Fake Recyclables – TerraCycle Settlement

LLG recently settled its case against TerraCycle, Inc. and a host of consumer product companies (Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, Late July Snacks, Gerber, L’Oreal, Tom’s of Maine, and Clorox) in Last Beach Cleanup v. TerraCycle, Inc., U.S. District Court, Northern District, Case No. 4:21-cv-06086-JSW.

The case alleged that TerraCycle runs take-back programs that enable consumers to mail back for recycling products or packaging made from single-use plastics and other materials that are not recyclable in typical municipal waste facilities. However, there was an undisclosed catch: there were strict numerical limits that prevent most consumers from being able to participate in the program. The case alleged that consumer product companies are thus able to reap the rewards of portraying all of their products as recyclable while only a limited number could be returned for free recycling. The case also alleged that TerraCycle and the consumer product companies have failed to substantiate that the few products collected through these programs are actually recycled.

The settlement prohibits the consumer product company defendants from labeling or advertising products as “recyclable with TerraCycle” (or words to that effect) unless: (1) there are no budget restrictions preventing TerraCycle from accepting for recycling all products sold with such a label; or (2) any participation limits are clearly disclosed. In addition, the settlement requires TerraCycle to maintain in written forms in its records information and documentation substantiating the validity of its recyclable representations, and prohibits the consumer product companies from labeling or advertising products as “recyclable with TerraCycle” (or words to that effect) unless they obtain such substantiation from TerraCycle. TerraCycle is further prohibited from licensing or permitting its name to be used on the labeling or advertising of any product unless all of the above requirements are satisfied. 

For more details, the settlement is available here: Settlement Agreement

Jason, Avalon and Organix – Fake Organic Personal Care Products

Our firm successfully litigated the first cases ever filed under the California Organic Products Act against dozens of makers of personal care products (such as shampoos, soaps and lotions), including The Hain Celestial Group, Inc., Aubrey Organics, and Kiss My Face. These cases challenged an industrywide practice of exploiting consumer demand for organic products by labeling cosmetics as organic despite the presence of few if any organic ingredients. As a result of our efforts, California consumers can now be assured that personal care products labeled as organic will contain at least 70 percent organically produced ingredients as required by California law. The cases included: (1) a class action challenging the organic labeling of Jason and Avalon Organics brands, which resulted in labeling changes and a $7.5 million claim fund, plus up to $1.85 million in coupons, for the benefit of consumers who purchased the products thinking that the products were organic; (2) a class action against the maker of the Organix line of personal care products, which resulted in the company agreeing to change the name of the products nationally to eliminate any suggestion that they are organic and to create a $6.5 million fund for the benefit of deceived consumers; and (3) private attorney general actions that forced approximately two dozen other companies either to change the formulation or the labeling of their personal care products.

Carcinogenic Flame Retardants in Children & Adult Consumer Products

As documented by extensive media coverage and the HBO documentary film “Toxic Hot Seat,” Big Tobacco and chemical manufacturers conspired for years to deceive regulators and the American public about the supposed need for chemical flame retardants in furniture and other products. Aside from being ineffective and unnecessary to prevent fires, these flame retardants include chemicals that are known to cause cancer and other health problems. Our firm pursued Proposition 65 enforcement actions against manufacturers and re-sellers of consumer products made with foam that contain substantial quantities of the flame retardant 1tris (1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) phosphate (“TDCPP”), a known carcinogen. The defendants included Amazon, Target, Wal-Mart, Babies “R” Us, Kmart, Bed Bath & Beyond, J.C. Penney and others. As a result of these cases, the companies agreed to eliminate TDCPP from products such as foam-cushioned pads that infants and children lie on. In some instances, the companies agreed to eliminate chemical flame retardants from their products altogether.

Arsenic in Drinking Water Filters

Consumers using a filter to clean the water they drink do not expect those filters to actually add toxic chemicals to the drinking water that is supposed to be cleaned by the filter. Yet that is precisely what was happening with many brands of drinking water filtration devices, which were leaching arsenic into the water the devices were designed to purify. As a result of our successful enforcement actions, major manufacturers (including Cuno, EcoWater, Everpure, General Electric, KX Industries, Pentair, PUR, Omnipure, Multipure, Crystal Quest, Resintech, Filtrex, Watts Water Technologies, and Katadyn) were forced to redesign their filters so that consumers can be sure that they are not inadvertently increasing their exposure to dangerous chemicals like arsenic when they use the devices to clean their drinking water.

Lead in Ginger Products

Along with the California Attorney General’s Office, we successfully prosecuted Proposition 65 enforcement actions against dozens manufacturers and re-sellers of crystallized ginger food products that contained substantial amounts of lead. As a result of our efforts, the targeted companies reformulated their products to reduce the levels of lead, thereby reducing a potentially large source of lead exposure from consumers’ diets. Examples of companies that agreed to reformulate and implement food auditing controls in their supply chain to reduce lead exposures in their crystallized ginger products include Reed’s, The Ginger People, Cost Plus, Target, Whole Foods, Mrs. Gooch’s and Trader Joe’s.

Comcast and Cox – Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Interference

We filed the first class actions against Comcast and Cox Communications for breach of contract and false advertising arising from interference with subscribers’ use of peer-to-peer file sharing applications. The Lexington Law Group was appointed by the Court as Class Counsel in both cases, and both cases resulted in settlements that stopped the interference. Comcast subscribers also received a portion of a $16 million dollar refund.

Arsenic in Children’s Playsets

Outdoor children’s playsets used to be treated with CCA or chromated copper arsenic. We tested the wood and found that children who played on these structures were being exposed to arsenic from the CCA treated wood. We co-litigated a case with the California Attorney General’s Office that eliminated the use of CCA treated wood in children’s playsets. These settlements were a precursor to an industry wide agreement to stop using CCA treated wood in all outdoor residential structures such as playgrounds and decks.

Toxic Chemicals in Jewelry and Fashion Accessories

For years, costume jewelry (including jewelry marketed to children) contained alarming levels of lead and cadmium, and fashion accessories (handbags, footwear and belts) were made with substantial levels of lead. While we continue to target a few bad actors in pending enforcement cases, lawsuits filed by our firm have resulted in commitments by hundreds of major retailers, importers and manufacturers of costume jewelry to significantly reduce the levels of these toxic metals in their jewelry and fashion accessories. We co-litigated the original jewelry case with the California Attorney General’s Office, which also led directly to California’s landmark lead in jewelry statute (which was itself a precursor to passage of the federal Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act). Examples of national retailers that have agreed to Court ordered reformulation include Aldo, Calvin Klein, Forever 21, Guess?, J.C. Penney, K-Mart, Kohl’s, Limited, Liz Claiborne, Kate Spade, Macy’s, Nine West, Saks, Sears, Target, Victoria’s Secret and WalMart.

Understaffing in Nursing Homes

Experts agree that staffing is the single most important factor to ensure quality care in the nursing homes that are charged with caring for their elderly and vulnerable residents. Unfortunately, many nursing homes are understaffed, resulting in increased incidences of serious care problems such as bed sores and dehydration. The Lexington Law Group successfully pursued numerous lawsuits on behalf of nursing home residents and advocates to force nursing homes to increase their staffing levels to comply with California law and thereby improve their quality of care.

Nicotine, Formaldehyde and Acetaldehyde in Electronic Cigarettes

After decades of progress in reducing smoking amongst teens and adults, manufacturers of electronic cigarettes and the liquids used to fill them have targeted a whole new generation to convince them that their products offer a safe alternative to smoking. This has resulted in an explosion of teen use of these nicotine products. Worse yet, these companies were failing to warn their potential customers that the products will expose them to known reproductive toxins like nicotine and to known carcinogens like formaldehyde and acetaldehyde. As a result of Proposition 65 enforcement actions filed by our firm, major companies like Njoy, Fontem, and RJ Reynolds agreed to provide warnings to consumers about exposures to these harmful chemicals cause by use of their products.

CeraVe Unapproved Eczema Drugs

A substantial portion of the population of the United States suffers from eczema. Approximately 31.6 million Americans exhibit symptoms of eczema, and at least 17.8 million individuals experience moderate to severe eczema. This creates a high demand for products that promise to treat or mitigate eczema and the uncomfortable itching, dryness, skin sensitivity, and rashes caused by this disease. Our firm pursued and settled a class action case against L’Oreal USA, Inc. and Bausch Health Companies, Inc., makers of CeraVe brand body washes and oils, for capitalizing on consumer demand for eczema relief by illegaliy marketing its products as eczema treatment drugs when those products cannot lawfully be sold as drugs and are not approved by the FDA for treating or mitigating eczema.

Hexavalent Chromium Exposure in Paramount, CA

Hexavalent chromium is the chemical made famous by Erin Brockovich in her case against PG&E. A number of metal plating businesses in Paramount, California, some located within yards of a residential community, were emitting significant amounts of hexavalent chromium thereby exposing individuals living and working nearby to one of the most potent and harmful known carcinogens. LLG was able to successfully resolve the case requiring the facilities to drastically reduce emissions of hexavalent chromium into the surrounding neighborhoods. Through the settlement, LLG was also able to obtain air filtration systems for the residents living closest to the facilities.

TCE Exposures From Senior Aerospace Ketema’s El Cajon Facility

Tricloroethylene (“TCE”) is an extremely toxic industrial solvent that became infamous as the chemical at issue in the book and film “A Civil Action.” LLG is pursuing Senior Aerospace, the operator of a major aerospace components facility in El Cajon, California under Proposition 65 for exposing nearby residents to this known carcinogen.