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Suit Disputes Florsheim's Claim That Shoes Ease Pain

Courts: If plaintiff wins, firm would refund $122 price to buyers. Shoe Emporium, Laguna Hills, carried them.

August 10, 2000|From Staff and Wire Reports

Florsheim Group Inc., one of the nation's largest makers of men's dress shoes, has been accused in a lawsuit of falsely claiming its magnetic-insole shoes provide wearers relief from pain.

The plaintiff, Redondo Beach resident Jeff Wynton, bought the shoes July 20 at Shoe Emporium at Laguna Hills Mall, said the lawsuit, which was filed Monday in Superior Court in Santa Ana. The store also is named as a defendant.

The lawsuit contends that "substantial numbers" of the shoes--which retail for about $122 a pair--were sold in Orange County over the past four years.

The suit seeks a court order to stop the 108-year-old footwear maker from selling its MagneForce shoes and to offer refunds to customers.

Florsheim executives were at a trade show in Las Vegas and not immediately available for comment. Shoe Emporium's executives also were not available.

In its advertising, Florsheim claims the shoes provide "natural pain relief," improve energy, increase circulation and reduce foot, leg and back fatigue.

"There is competent and reliable scientific evidence that magnets in shoes do not provide any pain relief or additional energy, or any other benefit," the suit alleges. The action was filed by the nonprofit Consumer Justice Center in Laguna Niguel on behalf of Wynton.

The suit cites a 1997 article in the Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association which held that tests show that magnetic insoles offer "no advantage over the plain insole."

Florsheim's shoe magnets are provided by Magnetherapy Inc. of West Palm Beach, Fla.

In 1997, the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning letter to Magnetherapy, saying it was making improper medical claims for its Tectonic brand magnets, and said the products could be seized if the company continued selling them.

Florsheim sells footwear through 271 company-operated or licensed stores and its products are distributed worldwide through 6,000 department stores and specialty retailers, including Sears, Nordstrom and JCPenney.

Florsheim's stock, which has lost 64% of its value so far this year, closed Wednesday at $1, up 3 cents a share, in Nasdaq trading.

Apollo Advisors LP, a New York investment company headed by Leon Black, and its affiliates own two-thirds of Florsheim's stock, or 5.6 million shares.

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