Judge Certifies Class Action Against Wipes Manufacturers

fiveA federal judge in New York ruled on February 24 that litigation against three manufacturers alleging that the companies sell wipes falsely marketed as "flushable" can proceed as a class action.  In the case, Kurtz v. Kimberly-Clark Corp (E.D.N.Y., Case No. 14-cv-1142), three classes were certified, all of which are consumers in New York who purchased Kimberly-Clark flushable wipes, Procter & Gamble's Charmin Freshmates wipes, and/or Costco's Kirkland Signature wipes manufactured by Nice-Pak Products Inc, which also a defendant in the case.

The lawsuit alleges that the wipe companies violated the New York General Business Law provision against misleading advertising by selling “flushable” wipes that do not break apart quickly enough to be considered flushable—which results in plumbing and septic system problems.  The wipes manufacturers deny any wrongdoing and claim that problems result from consumer misuse, such as flushing more than one or two wipes at a time despite the products' warning label.

Although NACWA is not directly involved in this lawsuit, a number of Association members have provided technical assistance to the plaintiffs in the case. The Association is also tracking the multiple lawsuits against manufacturers of “flushable” wipes as part of its Toilets Are Not Trashcans campaign and continues to evaluate the possibility of NACWA taking more formal legal action. This class action certification is an important interim victory for consumers of wipes, and another step towards improvement in the marketing and labeling of wipes.