Legal Roundup: Purdue Pharma Dissolved, Hershey’s Kiss Look-A-Like and More

The latest court filings and cases that will have an impact on the risk management and insurance industry.
By: | September 14, 2021

Purdue Pharma Dissolved in Opioid Settlement 

The case: Purdue Pharmaceutical and its owners the Sackler family filed for bankruptcy in the face of thousands of legal claims against the manufacturer of the highly addictive painkiller OxyContin, according to the New York Times.

Scorecard: New York Judge Robert Drain of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court approved the settlement that involves dissolving Purdue Pharmaceutical, granting the Sacklers with “sweeping immunity,” and paving the way for disbursal of billions of dollars, the Washington Post reports.

Takeaway: The family, now largely shielded from further liability, will pay more than $4.5 billion over the course of nine years, reports from Newsweek note. Creditors include “states, local governments, tribes, hospitals,” among others.

The settlement follows an October 2020 lawsuit in which “Purdue pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges for downplaying the addictive qualities of OxyContin,” according to Newsweek. Nine state attorneys general are not on board with the settlement, and at least one AG plans to appeal the ruling.

Not Even a Hint of Lime in Tostitos?

The case: The label sports a picture of a juicy lime wedge, but Tostitos “Hint of Lime” tortilla chips contain no lime at all, according to a new proposed class action lawsuit brought against snack giant Frito-Lay. Plaintiff Frank Ortega filed the fraud complaint in the U.S. District Court in the Central District of California.

According to the National Law Review, the complaint notes that the label on the chip package is misleading. “Claims are based on alleged violations of California consumer protection laws, federal warranty law, federal trade law, and unjust enrichment.”

Scorecard: The case has recently been filed and has not reached a resolution.

Takeaway: This case echoes a filing made earlier this year in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois that also claims misleading labeling of lime content.

The California case adds that after receiving notice of the lawsuit, Frito-Lay “engaged in label changes on its website” by adding the parenthetical, “including natural lime flavor,” after “Natural Flavor” in the list of ingredients, as reported by The National Law Review.

Pilots Union Sues Southwest Over Pandemic Changes

The case: The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association has brought suit against employer Southwest Airlines, claiming that new rules introduced before and during the COVID-19 pandemic “have changed pay rates and working rules, in violation of federal labor law,” according to the Associated Press.

The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. The crux of the matter is the way in which Southwest implemented changes “without first reaching a new collective bargaining agreement with the union after the previous deal expired in August 2020,” as reported in The Hill. The union represents more than 9,000 pilots.

Scorecard: The case has recently been filed and has not reached a resolution.

Takeaway: Southwest disagrees with the plaintiffs, saying that changes were necessary and not subject to typical negotiations given the unusual circumstances of the pandemic.

Earlier this year, the airline paid incentives to encourage employee furloughs, but Southwest was unprepared for the increase in air travel this summer.

Pilots and flight attendants blame the airline for subsequent delays and cancellations, and the union is considering picketing airports to publicize its grievances, according to The Hill.

Too Much Like a Hershey’s Kiss?

The case: California baker The Cookie Department is suing the Hershey Company for the rights to an image of a stylized chocolate teardrop.

The case, filed in the Northern District of California, follows up on Hershey’s complaint that The Cookie Department package graphic looks too much like a Hershey’s Kiss. The Cookie Department said “the teardrop it has used since 2009 merely depicts the ‘universally known’ shape of a chocolate chip,” as reported by Reuters.

Scorecard: The case has recently been filed and has not reached a resolution.

Takeaway: This dispute is one in a series between the two snack makers. Previously, The Cookie Department sued Hershey for copyright infringement regarding product labeling language. Both companies employed similar package phrasing.

The Cookie Department’s product is called “Tough Cookie,” and Hershey’s One Bar Protein Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough flavored bar reads “TOUGH COOKIES ONLY.”

Hershey then threatened to bring a trademark lawsuit accusing The Cookie Department “of borrowing Kisses’ ‘conical configuration’ without permission,” and that suit “was in retaliation for its own lawsuit accusing Hershey of infringing its ‘Tough Cookie’ mark,” according to Reuters. &

Jared Shelly is a journalist based in Philadelphia. He can be reached at [email protected]

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