California court rules environmental group Earth Island Institute can proceed with lawsuit against 10 major consumer goods companies for pollution caused by plastic packaging waste; P&G, Clorox, Colgate-Palmolive among personal-care companies included

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BERKELEY , June 6, 2022 (press release) –

State judge rejects defendants’ motion to dismiss lawsuit alleging the corporations’ harmful impact on California residents

Earth Island Institute, represented by Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, received a favorable court order late Friday allowing its landmark lawsuit to proceed against 10 major consumer goods companies for the nuisance allegedly created by their plastic packaging, including polluting California waterways with plastic trash and touting products as recyclable when they’re not.

Judge V. Raymond Swope of the Superior Court of California of the County of San Mateo denied the out-of-state defendants’ motion to dismiss the case and ruled that California courts had personal jurisdiction over the defendants. The court ruled that it has the authority to hear this case in California, where the harms described in Earth Island’s complaint occurred, and not merely where the defendants are based. The decision means that Earth Island’s claims can proceed toward the merits in California, and Earth Island won’t be forced to bring separate lawsuits against these companies in states across the country.

“This ruling correctly finds that companies marketing, selling, and profiting from products packaged in plastic in California can also be sued in California for the harms caused by their plastic packaging,” said Sumona Majumdar, Earth Island Institute’s general counsel. “Corporations like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo can’t be allowed to hide behind their out-of-state status to avoid accountability for their role in the plastic pollution crisis here in California.”

Mark Molumphy, a partner at Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, and lead counsel for Earth Island, said, “Earth Island is to be commended for taking on these corporate giants. While just the first step in a long journey, this order is an important victory and brings us closer to addressing an environmental disaster that just gets worse with each passing day.”

Tyson Redenbarger of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, who argued the motion, added, “The Court’s decision was appropriate. Global plastic producers who cause harm in California should be held accountable in California. We look forward to moving on to the discovery phase of the case and ultimately presenting the case to a California jury.”

The lawsuit was filed in February 2020, in San Mateo County Superior Court in California, against Crystal Geyser Water Company; The Clorox Company; The Coca-Cola Company; PepsiCo, Inc.; Nestlé USA, Inc. (now BlueTriton Brands); Mars, Incorporated; Danone North America; Mondelez International, Inc.; Colgate-Palmolive Company; and The Procter & Gamble Company. The case alleges violations of the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act, public nuisance, breach of express warranty, defective product liability, negligence, and failure to warn of the harms caused by their plastic packaging. The defendants first tried to move the case to federal court but were unsuccessful. By denying the out-of-state defendants’ motion to quash, this ruling allows the case to proceed further toward the merits.

For forty years, Earth Island Institute, a leading nonprofit environmental organization based in Berkeley, California, has been developing programs and supporting projects that counteract threats to the planet’s biological and cultural diversity. Earth Island also plays a leading role in efforts to fight plastic pollution and protect our oceans, coasts, and marine life.

Earth Island has filed this case in its own right and on behalf of the following sponsored projects:

Plastic Pollution Coalition, founded in 2009, is a global alliance of more than 1,200 organizations, businesses, and thought leaders working toward a more just and equitable world free of plastic pollution and its toxic impacts on humans, animals, waterways, oceans, and the environment. The companies in the lawsuit are held accountable by the coalition, which serves as an industry watchdog, driving corporate change on single-use plastic. Together with members, Plastic Pollution Coalition has created and amplified thousands of petitions, collecting millions of signatures asking these companies to change their polluting practices.

The International Marine Mammal Project (IMMP) is one of the leading groups fighting to protect dolphins, whales, and the ocean environment from plastic pollution. The ingestion of plastic packaging produced by the companies in this lawsuit often impacts the health of marine life. IMMP is about to publish a comprehensive report on plastic pollution impacts on dolphins, whales, seals, and sea lions that are dying from plastic ingestion and washing up on shores around the world.

Shark Stewards works on the front lines of marine cleanup efforts and records observations firsthand of the ubiquitous presence of plastics that are trashing our shorelines and ocean environments, impacting fish and other marine life. The organization aims to help restore ocean health by organizing youth and participating in cleanup programs, by saving sharks from overfishing and the shark fin trade, and by protecting critical marine habitat through the establishment of marine protected areas and shark sanctuaries.

1000 Fountains is building a network of one thousand drinking fountains throughout San Francisco to provide consumers with alternatives to single-use plastic bottles. By providing San Franciscans with more drinking fountains, almost 300 million single-use plastic water bottles that are purchased annually can be eliminated, saving consumers more than $500 million per year.

Additional information about this lawsuit can be found here.

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