Many youngsters dream of an NBA career, despite warnings from parents and coaches about the meager odds.
The Scrapbook will confess to thousands of hours of childhood spent honing dribbling and jump-shot skills. As was the case for countless others, the orange hoop on the side of our garage that we aimed at with middling results came from a company called Lifetime, which, as it’s based in Utah, naturally bills its products as “Made in the USA.”
So we were sorry to read in the Wall Street Journal last week that a class-action lawsuit has cost the company well over $1.3 million. Why? The bolts and the net packaged with Lifetime’s hoop come from China. California, where the lawsuit originated, has strict definitions of what constitutes “Made in the USA.” “If even one rivet in a larger product is foreign,” the Journal’s Timothy Aeppel writes, “state law says it amounts to false advertising to call it U.S. made.”
In today’s global economy, it’s not unusual for consumer goods to have inputs from all around the world. Yet protectionists and trial lawyers are eager to punish America’s remaining manufacturers by quibbling over archaic definitions. John Donboli, the trial lawyer responsible for the suit, seems to think the definition of “Made in the USA” should be similar to that of kosher hot dogs. He told the Journal: “I think there are some things where it just makes sense to stick to a 100% standard,” he says. “Otherwise, why even bother?”
The Scrapbook thinks “why even bother suing” might be more to the point. The Journal notes other lawsuits based on similarly absurd semantics. In one, “A maker of helium tanks designed to be used at children’s parties was sued because it started packing imported balloons with the equipment.”
If the trial lawyers are to be believed, they’re just doing it for the consumers, not their own payday. In the Lifetime case, the court “awarded plaintiff’s attorneys $485,000, and Lifetime agreed to donate an additional $325,000 to charity and to offer discounts to consumers who had bought basketball equipment in the past. One of the two named plaintiffs was awarded $4,500, the other $3,500. The company says the bill for its legal team added an additional $535,000.”
TopClassActions.com reports that those eligible in the class action suit can receive a “$12.50-$30 Gift Card or Free Basketball.” But only if they live in California.
Final score: Trial Lawyers, +$485,000. Lifetime Products, -$1,300,000. Plaintiffs, +$8,000. Eligible Class Action Members, Up to $30 or a free basketball.
What a game!