CVS Denies Liability in Carcinogen-tainted Sun-care Case

CVS Health Corporation on Monday denied allegations that it knowingly sold CVS brand name aloe vera products that were contaminated with benzene, a carcinogen known to cause leukemia and other cancers. 

The class action complaint in question was filed in a New York district court in February after independent testing lab Valisure LLC reported finding the cancer-causing chemical, which can be absorbed through the skin, in CVS After-sun Aloe Vera Soothing Spray and After-sun Aloe Vera Moisturizing Gel. Valisure’s testing revealed the products had quantities of benzene in excess of the Food and Drug Administration’s concentration limit of 2 parts per million, with the After-sun Aloe Vera Soothing Spray containing over double the limit at 4.55 to 4.71 parts per million. Shortly after Valisure submitted a petition to the FDA to recall the products in May 2021, CVS announced it was halting their sale. 

The plaintiff claims CVS violated Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations by distributing adultured products and by failing to include warning labels on the products.

“As a manufacturer, distributor, and seller of a cosmetics product, Defendant had and has a duty to ensure that its Products did not contain excessive (or any) levels of benzene, including through regular testing…

“If Defendant had fulfilled its quality assurance obligations, Defendant would have identified the presence of the benzene contaminant almost immediately,” the complaint states.

In its response to the complaint, CVS claims it lacks the knowledge or information necessary to determine the accuracy of the purported levels of benzene in its products, and therefore denies all allegations. 

The plaintiff is suing for breach of implied warranty, unjust enrichment, and violation of Section 349 and 350 of the New York General Business Law. In addition, the plaintiff is seeking class certification, compensatory and punitive damages, pre-judgment interest on amounts awarded, an order of restitution and all other forms of monetary relief, and attorneys’ fees.

Plaintiff is represented by Bursor & Fisher PA. CVS is represented by Greenberg Traurig LLP.