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Kimberly-Clark sued over Ebola risk to health care workers

With all the questions that have arisen about how several health care workers contracted Ebola in the past month, it was only a matter of time before lawsuits would be filed claiming fault. According to a recent Reuters.com report, Kimberly-Clark is being sued for fraud in the marketing and sale of some of its surgical gowns.

Specifically, the lawsuit claims that the Kleenex tissue maker falsely asserted that its gowns could protect wearers from contracting Ebola. It also notes that Kimberly-Clark misled health regulators, as well as health care workers who believed that the gowns were impermeable, thus providing inadequate protection against Ebola. It is further alleged that the gowns failed industry tests, and did not meet relevant protection standards against such an infectious disease. 

As a matter of law, manufacturers cannot use phrases, slogans or sayings that could mislead a consumer (or federal regulators, for that matter) into believing that a product does something that it actually does not do. The Reuters report did not indicate specifically what phrases or marketing strategies were at issue. Nevertheless, manufacturers that are held liable for false advertising could be subject to a host of monetary damages stemming from liability to affected consumers.

Here, the class action lawsuit filed against Kimberly-Clark requests damages upwards of $500 million. It remains to be seen whether the class will be duly certified, but the implications of the lawsuit are quite clear; there are a number of healthcare workers who want to hold Kimberly-Clark accountable for putting people at risk for contracting Ebola. 

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