Suave Lawsuits Over Benzene in Antiperspirant Spray Cleared to Move Forward by Federal Judge
A federal judge has cleared the way for lawsuits to move forward over Suave antiperspirant spray contaminated with high levels of benzene, a known cancer-causing agent.
The Suave lawsuits were filed after the release of a report by the independent online pharmacy Valisure on November 3, which found dangerously high levels of benzene in deodorants and body sprays including Suave, Old Spice, Secret and Tag. Shortly after the report was released, the organization also filed a citizen’s petition with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, calling for a deodorant recall of the affected products.
Benzene is an industrial chemical that has been associated with the development of several fatal forms of cancer, leukemia and other conditions, such as AML, Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML), Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL), Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL), Hairy Cell Leukemia (HCL), Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Multiple Myeloma, Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDL), Myelofibrosis and Myeloid Metaplasia, Aplastic Anemia and Thrombocytopenic Purpura.
For the last couple years, Valisure has focused on revealing hidden, potentially dangerous, chemicals sold in consumer goods. In addition to deodorant and body spray products, Valisure has also found evidence of benzene in various aerosol spray sunscreen products, including Neutrogena, Coppertone and others. Those manufacturers also face a number of sunscreen lymphoma lawsuits being filed by former users who applied large amounts on a regular and consistent basis.
Learn More About Sunscreen Recall lawsuits
Leukemia, lymphoma and other cancer may be caused by benzene in Neutrogena, Aveeno, Coppertone and other sunscreens.
In a memorandum opinion and order (PDF) regarding two of those lawsuits; one filed by Antonio Morris, and another filed jointly by Yvonne Barnes and Patricia Dean, U.S. District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly of the Northern District of Illinois, rejected petitions by Unilever to have the cases dismissed.
All three plaintiffs are from Illinois and both lawsuits seek class action status, alleging consumers were misled by about the safety of the products. The lawsuits indicate Unilever, the manufacturer, never warned consumers they were at risk of benzene exposure and seek to represent consumers who purchased contaminated deodorant nationwide.
Unilever tried to have the court cases thrown out based on lack of standing, arguing that the plaintiffs had not alleged an actual injury. However, Judge Kennelly disagreed, pointing to Barnes’ claims as an example.
“Barnes does not allege a present physical injury from the use of the Suave products, but that is not required – an economic injury may suffice, “Judge Kennelly wrote. “Barnes alleges that she was deprived of the benefit of her bargain, in that she would not have purchased the products, or would not have purchased them for the listed price, had she known they contained a human carcinogen.”
Judge Kennelly indicated that is a sufficient allegation of injury. However, he declined to rule on a call by Unilever to bar punitive damages in the lawsuits, saying the Court can decide that at a later date. Judge Kennelly also agreed to dismiss some of the plaintiffs’ claims, but denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss the cases entirely.
In addition to lawsuits against Suave, there are also a number of similar Old Spice lawsuits filed after the discovery of benzene in that spray deodorant product last year, which also seek class action status to bring compensation benefits to consumers nationwide.
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