Just weeks after a federal judge called the science behind the alleged carcinogenicity of glyphosate “shaky,” a California state court jury hammered Monsanto with a $289 million verdict, blaming a former groundskeeper’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma on his exposure to the Roundup® chemical. The August 10, 2018, verdict in Johnson v. Monsanto Co., No. CGC16550128 (California Superior Court, County of San Francisco)—which included $250 million in punitive damages—was just the first in the nearly 8,000 Roundup-related cases currently pending against Monsanto, many of which are consolidated in multidistrict litigation in California federal court. The intense publicity surrounding the verdict has left retailers whose products contain ingredients that might have been treated with glyphosate wondering whether their products may be targeted next.
This month marks the 10th anniversary of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (“CPSIA”), which was signed into law on August 14, 2008. CPSIA was a bipartisan response to unsettling events in the world of consumer products that occurred in 2007. During that landmark year, reports emerged about lead contamination in a wide range of consumer products—including children’s toys—that forced the CPSC into the national spotlight and facilitated over 400 recalls. The CPSIA aimed to significantly enhance the CPSC’s regulatory and enforcement power by doubling its budget, increasing its staff levels, prohibiting the sale of recalled products and increasing its civil penalties. For example, before CPSIA, the CPSC could impose civil penalties in the amount of $8,000 per violation, with a maximum of $1.825 million. But in 2008, CPSIA increased significantly the amount of civil penalties to $100,000 per violation, with a maximum of $15 million, adjusted for inflation. Continue Reading Recall Roundup: August
July served as another quiet month in the world of recalls. With only 11 recalls issued, July has had the fewest recalls for any month in over a year.
The CPSC made an important announcement this month regarding cedar chests. A company designed cedar chests with lids that automatically lock when closed. The company stopped making the cedar chests in 1987. From 1977 to 2015, 14 children have suffocated to death after climbing into the cedar chests and becoming locked inside. During this time, the company recalled 12 million cedar chests and offered a replacement latch to remedy the defect. Still, the CPSC predicts that millions of these cedar chests remain unfixed in consumers’ homes, posing a continuing danger to children. The CPSC’s announcement served as a plea urging consumers to immediately replace or remove the dangerous latches. Continue Reading Recall Roundup: July
On July 3, 2018, Governor David Ige of Hawaii signed SB 2571 into law, banning the sale or distribution of any “SPF sunscreen protection personal care product” that contains chemicals oxybenzone or octinoxate without a prescription issued by a licensed healthcare provider. “SPF sunscreen protection personal care product” is broadly defined to include, without limitation, any lotion, paste, balm, ointment, cream, solid stick applicator, brush applicator, roll-on applicator, aerosol spray, non-aerosol spray pump, and automated and manual mist spray. The ban, which Governor Ige indicated is intended to protect marine ecosystems including coral reefs, will go into effect on January 1, 2021. Estimates indicate that at least 70 percent of sunscreen products contain oxybenzone or octinoxate. Continue Reading Hawaii Governor Signs Law Banning Chemicals from Sunscreen Products
It has been a quiet month in the world of recalls with only 13 product recalls issued in June. Still, other CPSC-related news is noteworthy.
Last month, the U.S. Senate confirmed President Trump’s appointment of Dana Baiocco to serve as a CPSC commissioner. If political ideology translates into voting trends on consumer safety issues—and it may not—Baiocco’s appointment creates a potential 2-2 voting “tie” at the CPSC, with two Republican and two Democratic commissioners. Now, Trump seeks to add a third Republican to the CPSC. On June 4, 2018, Trump nominated Peter Feldman to be a commissioner. Feldman is senior counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and therefore advises on consumer protection, product safety, data and privacy issues. If confirmed, Feldman will complete the remainder of former Commissioner Joe Mohorovic’s term, which expires in October 2019. Feldman’s confirmation would mean that for the first time in nearly 12 years, Republican appointees would outnumber Democratic appointees at the CPSC. Continue Reading Recall Roundup: June
The CPSC experienced a political shake-up this month when the U.S. Senate confirmed Dana Baiocco as the newest commissioner. In September, President Trump nominated Baiocco, a Republican and former partner at Jones Day, but the Senate did not act on the nomination by the end of the 2017 calendar year. So President Trump resubmitted his nomination of Baiocco in January. On May 22, 2018, the Senate confirmed Baiocco by a vote of 50-45, mostly along party lines. Her seven-year term will run through October of 2024. Continue Reading Recall Roundup: May
April was an historic month for the CPSC. The agency approved a $27.25 million civil penalty—the largest in CPSC history. The significance of this record amount cannot be overstated. The previous record was held by a $15.45 million civil penalty approved in March of 2016. In fact, except for in 2016, the CPSC has never approved civil penalties that totaled $27.25 million in each of the last ten calendar years. Now, it is has done so in 2018 with just one civil penalty. Continue Reading Recall Roundup: April
On the heels of a recent $5 million civil penalty, the CPSC recently secured a $1.5 million civil penalty with help from the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”). The civil penalty concludes a long saga between the CPSC and a large arts and crafts retailer about vases with allegedly defective thin glass that rendered them prone to shattering. Continue Reading Recall Roundup: March
The CPSC has flexed its regulatory muscle during the first months of 2018 with respect to products that pose risks to children. With the U.S. Department of Justice’s (“DOJ’s”) help, the CPSC secured a $5 million civil penalty against a drug company for its allegedly deficient child-resistant packaging. In December, the DOJ filed a complaint in federal court against the drug company alleging that it knowingly violated the Poison Prevention Packaging Act and the Consumer Product Safety Act by distributing five household prescription drugs with non-compliant child-resistant packaging and failing to report the noncompliance to the CPSC. The complaint alleges that the drug company’s engineers drafted a “risk analysis” memo identifying the packaging as non-compliant. Rather than halt distribution and immediately report the non-compliance to the CPSC, the drug company continued distribution with non-compliant packaging while concurrently developing compliant packaging. The company also waited nearly 15 months before notifying the CPSC of its non-compliant packaging. In January, the federal court entered a consent decree for the matter. The drug company agreed to pay a $5 million civil penalty, implement and maintain a compliance program, and maintain and enforce a system of internal controls and procedures. Continue Reading Recall Roundup: February
With the arrival of 2018, President Trump resubmitted his nominations for CPSC leadership vacancies to the Senate. In 2017, Trump nominated Commissioner Ann Marie Buerkle to serve as CPSC Chair and Dana Baiocco to serve as a commissioner replacing Democrat Commissioner Marietta Robinson, whose term expired. But, under Senate rules, nominations not acted on are returned to the President. At the end of the Senate’s 2017 session, this meant that roughly 120 nominations were returned to Trump. Both nominees—Buerkle and Baiocco—are expected to receive Senate confirmation this year. Continue Reading Recall Roundup: January