Plaintiffs alleging economic losses from the purchase of aluminum sports bottles containing bisphenol A (BPA) have reportedly agreed to settle their claims in exchange for replacement of the products and $723,000 in attorney’s fees. Smith v. Gaiam, Inc., No. 09-2545 (U.S. Dist. Ct., D. Colo., joint stipulation of settlement filed October 13, 2010). According to a news source, the settlement will address class actions filed in California and Colorado; they were consolidated before the Colorado court in March 2010.
No physical injury was alleged in these product liability actions, and the defendant has denied that it misled consumers. The company contends that “when Plaintiffs brought their concerns to the Company’s attention, Gaiam acted promptly and responsibly. And to ensure that every customer who purchased one of Gaiam’s Aluminum Water Bottles is completely satisfied, the Company is entering into this Stipulation.”
The putative settlement class has about 930,000 members. They will be eligible for free shipping and handling to exchange their first generation bottles for replacement bottles made from stainless steel or “next generation aluminum.” Those members who no longer possess their water bottles will be able to receive a replacement if they can document the purchase. The agreement must undergo court approval following a fairness hearing; if approved, the claims will be dismissed with prejudice according to the stipulation’s terms. See Mealey’s Emerging Toxic Torts, October 19, 2010.
BPA is a chemical widely used in food packaging and reusable food and beverage containers. It has come under scrutiny in recent years with some studies claiming that is has reproductive and endocrine-disrupting effects on lab animals. Government agencies worldwide are divided over whether BPA should be banned in consumer products; the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is currently reassessing its position on the chemical’s safety, has expressed some reservations about its use in products intended for use by infants.