Various class action law firms announced the start of investigations merely hours after the New York Times published its story on February 3. Some have now developed into class actions being filed in district courts across the nation.
A sample of the class actions…
A class action was filed Friday in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois by Hagens Berman and cites all four retailers: GNC, Target, Walgreens and Walmart.
“We believe these major retailers have completely abandoned their responsibility to consumers who trust that their products contain what’s listed on the label – not phony pills full of anything but,” said Steve Berman, managing partner at Hagens Berman and attorney representing the class of purchasers. “Millions of consumers across the nation have been duped by GNC, Target, Walmart and Walgreens and have spent years purchasing fake and fraudulent products.”
Another class action, this time only against Walmart, has been filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California has been filed by the Law Offices of Ronald A. Marron, APLC, in San Diego on behalf of Mercedes Taketa, of Livermore, CA and Michelle Fine, of Cooper City, FL. The action focuses on the retailer’s Spring Valley Brand Gingko Biloba and St. John’s Wort supplements, according to the Legal Newsline.
Walgreens is the subject of another class action, this time by attorneys at the Washington, DC, office of Bailey & Glasser LLP.
Meanwhile, in Florida, the law firms Babbitt, Johnson, Osborne & Le Clainche of West Palm Beach and Weil Quaranta & McGovern of Miami and LA have filed a federal class action suit against GNC, alleging deception in the herbal supplement market.
“GNC’s products are not medicinal herbal supplements as they claim,” the lawsuit says. “Instead the supplements fail to contain any of the active ingredients represented by both the products’ names and label. As such, the supplements Defendants sell their customers are a sham.”
Theodore Babbitt, partner at Babbitt, Johnson, Osborne & Le Clainche, added: “This is more than a matter of mislabeling or even fraud. This is a potential public danger. Unlabeled ingredients such as wheat or any number of contaminants can harm people with allergies or aversions.”
Marc Ullman from New York-based law firm Ullman, Shapiro & Ullman, LLP called the class actions a “disgrace” and said they would come to “naught”.
Daniel Fabricant, PhD, CEO of the Natural Products Association, told us that the industry expects more class actions to be filed. “I hope Marc is right, but you have to ask if this was part of the plan; to cause death by a thousand cuts.
“NPA has started a grassroots campaign to tweet and email and call Mr Schneiderman’s office calling for transparency,” he said. “It’s also about disincentivizing future actions, because AG’s talk to one another.
“There is a lot missing but people are still castigating the industry. If there’s something there we need to fix then we need to know what that it is. If not then that’s important for consumers and the industry to know.
NPA’s campaign is targeting the AG directly with tweets to @AGSchneiderman and emails from industry members and supplement consumers telling him to release the facts. “This seems motivated by something other than science,” said Fabricant.
It has now been nine days since the AG announced his action via the New York Times, and no additional details have been release. “I don’t think he’s going to release the data,” said Fabricant. “He’s making this uncomfortable for the industry so we’ll make this uncomfortable for him.”