« The Daily Memo 4/3/06 | Main | You think I won’t beat that trick, whoop that trick, your honor? »

The Worst Thing to Happen to the Beach since From Justin to Kelly

As though trial lawyers didn’t get a bad enough name, it appears that they are now going after the sunscreen industry, filing suit against the makers of Coppertone and other popular brands of sunscreen. The San Diego law firm of Lerach Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins (best known for appropriately going after Enron) are proposing a class-action lawsuit against sunscreen makers for false and misleading advertising, arguing that their products do not block out all harmful effects of the sun; they further allege that the hype has created a false sense of security among sun bathers and has helped expose millions of people to the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, the leading cause of skin cancer.

“Sunscreen is the snake oil of the 21st century,” Lerach partner Samuel Rudman said. “False claims such as ‘sunblock,’ ‘waterproof’ and ‘all-day protection’ should be removed from these products immediately.”

But here is where an otherwise responsible, consumer advocacy case turns specious: The suit does not make personal injury claims; rather, it consolidates allegations made in nine false-claims complaints filed on behalf of consumers by several lawyers and seeks refunds for anyone who bought a falsely advertised sunscreen.

And what does that mean? That individual members of the class-action lawsuit will be able to recoup their $3.29 for the sunblock if they receive notice and if they bother to fill out the paperwork, but the law firm stands to make millions of dollars if successful. I mean, c’mon! Sunscreen advertising is already regulated by the federal Food and Drug Administration - what this sounds like is a law-firm get-rich scheme; in fact, we’d argue that “pointless class-action lawsuits are the snake oil of the 21st century.” And you can quote us on that.