Sunscreen Lawsuits Soar as Johnson & Johnson Faces Multiple Recalls for Benzene Contamination

Sunscreen recall lawsuits have surged against Johnson & Johnson after the discovery of benzene in their products. The company has recalled five major brands of Neutrogena and Aveeno spray-on sunscreens as a result. It is anticipated that thousands more lawsuits will be filed against Johnson & Johnson, potentially involving other manufacturers as well. These lawsuits are expected to be consolidated into a new “class-action” MDL.

The presence of benzene, a known human carcinogen, in sunscreen is a cause for concern. Benzene, a byproduct of crude oil, is highly carcinogenic and has been linked to the development of leukemia and Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, among other health conditions. The consumer safety watchdog company, Valisure, discovered high levels of benzene in many popular spray-on sunscreen products during quality testing earlier this year.

In response to Valisure’s announcement, Johnson & Johnson issued a nationwide safety recall of five popular brands of spray-on sunscreen. These recalled products included NEUTROGENA® Beach Defense® aerosol sunscreen, NEUTROGENA® Cool Dry Sport aerosol sunscreen, NEUTROGENA® Invisible Daily™ defense aerosol sunscreen, NEUTROGENA® Ultra Sheer® aerosol sunscreen, and AVEENO® Protect + Refresh aerosol sunscreen. The company confirmed the presence of unsafe levels of benzene in these products through their own testing.

As a result of the recall, a growing number of sunscreen lawsuits have been filed. Initially, most of these lawsuits were consumer class action cases, but recently more plaintiffs have been filing traditional product liability claims alleging the development of cancers due to benzene exposure in sunscreen.

The sunscreen recall litigation is expected to follow a similar path as other mass tort product liability lawsuits. The cases in federal courts will likely be consolidated into a “class action” MDL, and a consolidated civil discovery phase will take place. This discovery phase will focus on the scientific evidence regarding benzene’s presence and its link to certain types of cancer.

After the discovery stage, a selection of individual sunscreen cases will proceed to “bellwether trials.” These trials will help guide negotiations for the settlement of the remaining cases. If plaintiffs in these trials receive significant verdicts, Johnson & Johnson may be required to pay a large sum to resolve all the remaining claims. This is known as a global or aggregate settlement.

While the exact settlement amounts for the sunscreen recall cases are uncertain, comparisons can be made to prior mass tort settlements. The recent Roundup litigation, which involved allegations of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, provides a basis for estimation. Based on these comparisons, it is likely that the settlement payouts for the sunscreen recall claims will fall into different tiers, ranging from $10,000 to $190,000.

In conclusion, the discovery of benzene in sunscreen products has led to a surge of lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson. These lawsuits are expected to be consolidated into a class-action MDL, with a focus on scientific evidence of benzene’s presence and its link to cancer. The eventual settlement payouts for these cases are estimated to range from $10,000 to $190,000, depending on the severity of the injuries and other factors involved.