Can you sue a sunscreen company for your sunburn?

Business, Money

Many sunburns result from “user error“– you fall asleep in the hot sun or neglect to reapply sunscreen after a swim. But not every sunburn can be blamed on the sufferer’s negligence; sometimes a lobster shade of skin is caused by poorly manufactured sunscreens that don’t deliver their stated protection. When that happens, you just might have cause to sue.

Honest or just half-truths?

Sunscreen is a pain to apply, especially if you’re attempting to slather it on squirmy children. Still, most parents do their best to protect their kids from the sun. Some seek out hypoallergenic, eco-friendly sunscreens that promise adequate protection without the use of synthetic chemicals.

Unfortunately, some brands have not kept up the “protection” side of that bargain. Honest Company—a brand that promotes non-toxic household, personal care, and baby products—is allegedly one of them. The company, owned by actress and businesswoman Jessica Alba, is accused of producing an SPF 30 sunscreen lotion that didn’t do the job it promised to do, leaving many customers suffering from severe burns. This result has landed the company in a $5 million class-action lawsuit for false advertising and physical harm to customers.

Missing the boat

A lawsuit against sunscreen manufacturer Banana Boat claims that the company is defrauding unsuspecting customers and forcing consumers to “overpay for the sunscreen based upon false, inflated SPF.” One conscientious parent, Paul Lambrakis of Brooklyn, purchased Banana Boat Kids SPF 50. After seeing a Consumer Reports piece noting that 28 of 60 tested sunscreens had lower SPF protection than labeled, Lambrakis sent the sunscreen to a lab for testing. The result: an SPF of only 12.69.

The subsequent class-action lawsuit is Lambrakis’s way of suing Banana Boat on behalf of all other injured users. “Because these products are sold to a wide number of users, if one person is injured there is a decent probability that others will be also,” says Thomas J. Simeone, managing partner at Simeone & Miller, LLP in Washington, D.C. “These are complicated cases because the users may live in different places—with different laws—and each will have purchased the product separately and have unique injuries.”

Slather it on

It could be one bad batch of sunscreen, or a poor product formulation overall. “As the case proceeds, they will learn through the discovery process the specific reason for their injuries,” says Simeone. A sunscreen manufacturer may find themselves, based on that process, dealing with anything from a personal injury claim, to a negligence lawsuit, or accusations of false advertising.

So be safe out there this summer, and consider doing some homework before hitting the beach.