There is an interesting torts lawsuit in Los Angeles where Amber Duick has filed against Toyota for a weird advertising campaign that she said “punked” her and convinced her that she was being stalked by an English man called Sebastian Bowler. She is demanding $10 million.
Duick says that she received e-mails for five days from Bowler who said that he knew her and where she lived, and was coming to her home to hide from the police. Bowler even had a fictitious MySpace page.
It turns out that this was part of a bizarre advert campaign by Saatchi & Saatchi to promote the Toyota Matrix. In one such email, Bowler wrote “Amber mate! Coming 2 Los Angeles. Gonna lay low at your place for a bit till it all blows over.” Later, she received the e-mail “Amber, ran into a little problem at the hotel. After I’m done visiting you, I’m going to go back and sort out that front desk Muppet.” This lasted for days and “as a result of the e-mails, [Duick] found it extremely difficult to work, and her job performance suffered.”
This was a takeoff of the MTV Show Punk’d where celebrities are set up by their friends for elaborate pranks. Toyota’s marketers used the Internet punk people who were picked by their friends. One of Duick’s friends sent in her name.
Toyota Spokesman Chad Harp insists that Duick voluntarily participated in the alleged prank and that “[t]he person who made this claim specifically opted in, granting her permission to receive campaign emails and other communications from Toyota.”
If that is true, Duick should be subject to Rule 11 damages for a frivolous lawsuit. However, if it is untrue, this will be a costly campaign for Toyota.
Her lawyer insists that the consent form was ambiguous and she was not told what exactly she was signing up for. I am astonished that any lawyer reviewed this campaign and approved it. Even with a signed form, such waivers are routinely challenged for their clarity and specific disclosures.
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