We are now on day two of the drama between This Is Us and the makers of Crock Pot.
On Tuesday night, viewers of This Is Us watched in horror as it became clear that Milo Ventimiglia and his oddly compelling mustache have come to the end of their road in the show thanks to a faulty slow cooker. Death by slow cooker! What a way to go!
Well, today Danny Cevellos, a legal analyst for MSNBC, poses an extremely interesting question: Theoretically, could the makers of Crock Pot sue?
“Commercial disparagement,” “injurious falsehood,” “trade libel,” “disparagement of property,” and “slander of goods,” all describe the same basic legal claim of product disparagement.
Defamation and disparagement are two distinct “torts” — reasons why you can sue other people. Defamation serves to protect a person’s character and reputation. Disparagement protects economic interests suffered when slurs affect the marketability of goods.
Proving disparagement of products is harder than proving defamation of a person’s character. To win a lawsuit, the Crock-Pot folks would have to show that (1) the statement is false; (2) “This is Us” intended — or reasonably recognized — the publication would cause financial loss; (3) Crock-Pot actually lost money; and (4) “This is Us” recklessly disregarded the truth in coming up with the “shorting Crock-Pot” scene — which would probably mean it’s known to be impossible that Crock-Pots can short circuit.
Crock Pot probably has a tough road, however:
This would be a tough case for Crock-Pot to win since the award-winning drama probably didn’t intend to disparage them. Crock-Pot would have to prove financial loss. And, it’s not impossible that an electrical appliance like this could short circuit if, for example, it has frayed wires.
There are additional barriers to a lawsuit by Crock-Pot. First, it appears that the show used the generic name “Slow Cooker,” and not Crock-Pot. This is not an absolute bar to a lawsuit. If the show was clearly describing a specific product, changing the name will not necessarily protect it.
The show’s creator was also quick to point out on Twitter that, “it was a 20 year old fictional crockpot with an already funky switch? Let’s not just lump all those lovely hardworking crockpots together.” So it’s not like This Is Us has it out for Crock Pot.
Personally, I stand with Crock Pot. My own slow cooker is cheerfully bubbling away on my kitchen counter, having never once burned down my apartment building. What has This Is Us done for me lately? Certainly not cooked a delicious stew while I left the house and worked all day!