'Orthodontic' pacifier misleading to consumers, suit claims

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Two Illinois women have filed a class-action lawsuit against the maker of an orthodontic pacifier for toddlers, claiming the company's deceptive marketing and packaging led them to believe that the product promotes good oral health.

Shelly Benson, of Elgin, and Lisa Caparellil, of Plainfield, filed a lawsuit on October 16 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division against Newell Brands and its subsidiary Nuk USA. The women claim they would not have purchased the pacifiers for their children if they had known they can lead to major dental problems and other conditions.

In the suit, the mothers take issue with Nuk's use of "orthodontic" in the naming of its pacifiers, which are sold at most major retailers. The women claim using the word "orthodontic" is misleading because it conveys to reasonable consumers that the pacifiers "improve dental health outcomes by correcting teeth and jaws that are positioned improperly," the suit states. Nuk sells eight different types of pacifiers that include "orthodontic" in their names.

The defendants use the term "orthodontic to induce consumers to pay a premium price and to buy products that do not perform as promised for their children while wrongly believing that those products are not only harmless, but that they enhance their child's oral and orofacial health," according to the suit.

Also, the company did not include the risks associated with children using these oral products beyond the age of 24 months on its packaging or advertising. Nuk's pacifiers are marketed for children ages 18 months and older or 18 months to 36 months, according to the suit.

Prolonged pacifier use by children older than 24 months can cause significant harm, interfering with the proper development of teeth and orofacial structures, the suit claims. Continued use of pacifiers also increase their risk of dental malocclusions and occlusions of primary teeth, which could affect a child's speech, chewing, swallowing, and jaw development and function. Dental problems also may negatively affect a child's psychosocial development and self-image, the suit states.

The suit claims the companies violated the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act, other state consumer protection laws, and unjust enrichment.

The women are seeking punitive damages, restitution, and a corrective advertising campaign.

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