Lawsuit Accuses L.L.Bean’s Waterproof Boots of Being Anything But – Sourcing Journal
A class action lawsuit filed in U.S. Superior Court Western District of New York on Feb. 17 accuses L.L.Bean of falsely advertising its boots as waterproof, when, the 123-page court document argues, they are not.
At issue is the zipper closures on the boots, which plaintiffs argue, are cheaply made and do not repel water. Attorneys for the plaintiffs use L.L.Bean’s distinguished history against the Maine company, including its founders patenting of the waterproof boot in 1921.
“Indeed, L.L.Bean has a 110-year history of making, promoting and selling waterproof boots. It started in 1912 when L.L.Bean’s founder, Leon Leonwood Bean, made the first waterproof boot with gusseted tongues, which he patented in 1921,” the complaint reads. “Mr. Bean also backed up his waterproof boots with a lifetime guarantee to replace them if they ever leaked. Since then, L.L.Bean boots have come to be regarded in the United States and internationally as the quintessential waterproof boot.”
Given its history, L.L.Bean history should be particularly ashamed of trying to cut expenses by using zippers that aren’t backed by waterproof gussets, the material on the back end of a zipper that helps strengthen its fastening abilities.
“While waterproof zippers do exist and could have been used for L.L.Bean’s Mislabeled Boots, they are considerably more expensive and L.L.Bean chose to use substantially less expensive zippers closures that are not waterproof and then failed to back those zippers with a waterproof gusset that could have made them waterproof (as L.L.Bean well knows because this same gusset technology is what L.L.Bean used to make the waterproof boots it patented in 1921),” the complaint reads.
The lead plaintiff for the class action is Linda Lenzi, who purchased the Women’s Storm Chaser Boots at a mall in Victor, N.Y. for $100 to $125. A month later, she ventured out on a rainy day only to discover her “waterproof” boots, referred throughout the document as “Mislabeled Boots,” had succumbed to the elements and her feet were cold and wet.
“If a manufacturer chooses to add a zipper to its boot design, then for the boot to be waterproof, the zipper used must also be sealed, either by using a waterproof zipper, or by backing the zipper with a waterproof gusset—a piece of waterproof material that connects to the shoe’s upper underneath and on the sides of the zipper,” the complaint reads.
Plaintiffs allege proof of L.L.Bean’s knowledge of this shortcoming by making changes to its marketing materials upon receipt of Lenzi’s pre-suit notice on April 21, 2022 to include the disclaimer that the boots’ zippers are “not waterproof.”
“This after-the-fact disclaimer is too little, too late for Plaintiff and other purchasers who purchased the products trusting L.L.Bean to live up to its ‘waterproof’ promises and expecting its products to meet the high standards associated with the L.L.Bean brand,” the complaint reads.
Plaintiffs attorneys claim as many as 100 or more similarly affected individuals may join the class action, which asks for $5 million in damages, the standard amount declared in such a suit.
The complaint includes 35-pages of exhibits featuring the various zipper and gusset options provided by zipper-maker YKK. Using close-up photos as proof, plaintiffs’ attorneys correspond the zippers used on a half-dozen L.L.Bean boot models to zippers that YKK materials say are not meant to be water-repellant.
L.L.Bean did not immediately respond to Sourcing Journal requests for comment, but did tell the Press-Herald of Portland, Maine, “We look forward to addressing these claims through the legal process. We do not comment on pending litigation.”