• Steve Garvey Walks on Celebrity Pitch
  • September 17, 2004
  • Law Firm: Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP - Los Angeles Office
  • Former Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Steve Garvey did not violate the Federal Trade Commission Act while appearing in two infomercials for a weight-loss product whose manufacturer claimed would work even if dieters ate fatty foods, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled September 1, 2004.

    The court found that the Federal Trade Commission failed to show that Garvey intentionally or recklessly made false claims about the products he endorsed.

    In 2000 the FTC sued Garvey and the producers of DRTV spots for Encino, California-based Enforma Natural Products. The agency claimed that infomercials for Fat Trapper and Exercise in a Bottle, weight-loss supplements that were part of the Enforma System, violated the FTC Act, which prohibits false and misleading advertising. Garvey endorsed both Exercise in a Bottle and Fat Trapper, which is purportedly made from seafood shells and "surrounds the fat in the food you eat and entraps it." He was paid $1.1 million for the infomercials.

    The court found that Garvey's knowledge and the other steps he took were sufficient to "pass any substantiation requirement for celebrity endorsers." Garvey and his wife had lost weight using the Enforma System, the court noted. Additionally, Garvey had reviewed two booklets containing substantiation materials for the products being sold and had spoken with people who had positive results using the Enforma System.

    Significance: Although the court set a high standard of liability regarding celebrity endorsements, celebrity spokespeople still must take steps to avoid "reckless indifference" to the truth of product claims.