Voluntary dismissal of lawsuit over ‘misleading’ Canada Goose ads

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A lawsuit over allegedly misleading advertising by Canada Goose has ended, with the parties apparently settling their fight out of court. In a joint filing on Wednesday, attorneys for plaintiff George Lee and Canada Goose alerted the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York that they had “stipulated and agreed…that the action was voluntarily dismissed.” Lee sued Canada Goose in 2020, accusing the Toronto-based outerwear brand of allegedly misleading consumers about the nature of entrapment methods used to source fur for its buzz jackets claiming that she is dedicated to “ethical, responsible, and sustainable the Sourcing and Use of Real Fur,” and violated the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act in the process.

According to the draft class action lawsuit he filed in November 2020, Lee claimed that when he purchased a fur-trimmed parka from Canada Goose in 2017, he relied on the sustainability-focused representations of company, including that its fur is ethically sourced and humanely trapped, only to learn that “Canada Goose suppliers use cruel methods” to trap “coyotes and other animals”. In this context, Lee argued that the popular outerwear maker had become unfairly enriched as a result of such misleading advertising because consumers “are willing to pay more for labeled and marketed products… [as being] from ethical and sustainable sources” than they are for “competitive products that do not provide such assurances”. Canada Goose knows this, Lee said, which is why it “cultivates an image of products [that are] a humane alternative for consumers who wish to avoid fur products from inhumane, unsustainable and unethical trapping practices.

Lee decided to voluntarily drop the case, which was dismissed by the court in its entirety with prejudice on April 27, and Canada Goose does not appear to have made a financial payment to bring about a settlement.

A case worth noting

The proceedings in the Canada Goose trial are remarkable for at least two reasons. Primarily, it should be noted that Lee’s claims survived the motion to dismiss that Canada Goose filed early last year, in which it argued that Lee’s claims should be dismissed on the grounds that his statements allegedly misleading about the “sustainability” of his business, for example, are not actionable because they are too general to prove or disprove. More than that, Canada Goose argued that Lee’s “subjective opinions” regarding fur trapping standards “do not make [its] misleading or false statements”, and that he has failed to demonstrate that he suffered injury outside of Washington, D.C., and therefore lacks standing to sue under the laws of consumer protection in other states.

In a June 2021 decision, Judge Victor Marrero of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York declined to dismiss Lee’s claim under the DC Consumer Protection Proceedings Act regarding Canada Goose’s claim that which he is committed to “ethical, responsible and sustainable”. sourcing,” finding that Lee had “plausibly alleged that this statement tended to mislead a reasonable consumer.” Specifically, the court ruled that Canada Goose’s statement may be misleading because the company “obtains fur from trappers who use allegedly inhumane jaw traps and snares,” which Lee said “is largely considered inhumane by industry professionals”.

The court ruled that Lee’s claims were ‘thin’, but looking at the complaint in the light most favorable to him found that he had plausibly alleged that a reasonable consumer would be misled by the claims. ads from Canada Goose, a decision that could serve as an impetus for other potential plaintiffs, especially in light of a rise in sustainability marketing by fashion brands and beyond. As Isabel Carvalho and David Tyler of Hogan Lovells recently put it, sustainability marketing “has become a key part of leveraging businesses based on” – or allegedly based on – “environmentally and socially responsible practices, as consumers increasingly focus on various aspects of sustainability”.

The distinction between sustainability-focused claims that are too forward-looking to be actionable or akin to mere buffoonery, and those that are actionable from advertising misperception has been relatively blurred and largely unchecked. by lawsuits. However, in light of the surge in sustainability-focused marketing by clothing and footwear brands, there have been widespread allegations of greenwashing and a growing wave of lawsuits, making the Canada Goose lawsuit important, because it is part of a growing number of sustainable development. related class action lawsuits that have been filed within the past two years.

Reynolds Consumer Products, for example, was sued in May 2021 in federal court in California for claiming that its bags were “recyclable” and allowed users to “reduce their environmental impact.” A month later, Red Lobster was sued in federal court in California over claims that its offerings are “traceable, durable. Responsible” and made from “Seafood With Standards”. (Both of these cases are still ongoing.)

And also in June 2021, Allbirds was the subject of a high-profile lawsuit in federal court in New York for allegedly failing to live up to claims made in its sustainability-focused marketing, including regarding the carbon footprint of its products, and its “sustainable” and “responsible” manufacturing practices. In an order dated April 18, Judge Cathy Seibel granted Allbirds’ motion to dismiss, finding that, among other things, plaintiff Patricia Dwyer had not plausibly alleged that Allbirds’ advertising statements were materially misleading. .

The case is George Lee, et. al., against Canada Goose US, Inc., 1:20-cv-09809 (SDNY).

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