Dog owners, get out the pitchforks: the famous Beggin' Strips dogs treats may not have that much bacon in them after all. Ok, so maybe you already knew that.
But it was news to Paul Kacocha, the dog owner who is suing Nestle Purina Petcare Company over false advertising. According to a New York Post report, the lawsuit claims that the name of the treats and the television commercials led Kacocha to believe he was giving his West Highland terriers actual meat, not filler-packed, bacon-reminiscent snacks. The report states the lawsuit seeks class action status and $5 million from the company for allegedly misleading consumers through its advertising.
Though it's doubtful the lawsuit will get much mileage – the ingredients are clearly listed on the packaging, which the dog owner could've read before he purchased the treats – it is a good example of how big a nuisance false advertising claims can be.
Let's recap how General Liability Insurance might apply to a false advertising lawsuit and what to do when a meritless lawsuit lands you in the doghouse.
General Liability: Coverage Worth Begging For (But You Don't Have To)
You may know General Liability Insurance can help you out when your business is sued over a third party's injury on your property. Maybe you've even heard this policy can help pay for damages when you accidentally break or lose someone's property during the course of business. But if you're like many small-business owners, you may not realize General Liability has a less talked about superpower: it can help provide coverage for advertising injuries.
"Advertising injuries" is an umbrella term for the following civil wrongs:
- Slander or libel.
- Using someone's image or words without their permission in your marketing materials.
- Copyright or trademark infringements.
- Copying someone's advertising ideas.
Some policies may also offer coverage for false advertising claims. (More on that here: "Could General Liability Insurance Cover False Advertising Claims?") False advertising is when you inadvertently represent your products or services as something they are not.
Does that mean you can say your business makes its dogs treats out of certified moon cheese and your policy will cover the legal expenses? Not so much. If you willfully engage in deceptive advertising, your coverage can't help you out.
To learn more about advertising injuries and how to combat them, check out our free guide Tweet or Twibel: The Small-Business Owner's Guide to Advertising Injury.
What to Do When a False Advertising Lawsuit Is All Bark and No Bite
Even if the Beggin' Strips lawsuit doesn't get very far and the judge dismisses the case, Purina still has lawyer bills to contend with. That may be table scraps to a big corporation, but those legal expenses would be considerable for small-business owners. In fact, the US Chamber Institute for Legal Reform states [PDF] that small businesses pay $2,000 to $5,000 in attorney fees for frivolous claims.
The good news? General Liability Insurance can help pay for legal expenses even when you're up against a meritless advertising injury lawsuit. You work hard to bring home that bacon, so invest in coverage that lets you keep it.