This past week, several consumer actions made headlines that affect the retail industry.

“Black Truffle Flavored Extra Virgin Olive Oil” Case Dismissed Against Trader Joe’s

On August 30, 2018, the Southern District of New York dismissed class action claims for consumers who purchased Trader Joe’s “Black Truffle Flavored Extra Virgin Olive Oil.” The complaint alleged that the product label contained the words “black truffle” in large black letters, with the words “flavored” and “extra virgin olive oil” in smaller cursive letters underneath. However, DNA testing revealed that the oil did not contain actual truffle, but rather 2,4-dithiapentane, a petroleum-based synthetic injection that imitates the taste and smell of truffles. Continue Reading Consumer Protection in Retail: Weekly Roundup

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

What is California’s Proposition 65?

California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (“Prop 65”) is one of the most onerous chemical right-to-know statutes in the nation. It prohibits businesses with 10 or more employees, including businesses that merely ship products into California, from exposing people in California to listed chemicals without providing a “clear and reasonable” warning.

Why Should I Care?

Bringing a Prop 65 action is relatively easy and lucrative for private plaintiffs and their counsel. In 2017, there were nearly 700 cases settled with defendants paying more than $25,000,000 in plaintiffs’ attorneys fees and penalties. This does not include defense counsel fees, business interruption and other costs to comply. Continue Reading New California Prop 65 Warning Regulations: What Businesses Need To Know Before August 30, 2018

As reported on Hunton’s Privacy and Information Security Law blog, on June 28, 2018, the Governor of California signed AB 375, the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (the “Act”). The Act introduces key privacy requirements for businesses, and was passed quickly by California lawmakers in an effort to remove a ballot initiative of the same name from the November 6, 2018, statewide ballot. We previously reported on the relevant ballot initiative. The Act will take effect January 1, 2020. Continue Reading California Consumer Privacy Act Signed, Introduces Key Privacy Requirements for Businesses

This past week, several consumer actions made headlines that affect the retail industry.

District Judge Boots Putative Class Action Against L.L. Bean

A federal district judge has dismissed an attempted class action against L.L. Bean involving the company’s long-standing no-questions-asked warranty policy. In February 2018, L.L. Bean announced that it was changing its policy to limit customers’ return period to one year, while committing to “work with our customers to reach a fair solution” if a problem arises more than a year after purchase. The plaintiff alleged that changing the warranty violated both the Magnusson-Moss Act and Illinois state law as an anticipatory repudiation of the guarantee. But the District Judge ruled that plaintiff neither alleged an injury nor had he stated a claim for which relief could be granted. Continue Reading Consumer Protection in Retail: Weekly Roundup

This past week, several consumer actions made headlines that affect the retail industry.

Federal Court OKs Large Warning Requirement for Cigar Products

A federal court has upheld forthcoming health warning requirements that will take up 30 percent of the principal panels of cigar product packages and 20 percent of cigar product advertisements. The court found that the textual warnings were “unambiguous and unlikely to be misinterpreted by consumers,” and that the cigar sellers retained sufficient space on their packaging and advertisements “in which to effectively communicate their desired message.” It also concluded that, under the Zauderer standard for commercial speech, the size, format and other design features of the warning statements were reasonably related to the government’s substantial interest in “providing accurate information about, and curing misperceptions regarding, the health consequences of cigar use.” The case is captioned Cigar Assoc. of Am. et al. v. FDA et al. No. 1:16-cv-1460 (D.D.C.). Continue Reading Consumer Protection in Retail: Weekly Roundup

California is the land of employment legislation, and 2018 is shaping up to be another year of change. We are less than six months into the year, and already several bills that could significantly impact California businesses—for better or for worse—are pending in the California legislature. Continue Reading Brace for Impact: Wave of Employment Bills Pending in California

As reported on Hunton’s Employment & Labor Perspectives blog, the U.S. Supreme Court has voted to hear an appeal of the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Varela v. Lamps Plus, Inc. The Supreme Court is expected to decide whether workers can pursue their claims through class-wide arbitration when the underlying arbitration agreement is silent on the issue. The case could have wide-reaching consequences for employers who use arbitration agreements. Continue Reading SCOTUS to Review Right to Class Arbitration in Silent Agreements

The California Supreme Court has adopted a new three-part test to determine whether a worker is an independent contractor or an employee under California’s wage orders, which regulate wages, hours and working conditions. The highly anticipated ruling could have wide-ranging effects for businesses operating in California and beyond, as companies try to navigate the new gig economy. Continue Reading California Supreme Court Adopts New Independent Contractor Test