Are Endorsers Liable for Defective Products?

Individuals who endorse products can be held liable for product liability suits for making false claims and engaging in deceptive trade practices. This applies to every product sold in the United States whether it is health aids, sleep aids, footwear, appliances, etc.

FTC Rules for Endorsers

Rules set by the Federal Trade Commission state that endorsers must have a reasonable basis for representing a product. For instance, advertisers and endorsers are required to identify whether they have been compensated for their endorsement. The material/financial connection between the endorser, advertiser, and product manufacturer must be clearly established and disclosed. Endorsements must be truthful and represent the known benefits of the product. Endorsements must be verifiable, meaning the claims that the advertiser makes must be able to be proven and replicated. When the benefits of using a product vary by user, such as with medications, endorsers are required to acknowledge this and identify the potential range of benefits users may experience but cannot guarantee. Endorsers and advertisers who violate these rules can be held liable for the claims they make that may cause personal injury or financial harm to those who purchase products or services.

Average Joe Liability

The rules set by the FTC do not just apply to celebrities. They apply to everyone and regular people can be sued for making false claims about a product. For example, a housewife who receives a free product in exchange for providing a testimonial about that product on a company blog or public product review site. The individual must disclose that they received a free product in exchange for their review.

However, those who post product reviews stating their own personal experience with a product are not necessarily liable for personal injuries caused by their statements. For these individuals to be held liable, it must be shown that they received compensation or goods in return for their review or otherwise had a vested interest in promoting the product, i.e. they owned a company that supplied parts for the product, the product was produced by a close friend/relative, or that they stood to gain financially by increased product sales. These actions are considered deceptive trade practices that unfairly influence public opinion and endorsers can be held liable for such actions.