Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Johnson & Johnson Hours After Sunscreen Recall

Consumers filed a class action complaint against Johnson & Johnson Consumer, Inc. in the Northern District of California yesterday over the nationwide recall of Neutrogena and Aveeno sunscreen products that allegedly contained dangerous levels of a known carcinogen.

Yesterday, Johnson & Johnson issued a nationwide recall on Neutrogena and Aveeno sunscreen because they “contain dangerous and unacceptable levels of benzene, a known human carcinogen.” The complaint alleged that “each and every one of the Products fails to include labeling indicating that [it] may contain benzene as an active or inactive ingredient,” thus “render[ing] the Products adulterated, misbranded, and unlawful for sale.”

Benzene is used to make “plastics, resins, synthetic fibers, and rubber lubricants, as well as dyes, detergents, drugs, and pesticides,” and is classified as a human carcinogen by the WHO, DHHS, and IARC. Exposure to benzene is also linked to “leukemia, other blood and bone marrow disorders (including anemia), and a weakened immune system.”

The FDA regulates sunscreens and “ensure[s] they meet safety and effectiveness standards,” though Neutrogena products had exceptionally high levels of benzene after being tested recently. Valisure, an independent pharmacy registered with the FDA, who tested the J&J products, reportedly filed a citizen petition on May 25, asking the FDA to recall all the sunscreen products, but J&J only announced a recall yesterday.

The plaintiffs are suing on counts of a violation of the California Sherman Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Law, a violation of California’s Consumers Legal Remedies Act, a violation of the California Business and Professions Code, two violations of New York’s Consumer Protection from Deceptive Acts and Practices Law and unjust enrichment/ quasi-contract. The plaintiffs are seeking class certification, an order enjoining Johnson & Johnson from selling these sunscreen products, declaratory and injunctive relief, damages, prejudgment interest, attorney’s fees and costs, and other relief.

The plaintiffs are represented by Walsh Law PLLC, Kellner Lenker LLC, and Beasly, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Mikes, P.C.