Major Plastic Consumer Goods Companies Must Face Pollution Lawsuit Impacting California Waterways
Late last week, after over two years of litigation, Earth Island Institute, represented by Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, received an order from the San Mateo County Superior Court allowing its landmark lawsuit to proceed against 10 major plastic consumer goods companies for the nuisance allegedly created by their plastic packaging, including polluting California waterways with plastic trash and touting products as recyclable when they’re not.
Judge V. Raymond Swope of the San Mateo County Superior Court denied the out-of-state defendants’ motion to dismiss the case and ruled that California courts had personal jurisdiction over the defendants. The court ruled that it has the authority to hear this case in California, where the harms described in Earth Island’s complaint occurred, and not merely where the defendants are based. The decision means that Earth Island’s claims can proceed toward the merits in California, and Earth Island won’t be forced to bring separate lawsuits against these companies in states across the country.
Mark Molumphy, a partner at Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, and lead counsel for Earth Island, said:
“Earth Island is to be commended for taking on these corporate giants. While just the first step in a long journey, last week's order is an important victory and brings us closer to fixing an environmental disaster for the public, that just gets worse with each passing day.”
Tyson Redenbarger of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, added:
“Global plastic producers who cause harm in California should be held accountable in California. We look forward to presenting the case to a California jury.”
Sumona Majumdar, Earth Island Institute’s general counsel, said:
“Last week's ruling correctly finds that companies marketing, selling, and profiting from products packaged in plastic in California can also be sued in California for the harms caused by their plastic packaging. Corporations like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo can’t be allowed to hide behind their out-of-state status to avoid accountability for their role in the plastic pollution crisis here in California.”
The lawsuit was filed in February 2020 in San Mateo County Superior Court in California, against Crystal Geyser Water Company; The Clorox Company; The Coca-Cola Company; PepsiCo, Inc.; Nestlé USA, Inc. (now BlueTriton Brands); Mars, Incorporated; Danone North America; Mondelez International, Inc.; Colgate-Palmolive Company; and The Procter & Gamble Company. The case alleges violations of public nuisance, breach of express warranty, negligence, failure to warn of the harms caused by their plastic packaging and California Consumers Legal Remedies Act. The defendants tried to move the case to federal court but were unsuccessful. By denying the out-of-state defendants’ motion to quash, this ruling allows the case to proceed toward the merits and a trial.