A California woman has applied to lead a class action lawsuit against the Oak Brook-based maker of Blistex lip ointment, alleging the company smears customers by selling their product in tubes that leave a quarter of the ointment stick inaccessible to users, even though customers believe they are paying for the full amount.

On March 16, plaintiff Alana Hillen filed her complaint in Chicago federal court against Blistex Inc. She has asked the court to expand the litigation to include potentially millions of others who purchased Blistex’s lip ointments in the past three years.

Hillen is represented in the action by attorneys Robert Pavich, of the Pavich Law Group, of Chicago, and Charles S. Zimmerman, Michael J. Laird and Caleb Marker, of the firm of Zimmerman Reed LLP, with offices in Minneapolis and Manhattan Beach, Calif.

The lawsuit centers on Blistex’s medicated lip ointment which, the complaint notes, “comes in a uniquely designed tube,” which the complaint compared to a “miniature tube of toothpaste” with a “hard, plastic dispenser” attached to the top of the tube, which is used to spread the ointment on lips.

The lawsuit asserts the dispenser attachment “is hollow and retains a significant volume of empty space, especially in comparison to the volume of the tube.”

This design, the lawsuit says, “prevents a significant amount of the lip ointment from being used.”

“When the tube appears empty, product remains trapped in the dispenser,” the lawsuit said.

In all, the lawsuit claims ointment consumers receive only about 4.65 grams of the product, when the tube claims to contain 6 grams of ointment.

“Consumers are losing approximately 23 percent of the product because of the dispenser design,” the lawsuit claims.

The plaintiffs said this stands in contrast to Blistex’s other products in other containers, like its egg-shaped dispenser, traditional stick or small jar packaging, which allow consumers to use almost all of the product.

And the complaint said this alleged design flaw is unique to the U.S., as Blistex sells its lip ointment in tubes with “significantly smaller dispenser(s)” in other countries, including the United Kingdom, which minimize the amount of product left in the tube.

“The dispenser appears to be solid, even though it is hollow,” the complaint said.  “Consumers cannot see that Lip Ointment is trapped in the dispenser because the dispenser is opaque. Nor can consumers feel additional product in the dispenser because the dispenser is hard and cannot be squeezed.

“Blistex provides no indication to its consumers that a significant amount of the Lip Ointment is trapped in the plastic dispenser.”

This, the complaint said, leads consumers to “unknowingly toss away 23 percent of the Lip Ointment believing they used the entire tube.”

The lawsuit alleges Blistex’s packaging and advertising violates Illinois consumer fraud law and common law fraud.

The plaintiffs have asked the court to order Blistex to pay unspecified statutory damages under the Illinois law, including punitive damages, as well as actual damages and restitution with interest. Attorney fees are also requested.

The lawsuit indicates plaintiffs believe the amount of damages will exceed $5 million. 

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