Week Adjourned: 10.16.15 – Gerber, CRTs, Equal Pay

Gerber Good StartTop Class Action Lawsuits

This lawsuit’s off to a good start! Gerber Good Start Gentle infant Formula got hit with a consumer fraud class action this week, filed by Plaintiff, Oula Zakaria who alleges that Gerber engaged in unfair business practices regarding the marketing of the baby food. Specifically, the lawsuit claims a pattern of “deceit and unfair business practices by Gerber Products Co. (“Defendant”) in the marketing and sale of Good Start Gentle, a prominent line of infant formula produced, distributed, marketed, and sold by Defendant made from partially hydrolyzed whey protein”.

In the Gerber lawsuit, Zakaria alleges that Gerber claimed (a) Good Start Gentle was the “first and only” formula whose consumption reduced the risk of infants developing allergies; (b) that consumption of Good Start Gentle reduced the risk of developing infant atopic dermatitis, an inflammatory skin disorder; (c) that Good Start Gentle was the “first and only” formula endorsed by the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) to reduce the risk of developing allergies; and (d) using the FDA term of art “Qualified Health Claim” to convey that Good Start Gentle received FDA approval for the health claims advertised and was fit for a particular purpose when, in actuality, the term “Qualified Health Claim” means that the FDA did not grant approval for the use of a non-qualified health claim and that the scientific support for the claim is limited or lacking (at best).

In October 2014, the FDA issued Defendant a warning letter listing a litany of misrepresentations and falsehoods in the promotion of Good Start Gentle that violated federal law and related regulations. Defendant was instructed by the FDA to cease its deceitful practices or face potential legal action by the FDA.

Further, in October 2014, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) brought the lawsuit against Defendant seeking to enjoin its deceptive practices in relation to the marketing and sale of Good Start Gentle, specifically citing Defendant’s false or misleading claim “that feeding Gerber Good Start Gentle formula to infants with a family history of allergies prevents or reduces the risk that they will develop allergies” and the false or misleading claim “that Gerber Good Start Gentle formula qualified for or received approval for a health claim from the Food and Drug Administration.”

Zakaria estimates that she purchased one container of Good Start Gentle per week from October 2013 to November 2014, from stores in Porter Ranch, California. Some of the containers of Good Start Gentle purchased by Plaintiff had a label that read, “1st & Only Routine Formula to Reduce Risk of Developing Allergies, see label inside.” But for Defendant’s allegedly false and misleading representations, Plaintiff alleges that she would not have made these purchases.

Plaintiff, on behalf of herself and other similarly situated consumers, brings this consumer protection action against Defendant based on its course of unlawful conduct. Plaintiff alleges violations of California’s Unfair Competition Law, California False Advertising Law, the Consumer Legal Remedies Act, as well as Breach of Express Warranty, Breach of the Implied Warranty of Merchantability, and other claims.

Top Settlements

Cathode Ray Tubes—ever heard of them? Well if you own one—bought one sometime between 1999 and 2007—you may be interested to learn about a staggering $576.75 million settlement in a price-fixing class action lawsuit pending against the makers of Cathode Ray Tubes, (CRTs). These devices were sold separately or as the main component in TVs and computer monitors.

The CRT settlement includes CRTs and CRT Products purchased for private use and not for resale. Purchases made directly from a defendant or alleged co-conspirator are not included.

The lawsuit claims that the Defendants fixed the prices of CRTs causing consumers to pay more for CRTs and products containing CRTs, such as TVs and computer monitors (collectively “CRT Products”). The Defendants deny Plaintiffs’ allegations. The court granted preliminary approval of the new Settlements on July 9, 2015.

Here’s the need to know: Individuals and businesses qualify for money from this settlement if they purchased a CRT or product containing a CRT, such as a TV or computer monitor, in the following states for their own use and not resale:

Arizona, California, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin or the District of Columbia between March 1, 1995 and November 25, 2007
Hawaii between June 25, 2002 and November 25, 2007
Nebraska between July 20, 2002 and November 25, 2007
Nevada between February 4, 1999 and November 25, 2007

To be eligible to make a claim, you must have purchased the CRT televisions, monitors or other CRT Products “indirectly”, meaning that you purchased the products from someone other than the defendant manufacturers or alleged co-conspirators. Purchases made directly from a defendant or alleged co-conspirator are not included. Persons or businesses who purchased directly from a defendant manufacturer or alleged co-conspirator should visit http://www.crtdirectpurchaserantitrustsettlement.com/ for additional information.

Purchases of Sony® branded televisions and monitors are NOT eligible to be included in the CRT indirect purchaser case. All other brands of CRT televisions and monitors are eligible.

Hey, hey, hooray for Equal Pay! A victory for the female employees at Publicis Groupe’s MSL Group? Well, they reached a $3 million settlement in a gender discrimination class action lawsuit this week. The lawsuit, filed in February 2011, had originally asked for $100 million in damages. You do the math.

According to the equal pay lawsuit, lead plaintiff Ms. Monique da Silva Moore and other female public relations employees in the U.S. claimed they were denied equal pay, promotion and other employment opportunities by Publicis and its PR group, MSLGroup. Ms. da Silva Moore, a former global healthcare director for MSLGroup, had worked for the PR agency for 13 years.

Jim Tsokanos, MSLGroup’s U.S. president at the time, stepped down over a year after the claims were made. The lawsuit described his behavior, specifically, the suit stated that despite ongoing inappropriate conduct and complaints, Tsokanos was promoted to Executive Vice President and Managing Director of the Company’s largest office in New York and ultimately to President of the Americas. In his new role, Tsokanos continues to make comments about the appearance of female employees often discussing their “looks” in front of other employees and during meetings. He is also known to take young female employees out for drinks frequently. Human Resources has never taken any action to end President Tsokanos’ ongoing inappropriate conduct. So the next logical step was a lawsuit, and I’m guessing this win has to feel pretty good.

Ok—that’s it for this week folks—see you at the bar!