The product in question is Unilever USA’s Suave Professionals Keratin Infusion 30 Day Smoothing Kit, which the company recalled in 2012.
“Unfortunately, for some consumers, the Smoothing Kit was a disaster. Its active ingredient, thioglycolic acid, is extremely corrosive, and if left on long enough, can dissolve the hair and burn the scalp,” explains the court in its decision.
Several class actions were filed against the company, claiming breach of warranty, violations of state consumer fraud, violations of deceptive practices law, and unjust enrichment.
The cases were consolidated and went into mediation until February 2014, when a settlement was reached.
As noted in this latest decision in the case, the original settlement saw “Unilever USA agree to create two settlement funds: a Reimbursement Fund of $250,000, and an Injury Fund of $10,000,000, for a total of $10,250,000.”
Tina Martin, the named class objector‐appellant, gave 11 reasons for opposing the settlement. In its decision, the Seventh Circuit distilled them further as:
- the strength of the class’s case
- the complexity and expense of further litigation
- the amount of opposition
- the reaction of class members to the settlement
- the opinion of competent counsel
- the stage of the proceedings
- the amount of discovery that was completed
None of these were sufficient to invalidate the settlement: “We conclude that the district court properly approved the settlement agreement reached in this case, and we thus affirm its judgment,” writes the court.
The decision to uphold the original Suave settlement is something of a win for the personal care industry, with several companies not faring so well in the legal arena lately. Oldspice is facing a suit from consumers alleging allergic reactions. EOS just settled an allergy-related suit with the stipulation that the company enhance product labels.