Record-Breaking Settlement Reached In Dietary Supplement Suit Regarding Pain Claims

The lawsuit alleged false advertising for the Move Free Advanced glucosamine joint health dietary supplement.  The case is styled Yamagata v. Reckitt Benckiser and is pending in United States District Court for the Northern District of California. The litigation lasted nearly four years, involved discovery motions, class certification, summary judgment motions, 30 depositions, over 20 subpoenas, more than 303,000 pages of documents, 14 expert witnesses and many days of mediations.

According to the plaintiffs, Move Free Advanced was falsely advertised for the treatment of joint pain and stiffness, but in reality it did not work as advertised. Plaintiffs cited scientific studies purporting to show that glucosamine supplements have no particular beneficial effect on joint health.

A motion seeking preliminary court approval for what is believed to be the largest dietary supplement class action settlement ever was filed on March 2nd. Plaintiffs’ attorneys valued the nationwide settlement at more than $53 million. It was achieved after nearly four years of litigation and just weeks before a scheduled trial.

Under the settlement, class members with no proof of purchase will receive cash refunds for up to three purchases for a total of $66 ($22 per purchase) or up to $225 worth of other consumer products, which they can select, free of shipping charges. Class members with proof of purchase will receive refunds for all of their purchases, even if the total number of purchases exceeds three. The settlement costs will come from a $50 million non-reversionary fund. If all the entire fund is not claimed, the refund amounts will be increased, while refunds will be reduced pro rata if the fund is oversubscribed.  The shipping costs for consumers who elect to receive other products will cost Reckitt Benckiser an additional $3.44 million.

As for attorneys’ fees, Reckitt Benckiser agreed to not oppose plaintiffs’ counsel’s application for up to 25% of the settlement fund, which amounts to $12,500,000, plus reimbursement of litigation expenses

In June 2019, the Court granted in part a motion for class certification, certifying the claims asserted on behalf of California and New York purchasers.

The Settlement will also resolve the parallel class action pending in the Northern District of Illinois and the claims of six other named plaintiffs who were about to file a class action in the District of Vermont on behalf of other Move Free Advances purchasers.

TAKE AWAY:  Marketers of joint supplement products should be sure that they possess competent and reliable scientific evidence supporting joint efficacy claims. 

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