In a victory for cosmetics companies everywhere, the Second Circuit has affirmed the dismissal of slack fill allegations claiming that L’Oréal’s pump dispense mechanism for serums, lotions, and liquid makeup prevents consumers from utilizing every drop of product.
Last August, we reported on the Southern District of New York’s decision granting L’Oréal’s motion to dismiss a putative class action alleging that a common pump dispense mechanism used on L’Oréal’s cosmetics bottles deceptively prevented consumers from accessing the entirety of the product. Judge Koetl disagreed, finding that consumers are familiar with pump dispensers on cosmetics packaging, and that the plaintiffs’ alleged “disappointment” did not “establish deception” or “transform [L’Oréal’s] accurate labeling of the product’s net weight into fraud by omission.” Judge Koetl also found that the plaintiffs’ claims were preempted by the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act (“FDCA”). Because federal law requires L’Oréal to label its cosmetics products with the net quantity of the product, irrespective of the amount that is accessible through the pump, Judge Koetl found that the plaintiffs’ claims were preempted.
The Second Circuit agreed. Because the plaintiffs conceded that L’Oréal’s packaging complied with the FDCA with respect to the net-quantity of the product, the court found that, in order to avoid liability under the plaintiff’s theory, L’Oréal would have to “make an additional disclosure on its packaging, indicating that some cream cannot be retrieved or that the cream that is accessible is less than the net quantity displayed on the package label.” (emphasis added). Because such a theory would “impose labeling requirements on top of those already mandated in the FDCA,” the claims were preempted.
The Second Circuit did not reach the “reasonable consumer” grounds for the District Court’s decision, and we expect that the plaintiffs’ bar will continue to try to plead around FDCA preemption in slack fill cases. But this decision will severely hinder their ability to do so—at least in the Second Circuit—and plaintiffs may start looking elsewhere to pursue these allegations.