Plaintiffs claim hair feels brittle, dull, lifeless after products prove keratin-free

Lather

Back in January 2017, plaintiffs Brandi Price and Christine Chadwick launched a class action suit against L’Oreal USA and Matrix Essentials.

The women claimed they had purchased a number of the companies’ products – Matrix Biolage Keratindose Pro-Keratin + Silk Shampoo, Pro-Keratin + Silk Conditioner and Pro-Keratin Renewal Spray, to be precise – expressly for the supposed hair-healing properties of keratin, which the pair assumed was in the products based on the product names and marketing.

The problem, they maintained, was that the products contained no keratin at all.

Price and Chadwick claim that they tapped a “subject-matter expert” to review the products’ ingredients, and that each came up empty in the keratin department. According to plaintiffs, this finding was contrary to L’Oreal’s nationwide marketing of the products, which directly claimed the products as keratin therapy in marketing copy:

“Formulated with Pro-Keratin and Silk, our keratin shampoo provides targeted reinforcement for over-processed, weak or fragile hair.”

Rinse

Under various New York and California state laws, the pair sued in the Southern District of New York for breach of express warranty, breach of contract/common law warranty, fraud, unjust enrichment, violation of unfair competition statutes and false advertising.

L’Oreal and Maxim countered with a motion to dismiss.

Among other approaches, the defendants argued that since the product names used the term “Pro-Keratin” instead of “keratin” in isolation, the plaintiff’s case could not stand. They also attempted to attack the express warranty count by claiming a lack of privity between the parties, and argued that the unjust enrichment charge was duplicative of the plaintiffs’ other claims. L’Oreal and Matrix also fought back against the plaintiffs’ request for injunctive relief, claiming that there was no “real or immediate threat” that required it.

Repeat (The Takeaway)

The court sent L’Oreal back to the showers with its order responding to the motion.

On the issue of the naming convention of the products, the court ruled that the use of “Pro-Keratin” was not enough to shield the defendants from the accusations, since, as the court stated with almost comic understatement: “It is unclear what ‘Pro-keratin’ is.” Likewise, the use of keratin in marketing copy undermined their motion.

The court let the express warranty count stand, despite the lack of privity between the parties, citing a 2014 Southern District decision neutralizing privity arguments where “claims are based on allegations related to [the defendant’s] assertions in sales materials and advertisements.”

Finally, the court granted dismissal of the unjust enrichment claims, agreeing that the count was duplicative of other of the plaintiffs’ claims. It also dismissed the request for injunctive relief, finding no immediate threat justifying its adoption.