A Poughkeepsie law firm has settled a dirty case for $2.8 million, or more precisely, a class action lawsuit concerning People Against Dirty PBC.
People Against Dirty is a public benefit corporation in San Francisco that markets cleaning products under the Method and Ecover brands.
On June 20, Judge Nelson S. Roman of the federal court in White Plains certified the class action lawsuit and approved the settlement.
Attorney Jason P. Sultzer filed the case in September on behalf of a Dutchess County resident, Wesley Vincent. The complaint claims that People Against Dirty products uses false and misleading packaging and labels.
Vincent objected to the use of terms such as “natural,” “nontoxic” and “bio-based,” alleging that the cleaning products actually contained ingredients that are artificial, synthetic or highly processed.
People Against Dirty’s website says Adam Lowry and Eric Ryan founded the company after being exposed to toxic cleaning supplies.
They knew how to make cleaners without dirty ingredients, so “they set out to save the world and create an entire line of home care products that were more powerful than a bottle of sodium hypochlorite. Gentler than a thousand puppy licks. Able to detox tall homes in a single afternoon.”
Consumers, the lawsuit states, are willing to pay a premium for products that are branded “natural,” and that is what motivated Vincent to buy Method cleaners at a local Target store.
But Method products use synthetic ingredients, Vincent alleged. The foaming hand wash, for instance, contains calcium chloride, a desiccant that is an alleged hazardous chemical, and tocopheryl acetate, a form of Vitamin E that is used in some pesticides.
A second lawsuit was filed in California, and eventually the cases were merged with three more plaintiffs. By last December, People Against Dirty was in settlement discussions.
Roman noted that by settling quickly both sides would avoid time-consuming, complicated and expensive litigation.
Nearly 55,000 people have submitted claims.
The $2.8 million settlement includes a 30 percent award to two law firms, The Sultzer Law Group in Poughkeepsie and Eggnatz, Lopatin & Pascucci in Davie, Florida. Including expenses, they will split $865,800.
Another $404,697 was allocated for claims administration. Vincent and three other plaintiffs will split $10,000 for their efforts.
That leaves a bit more than $1.5 million for consumers who filed claims, or about $27.81 each.
Any funds remaining from checks that are not cashed after six months will be donated to the Sierra Club, Earth Echo International and the Conservation Alliance.