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.

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On August 29, 2018, despite industry criticism, the California state legislature passed AB 2998 (the “Bill”), which will require that levels of chemical flame retardants in covered products be below 1,000 parts per million. The Bill, which the governor is expected to sign into law, states that starting January 1, 2020, distributing children’s products, mattresses and upholstered furniture containing most chemical flame retardants will be illegal in the state of California. Samples of covered products sold to consumers will be provided to California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control for testing, and if a product is found to be noncompliant, a fine may be assessed against the manufacturer, distributor and/or retailer.  Continue Reading California Bans Use of Most Chemical Flame Retardants in Children’s Products and Furniture as the CPSC Prepares to Take Action on the Flammability of Upholstered Furniture

In a move affecting manufacturers, distributors and retailers in the furniture and other wood-based industries, the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) recently issued a series of amendments to its Final Rule implementing the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act (the “Formaldehyde Final Rule”), which added Title VI to the Toxic Substances Control Act (“TSCA”). The Formaldehyde Final Rule, 40 CFR Part 770, sets formaldehyde emissions standards for composite wood products and includes requirements for the testing, third-party certification, import certification and labeling of covered products by manufacturers of those products. The Final Rule also imposes requirements on downstream fabricators, distributors and retailers to keep records for at least three years demonstrating that covered products they use, distribute and/or sell are TSCA Title VI-compliant. Continue Reading Recent Amendments to EPA’s Formaldehyde Emissions Final Rule Affect Furniture Industry

On June 19, 2017, the United States Supreme Court announced important constitutional limitations on state courts’ ability to exercise specific jurisdiction over nonresidents’ claims against out-of-state defendants. The Court’s nearly unanimous decision in Bristol-Myers v. Superior Court, 582 U.S. (2017) has potentially far-reaching implications for companies facing claims brought by nonresident and resident plaintiffs in states in which those companies are neither incorporated nor maintain their principal place of business. In holding that mere joinder of nonresident plaintiffs’ claims with those of resident plaintiffs does not permit a state court to exercise specific jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant, the Court’s decision is the latest in a trend of important personal jurisdiction decisions rendered by the high court in recent years which provide companies with significant constitutional protections in terms of where plaintiffs may force companies to litigate. Continue Reading Supreme Court Again Tightens Jurisdictional Requirements for Claims Against Out-of-State Defendants

On January 3, 2017, a Ninth Circuit panel (the “panel”) weighed in on a growing split among circuits over Rule 23’s ascertainability requirement—in particular, the extent to which a plaintiff must prove there is an “administratively feasible” means of identifying class members. Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Widens Circuit Split on Rule 23’s Ascertainability Requirement

Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014 decision in Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746 (2014), numerous courts across the country have applied its holding to narrow the permissible bounds of the exercise of general jurisdiction over companies in jurisdictions without a connection to the specific claims in the case. On August 29, 2016, in Bristol-Myers Squibb v. Superior Court, No. S221038 (Calif. 2016), the California Supreme Court left many wondering what Daimler may mean for the exercise of specific jurisdiction in cases involving nationwide courses of business conduct affecting both resident and nonresident plaintiffs.  Continue Reading CA Supreme Court Raises Questions About Post-Daimler Bounds of Specific Jurisdiction

President Obama signed the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (“Lautenberg Act”) into law in June 2016, amending the core provisions of the Toxic Substances Control Act (“TSCA”) for the first time in nearly 40 years. Last month, Hunton & Williams detailed how the Lautenberg Act considerably broadens the Environmental Protection Agency’s (“EPA’s”) authority to evaluate chemical safety and regulate use of chemicals in all stages of the supply chain, including manufacturing, distribution and retail sale. Within six months, EPA must select at least 10 chemical substances and begin risk evaluations on them. EPA must also classify chemicals – including those currently in the retail supply chain – as “high priority” or “low priority” for review, and begin risk evaluations on 20 high priority chemicals within the next three and a half years. Continue Reading Major Implications for Retail Industry Following Overhaul of Toxic Substance Control Act

Last month, the American Tort Reform Foundation (“ATRF”) released the 2015-2016 edition of its annual “Judicial Hellholes” report. Each year, the report identifies the venues it deems the least favorable for defendants and highlights notable pro-plaintiff rulings and practices in each jurisdiction. Continue Reading ATRF Names Nine Jurisdictions as “Judicial Hellholes” for Defendants