Lawsuits can often come in glorious colors, such as the frivolous insanity of suing Budweiser because their beer ads don't deliver the promise of promiscuous women, claiming emotional distress from watching women use urinals in a men's bathroom, suing a weatherman for not saying it was going to rain, going after Michael Jordan because you are tired of people saying you look like him, suing your health club for not providing a "full complimentary breakfast" as claimed, or even suing yourself from prison. American law has sound process, but the use of that law can sometimes make you scratch your head. Then again, it's the law that keeps pressure on some of those fitness product advertising claims that are, at best, in the dark end of the grey areas of promised fitness.
Here are some interesting lawsuits/settlements that have come to the running community as of late:
- Valerie Bezdek of Pineleas County, FL, has started a class action lawsuit against Vibram for false claims of fitness from their barefoot running shoes. The claim says “Unbeknownst to consumers, [Vibram's] health-benefit claims are deceptive because FiveFingers are not proven to provide any of the health benefits beyond what conventional running shoes provide,” the lawsuit alleges. “Indeed, running in FiveFingers may increase injury risk as compared to running in conventional running shoes, and even when compared to running barefoot.” Doh!
- Robert Fecteau of Richmond, VA, is suing the organizers of the 2010 Filthy 5K Mud Run, for negligence after he became partially paralyzed in a mud pit near the finish. But get this - he wasn't even a registered runner! He borrowed a friend's number, but claims his bandit status was irrelevant, because even if he had signed the liability waiver, the waiver wouldn't hold up in Virginia court. Whoa. Is any race director safe? God forbid there isn't enough water at an aid station, or racers may have grounds to sue the race directors.
- The FTC has been diligent around the claims of new fitness shoes, getting Reebok to pay $25 million back to consumers for false claims around how their shoes tone specific muscles, and Skechers to shell out $40m for their Lindsey Lohan-pitched ass-toning shape-up line. Glad to see them cracking down, but I suspect the two companies have already made billions. Are those the Skechers that Meb runs in? Maybe he can sue if he doesn't get a gold medal at the London Games.
- I've been enjoying running in my Spiras, a shoe with a titanium spring in the forefoot, but had no idea they had to sue the USATF and IAAF for banning their shoes for being too fast. No press is bad press, I guess!
- Have you ever fallen during a high school track meet? Go ahead and sue your coaches. Coach didn't give you enough races at the 5k distance? Threaten to sue 'em for only getting a small scholarship instead of a big one.
- In a story so crazy I had to read it twice to believe it, a women is suing a dead teen-ager's estate after the teen ran across railroad tracks, was struck by a train, and a "sizeable body part" flung up onto the platform and hit the plaintiff. Yes, that is really happening.
The price of freedom, I guess.