Our San Diego friends at Lerach Coughlin have branched out from their securities suit business to jump on the consumer fraud bandwagon. Their new class-action target: the makers of sunscreen. Lerach partner Samuel Rudman, as quoted in today�s Los Angeles Times, claims that "Sunscreen is the snake oil of the 21st century," and called commonly-applied terms like "sunblock," "waterproof" and "all-day protection" forms of false advertising--notwithstanding that the use of such terms by sunscreen manufacturers is regulated by the federal Food and Drug Administration.
As with similar "harm-less" lawsuits--see Michael Greve's paper on the topic, as well as our coverage of the state and federal lawsuits over the allegedly false advertising of "low tar" cigarettes--this suit does not seek damages for physical injuries caused by allegedly less-than-adequate sunscreen. Rather, Lerach Coughlin's suit seeks to force sunscreen to give up earnings from the sales of any falsely advertised product. Schering-Plough and Johnson & Johnson company Neutrogena Corporation are named in the suit, along with other sunscreen and cosmetic makers. That, and the fact that the $445 million of sunscreens and tanning products are sold every year, means that this suit packs potentially a major economic punch.