A leading US polycarbonate baby bottle maker has become the first to settle a lawsuit over failure to tell consumers its products contained bisphenol A (BPA), in what lawyers have dubbed a “landmark” development.
Philips Electronics Corporation North America reached the settlement last week as part of a multi-district class action, law firms Whatley Drake & Kallas and Walters Bender Strohbehn & Vaughan confirmed.
Cases against six other major baby bottle producers, including Gerber, Platex and RC2, are pending. Between them, these companies account for the vast majority of the US market. If the remaining cases against these manufacturers follow the precedent set by Philips, this would effectively amount to a de facto ban on BPA use in baby bottles in the US.
Last November, the European Commission announced it would be introducing a ban on the use of BPA in baby bottles this year.
Under the terms of the preliminary settlement, Philips is not permitted to use BPA in its baby bottles for four years - unless other manufacturers do so and as long as they inform consumers of its inclusion in the container.
Philips sold Avent brand plastic baby bottles and sippy cups that contained BPA. Plaintiffs alleged that the firm and several other manufacturers were liable for breach of warranty, violations of deceptive trade practices statutes and unjust enrichment when they failed to disclose to consumers that the baby bottles and sippy cups contained the chemical and that there are health risks associated with BPA exposure.
The proposed class-wide settlement provides refunds and/or vouchers to those who purchased, or received as a gift, Avent or Philips Avent branded baby bottles and sippy cups that contained BPA. The judgement is set to be confirmed in May.
The settlement resolves the case against Philips but preserves all claims against the remaining six defendants, Edith Kallas of Whatley Drake & Kallas told FoodProductionDaily.com.
Failure to disclose
“The settlement found that Philips had an obligation to disclose that it was using BPA in its baby bottles and sippy cups,” she added. “If a company is aware there is material information, they should disclose it so consumers can make informed decisions. Consumers had a right to know about this potentially dangerous substance and the company had an obligation to disclose there was a controversy out there about it.”
Kallas said it could not be inferred that the settlement meant the court had reached any conclusions on the merits of BPA.