By Kathryn Honecker and Eric Zard | American Bar Association
In this edition of Class Actions 101, we answer some common questions young lawyers may have when asserting or defending claims that a product’s marketing, advertising, packaging, or labeling contains exaggerated or untrue health statements.
What Are the Most Common Practices Subject to Class Actions?
As with all niche practice areas, product labeling is continually evolving, and what is common today will likely not be common in the future. With that said, the recent trend seems to focus on products claiming to be “natural” when they are made from genetically modified organisms, are made with high fructose corn syrup, or contain preservatives or other food additives; products claiming to be capable of providing a specific health benefit (for example, “promotes brain development,” “helps fight cancer,” or “reduces risk of heart disease”) when they cannot; and products claiming to be supported by clinical studies or scientific evidence when they are not.
With regard to scientific studies and specific health-benefit claims, many manufacturers do, in fact, conduct well-planned studies with sufficient sample sizes to determine the effectiveness or efficacy of their products or base their claims on independent, peer-reviewed research. Those manufacturers are generally not being targeted. Instead, the targets are manufacturers that misconstrue scientific evidence or make claims based on unpublished research that has not been subject to peer review and/or studies that used sample sizes incapable of yielding statistically significant results.
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