Wednesday, September 8, 2010

California Judge dismisses class action against Johnson & Johnson for failure to allege harm

On Wednesday, San Francisco Federal Judge Claudia Wilken dismissed a class action products liability suit against Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies stating that the plaintiffs failed to allege an injury to which the court could provide relief.

According to court documents, the plaintiffs alleged that Johnson & Johnson manufactured children's bath products which contained chemicals that caused an increased risk of cancer in children.  They sought money damages from the company to compensate them for that injury.  Johnson & Johnson denied that the bath products contained known carcinogens, and argued that if they did, an increased risk of cancer is not an injury-in-fact necessary for the court to hear the case under Article III of the Constitution.

The Court explained that Article III of the Constitution limits federal courts to addressing cases and controversies.  For a controversy to exist a plaintiff must have standing.  Standing requires an injury-in-fact caused by the opposite party to which a remedy at law exists.  The court noted that the Ninth Circuit has yet to address whether an increased risk of cancer is an injury-in-fact in products liability cases.  The court ruled that existing case law suggested:

[T]o the extent that an increased risk of harm could constitute an injury-in-fact in a product liability case such as this one, Plaintiffs must plead a credible or substantial threat to their health or that of their children to establish their standing to bring suit.

Since the plaintiffs did not plead such a credible threat, the court dismissed the case for lack of standing.

The case is Herrington v. Johnson and Johnson Consumer Companies, No. C 09-1597 and the opinion is below the jump.

Here is the opinion:
Herrington v. Johnson and Johnson

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