NJ Attorney Targets Marketers In Putative Class Actions

by The Lustigman Firm, P.C.
Contact

Harold Hoffman, a practicing attorney in New Jersey, has filed dozens of putative class action lawsuits during the past two years. His modus

operandi is to name himself as the plaintiff, file the cases in New Jersey state court and target nationwide direct marketers for anything from

product efficacy claims to shipping charges.

As New Jersey’s Appellate Division noted in Hoffman v. Asseenontv.com, Hoffman’s behavior allegedly is aimed at prompting defendants to

settle under the threat of a potential class action certification, with settlement demands as high as $100,000.

Typically, Hoffman has ordered a marketer’s product and then files a complaint shortly thereafter, sometimes even before receiving the item. As

noted by one court, Hoffman has reportedly made product purchases using false names and addresses.

The suits often appear to repeat the same allegations word for word. Because of the high cost of litigation, many marketers end up making confidential settlement payments in exchange for

dropping the class actions. We are unaware of Hoffman ever successfully certifying a class or obtaining relief for anyone other than himself.

In a case that we worked on, Hoffman filed a claim against the marketer of a natural male enhancement product. Hoffman alleged the marketer violated the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act

though false representations and common law fraud through “unconscionable commercial practices and misrepresentations.”

However, he filed his complaint only a day after placing his order, most likely before even receiving it. The trial court dismissed Hoffman’s complaint with prejudice, on the grounds that he failed

to be specific in his claims about the product or link those claims to his expectations of the product’s efficacy based on the marketer’s advertising. The trial court also stated that Hoffman could

not claim loss based on his presumption that the ingredients in the marketer’s product would not perform unless he actually tried the product. While an Appellate Court upheld most of the lower

court’s decision, he was allowed to amend and re-file his complaint. The defendant eventually decided to settle the case.

In another similar action against a male enhancement marketer, the defendant moved for summary judgment, and the trial court ruled in the marketer’s favor. The Appellate Court affirmed the

trial court’s judgment, noting the plaintiff “did not submit competent proofs to demonstrate either plaintiff’s personal unsatisfactory experience with the product, or medical or scientific proofs

which may have demonstrated that the representations and promises made by the defendant regarding [the product] were false.”

In a third case that went to the appellate level, Hoffman ordered a product and was to choose a free gift in addition to his purchase. The defendant’s policy was that consumers had to pay

regular shipping-and-handling fees for the gift, in addition to shipping charges for their order. Although this information was presented on the defendant’s Web site, Hoffman claimed it was false

and deceptive advertising under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act and New Jersey’s common law.

However, Hoffman filed his complaint prior to receiving his order and the company wisely cancelled the order without ever shipping it out. The trial court dismissed Hoffman’s complaint

because he did not in fact sustain any loss when the defendant cancelled his order. The Appellate Court upheld the trial court’s decision.

From a consumer protection standpoint, the most troubling aspect of Hoffman’s behavior is that although he files the cases as class actions on behalf of New Jersey consumers, the lawsuits

typically do not mention any victims other than Hoffman. Moreover, rather than obtain relief for the class that he purports to represent, generally only a private individual settlement is worked

out.

Marketers should be aware that these lawsuits are not isolated occurrences. Besides asking themselves whether a sale to Hoffman is worth the potential headache that might ensue, marketers

should review their marketing materials to make sure that claims about performance are true and that they clearly disclose any shipping charges, fees for gifts, or additional items.

LOADING PDF: If there are any problems, click here to download the file.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© The Lustigman Firm, P.C. | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

The Lustigman Firm, P.C.
Contact
more
less

The Lustigman Firm, P.C. on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.
Feedback? Tell us what you think of the new jdsupra.com!