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Sunscreen makers' liability?

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There's a nice, balanced piece in today's W.S. Journal [subscription required] on the lawsuits recently filed in California against Schering-Plough Corp., Neutrogena Corp., Johnson & Johnson and others.

Note that this is NOT a products liability suit, but a consumer protection class action. The defendants' sunscreen products, according to the complaint, are not waterproof, don't work all day, don't block the most harmful of the sun's rays, and don't prevent wrinkling -- as products claim they do. The plaintiffs are alleging violations of California's fraud, false advertising and misrepresentation statutes. They are not suing for any injury, but for a refund of the purchase price -- and this is not insignificant in an industry where sales exceed $500 million annually.

The defendants argue that their compliance with federal standards is sufficient. The trial judge found that federal regulations concerning the labeling of sunscreens merely state that labels cannot be "false and misleading," thus failing to pre-empt state statutes at all. Methinks that experts on both sides will be debating the meaning of "waterproof" and other such terms.

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.