Aveeno Baby Wash Lawsuit Centralization Sought for Marketing Claims

A motion has been filed with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) to consolidate all Aveeno baby wash lawsuits over allegedly false claims about the use of natural ingredients, seeking to centralize the litigation before one federal judge for coordinated pretrial proceedings.

Johnson & Johnson currently faces at least three Aveeno class action lawsuits filed in different U.S. District Courts, which all involve similar allegations that the popular baby wash was sold using false and deceptive advertising that indiated only natural ingredients were used. However, plaintiffs allege that Aveeno baby products actually contain synthetic ingredients that may release formaldehyde and other potential carcinogens.

On June 19, Ashley and Noeh Smith filed a motion (PDF) to establish a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) for all lawsuits filed against Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies, Inc. over the Aveeno baby wash products, indicating that centralized management will reduce duplicative discovery into common issues, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different judges and serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.

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All of the complaints involve similar allegations that Aveeno Calming Comfort Bath and other Aveeno baby wash products billed as having a “Natural Formula,” actually contain Quaternium 15, a preservative that releases formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen.

The complaints also claim that the Aveeno baby products have a high risk of contamination by 1,4 Dioxane, another chemical believed to be a cancer-causing agent. It is a compound that is irritating to the eyes and respiratory tract and may cause damage to the central nervous system, liver and kidneys. It is also classified by the EPA as a probable human carcinogen and was classified by the state of California under Proposition 65 to cause cancer.

“Each variety of Aveeno is sold with a label on the front of the products that prominently states ‘Active Naturals,’” the motion notes. “Additionally, the Aveeno brand is marketed on multiple mediums using numerous slogans and representations to induce the purchaser into believing that Aveeno products are natural. Despite knowing that synthetic ingredients are not natural and that Aveeno products contain synthetic ingredients, Defendant is engaging in widespread marketing and advertising campaigns to portray Aveeno products as ‘Active Naturals’ or to otherwise represent that the Aveeno products are natural.”

The motion calls for the MDL to be formed in the Northern District of Florida under U.S. District Court Judge Robert L. Hinkle.

The lawsuits came on the heels of a consumer campaign and a petition for a boycott in 2012 by the consumer watchdog group Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. The boycott was aimed at forcing Johnson & Johnson to remove the chemicals from its baby shampoo products.

Despite calling 1,4 Dioxane a “trace byproduct” Johnson & Johnson agreed to remove the chemicals from its baby shampoo products in 2013.

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