Monroe County customer sues L.L. Bean over leaky boots

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Linda Lenzi’s boots were made for walking. But not for walking in the rain.

The boots in question are a pair of L.L. Bean Storm Chasers purchased by Lenzi in 2020 from L.L. Bean’s Eastview Mall store. She paid somewhere between $100 and $120, states a Feb. 17 lawsuit filed on Lenzi’s behalf in the federal Western District of New York’s Rochester Division.

If a judge grants the lawsuit’s bid to be certified as a class action, similarly situated disgruntled buyers of leaky L.L. Bean boots could collect a minimum of $5 million, the Monroe County resident’s lawyers estimate.

Representing Lenzi in the action is Joseph Kravec Jr. of Feinstein, Doyle, Payne & Kravec LLC, whose Manhattan-based firm’s website boasts that Kravec “has recovered nearly $3 billion in benefits for millions of class members nationwide from some of the largest insurance companies, banks, employers and other multi-national corporations.”

Also representing Lenzi is Antonio Vozzolo, metropolitan New York attorney who also claims class-action expertise.

About a month after purchasing the side-zippered Storm Chasers, Lenzi wore them on an inclement April day and found to her abiding dissatisfaction that the boots leaked.

“Had Ms. Lenzi known the truth, that the…boots were not ‘waterproof,’ despite their labeling to the contrary, she would not have purchased them,” her court complaint avers.

The complaint does not say whether Lenzi sought to return her boots for a refund.

“Stressing its longstanding commitment to high quality and customer satisfaction, the company notes that when the bottoms and tops of L.L.’s original boots separated so that 90 of the first 100 pairs were returned, L.L. sent refunds to customers and corrected the problem,” the court action notes.

The founder’s liberal return policy no longer applies. After a few years of flat sales, L.L. Bean in 2018 discontinued its longstanding policy of giving all dissatisfied customers full, no-questions-asked refunds regardless of when a product had been purchased. The company currently has a limit of 12 months from date of purchase on defective-product returns.

The kernel of Lenzi’s complaint is not just that her boots leak. It is that L.L. Bean, a Maine-based retailing giant that built much of its reputation on its namesake founder’s invention of a waterproof boot, expressly but falsely claimed the boots were waterproof, a contention Lenzi had no reason to question.

“Waterproof boots are a core part of (L.L. Bean’s) business and history,” the court complaint notes. “According to the company, in 1912 when founder Leon Leonwood Bean returned from a hunting trip with cold, damp feet, he devised a boot that combined leather uppers with rubber bottoms, “creat(ing) an innovative boot that changed footwear forever.”

In 2012, L.L. Bean celebrated its founder’s invention by sending a motorized, 20-foot long, so-called Bootmobile around the country to commemorate the “iconic” waterproof boot’s centennial.

According to Lenzi’s court complaint, the problem lies not in the founder’s original design, which welds rubber-and-leather uppers to waterproof soles, but in the present-day corporation’s marketers’ and designers’ decision to expand the line with “more fashion-focused styles” which add zippers.

Unlike the original L.L. Bean waterproof boot, which employs a patented gusset to create a barrier impervious to water, the zippered pair Lenzi bought as well as other L.L. Bean zippered boots “are not waterproof and the zipper closures are not otherwise backed with a waterproof gusset to make them waterproof,” the hoped-for class action states.

Waterproof zippers are available, the court complaint notes. Closures for wet suits, for example, are leak proof. Cost is a factor, however. The kind of zippers L.L. Bean’s boots use can be had for prices ranging between 35 cents and $2.30 a foot. Truly waterproof zippers cost between $40 and $45 a foot.

Despite being fully informed of the non-waterproof nature of the zippers it uses due to “the manufacturer of those zipper closures advis(ing) in their product catalog and elsewhere that the zipper closures are not waterproof,” L.L. Bean extensively advertised its boots as waterproof footwear that would “keep feet warm and dry.”

Last April, Lenzi’s lawyers sent L.L. Bean a pre-suit notice laying out the claims they intended to make in the recently filed class-action complaint. And not long after, L.L. Bean started posting disclaimers acknowledging that zippers on its waterproof boots are in fact not waterproof.

That belated acknowledgment was “too little, too late,” Lenzi’s lawyers contend, offering no satisfaction to Lenzi “and other purchasers who purchased the products trusting L.L. Bean to live up to its “waterproof” promises and expecting its products to meet the high standards associated with the L.L. Bean brand.”   

“We are aware of the lawsuit pertaining to waterproof labeling. We look forward to addressing these claims through the legal process. We do not comment on pending litigation,” says Jason Sulham, spokesperson for L.L. Bean.

Will Astor is Rochester Beacon senior writer. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected]

4 thoughts on “Monroe County customer sues L.L. Bean over leaky boots

  1. Linda Lenzi and her attorney Antonio Vozzolo are ridiculous. Find a real injustice and crime and create some good in the world. Did your toes get wet? Really? Then sue for millions!! The definition of what is wrong with people.

  2. With a side zipper one would not expect waterproof at zipper height. There will also be a wet situation if one waded in over the boot top. L.L Bean sells waders that go all the way up to the belt line.

  3. What happened to just getting one’s money back? Do we always have to run to a lawyer? Lawyers chase ambulances, for profit. Get a real job. You can’t buy an item that doesn’t have a warning….. Iron may be hot, it could injure you. Coffee is hot, do not to spill it while driving. Don’t take this medicine if you are allergic. And speaking of medicine, the Covid booster is exempt from lawsuits. It appears that the lawyers for big pharma came up with that idea. I wonder how much they got for cutting out all of their fellow professionals.

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