After Avon Products, Inc. challenged a motion for class certification in a suit alleging that the company misled consumers by failing to inform them about its animal testing policy, the named plaintiffs reportedly agreed to voluntarily dismiss the litigation with prejudice. Beltran v. Avon Products, Inc., No. 12-2502 (U.S. Dist. Ct., C.D. Cal., joint dismissal motion filed August 23, 2013). The case began with putative class claims against three cosmetics companies, seeking more than $100 million in punitive and compensatory damages. Each company has since been sued individually, and the other cases remain pending.
According to Avon, the proposed class was not ascertainable and lacked commonality, and the predominance requirement of Rule 23(b)(3) could not be met. More significantly, however, the company argued that plaintiff Maria Beltran has “rampant credibility problems.” Beltran filed the lawsuit after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA ) removed Avon from its “cruelty-free” cosmetics company list and launched a campaign to inform consumers that the company had changed its animal testing policy and was paying for tests on animals in China. Avon further noted that the two individuals added as plaintiffs following PETA ’s active search for potential class representatives were also not adequate, because one, as a Michigan resident, could not prosecute claims on behalf of California consumers, and the other “refused to appear for her deposition.”
As to Beltran’s credibility issues, Avon noted that she was a former Avon independent sales representative, “who started purchasing Avon products without knowing Avon’s animal testing policy and, who, to this day, has never read nor even searched for Avon’s animal testing policy,” which is apparently available on its Website. The company argued that the plaintiffs’ counsel published false statements about Beltran in the third amended complaint, in her sworn discovery responses and in her declaration in support of the motion for class certification. Apparently, all of those pleadings asserted that she purchased Avon products on the basis of purported misrepresentations that the products were not tested on animals. Yet, during her deposition, she admitted that her purchasing decisions “were not affected in any way by Avon’s animal testing policy.”
The company apparently avoids animal testing except when required by law in other countries, and, if that is required, the company “will first attempt to persuade the requesting authority to accept non-animal test data.” It claims that the lawsuit was “controlled entirely by the class attorney” and “was conceived well before a plaintiff existed.” See Law360, August 26, 2013.