A New York federal judge on Wednesday certified two classes of people in the L’Oreal Hair Relaxer Class Action Lawsuit, which claims the company misrepresented the safety of a hair relaxer that allegedly damages hair and causes burns and blisters on the scalp.
U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff said the two classes of consumers who purchased the Amla Legend Rejuvenating Ritual Relaxer in New York and Florida meet the numerosity, commonality, typicality and adequacy requirements of class actions, but he declined to certify national, multistate and non-economic injury classes of women.
“Each alleged injury in this case arose from the same product whose packaging contained the same allegedly misleading representations and omissions,” the court said in the filing.
The court certified a class of Florida purchasers who bought the product after Dec. 1, 2012, and a class of New York purchasers who bought the product after Aug. 19, 2013, both of which are seeking full refunds based on allegations of unjust enrichment, according to the filing. The New York class is seeking $50 in damages for each class member as well, the court said.
L’Oreal’s revenue indicates there were “well over” the required 40 members in each class for certification, the class members have a common injury, the economic injury claims arise from shared experiences, and representatives and counsel are capable of adequately protecting the interests of other members, the court determined.
Classes of Florida and New York consumers seeking injunctive and declaratory relief were certified as well, as they claim they intend to buy hair relaxers in the future but can’t trust the advertising without injunctions barring L’Oreal from making the allegedly misleading statements, according to the filing.
But the court declined to certify a national class of people who bought the product since Dec. 1, 2012, and are alleging fraud and negligent misrepresentation.
The fraud claim fails on a classwide basis because individual issues of reliance predominate, the court said. While some customers might have purchased the relaxer because they believed it was gentler, others might have bought it because of brand loyalty, endorsements or price, the filing notes.
Nationwide class claims of negligent misrepresentation fail because of variations in state laws, with some states failing to recognize negligent misrepresentation as a tort altogether, the court said.
The court also decided against certifying a class of customers based on express warranty laws in 25 states, pointing to inconsistencies in states’ requirements for proving consumers’ reliance on the alleged misrepresentations.
The court declined to certify a class of consumers from five states seeking a liability determination under negligence and strict product liability, with later lawsuits determining proximate causation and damages. If the New York and Florida classes are successful, they will have proven that the product “inherently and unreasonably damages hair and scalps,” the court said.
“The marginal efficiency gains from this proposed class are therefore minimal, while the risk of a second jury deciding the same issue is high,” the court said.
Counsel for the parties didn’t respond Thursday to requests for comment.
The plaintiffs are represented by Rosemary M. Rivas, Michael H. Rosner and Andrea Clisura of Levi & Korsinsky LLP and Lori G. Feldman, Mark J. Geragos and Ben J. Meiselas of Geragos & Geragos APC.
L’Oréal is represented by Miles D. Scully, Peter G. Siachos, Justin D. Lewis and JoAnna M. Doherty of Gordon & Rees LLP.
The case is In re: Amla Litigation, case number 1:16-cv-06593, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
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