You have the right to know about a proposed Settlement of a class action lawsuit, and about your options, before the Court decides whether to approve the Settlement. If you own or operate a sewage or wastewater conveyance and treatment plant in the United States whose system was in operation between Jan. 6, 2018 and Oct. 4, 2021, you are part of the Settlement Class.
The court handling this case is the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina, Charleston Division (the “Court”), and the case is called Commissioners of Public Works of the City of Charleston (d.b.a. Charleston Water System) v. Costco Wholesale Corporation, CVS Health Corporation, Kimberly-Clark Corporation, The Procter & Gamble Company, Target Corporation, Walgreens Co. and Wal-Mart, Inc., Case No. 2:21-CV-00042. The case is assigned to the Honorable Richard M. Gergel.
The proposed Settlement is limited to claims against Defendant Kimberly-Clark Corporation.
This lawsuit challenges the manufacturing design, marketing and/or sale of flushable wipes by Defendants, including Kimberly-Clark.
Plaintiff alleges that the flushability-related claims made on the labeling and packaging of the wipe products sold by Defendants, including Kimberly-Clark, are false, deceptive, or misleading. Defendants deny any wrongdoing, and no court or other entity has made any judgment or other determination of any wrongdoing or that the law has been violated.
The current, most recent, complaint filed in this litigation, which describes the specific legal claims alleged by the Plaintiff, each Defendant named in the lawsuit, and the relief sought in litigation, is available under the “Important Documents” page of this website.
In a class action, one or more people called “Class Representatives” – in this case, Plaintiff Commissioners of Public Works of the City of Charleston, SC – sue on behalf of other people who have similar claims, all of whom are a “Class,” or “Settlement Class Members.” If the Court certifies (or approves) the Settlement Class, then one court can resolve the issues for everyone in the Settlement Class. The Plaintiff and Class Representative here will serve to represent not only its personal interests, but the interests of all the Settlement Class Members. Individual Class Members do not have to file a lawsuit to participate in the Class Action Settlement. Thus, in a class action, even persons who did not file their own lawsuit can obtain relief from harm that may have been caused by Defendants.
The Court has not decided in favor of Plaintiff or Kimberly-Clark. Both sides have agreed to the Settlement to avoid costs and risks of trial, and Kimberly-Clark has agreed to make changes to its policies to benefit Settlement Class Members.
If you own(ed) or operate(d) a sewage or wastewater conveyance and treatment system, such as a municipality, authority or wastewater district in the United States whose system was in operation between January 6, 2018 and October 4, 2021, you are part of the Settlement Class.
The Settlement provides injunctive relief to all Class Members; it provides no monetary damages. The Stipulation of Settlement, which describes the specific relief provided by the Settlement, is available under the “Important Documents” page of this website. Please note that the Opinion and Order preliminarily approving the Settlement, which is also available on the “Important Documents” page of this website, modifies the definition of “Plaintiff’s Released Claims” and provides for supplemental notice of the Settlement beyond the terms specified in the Stipulation of Settlement.
Kimberly-Clark has agreed to implement certain modifications to its business practices with respect to Kimberly-Clark’s Cottonelle Flushable Wipes manufactured in the United States, including any FreshCare or GentlePlus-branded Cottonelle Flushable Wipes (the “Product”). Those modifications include meeting new product and testing criteria, testing implementation monitoring, and label changes to flushable and non-flushable wipes.
Kimberly-Clark commits that its flushable wipes do not contain plastic.
Kimberly-Clark commits to meeting the current International Water Services Flushability Group (“IWSFG”) Publicly Available Specifications (“PAS”) 3 (Disintegration Test) (hereinafter, “IWSFG 2020; PAS 3”) flushability specifications for its Product by May 1, 2022.
Kimberly-Clark commits to certify that the Product currently meets all IWSFG 2020 specifications other than the PAS 3 disintegration test. For the disintegration test, the Settling Parties will confirm that Kimberly-Clark currently meets a modified PAS 3 specification, with all other parameters remaining the same.
Kimberly-Clark and Plaintiff will co-promote that the Product will soon meet IWSFG 2020: PAS 3 flushability specifications and that the Product outperforms all other U.S. marketed flushable wipes tested by Plaintiff on PAS 3 disintegration specifications. Kimberly-Clark commits to periodic independent testing of the Product to ensure Product continues meeting all IWSFG 2020: PAS 3 specifications.
Upon verification that Product meets all IWSFG specifications, including PAS 3, Kimberly-Clark commits to modify packaging and marketing materials for the Product to add language specifying the bases for the “flushable” claim appearing on its label. Kimberly-Clark will add prominent language or illustration on its non-flushable wipes products (e.g., baby wipes) identifying the non-flushable products as “nonflushable” or instructing users not to flush the non-flushable products. Kimberly-Clark agrees to include “do not flush” symbols or warnings on not only the principal display panel, but also at least two additional panels of packaging for its non-flushable wipes products; the colors of which will be in high contrast to background packaging.
As a Settlement Class Member, you cannot sue, continue to sue, or be part of any other lawsuit against Kimberly-Clark (or other Released Parties) about the Plaintiff’s Released Claims in this case. It also means that all of the Court’s orders will apply to you and legally bind you. If the Settlement is approved, you will give up certain claims against the Released Parties. All terms are defined below.
“Plaintiff’s Released Claims” means any and all claims of Plaintiff and the Settlement Class Members for injunctive relief that arise from or relate to the claims and allegations in the Complaint, including Unknown Claims, and the acts, facts, omissions, or circumstances that were or could have been alleged by Plaintiff in the Action, including but not limited to all claims for injunctive relief related to any wipe products (flushable and non-flushable) currently or formerly manufactured, marketed, or sold by Kimberly-Clark or any of its affiliates. For the avoidance of doubt, “Plaintiff’s Released Claims” do not include claims for damages or other monetary relief, including claims for monetary relief under the law of nuisance.
“Released Parties” means the parties receiving a release, including Plaintiff, Class Counsel, Kimberly-Clark and its present, former, and future, direct and indirect, parents, subsidiaries, affiliates, assigns, divisions, predecessors, and successors, and all of their respective officers, agents, administrators, and employees, Kimberly-Clark’s Counsel, and all Settlement Class Members.
“Unknown Claims” means Plaintiff’s Released Claims and all of Defendant’s Released Claims that any of the Settling Parties or Settlement Class Members do not know or suspect to exist in his, her, or its favor at the time of the release, which if known by him, her, or it, might have affected his, her, or its decision not to object to this Settlement or release of the Released Parties, Plaintiff, Class Counsel, or Settlement Class Members. With respect to any and all Plaintiff’s Released Claims and Defendants’ Released Claims, the Settling Parties stipulate and agree that upon the Effective Date, the Settling Parties shall, to the fullest extent permitted by law, fully, finally, and forever expressly waive and relinquish with respect to such claims, any and all provisions, rights, and benefits of § 1542 of the California Civil Code and any and all similar provisions, rights, and benefits conferred by any law of any state or territory of the United States or principle of common law that is similar, comparable, or equivalent to § 1542 of the California Civil Code, which provides:
A GENERAL RELEASE DOES NOT EXTEND TO CLAIMS THAT THE CREDITOR OR RELEASING PARTY DOES NOT KNOW OR SUSPECT TO EXIST IN HIS OR HER FAVOR AT THE TIME OF EXECUTING THE RELEASE AND THAT, IF KNOWN BY HIM OR HER, WOULD HAVE MATERIALLY AFFECTED HIS OR HER SETTLEMENT WITH THE DEBTOR OR RELEASED PARTY.
You can comment on or object to the Settlement and/or Class Counsel’s request for attorneys’ fees and expenses.
You can ask the Court to deny approval of the Settlement by filing an objection. You cannot ask the Court to order a different settlement; the Court can only approve or reject the Settlement. If the Court denies approval of the Settlement, no benefits in the form of modifications of Kimberly-Clark’s business practices will be made, and the litigation will continue. If that is what you want to happen, you must object.
Any objection to the proposed Settlement must be in writing. If you file a timely written objection, you may, but are not required to, appear at the Final Approval Hearing, either in person or through your own attorney. If you appear through your own attorney, you are responsible for hiring and paying that attorney.
All written objections must contain the following:
· the name and case number of this lawsuit (Commissioners of Public Works of the City of Charleston (d.b.a. Charleston Water System) v. Costco Wholesale Corporation, CVS Health Corporation, Kimberly-Clark Corporation, The Procter & Gamble Company, Target Corporation, Walgreens Co. and Wal-Mart, Inc., Case No. 2:21-CV-00042);
· your full name, mailing address, email address, and telephone number;
· an explanation of why you believe you are a Settlement Class Member, including documents sufficient to establish the basis for your standing as a Settlement Class Member;
· all reasons for your objection or comment, including all citations to legal authority and evidence supporting the objection;
· whether you intend to personally appear and/or testify at the Final Approval Hearing (either personally or through counsel), and what witnesses you will ask to speak;
· the name and contact information of any and all attorneys representing, advising, and/or assisting you, including any counsel who may be entitled to compensation for any reason related to your objection or comment, who must enter an appearance with the Court in accordance with the Local Rules;
· the name and case number of all class action settlements to which you have objected; and
· your handwritten or electronically imaged signature (an attorney’s signature or typed signature is not sufficient).
To be considered by the Court, your objection must be received by the Court either by mailing it to the Class Action Clerk, United States District Court for the District of South Carolina, Charleston Division, J. Waties Waring Judicial Center, 83 Meeting Street, Charleston, South Carolina 29401, or by filing it in person at any location of the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina.
To be considered, your objection must be received on or before December 29, 2021.
The Court decided that attorneys with the the law firms of Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP (“Robbins Geller”) and AquaLaw PLC are qualified to represent you and all Settlement Class Members. These attorneys are called “Class Counsel”. More information about Robbins Geller and AquaLaw are available at www.rgrdlaw.com and www.aqualaw.com, respectively.
Class Counsel believe, after investigating and litigating this and related cases for several years, that the Stipulation is fair, reasonable, and in the best interests of the Settlement Class. You will not be separately charged for these lawyers. If you want to be represented by your own lawyer in this case, you may hire one at your expense.
You do not need to hire your own lawyer because Class Counsel is working on your behalf.
However, if you wish to object you may hire your own lawyer to assist you.
Class Counsel’s attorneys’ fees and expenses will be paid in an amount to be determined and awarded by the Court. Kimberly-Clark has also agreed to pay reasonable attorneys’ fees and expenses.
Class Counsel will ask the Court to approve attorneys’ fees and expenses from Kimberly-Clark of no more than $600,000. The final amount of attorneys’ fees and expenses will be determined by the Court.
Class Counsel’s application for an award of attorneys’ fees and expenses will be made available on the “Important Documents” page of the Settlement Website at www.CharlestonWipesSettlement.com on the date it is filed or as quickly thereafter as possible.
The Court is scheduled to hold the Final Approval Hearing on January 24, 2022 at 10 a.m. via teleconference. Instructions and teleconference access code details are provided in the important documents. PLEASE NOTE THAT the date of the Final Approval Hearing may be rescheduled to a different date, time, or location without further notice to Settlement Class Members.
Especially given the national health emergency, the date, time, or location of the hearing may be subject to change, as will the manner in which Settlement Class Members might appear at the hearing. Please review the Settlement Website for any updated information regarding the hearing.
At the Final Approval Hearing, the Court will consider whether the Settlement with Kimberly-Clark is fair, reasonable, and adequate. If there are objections, the Court will consider them. The Court may listen to people who appear at the hearing and who have provided notice of their intent to appear at the hearing. The Court may also consider Class Counsel’s application for attorneys’ fees and expenses.
No. Class Counsel will answer any questions the Court may have. You may attend at your own expense if you wish. If you submit a written objection, you do not have to come to the Court to talk about it. As long as you submit your written objection on time, and follow the requirements above, the Court will consider it. You may also pay your own attorney to attend, but it is not required.
Yes. You may ask the Court for permission to speak at the Final Approval Hearing. At the hearing, the Court, in its discretion, will hear any objections and arguments concerning the fairness of the Settlement and/or Class Counsel’s request for attorneys’ fees and expenses.
To do so, you must include in your objection or comment in a statement saying that it is your Notice of Intent to Appear in Commissioners of Public Works of the City of Charleston (d.b.a. Charleston Water System) v. Costco Wholesale Corporation, CVS Health Corporation, Kimberly-Clark Corporation, The Procter & Gamble Company, Target Corporation, Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc. and Wal-Mart, Inc., Case No. 2:21-CV-00042 (D.S.C.). It must include your name, address, email, telephone number, and signature as well as the name and address of your lawyer, if one is appearing for you. Your submission and Notice of Intent to Appear must be filed with the Court and be received no later than December 29, 2021.
If you do nothing, then you will automatically receive benefits under this Settlement in the form of Kimberly-Clark’s business modifications related to the manufacturing, design, marketing and/or sale of flushable and non-flushable wipes.
If the Court grants final approval of the proposed Settlement, all Settlement Class Members will release and forever discharge any and all claims that have been, might have been, are now, or could have been brought arising out of or relating to the facts alleged in the complaints filed in this Action, including the labeling, marketing, advertising, promotion, or distribution of the Class Products at any time during the Class Period.
This Notice summarizes the proposed Settlement. For the full terms and conditions of the Settlement, please see the Stipulation of Settlement and Order and Opinion preliminarily approving the Settlement available on the “Important Documents” page of this website, by contacting Class Counsel (Paul Calamita (804-716-9021, ext. 201; Amanda Waters (804/716-9021, ext. 209) or Vince Serra ((631) 367-7100)) by accessing the Court docket in this case, for a fee, through the Court’s Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system at https://ecf.scd.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/login.pl, or by visiting the office of the Clerk of Court for the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina, Charleston Division, J. Waties Waring Judicial Center, 83 Meeting Street, Charleston, South Carolina 29401, between 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding holidays.