The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit returned a mixed decision for a Connecticut woman hoping to file a putative class action suit against Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies Inc. for alleged deceptive labeling: On the one hand, the court found the plaintiff had standing to file a class action lawsuit. But on the other, it vacated a class that a lower court had already certified.
In its 3-0 ruling Tuesday, the Second Circuit said plaintiff Heidi Langan had standing to bring a class action against the New Jersey-based multinational company. But it also found U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Meyer of the District of Connecticut had not properly analyzed variations in state law governing potential class members when he granted certification. The Second Circuit then remanded the case to Meyer for further proceedings.
“We are not convinced that the district court here undertook the requisite considered analysis of the variations in state law and the potential need for subclasses that might result from those variations,” U.S. District Judge John Walker Jr. wrote in the unanimous decision with Judges Denny Chin and Gerard Lynch.
Johnson & Johnson had argued that Langan lacked legal standing to represent putative class members, whose claims are governed by state law outside of Connecticut. The Second Circuit disagreed. It found Langan, who said the company’s labeling violated Connecticut’s Unfair Trade Practices Act, had standing under Article III of the U.S. Constitution, which governs the jurisdiction of federal courts.
Langan’s suit alleged that several Johnson & Johnson products made under the Aveeno Baby brand are not really “natural” as advertised. It claims Langan had purchased sunscreens and bath products for her baby in 2012, partly because their labels indicated the products contained only natural ingredients. In reality, though, that was not the case, because the products included a high percentage of non-natural and non-water ingredients, according to the complaint.
In October 2013, Langan sued Johnson & Johnson on behalf of herself and other customers. She sought to certify a plaintiff class, and requested compensatory and punitive damages. Meyer denied both parties’ motions for summary judgment, and certified a class for litigation over two bath products, but not sunscreens.
Mark Kindall of Izard, Kindall & Raabe in West Hartford and Nicole Veno, a solo practitioner in Simsbury, represented Langan. Veno declined to comment and Kindall did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Johnson & Johnson’s defense team includes Harold Weinberger and Eileen Patt, of Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel in New York City, and Benjamin Arrow of Finn Dixon & Herling in Stamford. Weinberger declined to comment, while Patt did not immediately respond to a request for comment by press time. Arrow was on vacation for the week.