can be determined by taking a variety of factors into consideration. The court will evaluate the relationship between the decedent and the beneficiary. They will also consider the dispositions in previous wills and other past expressions of the decedent’s intent. Estate of Sarabia, 221 Cal.App.3d 599, 607 (1990).

Burden Of Proof

In most types of litigation, the plaintiff bears the burden of proof.  However, a plaintiff challenging a testamentary instrument on grounds of undue influence can in some cases shift burden of proof to the defendant when a presumption of undue influence arises.

A presumption of undue influence arises when the plaintiff shows: a confidential relationship existed between the testator and person alleged to have exerted undue influence, there was active participation of the person alleged to have exerted undue influence in procuring the instrument’s preparation or execution, and the person alleged to have exerted undue influence would benefit unduly from the instrument. California Probate Code § 21380 et seq., Rice v. Clark, 28 Cal.4th at 96-97.

Elder Abuse Claims

In undue influence matters, the legal claims alleging Elder Abuse often arise as a corollary issue.  This is important because elder abuse claims are given jury trials, allow for punitive damages, and allow for recovery of attorney’s fees to prevailing plaintiffs.

How We Can Help

Minami Tamaki LLP works to ensure that the rights of all elders are protected.  As California’s population ages, the threat of elder abuse will become an increasingly important issue across the state.

If you or a loved one have concerns about undue influence or financial elder abuse, you may contact us through our online form or call us at 415-788-9000 to set up a free consultation.