Costco accused of improper sales tax charges on toilet paper in New Jersey

CNBC.com
by Dan Mangan
Friday, September 16, 2016, 2:18 PM

http://www.cnbc.com/2016/09/16/costco-accused-of-improper-sales-tax-charges-on-toilet-paper-in-new-jersey.html

Don’t you know you’re not supposed to squeeze the Charmin toilet paper — or charge sales tax on it?

A New Jersey couple on Friday filed a class-action lawsuit against Costco Wholesale and several of its stores, claiming the membership-only warehouse giant has been illegally overcharging them — and potentially hundreds of thousands of other customers — by charging sales tax on toilet tissue purchases in violation of state law.

Toilet tissue sold for household use is exempt from New Jersey’s 7 percent sales tax.

But the couple, Jacqueline Taufield and Robert Arnold, said that they were charged the tax when they purchased Charmin toilet tissue on July 26, 2015, from a Costco in Wayne, New Jersey, and then again when they picked up some more Charmin in a Costco in Hackensack five days later.

The suit said that when the Leonia couple complained to Costco management after realizing they had been charged sale tax improperly, “they refused to issue a rebate to them.”

The couple’s lawyer, Rosemarie Arnold, said, “Rather than refund [Robert’s] money, they told him, ‘Well, if you believe that, you have to mail your receipt to the corporate headquarters along with a letter and tell the corporate headquarters how you were improperly charged tax.'”
The couple was “annoyed and angry” about the charge, and that response, said Arnold, who is not related to Robert.

“The obvious solution is to say, ‘You’re absolutely right … we made a mistake, here’s your money back,’ ” the lawyer said.

The suit says that Costco “despite being aware of the illegality of their actions… continues to cheat their customers, causing them to incur monetary damages when they purchase toilet tissue.”

The claim, filed in Bergen County Superior Court, alleges violation of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, breach of contract, unjust enrichment, negligence, violation of the state’s “Truth-in-Consumer Contract,” and fraud.

A Costco spokeswoman, when asked for comment on the suit, said, “Unfortunately, we are not able to provide a response at this time.”

Arnold, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, said the amount of tax charged improperly in the couple’s case is less than $1.50 in each purchase.

But nonetheless, Arnold said, “I think it’s huge problem” for Costco and its customers because of the likelihood that the couple were not the only ones subject to the incorrect tax charging.

Costco has 19 warehouse locations in New Jersey, according to the company’s website. And the suit says the class of potentially affected customers is more than 100,000 people.

Arnold said the potential damages for the class would be in the “millions of dollars.”

“Everybody uses toilet paper,” Arnold said. “You have to figure that a patron of Costco is always going to buy toilet paper.”

The lawyer also said it’s an open question of whether Costco “is actually paying the taxes to the government, or keeping the money?”

“Most likely, it’s the latter, because if they submitted tax resolutions to the government, the government would say, ‘This is an non-taxable item, it’s toilet paper,’ ” Arnold said.

A spokesman New Jersey’s Treasury Department, which oversees tax regulations, declined to comment on the lawsuit. But the spokesman noted that “large chain stores have point-of-sale cash registers that are programmed to charge sales tax on a variety of items.”

The spokesman also noted that the department does investigate complaints about stores improperly collecting or not collecting sales tax, and that anyone can file such a complaint anonymously.

The Daily Beast: “Better Call Rosemarie! Meet the Lawyer Suing Christie Over Bridgegate”

Better Call Rosemarie! Meet the Lawyer Suing Christie Over Bridgegate
Rosemary Arnold says her clients—including a doggy-daycare owner—suffered when their town was jammed with traffic.

by Olivia Nuzzi
The Daily Beast
January 16, 2014

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/01/16/better-call-rosemarie-meet-the-lawyer-suing-christie-over-bridgegate.html

In Fort Lee, New Jersey, perched high above the Hudson River, is a white, slightly weatherworn building. It houses the law offices of Rosemarie Arnold, advertised in bold white lettering above the doorway. At the entrance of the office driveway, a sign informs you that you are at “The Personal Injury Center.” The.

Six days ago, a group of six New Jersey residents filed a lawsuit in federal court in response to revelations that suggested at least one official in Governor Chris Christie’s administration closed lanes of the George Washington Bridge as an act of political retribution against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat. Rosemarie Arnold is the civil trial attorney who is representing those (now ten) residents. They are suing Christie, the Port Authority, ex-PA officials David Wildstein and Bill Baroni, and Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly.

Arnold’s website advertises her practice areas: car accidents, dog bites, workplace injuries, burn injuries, workplace discrimination, dangerous and defective products, truck accidents, construction accidents, fall-down injuries, spinal-cord injuries, and wrongful death. When we emailed, she responded to me from her iPad. Her sign off included a series of emojis: three ambulances, five bags of money, four shamrocks, and a rose.

Inside her office waiting room, which smells overwhelmingly of Italian food, a downtrodden client sits on a shiny, brown leather chair. He taps his foot and rests his head on the wall behind him, which is overflowing with thumb-tacked thank-you cards. The rest of the walls are decorated with framed press clippings, highlighting Arnold’s many high profile legal battles.

On the cover of US Weekly, with the headline “My World Was Shattered,” is an article about supermodel Christie Brinkley’s divorce. Arnold represented the young girl with whom Brinkley’s ex allegedly had an affair. The entire wall is devoted to this one case, with three other full-page clippings from the New York Post.

As I read the walls, Arnold, who sports a deep tan and dark brown hair, wizzed by, dressed down in jeans, a white tank top and a pink flannel shirt, “I’m running late, be with you in a minute!” Arnold barely looks 25, which is about how long she has owned her practice.

In front of a very large box of Advil, she began by explaining the terror that was the gridlock on the bridge. “People were screaming at each other, and cars were coming like within millimeters of each other, like trying to cut each other off and be first! It was stressful; it was anxiety producing; and it made everybody late!”

Arnold told me one of her clients was late to work and fired. She said she knew of a “newspaper delivery company that delivers The Times” who was affected, and has a client who owns a doggy daycare “right at the foot of the bridge” that couldn’t have pooches picked up or dropped off.

Arnold said her ten plaintiffs are just the ones they named, and she “expects the class to consist of over 100,000 people.” Arnold adds, “each persons’ damages need to be calculated, but I can’t imagine this case is worth less than tens of millions of dollars.”

The smoking gun text by Bridget Ann Kelly (“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee”) is what Arnold says will win her case for her. The rest of the documents, she told me, weren’t even that important. And Arnold, a former supporter of Christie, said his gross misjudgment and mismanagement in Bridgegate has turned her. “The governor to me is a clear-cut defendant in this case. He is the captain of the ship, and he has publicly stated that this was his fault and his administration failed. He actually publicly stated that they acted, and these are important words, with ‘callous indifference,’ that’s purposeful conduct, that’s not negligence, okay? And the governor has proven to be a bully who takes steps to retaliate against those who don’t support him, so of course suing him puts people in a position where they might be subject to his wrath. I don’t fear that.”

Given Arnold’s familiarity with tabloids and television shows like Inside Edition, where she once appeared, I offer a comparison to Gloria Alred.

Arnold gives me a look.

“This is a serious law firm.”

From Politico.com: “Class-action suit filed over bridge”

Class-action suit filed over bridge

By JOSE DELREAL
Politico.com
January 9, 2014

http://www.politico.com/story/2014/01/chris-christie-bridge-lawsuit-101991.html

A class-action complaint has been filed in federal court against top government officials connected to the George Washington Bridge scandal, the Fort Lee, N.J., attorney behind the move said Thursday.

The complaint — filed in the U.S. District Court of New Jersey by attorney Rosemarie Arnold — takes aim at key players in the controversy, naming Republican Gov. Chris Christie, his formeraide Bridget Kelly, former Port Authority officials Bill Baroni and David Wildstein, the state of New Jersey and the Port Authority as defendants.
As a class action, the exact number of members has not yet been determined, but according to the filing, it “includes any and all individuals and business owners” who were inconvenienced or hurt by the lane closures between Sept. 9 and Sept. 13. According to Arnold, the plaintiffs work or live in or near Fort Lee or New York City and are citing economic damages by the lane closures.

The complaint follows a whirlwind week for Christie, who said in a press conference Thursday that he was blindsided by a report in The Record that said senior members of his staff were connected with the lane closures on the George Washington Bridge.

Arnold, who officially filed the complaint Thursday, said she was first contacted by potential plaintiffs about suing back in September when allegations surfaced that the closures were politically motivated. At the time, however, she was hesitant to move forward because of a lack of evidence. Following the revelation that top Christie aides were connected to the closures, she now feels confident moving forward.

“At the time, I said, ‘You know, you have to be able to prove it. You can’t have these unsubstantiated allegations,’” Arnold said. “Now I think we have what we need. This is not a situation that complies with the 14th Amendment.”

Moving forward, the class listed in the complaint has to be certified by meeting certain criteria; Arnold said she is “100 percent” certain those steps will be cleared.

Arnold also stressed that her clients were not merely “inconvenienced” by the road closures.

“I have a client that suffers from panic attacks. And while she was stuck in this traffic, she started to have a panic attack. She and her husband were just trapped like rats,” Arnold said. “She walked out of the car, she threw up, and then she just wanted to leave, but she couldn’t walk home. The traffic was disastrous. And this was a deliberate attempt. This was the desired result of the political motivated closure.”

Atty: Port Washington Family Files Lawsuit After 6-Year-Old Attacked By Dog In Schoolyard (CBS)

Atty: Port Washington Family Files Lawsuit After 6-Year-Old Attacked By Dog In Schoolyard
Doctors Unable To Reattach Boy’s Ear; Espositos Suing For $30 Million
June 4, 2012 8:11 PM

http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2012/06/04/atty-port-washington-family-suing-after-6-year-old-attacked-by-dog-in-schoolyard/

Andrew Esposito

Andrew Esposito, dog bite victim on whose behalf a $30 million dollar ($30M) lawsuit has been filed, after he was attacked at a school playground by a dog owned by Michael Levine and Deborah Levine of Port Washington, NY (photo credit: Esposito family attorney Rosemarie Arnold)

PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – The parents of a 6-year-old Long Island boy who said their son was attacked by a dog on a school playground is suing the dog’s owners for $30 million.

Andrew Esposito was playing in the schoolyard at Sousa Elementary School in Port Washington when a lab mix allegedly got away from its owners as it was being walked through the playground.
The 6-year-old’s father, Ed Esposito, said his son had gone up to pet the dog when he was attacked.

“I turn over and I see my son face down in the dirt,” he told 1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg. “My wife runs over to him and starts screaming ‘his ear, his ear! Look for his ear!’”

There are signs prohibiting dogs from entering school grounds, according to the Esposito’s attorney, Rosemarie Arnold, who added the dog is known to be “aggressive” and “vicious.”

“There are children on the block that are afraid to walk to the bus stop because this dog growls and shows teeth,” Arnold said.

The Espositos put their son’s earlobe on ice and took it to the hospital, but doctors were not able to reattach it. Arnold called the boy’s injuries “catastrophic.”

“This is an adorable, 6-year-old boy who had his earlobe chewed off,” she said.

“He’s been telling everybody that his ear’s growing back, so he thinks that his ear’s growing back. He doesn’t understand what is going on,” Ed Esposito told CBS 2’s Don Dahler.

The lawsuit claims the dog’s owners, Michael and Deborah Levine, were careless and reckless.

The Levines live in Port Washington, but a person who answered the door Monday told CBS 2’s Dahler the couple had no comment, and neither did the Levines return calls asking for their side of the story.

Meanwhile, Andrew Esposito’s father said the boy’s brothers and friends are trying to lift his spirits.

“They’ve rallied around with other kids in the community to make him feel normal,” Ed Esposito said.

Animal Control officers told the Espositos they could do nothing about the dog after the alleged attack, because this was the first time it was accused of biting someone, CBS 2’s Dahler reported.

http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2012/06/04/atty-port-washington-family-suing-after-6-year-old-attacked-by-dog-in-schoolyard/

LI dog-attack horror (New York Post)

LI dog-attack horror
My son’s ear chewed off: dad

By LAUREL BABCOCK and DAN MANGAN
Last Updated: 3:59 AM, June 5, 2012
Posted: 1:26 AM, June 5, 2012

http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/li_dog_attack_horror_BqaI6mJvaQROCJCq24glWO

A Manhattan pediatrician whose 80-pound dog, Archie, is notorious for being “vicious and dangerous” took the pooch to a Long Island elementary school playground — despite signs banning dogs — where it promptly attacked a 6-year-old boy and chewed off his earlobe, a scathing lawsuit charged yesterday.

Then, instead of giving bleeding, screaming Andrew Esposito medical assistance, Dr. Deborah Levine said, “Everything’s going to be fine, It’s no big deal,” recalled Andrew’s dad, Edward Esposito.

Levine had brought the hulking black Labrador mix, Archie, on a leash on May 18 to Philip Sousa Elementary School in Port Washington, LI, where Andrew’s brother was playing a baseball game, Esposito said.

Levine, who is a professor of emergency pediatric medicine at NYU School of Medicine, owns the dog with her urologist husband, Dr. Michael Levine.

Suddenly, “I heard a noise, like something you hear in a bear attack — just a horrible noise,” Esposito recalled.

Esposito, 39, turned to see 45-pound Andrew lying face-down and crying in the dirt — with half of his right ear lying nearby.

Deborah Levine, still holding Archie’s leash, said, “He’ll be fine” — but Andrew wasn’t fine, even after being rushed to St. Francis Hospital and undergoing two hours of surgery, his dad recalled.

“They couldn’t reattach the half that was taken off,” Esposito said. He said his son now faces “many” plastic-surgery procedures.

The still-shaken Andrew since has been kept home from kindergarten — and “thinks his ear is growing back,” his dad said.

Esposito yesterday sued his now-ex-friends in Nassau Supreme Court, claiming the Levines’ recklessness led to Andrew’s permanent injuries.

“This child is going to be significantly disfigured for the rest of his life,” said Esposito’s lawyer, Rosemarie Arnold.

Arnold also said Archie “is known around the neighborhood as having vicious propensities.”

Deborah Levine refused to comment from her Port Washington home.

Additional reporting by Kieran Crowley

http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/li_dog_attack_horror_BqaI6mJvaQROCJCq24glWO

“A ‘super lawyer’ and super mom”

A “super lawyer” and super mom
from NorthJersey.com
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Last updated: Tuesday August 11, 2009, 2:30 PM
BY  KARL DE VRIES OF TOWN JOURNAL

http://www.northjersey.com/news/education/A_super_lawyer_and_super_mom.html?page=all

New York Personal Injury Attorney Rosemarie Arnold

Attorney Rosemarie Arnold

A self-described “slumdog millionaire” who grew up in Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood to become one of the top personal injury attorneys in New Jersey, Saddle River Board of Education member Rosemarie Arnold is used to multitasking.

As the head of two firms comprised of 13 lawyers and 40 employees, Arnold has been named by New Jersey Super Lawyers magazine as one of the top 100 attorneys in the state every year since the listings began in 2003. A single mother of two Wandell children, Arnold has appeared on multiple television networks such as Fox News and MSNBC, delivering legal analysis over the past several years and, perhaps most notably, represented Joran van der Sloot in his civil case against the family of Natalee Holloway.

For Town Journal, Arnold described the beginnings of her 23-year career, the experience of being a talking head on TV and what she brings to the school board as a member serving in her second term.

Q: What made you interested in becoming an attorney?

A: I’ve always felt like I had to fight for everything and negotiate for everything, so I wanted to learn how to do it properly.

Q: When did you decide you wanted to practice personal injury law?

A: I got out of law school and I got a job with Christian Steuben’s office, because it was a Fort Lee address and that’s where I lived. I took the job to get my feet wet, and I was doing personal injury defense work, and that’s when I decided I actually wanted to be a lawyer representing the victims who got hurt. My job was to deprive them of their money, but my heart wasn’t there. My heart was to get them the money, because I always had a compassion for humans, so I flipped to the other side and opened up my own firm.

Q: How many cases do you manage at a time now?

A: I oversee 1,000 pending cases, along with the managing partner in this firm, Sheri Breen, who is my second in command. I handle probably about 25 of my own, the top 25.

Q: What makes them the top 25?

A: They’re worth the most money. They’re the most difficult and complex.

Q: Do you find it difficult to manage all of that?

A: No. I find it challenging to manage all of that and be a good mother to my two little girls, but I think I live up to the challenge.

Q: How did you come to represent Joran Van Der Sloot in the Natalee Holloway case?

A: My partner in New York City is Joe Saccopina, and he’s a high-profile criminal attorney. Joran found him on the Internet, from Aruba, and asked him if he could represent him in New York in a civil case that was being filed against him by Beth Holloway. It was a wrongful death case that was filed against him, and I got involved in that because I’m the civil attorney in our firm.

Q: What’s Van Der Sloot like?

A: I don’t know what he’s like now, but when I represented him, he was a devoted student, a respectable son and a confused teenager. I’ve read that he’s changed since then, and he’s done some things I wouldn’t condone. Unfortunately for him, his personality became the boy that was accused of killing Natalee Holloway. Eventually, there was no evidence that he had harmed her in any way.

Q: How many times have you appeared on TV?

A: I’d say about 100.

Q: Is it becoming old hat by now or is it still pretty cool?

A: I enjoy sharing my legal knowledge and experiences with everyone. Most of the TV appearances that I do have to do with cases I’m involved in. But sometimes I’m called in as an expert to comment on other cases.

Q: Do you get nervous before appearing on a national show?

A: No, but I’m much more comfortable talking about my own cases than commenting on other people’s cases.

Q: What compels you to serve on the school board?

A: I’m a public school-educated person, and I believe in the quality of education in our town. I think I bring something extra as a board of education member having a license to practice law, because there are a lot of legal issues that face the board on a daily basis. While I’m not the board’s attorney and I never act as the board’s attorney, I think like a lawyer because I am one.

http://www.northjersey.com/news/education/A_super_lawyer_and_super_mom.html?page=all

Attorney Rosemarie Arnold: “A courtroom bulldog who won’t be leashed”

A courtroom bulldog who won’t be leashed
The Record (Hackensack, NJ)
August 17, 2003
By PETER POCHNA, STAFF WRITER

Rosemarie Arnold says personal injury law is not “about greedy litigation,” but rather, “making sure the people who need help get help.”

Silence gripped the courtroom as Rosemarie Arnold paused for a moment while describing the plight of her client seated in a wheelchair.

Arnold sniffled, wiping a tear from her eye.

Then she moved in for the kill.

The health club pool in which her client broke his neck was “a ticking time bomb,” the Fort Lee attorney told the jurors.

“It blew up Mr. Lehra’s neck and his arms and his legs. It blew up Mr. Lehra’s manhood,” said Arnold, who wore a tight skirt, high heels, and a look of pained indignation. “It blew up Mr. Lehra’s life and all his hopes and dreams.”

The trial in Hackensack was just getting under way, but the health club owner was clearly in trouble. Within days, before jurors could begin deliberations, Bally’s Total Fitness settled for $1.45 million.

To activists pushing for legal reforms, Arnold represents everything that’s wrong with the justice system: She is a personal injury lawyer who has made millions of dollars for her clients – and herself – by suing doctors, insurance companies, and various kinds of businesses.

Her type is particularly prevalent in New Jersey, which ranks fourth in the nation in lawsuits per capita.

The American Tort Reform Association, among other critics, argues that all that litigation hurts business, drives up insurance costs, puts good doctors out of work, and clogs court dockets with frivolous claims. The association has already won reforms in 11 states and has legislation pending in New Jersey and 20 other states aimed at limiting filings and reducing jury awards.

Although the association portrays her kind as villains, Arnold makes no apologies. She defends her clients with a brash tenacity typified by the license plate on her Audi sedan: “RU NJRD.”

“People think this profession is just about greedy litigation, but it’s really not,” said Arnold, 41, stabbing the air with a long, pink fingernail. “It’s about making sure the people who need help get help.”

Take Eric Myers. Six years ago, he was driving down a road in Point Pleasant when an overloaded asphalt truck swerved into Myers’ lane, crushing his Ford Bronco.

The former assistant manager of Costco in Hackensack has undergone more than 10 surgeries since then, primarily to repair a fractured hip. At one point, an infection in his leg drove his temperature to 106 degrees and left him bathing in tubs of ice and alcohol. Now 35, he walks with a limp, can walk only short distances without resting, and faces more surgery.

Arnold represented Myers in a lawsuit that accused the trucking and paving companies of loading the truck so far beyond capacity that the brakes failed. Following a four-year court battle, Myers last year accepted a $750,000 settlement.

“I’m not a fan of suing anybody, but I needed help getting my life back together,” Myers said. “I had no idea what to do. Rosemarie took me by the hand and led me through the process.”

Arnold runs her 11-attorney firm from a squat, white-stucco building equipped with a $10,000 elevator to help injured clients clear the front steps.

Her work consumes her.

A table in her office is covered with legal documents and diapers it doubles as a changing table for her 1-year-old daughter. A phone message for a colleague is logged in at 4:43 a.m.: Arnold had awakened in the middle of the night with an idea and couldn’t wait until she got to work.

“I get emotionally involved in these cases,” she said. “I do this because I love it. I take care of people. That’s what I’ve done all my life.”

Arnold grew up the eldest of six siblings in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. Her father, an obstetrician, died of cancer when she was 6. She quickly took responsibility for her four sisters and brother.

“She was always very aggressive and always fighting for the underdog,” said her mother, Iris Arnold. “When I told the kids they couldn’t watch TV, she came back that they had six votes and I had one.

“I told her this was not a democracy.”

Arnold graduated from Brooklyn Law School in 1986 and began her career helping companies fend off personal injury cases. She didn’t like it.

“It made me feel dirty,” she said.

In 1989, she started her own firm, which now accepts about 400 new cases a year.

Arnold said she takes only legitimate complaints. She criticizes lawsuits that provide fodder for tort reformers – such as the 270-pound Bronx man who sued McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and other fast-food chains last year for selling food that made him obese.

“The rule in this office is we don’t eat fish,” she said. “If a case smells fishy, we don’t do it.”

Of course, her targets think otherwise.

Bally’s Total Fitness aggressively defended itself against the man who broke his neck in their pool in Englewood Cliffs. The company said 32-year-old Imran Lehra of Bergenfield entered the pool after closing time and dove into the 4-foot-deep water despite numerous signs forbidding diving.

“It could not have been clearer as to what the risks were for diving in the pool,” Brian Heermance, Bally’s attorney, told the Hackensack jury. “He should have known better.”

Arnold argued that Lehra fell into the pool after slipping in a puddle that should have been cleared from the pool’s edge. She also said the health club had been told several times that it needed to lock the entrance when the pool area was closed. Five days into the trial, Bally’s settled.

Arnold said such cases protect people from irresponsible business practices – for instance, those involving pharmacies that dispense the wrong medicine or tobacco companies that mislead consumers.

“It’s a litigious society,” she said. “But it keeps people in line.”

Among several high-profile cases Arnold has pending in Bergen County is a lawsuit that accuses Toyota of having faulty seat belts that contributed to the injuries of a 2-year-old girl who was paralyzed in a 1999 accident involving a drunken driver.

Her passion for her clients poured out when Arnold wept as a judge sentenced the driver to five years in prison Aug. 8.

Another case seeks damages from Exxon for the killing of a gas station attendant in Oakland. The suit contends that Exxon’s policies forced the owner to keep the station open all night, leaving the attendant vulnerable to a knife attack at 4 a.m.

Arnold and her firm pocket plenty of money from these cases. By law, they can collect up to one-third of the payout to their clients, a quarter if the client is a minor.

But Arnold said her true reward is on a wall covered with thank-you notes in her office.

One letter contains a poem titled “Justice” from a teenage girl who was injured when her family’s apartment caught fire and the building’s alarm system failed. Arnold got the family a $1.4 million settlement from the landlord.

“Today, I can say the truth was heard. Our stories have been told,” the poem says.

“Those stories that made us cry … And I and my family can go on and live.”