Manufacturer of “FiveFingers” Shoes Agrees to Multi-Million Dollar Settlement

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The company that produces the odd-looking running shoes called “FiveFingers” has agreed to settle a class action lawsuit for roughly $3.75 million. The case dates back to just over two years ago, when the first in a series of lawsuits were filed against the company, alleging that consumers had been misled regarding the health benefits of the new type of running shoes.

The marketing campaigns for the so-called “barefoot-style” shoes claimed that wearing the shoes could strengthen feet and prevent running-related injuries better than other running shoes could. Although the aesthetic concept behind the shoes was surely innovative, there is nothing particularly unique about the benefits associated with the new design; according to USA Today, the approach to running has not been “scientifically proven.”

The settlement is two-pronged. First, the company will deposit $3.75 million into an escrow account; the money will be distributed to eligible members of the class: consumers who had purchased the shoes between March 21, 2009 and the date of the first dissemination of summary settlement notice. While the settlement states the company will award up to $94 per pair of shoes, it also states that, based on the terms of other, similar settlements, individuals should expect to receive between $20 and $50 per pair of shoes. If any money is left over in the account after distribution of funds to eligible class members, the balance will be donated to the American Heart Association.

The second condition of the settlement is that the company will have to stop claiming in advertisements that the FiveFingers shoes increase muscle strength or prevent injuries (at least until they obtain actual science to back-up the claims). The company will be responsible for setting up a website, www.fivefingerssettlement.com, to inform class of the settlement terms. It will also have to post banner ads with information on the settlement on a variety of strategically-selected websites, including runnersworld.com and Facebook.com, in order to deliver approximately “300,000,000 impressions.”

While the shoe manufacturer did take a hit with this settlement, it was allowed to – in theory at least – maintain its reputation. As a part of the settlement, the company went on record as saying it “expressly denied and continues to deny any wrongdoing alleged in the Actions, and neither admits nor concedes any actual or potential fault, wrongdoing or liability.” Still, $3.75 million seems like a large chunk of change to cough over if you didn’t think you did anything wrong.

This case reminds our personal injury lawyers about the infamous Skechers settlement of two years ago. In that case, the shoe company was also alleged to have improperly advertised the medical benefits of the famous “Shape-ups” shoes; while the company did obtain endorsements from a chiropractor, it was later revealed that that “impartial” chiropractor was actually the husband of a powerful Skechers executive, a relevant fact that the company never disclosed in its marketing material.

Cases like these serve as reminders that companies cannot make baseless claims for the purpose of simply generating sales – when customers are duped into spending money on products that are not as beneficial as they are marketed to be, they have a legal right to seek compensation from the companies that engaged in this type of misconduct.

If you feel you have been misled by a company’s marketing material and deceived into purchasing a product, please contact our lawyers for a free consultation. You can reach us at the Law Offices of Aronberg & Aronberg by calling 561-266-9191 or by emailing us at daronberg@build.simple.biz

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