Playtex Can’t Dismiss Banana Boat Sunscreen Class Action Lawsuit
By Anne Bucher
A California federal judge last week refused to dismiss a proposed class action lawsuit accusing Playtex Products Inc. of falsely touting its SPF 85-110 formulas of Banana Boat sunscreen as offering superior protection from sunburns.
Plaintiff Aida Corra filed the Banana Boat class action lawsuit, claiming that Playtex, Energizer Holdings Inc. and Sun Pharmaceuticals LLC — which manufacture and market Banana Boat sunscreen — falsely advertised that its high-SPF products offered superior sun protection than SPF 50 versions of the sunscreen. Corra purchased the Sport Performance Sunscreen SPF 100 Lotion.
While the defendants argued that Corra did not have legal standing because she only purchased one of the sunscreen products mentioned in the Banana Boat class action lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Anthony W. Ishii found that the other products were similar enough to the Sport Performance Sunscreen to warrant the inclusion of nine additional sunscreens. In his August 1 ruling, Judge Ishii said that Corra had alleged that the active ingredients in all of the mentioned sunscreen products were virtually identical and that the products were marketed in the same way.
Corra alleges in the Banana Boat sunscreen class action lawsuit that the high-SPF sunscreens were marketed in such a way that would mislead consumers into purchasing the products believing that they were buying a superior sunscreen. In reality, the consumers paid a higher price for a product that did not provide significantly better protection than the cheaper, lower-SPF sunscreens. According to Corra, Banana Boat’s “superior UVB protection claims are false, misleading and deceptive.”
Corra claims that consumers believe higher SPF levels offer greater protection from the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays. When customers decide which sunscreen to purchase, they reasonably believe that an SPF 100 sunscreen offers twice the protection of an SPF 50 sunscreen. However, studies by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) indicate that sunscreens with SPFs of more than 50 do not provide any additional clinical benefits than SPF 50 sunblock. The clinical studies show SPF 100 sunscreens block 99 percent of UV rays while SPF 50 sunscreens block 98 percent of UV rays.
In June 2011, the FDA considered capping SPF values at “SPF 50+” because consumers were frequently misled by the higher SPF numbers.
By filing her class action lawsuit, Corra sought to certify two classes of consumers who had purchased Banana Boat’s SPF 85-110 formulas. The first class involves a national class of consumers while the second is limited to California consumers who purchased the products within an unspecified period of time.
Judge Ishii dismissed Corra’s breach of express warranty claim because the products did not fail to perform at the appropriate level of their SPF protection. He allowed her deceptive advertising claims to proceed, claiming that his court regularly considers violations of state consumer protection laws.
Corra is represented by Elaine A. Ryan, Patricia M. Syverson, Lindsey M. Gomez-Gray and Manfred Muecke of Bonnett Fairbourn Friedman & Balint PC and Stewart M. Weltman of Stewart M. Weltman LLP.
The Banana Boat Sunscreen Class Action Lawsuit is Aida Corra v. Energizer Holdings Inc. et al., Case No. 1:12-cv-01736, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.
Updated August 6th, 2013
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