Why does it take lawsuits for companies to listen?

inZone BeveragesI’m not a fan of lawsuits and often read about people suing companies and shake my head at the visible signs of the decay of our society. Generally they seem to be frivolous or a result of adults being unable to take responsibility for their own actions (for example, the lawsuits that caused the company that made “lawn darts” to take their product off the market, or the more recent boat towing toy that behaves dangerously at speeds far higher than recommended. Since someone got hurt for using the toy outside of operating parameters, the company just pulled it from the shelves).
I’m pretty sure that this recent case against In Zone Beverages and Talking Rain Beverages falls into the same category (see the AP story Beverage Makers Settle Lawsuit for more details), but if you read about the case, you can’t help wonder why the companies didn’t just reformulate their popular drinks without a lawsuit to motivate them.

The two drinks in question, BellyWashers (from In Zone) and Talking Rain, apparently have been made with a combination of chemicals that combine to form benzene, which has been linked to leukemia. These drinks aren’t targeted at teens, either, but at younger kids: “BellyWashers are juice drinks that come in reusable bottles featuring Spiderman, Hello Kitty, Scooby Doo and other well-known characters.”
Now think about this. You’re in the marketing department of these companies and you get complaints from your customers that the combination of the ingredients you use form to cause a known dangerous and poisonous chemical, benzene. Heck, a quick visit to Wikipedia would reveal that:
“The major effect of benzene from chronic (long-term) exposure is to the blood. Benzene damages the bone marrow and can cause a decrease in red blood cells, leading to anemia. It can also cause excessive bleeding and depress the immune system, increasing the chance of infection.
“Some women who breathed high levels of benzene for many months had irregular menstrual periods and a decrease in the size of their ovaries. It is not known whether benzene exposure affects the developing fetus in pregnant women or fertility in men. Animal studies have shown low birth weights, delayed bone formation, and bone marrow damage when pregnant animals breathed benzene.
“The US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) classifies benzene as a human carcinogen. Long-term exposure to high levels of benzene in the air can cause leukemia, a potentially fatal cancer of the blood-forming organs. In particular, Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) may be caused by benzene.”
Talking Rain productsBut, hey, the world’s a dangerous place and even though you market your product to the pre-teen set, the precious children of tomorrow, it’d be a hassle to change your product formulation. So you don’t.
And the parents finally get their act together and sue you for selling a dangerous product.
And still you don’t worry about it, beacuse, well, it’s doubtless a nuisance lawsuit and there’s no way a bunch of parents can win. You’re a big business, a Republican is in office, and all is good in the world.
I am glad to know that these companies are going to reformulate their beverages, but I still just don’t get why it took a lawsuit for them to take action. Giving your customers leukemia cannot possibly be good for long-term sales.
Maybe someone else can explain this to me?

2 comments on “Why does it take lawsuits for companies to listen?

  1. As a devoted reader of the Attachment Parenting blog, a Seattle area resident and mother of two small children, I must take exception (for the first time EVER) to some of the commentary in the above post. I followed very closely the news of TalkingRain’s settlement, my kids have consumed the product and drink the reformulated version, and I drink other TalkingRain products. It’s a very community oriented Pacific NW area company, which is why I choose them over others.
    The fact is, it would take an incredible amount of the previous product’s intake/consumption to even get remotely close to a questionable level of benzene in the system (The FDA has repeatedly stated that the allegation of the presence of benzene in soft drinks does not pose a health hazard.) . The likelihood of kids accumulating dangerous levels of benzene could more realistically be accumulated by having the rear window down while pumping gas with the kids in the car—while fumes waft in.
    TalkingRain actually stepped up and honored the suit you mention to do the right thing. There are still other companies out there FIGHTING this suit. Those are the folks I hope you write about. I think in fairness to the two who settled, I applaud them. It is also reckless to write that “giving kids leukemiaâ€? is part of the aforementioned companies’ marketing. What child drank this product that directly resulted in leukemia? Was this conjecture on your part?
    My family donates to Children’s Miracle Network, where many kids who have leukemia and other serious illnesses are treated at children’s hospitals throughout the country. Long before this lawsuit ever existed what company do you think has continually raised funds for this cause? You got it: TalkingRain. We bought their water this year at Costco to support that fundraiser.
    Please point the finger where it belongs.

  2. I am not sure why they took the Bratz off the shelf but I have a 5 year old that is crazy about them and I will continue to buy them for her -. The bratz belly washers and all I search store to store looking for them and will someday have her collection complete.
    Taking everything from our kids that they enjoy is just wrong, what are Bratzs doing that is so wrong- they dress very sexy so what so does some of the girls in real life- sue them as well then,
    Thanks for reading,
    Please put Bratz back on the shelves for the young kids that love those girls- they are not that different than Barbie so i guess u should sue her as well.
    That is my opinion,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *