Judge Okays $2M Suave Antiperspirant Benzene Settlement

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March 18, 2024

by Brian Eckert

An Illinois federal judge has given the initial go-ahead to a deal resolving lawsuit allegations that Unilever sold Suave antiperspirant deodorant products containing the carcinogen benzene.

Milberg’s Nick Suciu is part of the team representing the plaintiffs. A final hearing on the matter is scheduled for September. Per the settlement terms, class members can claim a refund for eligible products purchased.

Why Was the Case Filed?

In a complaint filed on November 18, 2021 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, plaintiffs Yvonne Barnes and Patricia Dean alleged that Suave 24-hour Protection Powder Aerosol Antiperspirant is defective because it contains the chemical benzene—a known human carcinogen—and Unilever did not disclose this on product labeling.

A class action is superior to all other available methods for the fair and efficient adjudication of the controversy.

Plaintiffs’ lawsuit followed independent laboratory testing that found high benzene levels in certain body spray products. Suave issued a voluntary recall of the following antiperspirants:

  • Suave 24-Hour Protection Aerosol Antiperspirant Powder (4 oz.; 6 oz.)
  • Suave 24-Hour Protection Aerosol Antiperspirant Fresh (6 oz.)

The recall notice states that benzene, a solvent linked to blood cancers that include leukemia, is not an ingredient in the recalled products, but an internal company review showed “unexpected levels of benzene” from propellant.

Plaintiffs alleged that Unilever/Suave sold adulterated products because they failed to comply with FDA manufacturing practices. The FDA regulates antiperspirants as over-the-counter drugs. According to the FDA, benzene should not be used in the manufacture of drug substances or drug products due to their “unacceptable toxicity.”

What are the Settlement Terms?

Under the terms of the initial Suave antiperspirant benzene settlement agreement, Unilever will establish a $2 million non-reversionary common fund from which two types of refunds can be claimed:

  • Class members with proof of purchase can claim the purchase price per antiperspirant unit.
  • Class members without proof of purchase can claim an average retail price of $3.29 per item for up to three products.

Payments will be pro-rated depending on the total settlement amount claimed. Participants in the company’s recall reimbursement program will additionally see their payments reduced to account for the amounts they’ve already received, reports Law360.

A court order announcing the settlement defines the following settlement class:

  • Anyone who purchased a covered product in the United States for personal, family, or household use, and not resale, between January 1, 2018 and March 7, 2024.

The order also appoints Milberg as class counsel for the settlement class and gives these dates for further action:

  • April 8 – Notice of settlement sent to class members
  • July 15 – Claims filing and exclusion deadline
  • September 13 – Final approval hearing

Unilever on two occasions attempted to have the claims tossed. U.S. District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly trimmed some claims last March but declined to dismiss the lawsuit, rejecting Unilever’s argument that it was preempted by federal law.

Kennelly wrote in the order that the terms of the preliminary Suave antiperspirant benzene settlement agreement are “fair, reasonable, and adequate” and that “a class action is superior to all other available methods for the fair and efficient adjudication” of the matter.

Milberg’s Class Action Lawsuit Practice

Milberg has filed a number of class action lawsuits over the benzene content of consumer products, including those involving Suave antiperspirant and dry shampoo brands Sol de JaneiroKloranePaul Mitchell, and Not Your Mother’s.

Class action settlements spiked at “unprecedented levels” in 2023 according to a report from corporate defense firm Duane Morris. The top ten consumer fraud settlements totaled $3.29 billion last year. Duane Morris calls class action lawsuits “one of the most effective” tools used to “vindicate the rights of consumers” who may have been unsuccessful had they attempted to bring individual lawsuits.

Class action lawsuits are an indispensable part of the American justice system, allowing plaintiffs to join together and collectively enforce their rights. Since 1965, Milberg—the firm that pioneered federal class action litigation—has filed thousands of class actions, recovered billions of dollars for our clients, and used class action lawsuits to promote corporate reforms.