RPT-Fitbit sued over recalled fitness wristband that caused rashes

Thu Mar 20, 2014 12:59pm EDT

(Repeats to add dropped letter in headline)

By Jonathan Stempel

March 20 (Reuters) - Fitbit Inc, which recalled a wristband fitness tracker a month ago following complaints that it caused rashes and blisters, has been sued by a customer who said the company did not warn consumers that the device was defective.

The lawsuit, filed on Monday in the Superior Court of California in San Diego County, seeks class-action status. It accuses Fitbit of misleading consumers by advertising its Fitbit Force as safe to wear all day, including in the shower and while asleep.

In announcing the recall on Feb. 20, San Francisco-based Fitbit said tests found that the Force, which cost about $130, appeared to cause allergic contact dermatitis, which occurs when substances that touch skin cause irritation or a red, itchy rash. It had launched the product in October.

The recall covered about 1 million devices in the United States and 28,000 in Canada.

The company's chief executive, James Park, said that while just 1.7 percent of users reported skin irritation, the company agreed to stop selling the Force and offer full refunds to purchasers. Park also apologized to consumers.

The plaintiff in the lawsuit, Jim Spivey, a Californian, said Fitbit should do more and should be held liable for intentionally or negligently misleading consumers about the product's safety.

Spivey said he bought a Force in January and stopped using it in February. His complaint does not say he developed skin irritation.

The lawsuit seeks an order directing Fitbit to pay damages, publicize the product's risks more widely, and take other steps to eliminate consumer confusion.

In a statement, Fitbit defended its actions.

"Fitbit took initiative long before this complaint was filed, publicly offered refunds, and worked closely with the (U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission) on its voluntary recall program. We strongly disagree with the statements about the product and the company," the statement said.

Spivey's lawyer was not immediately available for comment.

The lawsuit was reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal.

The company was founded in 2007; its backers include the venture capital firms Foundry Group and True Ventures.

Spivey is represented by John Fiske, who co-chairs the class action practice at the Gomez Law Firm in San Diego.

The case is Spivey v. Fitbit Inc et al, Superior Court of California, San Diego County, No. 37-2014-00007109. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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