To settle a false advertising suit challenging claims for its five-toed running shoes, Vibram USA agreed to pay a total of $3.75 million and change its marketing practices.
The plaintiffs alleged that Vibram lied about the health benefits of the FiveFingers line of shoes, which resemble gloves for feet and launched a trend for barefoot-style running.
Under the terms of the settlement, class members are eligible for up to $94 per pair of FiveFingers shoes based on a pro rata distribution from the settlement fund, although the parties estimate that most class members will receive between $20 and $50 per pair. Class counsel can request up to 25 percent of the settlement fund—about $937,500—without objection from the defendant.
Class members can make a claim for two pairs of shoes without proof of purchase, but that documentation must be provided for more than two pairs. Although the parties said they expect the settlement fund to be fully consumed, any money remaining after disbursement of claims will be donated to the American Heart Association.
The company also agreed to modify its marketing and advertising about the health benefits of the shoes (like challenged claims that they can strengthen muscles and prevent injury), unless the claim is supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence.
To read the joint motion in support of settlement in Bezdek v. Vibram USA, click here.
Why it matters: In March 2012 the plaintiff filed her suit, which was consolidated with similar cases from California and Illinois. The settlement deal covers all of the litigation. Vibram was not alone in facing a wave of consumer class actions. The makers of once trendy “toning shoes,” including New Balance and Reebok, were similarly hit with cases over false and deceptive ad claims about the health benefits of their shoes.