Large manufacturers are well aware of the harm that can come from major product liability lawsuits. Usually these cases involve horrible injuries, sympathetic plaintiffs, significant media attention and astronomical damage awards. It can be hard to fight back against these claims without seeming callous; after all, companies whose products cause harm to innocent individuals have to avoid looking like they’re crushing the little man.
Thankfully for Nike, a recent product liability suit filed against the athletic wear company is nothing like a typical lawsuit. Instead, the shoemaker is being sued for $100 million by a pimp from Oregon who says the company is liable for failing to place warning labels on its shoes. What warning, you may be wondering? Well Sirgiorgiro Sanford Clardy (obviously a great name for a pimp) says that his shoes should have come with a warning label explaining that they could be deemed a dangerous weapon.
The ridiculous tale was reported first by The Oregonian newspaper, which said that the 26-year-old pimp was first convicted of assault last year after stomping on the head and face of a man (actually, a "John") who refused to pay for the services of one of Clardy’s prostitutes. Clardy, fully living up to the stereotype of someone in his profession, used the Air Jordans he was wearing to jump up and down on the fallen man. The beating was bad enough that the victim required stitches and extensive plastic surgery to repair the damage done. Clardy then turned his wrath on the teenage prostitute who he apparently felt was responsible for the episode, beating her so terribly that she bled from her ears.
At this point you might understandably be wondering what this all has to do with a product liability suit. It’s very likely that Nike executives are wondering the same thing. According to Clardy, the trouble is clearly Nike’s fault. The pimp says that because he was wearing his Air Jordans at the time of the attack and because the Air Jordans caused such extraordinary damage to his victims, he thinks Nike should be forced to pay up.
Clardy, who unsurprisingly is representing himself in the case, says that Nike owes him around $100 million as compensation for his criminal convictions and ensuing 100-year prison sentence. Clardy claims that Nike failed to live up to a reasonable standard of care when it sold the Air Jordans without a warning that the shoes might be viewed as a deadly weapon under Oregon law and result in escalated criminal sentencing. Clardy is asking for not only money, but also that Nike be required to attach warning labels to all of its products that might be used for potentially dangerous purposes, including unprovoked pimp attacks. Nike has, perhaps wisely, refused to comment on the lawsuit.