photo by Flickr user Dee
Most of us learn early not to believe everything we see on television. Unfortunately, that sort of common sense is not enough to keep advertising campaigns from coming under fire for misleading consumers inclined to take everything at face value.
For instance, a year ago I wrote about the Federal Trade Commission’s challenge to a Nissan spot that showed a Nissan Frontier pickup truck pushing a dune buggy up a steep incline. Though the commercial included a disclaimer, it was shot in a style suggesting a bystander captured the video and uploaded it to the Internet, which was evidently enough for the FTC to claim that the special effects used in the ad misrepresented the product’s capabilities. Nissan settled last spring.
Not many people will try to tow a car up a sand dune, but you could make a plausible case that a literal-minded viewer who intended to open a towing business in the Sahara might have been misled by the commercial.
On the other hand, it is hard to believe that any consumer truly expected to be sexually stimulated by her stockings as she walked down a city street. And, while a vehicle costs tens of thousands of dollars, a pair of the tights in question cost less than 10. If someone was truly misled, the damages would seem to be minimal.
But no claim is too laughable, no alleged injury too outlandish, for the trial bar in the nuisance suit industry.
A woman in Queens is suing Gildan Outerwear, the maker of Kushyfoot Shaping Tights, over its alleged “deceptive and otherwise improper business practices.” The ad that led plaintiff Meng Wang astray included a woman uttering “highly sexually charged phrases” as she walked down the street, attributing her satisfaction to her tights at the end of the 30-second spot. The idea is that the commercial suggests someone wearing the tights will receive a massage just by walking around in them. However, Wang’s lawyer told The New York Post that the product disappointingly turned out to be “just socks.”
The last thing in the world the lawyers in this suit intend is to take the case to trial. They expect to shake down the tights’ seller or, more likely, the seller’s insurer, for a payoff that will go almost entirely to the lawyers. The allegedly injured consumer - or rather consumers, as Wang is joined by other unnamed plaintiffs in a class action complaint - will be lucky to get a coupon for two pairs of tights for the price of one.
A case like this is easy money, so of course lawyers will chase it. And it’s easy money because the trial bar has spent a fortune electing politicians, mainly Democrats, who block almost all efforts to bring sanity to class action litigation. Under our current, broken system, the only winners are the lawyers and settlement administrators. It certainly isn’t the company or organization being sued; it’s not the plaintiff. And it’s definitely not the taxpayers, who pay for the judges and clerks needed to handle such nuisance suits.
We can’t blame lawyers for being lawyers, any more than we can blame sharks for being sharks. That’s true of any kind of frivolous but lucrative corner of our legal system, whether it be class action suits or specious Americans with Disabilities Act claims. Until legislators change the system that allows lawyers to make an easy profit on such suits, nothing will change.
If Kushyfoot’s ad wasn’t sufficiently entertaining, I hope the lawsuit is. After all, we’re paying good money for this nonsense. We should at least be amused.