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
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
Some of our colleagues from Mintz Levin’s Class Action Practice, Joshua Briones, Crystal Lopez, and Grace Rosales, recently authored an interesting and timely article in the Bloomberg BNA Product Safety & Liability Reporter. The article examines certain defenses in consumer fraud class actions over product labeling – specifically, defenses based on faulty damages models. Beyond proving the factual truth of the allegedly misleading labeling claims, the authors tell us, food and other consumer product companies can combat meritless suits by showing that the plaintiff’s damages-calculation model does not meet the requirements established under Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
When reviewing a purported class action lawsuit, Federal Rule 23(b) requires the court to determine that “questions of law or fact common to class members predominate over any questions affecting only individual members.” Generally, a consumer’s damages in a false advertising case are equal to the amount of money needed to make the consumer “whole” — that is, to compensate the consumer for the harm caused by the false claim. But measuring the actual value received by a consumer and the but-for value that consumer would have received absent the false labeling by the product’s manufacturer requires a fact-intensive economic inquiry (for example, questions related to individual consumers’ behavior and preferences, the actual amount consumers paid for the product, time frame of the purchase, etc.). As a result, according to our expert litigators, defendants in product labeling lawsuits can oppose class certification or even file an early motion to decertify by showing that the plaintiffs’ damage model cannot be calculated with proof that is “common” to the class.
Joshua, Crystal, and Grace’s full article can be viewed here. Any manufacturer or retailer of consumer products that is facing a false labeling suit should give it a quick read!
“…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
A recent class action settlement has brought fresh attention to two age-old questions. The first: does Red Bull actually give you wings? The second: how carefully should courts screen out bogus claimants from proposed classes of refund-seeking consumers?
Earlier this month, a federal court in Manhattan conditionally approved a settlement in two related class actions brought against Red Bull North America and Red Bull GmbH, makers of the eponymous–and ubiquitous–energy drink. The class actions allege that Red Bull falsely advertised the energy benefits of its products through advertising claims such as the slogan “Red Bull Gives You Wings.” Continue Reading The Incredible Shrinking Red Bull Refund: How Should Courts Verify Class Membership?