A weekly update on interesting numbers in product liability, class action and mass tort news from August 18–August 24. Published Fridays.
One of the many ways to interpret the label “100% grated Parmesan cheese,” an Illinois judge said Thursday. A proposed multidistrict litigation suit alleged that Wal-Mart, Kraft Heinz, Target and other cheese sellers and manufacturers were being misleading in the labeling of their cheese products. The lawsuit took particular issue with the inclusion of cellulose, or wood pulp, an ingredient that has been used to mislead consumers in the past. However, in the aforementioned proposed suit, the judge found that cellulose was clearly listed as an ingredient, there were multiple ways to interpret the “100%” claim, and that it was unreasonable for consumers to assume that cheese that came in an unrefrigerated green can was pure cheese. A spokesperson for Kraft “applauded” the decision, claiming that American families have “enjoyed” the product for decades.
The amount Johnson & Johnson (J&J) was ordered to pay a woman who said she got ovarian cancer after using their talc products. In the conclusion of a trial repeatedly featured in this column, a California jury found Monday that J&J should have warned plaintiff Eva Echeverria about the link between genital talc use and ovarian cancer. Though J&J plans to appeal the decision, saying that the science is on their side, some mass tort lawyers have suggested that the health products company may have to adopt a new strategy going forward. Thousands of women have filed talc cancer lawsuits against J&J and many more are expected to come forward in light of this recent decision.
The number of wins J&J unit Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals Inc. have had in lawsuits alleging that Xarelto can cause dangerous bleeding. In a decision last Friday, a Mississippi jury found that the pharmaceutical companies are not liable for causing plaintiff Dora Mingo’s gastrointestinal bleeding. Lawyers commenting on the case have said that while a series of defense victories is unusual in pharmaceutical litigation, upcoming cases with different circumstances could be better for plaintiffs. A fourth bellwether case in the Xarelto multidistrict litigation has yet to be scheduled, but is forthcoming.
The number of documents alleged to have been improperly released by plaintiff lawyers in a case concerning Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. This week, a California federal judge criticized both sides in a heated hearing regarding the leak, at one point threatening to call security to remove a lawyer from the room. Some of the documents released in the leak suggest that Monsanto may have worked to influence safety studies concerning the link between Roundup and various forms of cancer. Farmers and others that have worked with the glyphosate-based herbicide accuse Monsanto of continuing to sell a product linked to cancer in pending product liability litigation.
The maximum award in a class action suit against Whole Foods and a kombucha maker that reached final approval this week. Plaintiffs had accused Whole Foods and GT’s kombucha maker Millennium Products, Inc. of falsely labeling their kombucha as nonalcoholic, saying the product contained antioxidants when it did not, and understating the amount of sugar in the beverage. Other consumers alleged that the drinks were excessively carbonated and could explode. As a part of the settlement, the companies will make changes to the beverage labels and pay $8.25 million. Consumers without proof of purchase that bought the kombucha can receive a $3.50 cash award for each bottle purchased, for a maximum award of $35. Consumers with proof of purchase may receive up to $60.
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