Class Action Lawsuit Against Wipes Companies Proceeds While Proposed Settlement Remains Pending
NACWA member Charleston Water System (CWS) recently filed an amended class action complaint against multiple manufacturers and distributers of so-called “flushable” wipes in federal district court seeking to have the court enjoin them from labeling their products as “flushable” in light of the damage they cause to sewer systems.
As NACWA has previously reported, many of the named defendants in the suit, such as Costco, CVS, and Target, have moved to dismiss the litigation on the familiar grounds that CWS had not made a requisite showing that any individual defendant’s flushable wipes caused a specific sewer system blockage or that the damage caused by wipes is on-going. NACWA has provided more background on the lawsuit.
CWS’s amended complaint addresses those assertions by including affidavits and lab testing data verifying that wipes continue to cause problems and that the defendants’ wipes do not disperse in lab tests and, consequently, do not likely disperse in sewers, thereby potentially causing blockages.
While the court considers CWS’s amended filings, it is also continuing its review of the proposed first-of-its-kind settlement agreement between CWS and major U.S. wipes manufacturer Kimberly-Clark concerning the performance and labeling of certain wipes products. Should the court grant preliminary approval of that settlement – which it may do with or without holding a separate approval hearing – notice of the settlement will be given and impacted parties will have the opportunity to file objections to the settlement before an ultimate final fairness hearing is held.
Because the litigation is styled as a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of all public wastewater utilities nationwide, the proposed settlement agreement will directly impact NACWA’s public utility members, and we continue to encourage NACWA members that have not yet done so to review the proposed settlement terms.
While the timelines for the proposed CWS settlement agreement with Kimberly-Clark will not be set until the court grants preliminary approval of the settlement, the earliest date any final fairness hearing will be held is 100 days after the court enters an order preliminarily approving the settlement.
NACWA will continue to keep you apprised of any updates in this litigation as they occur. In the interim, please contact NACWA’s Chief Legal Counsel, Amanda Aspatore, with any questions.