Jessica Karmasek Aug. 16, 2016, 11:51am


LOS ANGELES (Legal Newsline) - At least six class action lawsuits filed against The Honest Company, the maker of eco-friendly diapers, wipes, bath products and non-toxic cleaning products, will be consolidated in a California federal court.

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation issued a transfer order Aug. 5.

The seven-member panel selected the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California to handle the lawsuits against Honest, saying “centralization will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the just and efficient conduct of this litigation.”

“The actions share factual issues arising from allegations that Honest labeled and marketed certain of its household cleaning products -- namely, its laundry detergent, dish soap and multi-surface cleaner -- in a false and misleading manner,” wrote Sarah Vance, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana and chair of the MDL panel.

“Specifically, plaintiffs contend that Honest advertises the products as free of sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), even though the products’ ingredients include sodium coco sulfate (SCS). According to plaintiffs, SCS necessarily contains SLS.”

Given the common factual issues, the panel said consolidating the actions will eliminate duplicative discovery into any differences between SLS and SCS; Honest’s development, sourcing, testing, labeling and marketing of the products; and independent testing of the company’s products.

“Duplicative discovery will likewise be avoided on the issues of consumers’ perception of the products and whether consumers paid a price premium for the products,” Vance wrote in the two-page order. “Further, centralization will prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings on class certification and other pretrial matters, and conserve the resources of the parties, their counsel, and the judiciary.”

Six actions are being consolidated, four of which are pending in the Central District of California, one in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California and another in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.

The panel, in its order, said it has been informed of two additional related federal actions. Those and any other related federal actions are potential tag-along actions, the panel said.

With the exception of the plaintiff in the Eastern District of Missouri action, all parties supported the Central District of California as the transferee district.

The location makes the most sense, given that Honest is headquartered in Los Angeles and many witnesses and relevant documents are “likely to be found there,” the panel explained.

In addition, four of the actions are pending in the district, as are two tag-along actions.

Judge Andre Birotte Jr., who will be overseeing the MDL, already is presiding over the four actions and the two tag-along actions.

Even though Birotte has not presided over a MDL before, the panel said it is “confident” he will steer the litigation on a “prudent course.”

A Los Angeles man was the first to file a class action against Honest in September. Jonathan D. Rubin, who filed his complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, argues he paid a “premium” for the products, including hand soap, dish soap and sunscreen, believing they were all-natural.

In February, two New York residents sued the company, also alleging it misleadingly, falsely and deceptively labels its products.

Then, in May, another California man filed a class action similarly alleging Honest falsely labels many of its products as containing no harsh chemicals.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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