California’s Proposition 65, which has spawned litigation over scientifically questionable “known to the state [of California] to cause cancer” warnings on such everyday products as cola drinks, coffee, beer, and soy sauce, see Riva v. Pepsico, Inc., 82 F. Supp.3d 1045, 1062 (N.D. Cal. 2015), took one on the chin recently in the Ninth Circuit at the hands of free speech under the First Amendment.

We can’t say it was unexpected – indeed, Prop 65 was one of the targets of the First Amendment’s prohibition on governmentally compelled speech that we identified in our 2019 post on American Beverage Ass’n v. City & County of San Francisco, 916 F.3d 749 (9th Cir. 2019) (en banc) (“ABA”).  And lo it has come to pass.

Continue Reading Ninth Circuit – First Amendment Prevails Over Prop 65

We offer a different take on preemption today.  We have discussed on any number of occasions how the FDA’s regulation of drug warnings preempts (or should preempt) state-law tort claims purporting to impose different or additional warnings.  But what if the alleged state-law duty is based on a public referendum or statute?  Does that make

Those of us who have been paying at least marginal attention to developments in popular culture and product liability law—not necessarily the fanatical level of attention to these subjects paid by certain of our co-contributors—will recall that the “Cola Wars” and medical monitoring (for otherwise uninjured plaintiffs) were a big deal back in the 1980s and 1990s.  For the former, people used to pay attention to new slogans, new formulations, celebrity endorsements, and ad campaigns.  Whether one self-identified as a “Coke” or “Pepsi” person somehow mattered.  (Maybe people still do care about these things, but they do not seem to have the place in our national consciousness that they once did.)  Similarly—OK, not similarly at all, but we get latitude in an introduction like with leading questions to an expert about her qualifications at the start of direct examination—medical monitoring used to be a big deal and it was unclear where the weight of authority would eventually come down on whether manufacturers or other tort defendants might be regularly saddled with the cost of paying to monitor for diseases that had not been (and might never be) diagnosed.  In 1984—a few months after Michael Jackson’s hair caught on fire filming a Pepsi ad—Judge Starr, with Judge Bork concurring, wrote the landmark decision in Friends for All Children, Inc. v. Lockheed Aircraft Corp., 746 F.2d 816 (D.C. Circ. 1984), which is often credited with creating medical monitoring as a cause of action or type of relief, although the term “monitor[ing]” is not to be found in it.  For years after Friends, there seemed to be trend toward acceptance of medical monitoring around the country for classes of plaintiffs who would not have been able to recover damages under traditional tort principles because they did not have compensable, present injuries.  Somewhere in the early 2000s, the tide clearly shifted—for selfish reasons,  we point to Wood v. Wyeth-Ayerst Labs., 82 S.W.3d 849 (Ky. 2002), as the arguable tipping point—and the recognition of medical monitoring for uninjured people became a clear minority position.

Yet, even well into the second decade of this millennium, we still have fights over colas and medical monitoring. Today’s case is about both.  Riva v. Pepsico, Inc., No. C-14-2020 EMC, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 26494 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 4, 2015), also weaves in some of our favorites subjects, like the toxicological concept of dose, an aggressive look at pleadings, and rejecting serial amendments.  The case stems from California’s notorious Proposition 65, which has spawned litigation over the years, but requires disclosure of purported carcinogens in consumer products rather than anything approaching medical monitoring for those who consume those products.  Apparently, levels of a chemical called 4-methylimidazole (“4-Mel” in the opinion) in Diet Pepsi and Pepsi One sold in California passed the Prop 65 thresholds for disclosure in 2013.  Id. at *5.  In 2014, nine separate putative class actions were brought and, after some procedural wranglings, the court allowed an amended complaint to be filed by some plaintiffs to try to state a claim for medical monitoring on behalf of all California purchasers (not consumers) of these products over the course of about four years.  Id. at **1-2 & 6.  The defendant challenged the amended complaint on the grounds that it did not properly plead standing, the elements of medical monitoring in California, or the requirements for class certification.

Continue Reading Medical Monitoring For Soft Drink Purchasers: Not The Choice For This Generation