AARP Foundation Litigation attorneys represent a client who has filed an objection to a proposed class action settlement.
Perrigo Company manufactures dietary supplements that are sold under the store brand name of many large retailers. One such product contains glucosamine, which is marketed to “help rebuild cartilage,” “lubricate joints,” and “help provide joint comfort.” Plaintiffs sued several large retailers alleging those marketing claims are false, deceptive, and misleading, in violation of several state consumer protection laws. Scientific evidence shows that glucosamine does not provide the benefits stated on the label.
Consumers sued in a class action, which is typically an effective way to end widespread bad practices in a single proceeding and provide a remedy to all the injured people, who would otherwise not be able to pursue relief, because the individual recovery is too small to justify pursuing legal claims. Class action litigation ensures that law breakers do not profit from ill-gotten gains; in this case, for instance, it is estimated that 17 million packages of the falsely labeled products were sold. Individuals are unlikely to file a lawsuit to recover the cost of a package of a dietary supplement that was falsely marketed and does not provide the promised benefits, but which provides the manufacturer and retailers with enormous profits.
A settlement was reached in the litigation and, as required in class actions, final approval was sought from the court. Court approval for class action settlements is required because a settlement will bind absent class members who were not involved in the litigation, but whose legal rights are being decided through the settlement.
The objector has asked the court to reject the proposed settlement, claiming that there are significant problems that make it unfair to class members. In support of the objection, a brief filed by the objector’s AARP Foundation Litigation attorneys points out that the proposed settlement benefits the plaintiffs’ attorneys more than the class members (attorneys’ fees are almost equal to the relief provided to the class), provides insufficient injunctive relief (it limits the use of only six words, and for only 2 years) and fails to provide proper notice to the absent class members, who will not benefit from the settlement because they will not learn about it. Worse, the settlement releases all the retailers and the manufacturer from any other claims by the class, even though most of the retailers were not sued and the relief does not compensate for or prevent harm from the all claims that are being released. It even enjoins class members from complaining to the government about false marketing and any other claims about the product.
What’s at Stake
False and deceptive marketing of dietary supplements preys on people’s desire for better health or relief from pain. The lies drain billions of dollars from older people’s budgets without providing any of the claimed benefits. Private class action litigation is important to stop false marketing claims, but settlements in such cases must actually stop the bad practices and protect the consumers. Settlements that provide little or no meaningful relief and that releases wrongdoers without holding them responsible shields them from effective law enforcement.
Quinn v. Walgreen is before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.