Paparazzi “lead & nickel free” class-action filed in Nth Carolina
Five Paparazzi customers in North Carolina have filed a class-action against the MLM company.
Central to the lawsuit are alleged misrepresentations regarding toxic metals in Paparazzi jewelry.
BehindMLM covered the finding of toxic metals in Paparazzi jewelry earlier this year.
Crack the Crown’s discovery, which was verified by testing, was brought on by Paparazzi to dropping its “lead & nickel free” marketing claim.
Surprisingly, in the wake of the discovery and past and potential consumer harm, no regulatory action has been lodged against Paparazzi. Whether the MLM company is under regulatory investigation is unknown.
Plaintiffs Crystal Johnson, Nancy Kebort, Karen Langston, Pamela Sheehan-Peterson and Leslie Ann Williams, represent themselves to be Paparazzi customers.
The NC Plaintiffs claim to have independently tested purchased Paparazzi jewelry, which
revealed (it) contain(ed) lead and nickel, in contradiction to Paparazzi’s express claims that its Products were lead and nickel free.
The NC Plaintiffs allege the claim was “a central tenet of Paparazzi’s marketing and sales strategy.”
Paparazzi consumers were told to “feel glamorous, not guilty” because Paparazzi’s Products were lead and nickel free.
Due to consumers “lack(ing) the ability to ascertain the true contents of Paparazzi’s products prior to purchase”, NC Plaintiffs claim they
must and do rely on Paparazzi to accurately and honestly disclose the materials in its products.
This is especially true for materials such as lead and nickel.
Plaintiffs contend that it was only after independent testing, commissioned by consumers, that Paparazzi “stopped representing that its Products are lead and nickel free.”
Paparazzi scrubbed its website of its express claims that its Products are lead and nickel free on or about December 2021 or early 2022, just after reports began circulating online that Paparazzi’s Products indeed contain lead and nickel.
Paparazzi knows that wearing accessories containing nickel is undesirable to many consumers because these materials can trigger adverse effects, such as allergic reactions and skin discoloration.
Consumers also seek to avoid purchasing jewelry containing lead due to the toxic nature of the metal.
And that brings us to the crux of the North Carolina class-action;
Paparazzi made its “lead and nickel free” claims a central part of its marketing message to consumers in order to misleadingly create the impression that its Products are safer and of a higher level of quality than they are in reality.
If Paparazzi disclosed to consumers, including Plaintiffs and proposed Class Members, that its Products contained lead and nickel, these consumers would not have purchased the Products at all, or they would not have paid the price they did.
Customers reasonably relied on and believed Paparazzi’s false statements.
In addition to purchasing the Products for their personal use, customers, including Plaintiffs, purchased and gave the Products as gifts to children, family and friends.
Now, confronted with the truth about Paparazzi’s Products, that they indeed contain lead and nickel, these customers now feel guilty about exposing their loved ones to the risk of suffering the adverse effects associated with these materials.
As a result of Defendant Paparazzi’s misconduct, false statements, misrepresentations and material omissions, Plaintiffs and proposed Class Members have suffered injury in fact, including economic damages.
NC Plaintiffs peg alleged damages at over five million dollars.
Interestingly, without identifying NC Plaintiffs as Paparazzi distributors or not, the complaint refers to Paparazzi’s compensation structure as a pyramid.
The pyramid of positions starts with the position “consultant” and continues as follows: star consultant, director, premier director, executive director, producer, premier producer, executive producer, fashionista, a-lister, maven a-lister, jetsetter, luxe jetsetter, and impressionista.
As a person recruits more individuals below them, who recruit more individuals below them, and so on, the higher the person’s income potential.
This was brought up in connection with Paparazzi ” controls every aspect of the Products’ marketing”.
Paparazzi’s business structure ensures that its lead and nickel-free marketing communication strategy is adopted and followed by its consultants.
In order to entice consultants to move up the ladder and reach higher levels of compensation, Paparazzi lionizes its top consultants and encourages other consultants to emulate their sales practices.
By elevating its top consultants, Paparazzi not only achieves higher revenue but also ensures that their marketing messages, including the lead and nickel free claim, are repeated by other consultants.
Therefore, Paparazzi controls every aspect of the Products’ marketing: by controlling how consultants are educated, requiring consultants to repeat Paparazzi’s marketing messages, showcasing top consultants and their marketing strategies, and by structuring their business so that hierarchical “teams” develop with consistent marketing claims.
Relying on this marketing message, NC Plaintiffs claim, saw each of them purchase Paparazzi products for a number of years. The longest purchase period cited is nine years (2013 to 2022).
One particularly disturbing aspect to Paparazzi’s alleged deception is the targeting of children.
Paparazzi’s statements and omissions are especially material to parents and other customers who purchased Paparazzi’s children’s line of products, marketed as the Starlet Shimmer collection.
The Starlet Shimmer collection was designed and marketed by Paparazzi to appeal to young children.
Children who wore Paparazzi’s Starlet Shimmer Products were unnecessarily put at risk of suffering the above-described adverse effects, as well as serious risk to their health.
Nickel and lead pose even more harm if children mouth, chew or swallow these materials.
One thing the NC class-action goes hard in on is Paparazzi and Paparazzi corporate knowing and concealing they were selling tainted product.
At all relevant times, Defendant knew the true nature of the materials contained in the Products, but nevertheless marketed, advertised and sold the Products without disclosing this material information in an effort to persuade consumers that they were, in fact, buying Products that were free of lead and nickel.
This is based on Paparazzi corporate’s involvement in the design and manufacturing process.
Defendant knows what materials are in its Products.
In addition to testing its Products, Paparazzi’s founders boast that they engage in “hands-on leadership” of the company, and that they “individually design and source materials for Paparazzi products while working directly with manufacturing partners.”
Proving this beyond statements would of course be key to the case. Or at least negligence and intent on Paparazzi’s behalf.
In filing their class-action, NC Plaintiffs seek to represent Paparazzi customers across the US
who purchased any of Paparazzi’s Products in the United States for personal use and not for resale.
This would appear to include Paparazzi distributors, provided they bought any of the company’s products for personal use.
Certification of a smaller Subclass for North Carolina Paparazzi customers is also sought.
Plaintiffs will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the proposed Class Members.
They have no interests antagonistic to those of the proposed Class Members.
Plaintiffs retained attorneys experienced in the prosecution of class actions, including, inter alia, consumer products, misrepresentation, and mislabeling class actions, and Plaintiffs intend to prosecute this action vigorously.
Specific causes of action raised against Paparazzi include:
- breach of express warranty;
- breach of implied warranty;
- violation of the North Carolina Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act;
- negligent misrepresentation;
- unjust enrichment; and
- violation of NC Gen Stat Sec. 25-2-313, North Carolina’s Breach of Express Warranty Statute
The North Carolina Paparazzi class-action complaint was filed on April 29th.
This was two days after the New York class-action, alleging similar damages.
At this stage I’m assuming if a class-action prevails the other (possibly others if more are filed), will be combined.
One final note I’ll make is the New York class-action complaint referenced Paparazzi’s response to independent testing:
In a statement attributed to Paparazzi’s founders and corporate offices dated December 22, 2021, Paparazzi admitted its jewelry “may contain trace amounts of lead and nickel”.
I couldn’t find a source for that claim and, as far as I could tell, the complaint didn’t cite one.
The North Carolina complaint makes a similar claim;
In an effort to allay customers’ concerns about the adverse effects they may suffer from wearing its Products and mitigate the harm to its sales and reputation, Paparazzi now represents that “some [of its] jewelry may contain trace amounts of lead and nickel” and that “[t]he metals found in Paparazzi jewelry pieces are primarily made of iron and include other trace minerals.
Those trace minerals are made up of a metallic alloy of either zinc, steel, or aluminum.”
This statement is attributed to a late 2021 email, sent out by Paparazzi corporate:
I believe this might be the same communication the New York complaint references. I hadn’t seen it before either way.
Looking forward, on May 2nd the North Carolina class-action was “selected for mediation”. This hasn’t gone well for MLM class-actions in the past.
Stay tuned for updates on both Paparazzi toxic metals class-action lawsuits.
Update 7th July 2022 – On June 24th Paparazzi filed a motion requesting the North Carolina class-action be transferred to Utah.
Class-action Plaintiffs consented to the transfer, which the court approved on July 1st.