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Hanberry v. Hearst Corp

Brief Fact Summary. After Plaintiff slipped and sustained several injuries from a “slippery and unsafe” pair of shoes, she brought suit against Defendant, who had awarded the shoes the “Good Housekeeping’s Consumers’ Guaranty Seal.”

Synopsis of Rule of Law. While a publisher may not be held liable for misrepresentations by an author, an advertiser who gives a consumer guarantee may be held liable when a product does not live up to that guarantee.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

Privity of contract is not necessary to establish the existence of a duty to exercise ordinary care not to injure another, but such duty may arise out of a voluntarily assumed relationship if public policy dictates the existence of such a duty.

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Facts. Plaintiff bought a pair of shoes, relying on the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, that the shoes were certified good and that the advertising claims for them were truthful. After purchasing the shoes, Plaintiff slipped and fell and sustained several physical injuries. She brought suit against Defendant that had awarded the consumer guaranty. The district court dismissed Plaintiff’s case and she appealed.

Issue. Whether a magazine that gives a consumer guaranty to a product will later be held liable when a product does not live up to that guaranty?

Held. Reversed.
* The appellate court reversed the dismissal, because a consumer guaranty seal purposefully induces consumers, such as Plaintiff, to rely on it in buying a product.

Discussion. The important consideration in this case is the consumer guaranty. While a publisher or advertiser of a product cannot usually be held liable for its defects, if it gives a consumer guaranty which induces members of the public to buy its products, it will generally be held to the terms of that guaranty, because it has extended a duty to the public by making said guaranty.

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