Much of the recent discussion regarding Prop 65 has been focused on the regulatory changes going into effect in August of 2018. And that makes sense since there will be significant changes to the warnings, responsibility, and labeling obligations on product websites. There is, however, other activity that may result in a more profound change as to which chemicals require Prop 65 warnings. As we have discussed in the past (see prior post here), there has been litigation in California state court addressing the appropriateness of adding the pesticide ingredient Glyphosate to the Prop 65 list. Continue Reading A Federal Court Gets Opportunity to Weigh In on Prop 65 With a Little Help from Some Friends
Dan Herling is a Member in the firm and practices in the San Francisco office. His practice is focused on product liability issues relating to pharmaceuticals and medical devices, commercial litigation, and antitrust matters. His trial work also encompasses class actions, intellectual property litigation, patent infringement, and professional liability. He advises international companies in the pharmaceutical, medical device, food, over-the-counter drugs, homeopathic remedies, and dietary supplement industries. He has served as defense counsel in over 3,000 product liability cases and represented companies in both state and federal courts in California and the US.
California’s Safe Drinking Water & Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (affectionately known as “Proposition 65”) has long been the subject of discussion, both pro and con. Much of the conversation is on various issues surrounding the enforcement of Proposition 65 (for example, see a prior post here). In March 2017, a California trial court in Monsanto Co. v. Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (“OEHHA”), No. 16-CE CG 00183, addressed a much more basic issue: should a chemical – here Glyphosate, a key ingredient in Monsanto’s Round-Up® product – even be on Prop 65’s list of cancer-causing chemicals? Continue Reading California’s Prop 65: More Form Over Substance
It has recently been reported that President Donald Trump is looking for ways to defend American-made products by certifying legitimate U.S. goods and aggressively going after imported products unfairly sporting the “Made in America” label, the White House said on July 18, 2017. President Trump announced that his administration would crack down on “predatory online sales of foreign goods” that are hurting U.S. retailers. According to a senior official, the United States loses about $300 billion a year to theft of intellectual property ranging from semiconductors to jeans. In March of this year, the President signed an executive order that gave customs officials more authority to stop pirated and counterfeit items.
This space has addressed the issues, both regulatory and litigation, relating to “Made in America” claims (see here, here, and here). Based on the Administration’s comments, the White House plans to work with the private sector on the new certification and verification system rather than create new regulations or spend taxpayer money. Continue Reading The Turn of the “Made in America” Claim Enforcement
“…Clowns to the right of me, jokers to the left, here I am…”
-Stealers Wheel (1972)
Legal actions regarding “Made in the USA” claims, whether prosecuted by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or through various state unfair trade practices acts, often settle early in the proceedings. For example, in 2014, the FTC issued 16 “closing letters” wherein the target company agreed to revise its “Made in the USA” claim to clarify that its products, even those assembled in the United States, included imported components. In 2015, the FTC issued 28 such “closing letters”; and in 2016, to date, the FTC has issued 18.
Earlier this month, Chemence, Inc., the Ohio maker of Kwikfix, Hammer-Tite and Flash Glue, entered into a settlement with the FTC. Chemence was the third glue company that has resolved its claims issues with the FTC since 2015. Toagosei America, Inc., makers of the Crazy Glue brand, and Gorilla Glue both previously reached agreement with the FTC, with FTC issuing closing letters after both companies agreed to make clear that their products included some imported materials.
Chemence’s path to resolution with the FTC was different. Continue Reading Stuck in the Middle with the FTC
Last month, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (“OEHHA”) adopted new Proposition 65 warning regulations. Much of the discussions regarding these new regulations have centered on the warning requirements that become effective, after an approximately two-year phase-in period, in August 2018.
There were, however, amendments to Prop 65 settlement terms, penalty amounts and attorney’s fees in civil actions filed by private persons that became effective on October 1, 2016. These amendments have “flown under the radar” but actually may be more problematic than the proposed new warnings.
Proposition 65 permits private citizens (known by the plaintiff’s bar as “citizen enforcers”) to initiate enforcement actions, and, when they do, they are entitled to 25% of any penalties assessed by the courts and attorney’s fees. Continue Reading California Prop 65: More Unintended Consequences
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) contained a scene where bodies of plague victims were brought out to the curb for collection via a cart whether or not they properly belonged there. One living fellow insists on not being dead by exclaiming: “I’m not dead yet.” Unfortunately for him, his protestations go unheeded and he is placed in the cart of the dead.
It sometimes appears that arguments for the preemption defense against California statutes, including non-functional slack-fill provisions, are relegated to meeting the same fate as that Middle Ages plague victim.
There is, however, a glimmer of hope, albeit a non-published one. Continue Reading Preemption Defense in the Ninth Circuit Is “Not Dead Yet”
The first round goes to the industry: on December 9, 2015, the Central District of California dismissed the complaint in Barber v. Nestle USA, a key bellwether case in a new wave of class action litigation related to California’s Transparency in Supply Chains Act. The Barber plaintiffs’ theory was that Nestle had violated California’s panoply of consumer protection statutes by failing to disclose that “some proportion of its cat food products may include seafood [that] was sourced from forced labor.”
Judge Cormac McCarthy disagreed, finding instead that Nestle’s disclosures under the Supply Chains Act were protected under California’s “safe harbor” doctrine. And as the details of the decision make clear, this is no one-off victory: the court’s reasoning sets the blueprint for companies defending against similar suits going forward.
A courtroom battle concerning a manufacturer’s alleged false marketing of allegedly foreign-produced products as “Made in USA” is potentially nearing a resolution. On November 30, 2015, the lead plaintiff in Paz v. AG Adriano Goldschmied, Inc. et al. asked the court for preliminary approval of a $4 million settlement between class members and defendants Nordstrom, Inc. and AG Adriano Goldschmied Inc. (“AGAG”). The lawsuit accuses defendants of falsely marketing jeans—manufactured by AG and sold by Nordstrom—as entirely made in America when they allegedly contained foreign components (such as the jeans’ fabric, thread, buttons, and rivets). Bringing claims under California’s consumer protection laws, plaintiff’s class action complaint alleges that consumers’ belief that domestically-made products are of higher quality than foreign-made products allows defendants to charge a premium for clothes labeled “Made in USA.” Continue Reading Settlement Looms for “Made in USA” Jeans Suit
California, the beacon of individualism and often marching to its own set of rules, has joined the rest of the country as Gov. Jerry Brown has signed SB 633 which revises California’s take on what constitutes “Made in USA”.
Up until this week, existing California law prohibited the sale or offering for sale in the state of any merchandise in which the words, “Made in U.S.A.,” “Made in America,” “U.S.A.,” or similar words appeared on the label when the merchandise or any article, unit, or part thereof, has been entirely or substantially made, manufactured, or produced outside of the United States. (Read our previous post on the California, the FTC and Made in the USA Claims here.) An epidemic of consumer class actions had been launched in the past several years claiming that this law was violated by California manufacturers and retailers even though the products met Federal and other state requirements for the proper use of “Made in USA labeling. Continue Reading California Joins rest of Country in “Made in USA” Rules
Recent attempts to modify California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, Proposition 65, have been the work of the California Legislature. (See A Sane Tweak To Proposition 65 and California Reenters the GMO Food Labeling Arena – This Time Through The Legislature). This past week, however, the California Appellate Court for the First District in Environmental Law Foundation (ELF) v. Beech-Nut Nutrition Corp., 2015 B.L. 72035, (Cal. Ct. Ap., No. A139821, 3/17/15) upheld a trial judge who determined, after entertaining extensive expert testimony, that low levels of lead in products including baby food, fruit juice and packaged food do not produce exposures that trigger a requirement for warnings under Proposition 65.
The Beech-Nut case is one of the few situations where a Proposition 65 plaintiffs’ group has had to litigate what triggers a requirement for warnings under the law. In this case, the court held that the manufacturers met their burden of proof.